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The 49ers Turnovers: Can An Aggressive Defense Carry This Over?

As the 49ers move past the 2011 season and get ready for 2012, one comment I've noticed more and more frequently (here, twitter, everywhere) is the idea that the 49ers huge turnover margin is not sustainable. Both the 49ers offense and defense did an incredible job in the turnover department, and some view that as a sign the 49ers will return to earth in 2012.

The issue of fumble recoveries is one where luck often plays a huge role. However, the 49ers combined fumble recovery numbers were not particularly over the top. There were some definite lucky plays, with arguably the most notable being Dashon Goldson's recovery when Justin Smith stripped Jeremy Maclin. However, the actual work of stripping the ball is not necessarily some random chance happening. The 49ers defense plays some seriously aggressive football and turnovers are a benefit of that. Of course, Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown colliding is also part of that, but you take the bad with the good.

On the other side of the ball, the 49ers committed an NFL record-low ten turnovers all season (five interceptions, five fumbles lost). As JIm Harbaugh and Greg Roman work to further implement the offense, it will be interesting to see if further comfort in the offense opens up Alex Smith to taking a few more chances. Assuming he returns in 2012, the full offseason mantra remains stuck in my head and I remain convinced he can continue to improve to some degree.

2011 was an epic season in a lot of ways and the turnover margin was as epic as anything. And yet, I don't think it is necessarily some wildly unsustainable number. It may not be another record-breaking year, but the way this team is set up on offense and defense would seem to put the team in position to at least approach the strong turnover performance in 2012. Am I way off base?