So I just want to do a quick recap on my thoughts on the 1st QTR and how I think the 2nd QTR will play out. THe niners are 2-2 and although most people had the niners at 3-1 at this point I don't think there is too much reason to panic and they are still on track to make the playoffs and even win the division.
The 1st QTR of the season saw the Niners go through a lot of adversity. Injuries, off the field issues and adjustments have left the roster full of questions.
-Week 1: Vs Packers: Very solid performance by the offensive passing attack in this game. One thing I think we learned at the end of last season and week 1 is Kaep is very (VERY) effective against throwing in zone coverage. He understands the nuances of how to read zones, going through his progressions, and anticipating throws to his receivers. The run game wasn't as effective but Green Bay was selling out against the run and it was evident in how well play action worked with getting their linebackers to bite up. This is not to say we didn't miss some plays and the OLINE appeared to be out of sync but I liked the fact we didn't get away from it. As far as the defense was concerned most people will look at the stats and say the Defense has lost it. I disagree. The Niners caused the packers to go through many 3 n outs and gave the offense great field position throughout the game. People often forget we were playing a very healthy packers offense. The one thing I was afraid of is giving their offense Huge TD plays. That didn't happen. Carlos Rodgers did struggle against Randall Cobb but there's not too many CBs that don't. One thing I liked is the Packers had to work for every single yard in this game. Big plays were results from Amazing catches from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb was punished in the Seam Route. Although he did have some success in the seam, since he was punished for every catch their coaching staff was more reluctant to call those routes throughout the game.
-Week 2: Vs Seahawks: Although Most of the Niners fan base hoped we would win this game, most of us expected a loss. Seattle is very difficult to beat at home and their defense definitely gains a huge advantage at home with their pumped in crowd noise drowning out audibles and snap counts. The one thing I noticed in this game is that the plays were there but we couldn't get a consistent effort by everyone in the game. When the OLINE held up on pass protection, the receivers couldn't get open, when the receivers were open, the pass pro didn't hold up. This one I don't put a lot on Kap although there was certain plays were he sensed phantom pressure and left the pocket early, he did so because the OLINE was giving up a lot of pressure in the beginning and he is a young QB. All in all when a team plays at CLINK the offense has to have perfect execution and that did no happen at all.
-Week 3: Vs. Colts: I think this one surprised most of us as the Niners are definitely a better team the the Colts. I think the biggest problem was a bad game plan. This game should have been run centric. WHY? Not just because the niners were having great success with the run, but because with Vernon Davis out, amplifying our loss of receiving threats, the Colts really had the opportunity to shut down our passing attack; and they did! The biggest problem was that Kyle Williams and sometimes Quinton Patton could not get off bump coverage. The outside flat should have been open all game with the Colts LBs playing Middle zone but when we called those plays Kyle Williams would get held up at the line of scrimmage and disrupted the timing of the plays. One play in particular I remember is we ran a slant/route natural pick concept but Patton (Slant route) decided to engage his CB for some reason and never got into his route. I thought after the first drive the defense did well but the offense consistently going three and out and giving the Colts great field position eventually wore out the defense.
-Week 4: Vs. Rams: This was a much needed morale boost for the 49ers. Contrary to what people think the rams are not a bad team. They still kept up with the Falcons and Cardinals in their losses. That is to say they aren't the Jaguars. They are still a competitive football team that will probably beat some good teams this year. With that being said, What worked is finally getting every member on the offense to execute. There were no missed blocks on run blocking schemes and I think Kap is learning to trust his receivers to make plays in Man coverage. I think his biggest weakness in man coverage is he doesn't like making too many mistakes and doesn't trust his receivers to make a play on the ball in One on One situations. This game he at least trusted Boldin. Also they returned to the power running game. I never bought the coaches excuses in oh they were loading the box so we coulnd't call running plays. Last year Gore faced a 8+ box way more often than other RBs and still managed over 4 yards per carry. Those statistics only rated behind AP on PFF.
2nd QTR predictions:
The 49ers face a relatively lighter schedule in the next four games, however they still must come out firing on all accounts to win these games. The most demanding game comes next sunday against the Texans. This is a very winnable game but the Niners will need to use their extra prep time to ensure they are all on the same page. The Titans game became a lot less demanding now that Jake Locker is out but Ryan Fitzpatrick is still probably one of the better backups to have in the NFL. The Titans are also very stout on defense. The Cardinals are also very beatable and the Niners should be favored to Win however again their offense is putting up a lot of points and Palmer to Fitzgerald is becoming quite the combination. And the Jags... Well.
I think what we start seeing from the offense is more power formations with the use of the Pistol as a change of pace. The formation is still a weapon and allows a lot of things to happen. I think we will start seeing more Baldwin in the mix as he is our best option as a 2nd receiver when teams choose to play Man-Man single high. During the rams game he did a very good job on beating Bump Coverage and using that huge frame to block out the CBs on slant routes. I think as the relationship between him and Kap develops, Kap will continue to trust that he will win One on One matchups and the defenses will have to respond by playing honest. I predict Tremaine Brock to claim his once held 3rd CB position. He has improved in his ability to cover and although, contrary to popular belief, Nmandi has been our best cover corner (as per PFF) he is almost worthless when it comes to tackling. Although I believe Brock will result in a drop off in Man to Man coverage, his ability to play zone and tackle will get him into the lineup. Finally I see Lemonier stepping up and feeling Aldons shoes well during his absence, especially on obvious passing downs. I think Skuta still gets into the lineup as his coverage skills are a lot better, Lemonier is much better when asked to rush the line.
The upcoming schedule is definitely very manageable and the 49ers have a great chance to go on a 4-0 run here. At the very least they Should go 3-1 and come out of the stretch 5-3.