First off this is my opinion. Im not Harbaugh, Baalke, or Greg Roman. They have years of experience that I don't but here were the reasons why I was upset during the Texans game, even though we won and won pretty decisively.
First let me point out the good stuff, if it wasn't obvious.
Our corners and running game won the game. Our corners, particularly Brock owned that game. You could also argue that Schaub also gave that game away. But the defense didn't give up anything longer than 19 yard passes and were great in the red zone. The blocking and running were great. Despite some great plays by JJ Watt, they took advantage of the opportunities they were given and it worked.
Heres why I was upset during the game.
Our pass rush sucked. Schaub only had one sack. He was given a lot of time to throw the ball and when it comes down to it, I think his nerves did him in. I am upset about this because this strategy won't work against the upper echelon teams. Give time to any of the top 5 QBs in the league and they will tear your defense apart. With all the draft talent and emphasis on giving depth to the defense that kind of bugs me. I found myself during the game wishing that they would put Lemonier in every down just to see something. I think Bowman and Lemonier made good efforts but our pass rushing is far from perfect. Obviously, Aldon Smith's absence factors into that. But that might be a long term issue seeing how his legal problems are still unresolved, The positive thing to take away is that Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial are young and hopefully coming in this year to give us fresh legs along the D-line.
The passing game has been crappy all year. This is the stat line for the game.
So what does this tell us? Beyond Boldin, Davis and Bruce Miller getting a dump down, we have no passing game. That 64 yard Davis got for a TD doesn't count because I attribute that to Davis outrunning defensive players on a still sore hamstring. Boldin is great but when he is being doubled or focused on by the defense, he can't get his catches. Davis' presence helps with that. But the biggest issue, as everyone has pointed out is the lack of help from the WR position opposite of Boldin. Kyle Williams has shown he cannot win his 1 on 1 battles and doesn't get enough separation as a deep threat to help out. Marlon Moore has played several games to a 0 or 1 catch stat lines. Baldwin has the size but doesn't have the consistency or hasn't developed them yet to reliably catch balls. I saw Kaep force some throws to him just because of his size and Baldwin would get out muscled or wouldn't be able to secure them. Baldwin still has a chance and I think they should give him another look with the next game. But beyond that it is safe to say that no one has stepped up. Patton, I thought would against the Rams but an unfortunate foot injury will keep him sidelined for a while. I am a big proponent of the 49ers trading for Josh Gordon for several reasons (though analysts are saying thats unlikely now).
1. Boldin and Manningham are free agents at the end of this year. Crabtree is up for an extension in 14-15. The 49ers have hinted that they might not be able to resign Crabs, with Kaep's and Iupati's contracts coming up. And if Crabs rookie deal was any indication of how difficult it might be, then things could be bad. Bringing in Gordon gives us a talented WR, has excelled in the game experience he has had, and is still in his rookie contract with 2 years left. He can fill in for Crabs and depending on the development of Patton potentially being a #2 it is an option. Then use a pick in the draft to hopefully take a WR who ends up working out.
2. A lot of people are saying once Manningham and Crabs are back it won't matter. Like a lot of things in the NFL, coming back from an injury is a progression. You don't come back from them with the snap of the finger. You need to be in game shape, you need to get back in the rhythm and pace of the game, and you need to have the confidence that you can still do the things you could do before you got hurt. Just because they will be back in the next few weeks - november doesn't mean they will be automatically playing in top shape. Having Gordon eases the pressure and transition.
3. Even if they come back fully health and at the top of their games, who is to say someone else doesn't get hurt? Boldin? or that MM and Crabs don't get a set back. Having Gordon as depth again helps that.
4. Is having Gordon, Boldin, MM and Crabs all healthy and playing well really a bad thing? I like the idea of the 49ers having 4 WR sets. In fact, if the 49ers can do that I would argue they can rival the Broncos, Packers, and Saints with the best passing game in the NFL. Teams that have a 3rd WR who has the skill set to be a #1 or #2 have the best passing games. When the Giants won their Superbowls, Victor Cruz was their 3rd WR, behind Nicks and Manningham. That 3rd WR is playing against the 3rd or 4th best CB on the opposing team and has the talent to outplay them every down. Again one of the reasons why Denver is excelling this year, on top of the fact they have Manning airmailing the ball to them every pass.
5. We have potentially two 2nd round picks (if the Chiefs win 8 games, they are 5-0 now). The 49ers will not be able to keep all the players they draft. They don't have enough roster spots, thats what happened this year. Marcus Cooper, BJ Daniels etc. If the 49ers trade one of their 2nd round picks for Gordon. That essentially means the 49ers traded Alex Smith for Tank Carradine and Josh Gordon. Thats great value in my book. Is there risk Gordon gets suspended for the year? Yes. But thats up to the team to keep him in line and remind him what he is at risk of losing.
Davis and Boldin at full health gives us a decent shot to compete, But we need that 2nd WR to shift coverage. And I argue we need that 3rd WR to put the 49ers over top. Again a fully healthy and high performing MM and Crabs will do that. But there are a lot of question marks going into the 2nd half of the season whether or not that will be the case. If the 49ers can get it together and add that pass rush and passing attack in conjunction with our top of the line running game and improved Special teams play, I think they will easily be the best team in the NFL.