By Jerrell Richardson
Contrary to the beliefs of many that the 49ers are in trouble, and that something is wrong with the offense, it’s in fact the other side of the ball where the problem sits. While the offense has failed to show up the past two games, and the defense has done an admirable job at keeping the team within striking distance, moving forward the defense will be the biggest area of concern. The struggles of the offense are not only to be expected for several reasons, but can be explained and over time will be fixed; the same can’t be said for the defense.
Has everyone forgotten that Michael Crabtree was Colin Kaepernick’s go to guy last year? Or that Kyle Williams who entered this season with 29 career catches is the most experienced wide out in the 49er system? After a record-setting Week 1 for Anquan Boldin and the offense, the 49ers played the best defense in the league in Week 2, with an elite cornerback to take Boldin out of the game, the offense struggled. Last week tight end Vernon Davis, who leads the team in touchdowns and is second to Boldin in receptions, was missing in action, and again the offense struggled. Back-to-back games without the ability to hit two favorite targets helps explain the struggles of Kaepernick, whose statistics this season are right in line with a quarterback many believe is the best in the game.
Kaepernick’s stat line is modest. He has completed 53 of 94 passes (56.4) for 689 yards, thrown three touchdowns and is averaging 230 yards per game. The huge blemish on his record is his four interceptions, however, when considering that all but one have occurred in the fourth quarter, when San Francisco is down and in passing only situations, it shows that for the most part he is being careful with the football. The great Tom Brady, who is also without his top receivers from a year ago has completed 73 of 127 passes (57.5) for 698 yards, passed for five touchdowns and is averaging 233 yards per game. What this shows is that when you have no chemistry with your receivers you will struggle.
Give Him Time
Despite his quick rise to the top, Kaepernick is still less than a full season into his NFL starting quarterback career, and there is no elite quarterback in the league who will not tell you that experience is one of their biggest weapons. Give him a break, give him a chance to get Crabtree and Mario Manningham back, and once that happens give him time to get everyone on the same page. It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish and the 49ers passing attack will look nothing like the one on the field these past two weeks come December. The more important question is will the defense?
Injuries Wearing Down Defense
The 49ers inability to stop the run the past two weeks is only shocking due to the past two years where runs up the middle looked like someone running into a brick wall. After losing starting nose tackle Ian Williams for the season the team went to Seattle to face Marshawn Lynch. Back-up Glenn Dorsey did all that could be expected of him, but the team was barely able to hold Lynch under 100 yards. Then this past week, in come Ahmad Bradshaw and Trent Richardson. The two physical backs had the luxury of facing a defense in the fourth quarter that was without Patrick Willis so they had a field day. Not coincidentally the exit of Willis was right around the time the Colts begun to impose their will on the defense.
Walking Wounded Key To Super Bowl
Justin Smith is dealing with an injured shoulder, Ray McDonald has an ankle injury and NaVorro Bowman has popped up this week on the team’s injury reports. Patrick Willis is now day-to-day, and Aldon Smith is out for an undetermined amount of time. While the Rams do not feature a high-octane running game, the Texans and Titans are on the horizon. Best case scenario is that Willis is fine, Justin Smith can make it to the bye, and Aldon comes back in a month better than ever. For the team’s sake this better occur, as any other result could be disastrous. Without a run defense, a trip back to the playoffs is still a possibility, but back to the Super Bowl would be highly unlikely.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. Jerrell is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.