...That glass looks half full to me."
Considering the struggles the team has faced and the negativity that naturally follows, I thought I'd do my best to run a little spin on things and look at the bright side of things for a few minutes. The offense is atrocious and yet things are not all bad.
Aside from the Rams, the 49ers have faced playoff caliber opponents in every one of their games. The Cardinals might fold at some point, but for now they're playing quite well. If the 49ers can right the ship, their matchup Week 12 at Arizona could have huge divisional implications. This will be the 49ers last divisional game of the season, while the Cardinals will be starting their second round of divisional games. The 49ers will definitely have to make that one count.
As for the immediate schedule, even with Alex Smith's injury issues, the next 3 games are very winnable. The Giants improved to 3-2 but are definitely a team that could be tripped up at any moment. The Saints are looking more and more like the Aints of the '90s and the Falcons are obviously having their own major issues. While any team can beat any other team on any given Sunday, the scheduling gods have put the 49ers in a position to get a whole lot of positive momentum going into their Week 10 contest at Seattle. The 49ers can't afford any worse than 2-1 in those 3 games after the bye, but 3-0 is a very attainable goal. While I'd prefer the team be 5-3 at that point, 4-4 is not the worst position in the world.
Let's all be honest: The financial investment in the defense has paid HUGE dividends. Nate Clements has performed as advertised. Michael Lewis has been a hard hitter who has helped in the run defense. Patrick Willis is a stud ranking #2 in total tackles among ALL PLAYERS and 6th overall in solo tackles. Bryant Young is rejuvenated. Marques Douglas is busting his ass for a new contract. Everybody is contributing and doing their damnedest to keep this team in games. It would be very easy for the defense to start complaining about the offense, but I think Mike Singletary is one of the big reasons that hasn't happened. He runs a tight ship and maintains some serious discipline. Greg Manusky may be the defensive coordinator, but I think Singletary is the guy commanding respect.
If the defense can maintain their current level of play, it will only require a small improvement by the offense to make this team a force to be reckoned with. If the team could add a few more points a game and work on ball control, I think it's reasonable to believe the defense could even improve. If they didn't have to spend 2/3 of the game on the field, I guarantee they wouldn't be so gassed by the end. Statistically the defense is not ranked very high; but that is a product of spending so much time on the field.
While Nedney's miss last week was tough, special teams has definitely been a strength for this team. Andy Lee has been an absolute beast with a pair of 65+ yard punts already and Nedney has only missed one field goal all year. However, my favorite part of our special teams is the coverage units. For the most part, they've hustled down the field and kept returners from making big plays. In the Rams game, the containment of Dante Hall (as well as the fumble) were huge reasons the team won the game. If I were to name a team MVP at the 5/16th point, the punt return coverage unit would be high on my list. I'm realizing how much fun it is to watch them race down the field and just obliterate the punt returner before he can make anything happen.
So there is certainly a big elephant in the room that we all have to worry about in the offense. It's good to see the discussion about how to improve things. At the same time, it can be fun to still enjoy the good things about this team. I think the bye week is a good time consider both sides of the spectrum. Hell, 2 years ago we'd be ecstatic to be 2-3 with such a solid defense. One of the drawbacks to improving is the increased expectations. But I'll take those over wishing for a 4-12 season any day.