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How can 49ers top the West in 2014?

How can 49ers top the West in 2014?

Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert and tight end Derek Carrier surround and tackle Broncos cornerback Tony Carter after a pre-season interception.


POSTED August 23, 2014 12:35 a.m.

 

 

Why fix it if it isn’t broken?

Defense and the running game have been the bread and butter for the San Francisco 49ers team over the last three seasons, which have led to very strong finishes in the NFC West division.

The 49ers hold a 13-2-1 regular season record over the past three years against their division rivals, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

After three successful seasons, which included two playoff and one Super Bowl appearance, the 49ers seem to be just one fix away from overcoming that red-zone monkey on their backs that has held them from being the Niners of the '80s.

The 2013 49ers went on a six-game winning streak to end the regular season, which included three road postseason conference games at Green Bay, Carolina and Seattle.

With back-to-back successful playoff wins over the Packers and the Panthers, the second best ranked defense in the NFL at the time, the Niners looked poised for destiny.

The 49ers in the last three seasons seemed to have put themselves in bizarre situations to lose the game when it mattered the most.

Kyle Williams’ two special teams turnovers in the 2011 NFC Championship, led to the New York Giants to score 10 points to win the game, followed by a 2012 Super Bowl loss to Jim Harbaugh’s brother, John, in the grand game, which included a major blackout that delayed the contest.

Unfortunately, we all remember the final play against John’s Ravens, a questionable call hold on Jimmy Smith against Michael Crabtree, where the referees threw the yellow flags but no call was made.

All this led to the 2013 NFC West title game, where again, questionable calls by the referees where on the menu at the hostile Seattle home.

Three turnovers in the final quarter by Turlock’s hometown hero Colin Kaepernick in the final three drives, two interceptions and one fumble, led to the loss — even though the Niner defense held Seattle to only three points in the final quarter,  the offense failed to overcome their red zone woes.

The Cardinals, Seahawks and 49ers each won at least 10 games in 2013, and the sole losing team, Rams (7-9), helped themselves nicely in the draft to prepare for the tough road ahead.

The West's plus-359 point differential was by far the highest in the league, and its four teams won more than 75 percent of their non-division contests (24-6).

It will be a difficult task for Kap and the gang to compete for a division title, but his new weapons on offense in Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd could and should provide some help in the red zone passing game, which has been their Achilles.

The Niners need to be themselves and continue to do what they have, and that is giving Frank Gore the rock and let the ‘the tank’ roll.

But after eight rough and tough seasons for the 49ers all-time leading rusher, it seems like the wheels have lost a bit of tread.

In his final year of his contract, Gore should give all he has, considering he is near the end of his career, at least with the 49ers. The faithful and humble leader is one ring away from undoubtedly marking his name down as a first ballot hall of famer.

With general Harbaugh at the helm leading his players, this time on to the new Levi’s Stadium, the enthusiasm and excitement to play in a new home and begin a new era in Niner football it all seems like the perfect storm.

Kaepernick is entering this year with a chip on his shoulder, his enthusiasm and confidence seem to reverberate among the offense and it has shown in training camp in only his second year as the full-time starter.

The former Pitman Pride athlete has been working extremely hard in the offseason to prepare for what lies ahead and knows that winning the Super Bowl is his goal, especially after being so close in 2012.

The offensive line looks strong even without Alex Boone, who continues his holdout, and last year’s center Jonathan Goodwin, but Daniel Kilgore and Joe Looney both have looked promising in the first two preseason games as the fill-ins.

Joe Staley and Anthony Davis are amongst the best tackle duo, if not the best, in the entire NFL after suffering only a combined 8.5 sacks in all 16 regular season games.

On the defensive line, the depth is deeper than Bill Gates’ pockets with Quinton Dial already looking like a bona fide star at the nose tackle position, you add Ray McDonald and Justin Smith to that mix, and that spells a recipe for havoc against the run.

The biggest question mark has to be on the secondary after losing Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown for the new season, but also how Chris Culliver will perform after his ACL surgery remains a huge factor.

Tramaine Brock has been banged up during training camp and Perrish Cox has definitely stepped up his game, but how the newcomer veteran corner Chris Cook will handle playing the rough West division is still unknown.

The newly acquired safety Antoine Bethea should fill in nicely for the vacated Donte Whitner, bringing in Super Bowl experience to play alongside last year’s rookie pro bowler Eric Reid.

Adding former 49er special team captain Blake Costanzo back into the mix with Kassim Osgood and CJ Spillman, San Francisco’s return and coverage game will be one of the top in the league.

Phil Dawson’s performance in the first preseason games and pre-game warmups, especially at Levi’s, has aroused questions in possibly bringing in a replacement or at least a back-up—just in case.

Yet again, the NFC West is filled with juggernauts and will provide an action packed and intense spectacle with a lot of the season's most compelling football being played.

 

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