None of us could have imagined that the 49ers would end up having the type of season they had. A new head coach plus a lockout isn't what most people would anticipate to be an equation for success. Even though the season ended in great disappointment, there are still a couple of positives that the 49ers and their fans can take from the season.
1. The Defense
This year the 49ers cemented their place as and elite defense in the league. This unit only gave up 23 touchdowns the entire season. The biggest bright spot on the defense was Navorro Bowan. He ended the season with 143 tackles. It is clear the Bowan and Patrick Willis will be a dominant linebacking tandem for the next couple of years.
2. Alex Smith
Many people thought that Jim Harbaugh was crazy when he told Alex Smith that he would be the starting quarterback. Well, it is pretty clear that Harbaugh saw something in Smith that the rest of us didn't. Smith had his best season ever. I don't think anyone is ready to place Smith in elite status. However, his improvement was impressive.
3. Vernon Davis
We all remember the infamous Mike Singletary quote: "Cannot play with them. Cannot win with them. Cannot coach them. Can't do it."
It feels like the Vernon Davis that Singletary was referring to and the Vernon Davis we saw this season are two completely different people. I'm not really sure how he did it, but Jim Harbaugh was able to get something out of Davis that no other coach could. Maybe it was the Singletary incident helped Davis mature. It is likely that both factors contributed to the change we saw in Vernon Davis.
Even though their season exceeded most people expectations, there are still some areas where the 49ers offense needs to improve. It is clear that more help is needed at the wide receiver position. The receiving corps was completely absent in the NFC Championship game.
Scoring in the red zone also needs to improve. A total of 32 offensive touchdowns just isn't enough. The offense needs to increase the scoring in order to support this powerful defense.
This past season was extremely promising. The NFC is loaded with a number of high powered offenses. The 49ers will need to make some improvements on the offensive side of the ball in order to keep up. If a few key offensive changes are made, the 49ers could be a serious Super Bowl contender for the next couple of years.
Cliff Holmes is a blog contributor for Gold Star Games.
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