The San Francisco 49ers exit week nine and head into week ten sitting at 7-1 and enjoying a commanding lead in the NFC West. They are playing excellent on defense and special teams, and doing just enough on offense to get the victories. It is a good time indeed.
Nonetheless, as Coach Harbaugh has often said, the best way to improve is to make sure there are always questions. If the team has more questions than answers, they are able to continue forward trying to improve as much as possible. The team's philosophy has been to be a little better tomorrow than they were today. It all ties together in the team's efforts to avoid complacency and continue towards the end goal of being the best team in the NFL.
I thought it might be an interesting exercise to assess some of those question marks. But rather than just post every complaint you might have about the team, I wanted to focus it in a bit. Instead, if you could focus on one particular improvement that would take this team to the next level, what would it be?
Please include at least a modest defense of your suggestion. If you are going to say, "Bench Alex Smith, Start Colin Kaeperick", please include some kind of realistic reason for it. I'd like this to based on the current reality of the 49ers, and that reality includes the fact that the 49ers are not going to be benching Alex Smith anytime soon.
If you want, you can even post one thing for both the offense and defense. The defense is playing some great football right now, but there is always room for improvement. In the case of the defense, maybe getting a bit more aggressive late in games to prevent what we saw late in the Browns and Redskins games.
My biggest wish for improvement would be to see more use of the slant pass pattern. The team has had a good deal of success this season when they use it, but they don't seem to take advantage of it as frequently as they could. I don't know how the play-calling is operating so this is based as much on assumptions as anything else. But I think as the 49ers wide receivers gain more and more comfort with Alex Smith, this particular pass play could become a deadly weapon in the 49ers offense.
So, go to town. While this is opening the door for people to complain about the team, I'd like to think people can be a bit more constructive with it by focusing on very specific changes. I mean things like adjusting this sort of play-calling, or that sort of personnel usage. We've seen the 49ers enjoy a great run of success, but knowing that this team can still improve makes it all the more exciting.