This season has not been a particularly healthy one for the 49ers, yet they have been able to push through the loss of key starters better than most teams. When you consider the number of games starters have missed this year compared to previous years, it is a staggering amount:
It's astonishing that the team already has the same number of wins as last year, and yet starters have missed 7 times the total number of games that they did during last year's Superbowl run. The biggest factor explaining this can only be roster depth. With the glaring exception of the WR position, second-stringers have consistently stepped up all year.
Dan Skuta and Corey Lemonier covered admirably during Aldon Smith's absence. I consider Glenn Dorsey's play to be an upgrade over Ian Williams. Even Tony Jerod-Eddie has been a big contributor at the defensive line. Joe Looney and Adam Snyder were not stand-outs but they were adequate until the starting OL could return. Will Tukuafu and Anthony Dixon were solid in stepping in for Bruce Miller, helping the team come up with their 4th highest run yardage this season. Perhaps the biggest breakout performance this year is Tramaine Brock stepping in at CB, and the secondary didn't miss a beat even with Tarell Brown and Chris Culliver gone for a significant amount of games.
Now Mario Manningham who served as a starter at WR2 while Michael Crabtree was gone has been added to the IR. This may not look like a critical loss, with both Boldin and Crabs fully healthy, but Greg Roman has opened up the passing offense some and has run 3 and 4 wide-out sets more often lately. This provides rookie Quinton Patton now an opportunity to make an impact. We saw glimpses of this during the pre-season when he looked quite explosive, and if the Roman is up to the challenge, Patton could end up being a secret deep weapon going forward. Let's see how many snaps/targets he garners at WR3 against the Cardinals.
49ers vs. Cardinals
After all the injuries and missed games, going into Arizona, the 49ers are healthier than they have been all year. | Injuries: Skuta only 49er questionable for Sunday's finale (Barrows)
Greg Roman actually helped the Arizona Cardinals. | Cell Pitch: 49ers' Roman made calls for Cardinals' Dray (Branch)
Assorted Team Notes
It's always entertaining to listen to Adam Boone (Audio). | Boone: 'As Long as You Get a Ticket to the Dance' (49ers)
Ray Ventrone is the type of grinder that coaches turned color guys like Gruden and Madden would love. | Ventrone 'Most Dangerous' on 49ers Special Teams (49ers)
It is widely believed that both Coach Harbaugh and Colin Kaepernick will be up for contract extensions this off-season. Like Jed York says, let's hope they get the best leverage by winning the Superbowl. | Playoff performances will set values for Harbaugh, Kaepernick (Maiocco)
Assuming both will stay healthy, this debate will probably go on for the next decade. | Time to Revisit the Colin Kaepernick vs. Russell Wilson Debate for a Second (Yahoo)
Brooks wins appeal of hit on Brees (Maiocco)
Beyond the Team
Some personal photos from BASG at the Candlestick finale game. | Chris Berman does Chris Berman things, Steve Young reacts (BASG)