Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Long View on the Bay

After the San Francisco 49ers' convincing Sunday night win over the Texans, I saw quite a few 49er fans taking the overly-pessimistic view of the game and season so far, particularly with respect to the struggles of the passing game. It was rather annoying to see, what with so much positive to take and build from this game. Yes, Kaepernick is not putting up big stats at the moment. Yes, as one ridiculous writer quipped in his Week 6 rankings, 6-15 looks like Tim Tebow numbers. But let's try for a second to not be all doom and gloom here.

The Texans coming into the game had the number one rated defense in terms of yards against. They've made everyone look pedestrian this year. Kaep did have a couple of miscues, including a missed rather-open hookup with Vernon Davis. But is it a shock to see a QB-receiver tandem take a little time to get their timing back after the latter being out for basically 3 weeks? Not really, especially considering their perfectly-in-stride TD hookup later in the game. And, even though it ended up as a completion, one couldn't be thrilled with the pass completed to Bouldin that went right thru a well-covering DB's hands -- credit Anquan though with great concentration there. But I was buoyed by Kaep's sideline-incomplete connection with Jon Baldwin, and another pass to Boldin that he couldn't quite come up with. Both passes were to well-covered receivers that Kaep however put precisely where only the 49er could make a play on the ball. There was another sideline pass to Davis that fits that description now that I recall. Overall, Kaep made some good throws. It's not all doom and gloom. The complete shutdown of the passing game for the two losses was certainly a result of Davis' injury reducing the receiving core to Boldin, Boldin, Boldin, Boldin and Boldin.

Beyond that, the running game is slowly coming to life, with the O-line playing better to create those opportunities. There's room for more improvement, but they're starting to create those holes for the backs.

As for the defense, what can you say? They're working their way through the early season injuries, with the guys filling in getting more comfortable, and better, with every rep. That a defense missing Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith can pitch a near shutout against a quality (not great, but quality) offense is saying something. Navarro Bowman is making noise...lots of noise. And, while it's early and I don't wanna jump to conclusions, the DBs are looking formidable right now. My resident 49er-hater loves to question our secondary based on the Asomugha signing...but now, he may not have that analytic luxury any more. Tramaine Brock has certainly staked his claim to the starting lineup while Asomugha's been out, and Harbaugh has indicated every bit as much in his remarks since Sunday's game. Eric Reid is quickly closing 49er-fan exit wounds left by Dashan Goldson. Personally, Reid is looking like a bonafide, team's-first-pick-of-a-draft-worthy stud. Overall, the defensive backfield, which oftentimes last year looked like the one weak link on an otherwise great defense, is looking formidable.

The next positive is one I've seen discussed by absolutely no one, which, given its importance, is a crime: the penalties. We had 3 all game long against Houston. Three? Three?!? Incredible! -- for us that is. (And really, I didn't agree with the one pass-interference call that was made at all, so in my mind, that was only two legitimate penalties the team earned.) That is by far the cleanest game, penalty-wise, this team has played in I-don't-know-how long. Penalties have long been the unmentioned elephant(s) in the room with this team, constantly breathing life into opponents' killed drives, repeatedly driving stakes into offensive momentum, and I was relieved to the point of yelling "finally!" when Harbaugh spoke about it publicly for the first time a couple weeks ago. For the issue to resolve itself, if only for a week, so resoundingly, is promising to say the least.

As I said, there were a lot of positives to carry forward from Sunday night's game. I don't get why there was so much glass-half-empty, short-sighted commentary among the fan base in its wake.

Ironically, a day later, when Coach Harbaugh gave his optimistic opinion that recovering WR Michael Crabtree might be ready to return by the end of November, 49er fans en masse surprised me by posting comments to the tune of "take your time", "no need to rush back, we got this", "just get healthy". A conservative, longterm view from fans? Unheard of. The Derrick Rose fanbase would be mystified.

Go figure.

The season's got a long way to go, but the view is slowly starting to take a turn for the positive on the 49er side of the Bay.

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