It’s late September, headed into week three of the NFL’s regular season and the San Francisco 49ers are undefeated, and this franchise hasn’t been able to say that since 2012.
Since 2012, the team has been captained by four different head coaches, fired a general manager and have had seven different starting quarterbacks. On top of the numerous changes to the coaching staff and the relocation into a new stadium, the 49ers have yet to get back to where that 2012 season ended, the Super Bowl.
After years of searching, trying to pick up what was left of this once proud franchise after the Jim Harbaugh era ended in 2014 with Harbs demoting himself to coach collegiately rather than stick around the toxic waste that was the 49ers at the time, the 2019 football season rolled in like a cool breeze through Jimmy Garappolo’s lushes hair on a sunny day.
Jimmy G and the gold mine that is the 2019 49ers are off to an unforeseen start by some, winning the first two games of the year.
Before the season started, CBS Sports’ John Breech predicted a 6-10 record for the niners, Bleacher Report and Fox News both predicted 8-8, not terrible but also not true. Neither of these records will afford a playoff spot, which is where the team will find itself come January.
Non-believers of this year’s version of the 49ers will lean on the fact that Jimmy GQ is yet to prove himself as a franchise quarterback, and there are two teams in the 49ers’ division that are proven Super Bowl contenders in the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks.
There must be reasons for saying the niners will be back in the playoffs, or else I just sound like a crazed fan that relies on uneducated faith over, and over and over again every year. I can’t say that that’s not completely false, but I do have my reasons.
For one, key pieces of the squad are healthy including the often-mentioned starting quarterback Jimmy Garappolo, and the wiley old enemy-turned-ally Richard Sherman seems to be in better shape after his torn Achilles injury in 2017.
While the importance of Garappolo’s return has been overanalyzed, it is truly crucial to the team’s success. His arrival in 2017 sparked a fire in the 49ers that has evaded them since the 2012 season, and his eventual season-ending injury last season was the ultimate low-blow to a team with high aspirations.
While Garappolo had a rocky start in game one of this year’s season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he had a much more positive performance last week against the Cincinnati Bengals throwing three touchdown passes in a 41-17 blowout.
Another reason is the running game that demonstrated what it can do last week in that blowout in Cincinnati. The current three headed attack which includes Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., combined for 259 rushing yards, the latter rushing in two of the team’s five touchdowns.
Also, Tevin Coleman is dealing with a minor injury and should be back soon and will provide even more depth at the position.
With everyone healthy and a stable of fast, shifty running backs, head coach Kyle Shanahan is finally starting to meet the potential of his play calling abilities, and use the neverending story that is his playbook to its full capacity.
One last reason for the resurrection of the 49er empire, is that the defense finally has a defensive line that can rush the passer. On the first play of last Sunday’s game, the defensive line was able to put the Bengals’ starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, on the ground, and they were able to keep him uncomfortable for the rest of the game.
The offseason additions of all-pro defensive end Dee Ford, and first-round draft pick of the same position, Nick Bosa were attempts by the front office to make the defense better and it’s paying off early.
A strong defensive line that can put pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback is essential in the modern NFL.
This facet of the game has an affect on both the success of the defense and the offense, and for the 49ers specifically it hides one of their biggest weaknesses.
The 49ers last year, had one of the worst pass defenses ever, not just so-and-so, it was bad.
The defensive backs for the 49ers in 2018 mustard up two interceptions, count that with your hands real quick, now hold those two fingers up, that’s the same expression niner fans had watching this team last year.
Now, last year the team didn’t have a pass rush, therefore opposing quarterbacks had all day to throw the ball. It doesn’t matter who you have playing in the secondary, if a quarterback has all day, he’ll find someone open to throw to eventually.
Fast-forward to 2019, there’s a pass rush, and with the pass rush, now the quarterback doesn’t have all day, he has maybe two or three seconds to find a man, making him panic and throw the ball early, causing errors and that usually translates into turnovers.
Through the first two games of the new season, the 49ers have already doubled its total of interceptions from the year before. A large part of that is the seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits the defensive line has provided.
That’s a bit of the effect it has on the defense, now as mentioned before, a pass rush also helps the offense.
When the pass rush is able to help the rest of the defense make plays and cause turnovers or force the opposing offense to punt, that keeps the ball in the hands of the offense, allowing the offense to find a rhythm.
Once the offense is able to find a rhythm, specifically an offense like the 49ers, which relies heavily on the run game, this allows the offense to possess the ball for longer amounts of time; thus keeping the ball away from the opposing offense, and limiting their chances of scoring.
In the first game where the offense was unable to do its part in the victory, the Buccaneers and 49ers spilt the time of possession battle down the middle, with the 49ers edging the Bucs out 30 minutes to 29.
However in week 2, the 49ers held the ball for 32 minutes versus 27 for the Bengals. That’s a five minute difference, which is equivalent to a well-played drive for an offense, which is what the 49ers offense was able to accomplish multiple times this past Sunday against the Bengals.
Sports media has yet to accept the 49ers as legit competition for the elites of the league such as the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots, but by the time they notice it’ll be too late.
The Seattle Seahawks have been running the NFC West division for a long time now, and the Rams were one win away from being Super Bowl champions last year.
Well Seahawks, move over and welcome the niners back to the top of the heap. As for the Rams, you should’ve finished the job last year because it just got a lot harder.
Times up and the 49ers are done “retooling,” the time is now and the 49ers are ready to claim their prize come Feb. 2, 2020 in Miami.