With the bye week coming nicely at the half-way point in the San Francisco season, I thought it might be interesting to go back and look at some of the best performances our guys have put up in the first half -- and to argue voraciously over the exact rankings, and whether the performances are flukes or fact.
8. Colin Kaepernick, Week 8 v. Jacksonville--4.2
The Pro Football Focus guys have been rough on Kaepernick this season, with some good reasons -- without Michael Crabtree or Mario Manningham, and with the 49ers shying away from the read option for much of the early part of the season, he hasn't been putting up the same sorts of numbers he did last year. Last week's game, however, was prime Kaepernick, even if he didn't top 200 yards through the air. To put it simply, he didn't have to do anything more against Jacksonville, and only put up one negative play throughout. He accounted for three touchdowns and, more importantly, it was the first day where both his arms and legs contributed significantly. Let's hope it's a sign of good things to come.
7. Carlos Rogers, Week 6 v. Arizona -- 4.5
Rogers did allow seven catches for 95 yards, but one of those was a 53-yard reception on a perfect throw from Carson Palmer. Take that out of the equation, and the average pass his direction went for only 4.2 yards. The big play, of course, was the first-quarter interception which put the 49ers in great field position, one of two on the day for the Niners secondary. Rogers has struggled at times this season, and with his salary ballooning to an $8 million cap hit next year, this may be the last season for him in a 49er uniform, but he's still capable of putting up some big days from time to time.
6. Anquan Boldin, Week 1 v. Green Bay -- 4.7
The Packers game seems so long ago now -- that sort of passing performance seems more of an outlier than an offensive strategy. Boldin sure showed off what he can do in his first game in the red and gold, though, didn't he? He ended the day with 13 receptions for 208 yards, destroying Sam Shields or anyone else the Packers deigned to put on him. Nine of those catches got the team first downs or touchdowns, as he dodged tacklers and chewed up yardage after the catch. Pick your favorite play -- there was enough for a full highlight reel. I'm a fan of his catch in traffic at the beginning of the third quarter, myself. Since then, teams have figured out that, with a lack of other receiving options, you can really afford to double- or even triple-team Boldin, but for one week, at least, he was unstoppable.
T3. Joe Staley and Anthony Davis, Week 6 v. Arizona -- 4.8
Grouping them together, for they had essentially identical days on each side of the line, sealing the edge quite nicely against a divisional foe. While the run game's been improving week by week, it was the final, game sealing drive against Arizona that first felt like the Niners were back to the levels they were playing at over the last two seasons; the sort of stomp-your-throat drive which can take the air out of a feisty team like Arizona. The 18 play touchdown drive that ate up more than half of the fourth quarter of that one included 12 running plays -- watch Staley take Calais Campbell entirely out of the play on this Frank Gore run, for example, or Davis flattening a route for Kendall Hunter's touchdown. That's the kind of football team the 49ers are, at heart.
T3. Glenn Dorsey, Week 4 @ St. Louis -- 4.8
Dorsey's been a lifesaver after Ian Williams went out for the year, and his run defense has really kept the 49ers afloat on the line. Defensive tackles never put up gaudy statistics, as their primary job is often just to clog up the middle, keeping anything from happening in the run game, but three tackles, all stopping plays well before they could become successful, is a pretty nice statistical day. Scott Wells had no chance against him; up the middle, the Rams averaged only 2.2 yards a carry, with plenty of zero-yard carries mixed in.
2. NaVorro Bowman, Week 4 @St. Louis -- 5.5
Remember, Patrick Willis was out of this game with the injured groin, leaving our defensive leader status to Bowman. I think it's safe to say he rose to the challenge -- two sacks, two more QB hits, and three more hurries on Sam Bradford, as well as three more stops in the run game. He was a beast from sideline to sideline, showing off his incredible range. Watch him leave Chris Williams flatfooted on this spin move, forcing a fumble late in the fourth quarter. Only a poor day in pass coverage keeps him off of the top of this list.
1. Joe Staley, Week 4 @St. Louis -- 6.2
Yes, that's right, all of the top three 49er performances came against the Rams. It's a bit odd, looking back, to remember how much it felt like the sky was falling after the first three weeks of the season, sitting at 1-2. While most people expected the team to bounce back, five straight wins by an average of 22.8 points is something that would have been hard to swallow when the team traveled to St. Louis. Still, with the pass game struggling, and last year's top receivers all out, why not let your all time leading rusher move behind your two-time all-pro? On runs behind Staley, Frank Gore averaged 5.3 yards per carry -- and he only allowed Robert Quinn to get one quarterback hurry, while at the same time making him a non-factor in the run game. The end result is not only the 49ers highest single-game score this season, but the second highest tackle game in the league all year long. While we give full credit to Gore for being able to continue producing at high levels at age 30, never forget to give respect to our fantastic offensive linemen.
Other notables: Alex Boone v. Green Bay; Aldon Smith @ Seattle; Mike Iupati and Andy Lee @ St. Louis; Joe Staley, Tarrell Brown, and Tremane Brock v. Houston; Vernon Davis and Eric Reid v. Arizona; Anquan Boldin @ Tennessee; Joe Staley @ Jacksonville