The San Francisco 49ers squeezed by the Miami Dolphins Sunday afternoon, winning 27-13. It was not an impressive victory, but it did virtually guarantee that the team will make the 2012 playoffs. How far they advance in those playoffs is another matter.
The 49ers are currently the number two seed by a half game over the Packers, but the chances of them keeping that rank seem small indeed. With upcoming road games against the Patriots and Seahawks, coupled with the Packers likely running the table in the NFC North, the wildcard round as either the third or fifth seed appears their likely destination. The game at Seattle will probably decide who wins the NFC West, getting the third seed, with the loser falling to the fifth seed.
The long awaited debut of second round pick LaMichael James was one of Sunday’s highlights. This kid looks quick and dangerous and should help offset the loss of Kendall Hunter. And Aldon Smith continued his assault on the single season sack record, dropping Ryan Tannehill twice yesterday to push his total this year to 19.5 sacks — a 49er franchise record, eclipsing the great Fred Dean’s old mark.
Right tackle Anthony Davis was having a stellar year until recently, but he’s been beaten badly of late by the Rams Chris Long and yesterday by Miami’s Cameron Wake, who had three of the four sacks given up by our offensive line. The entire offense seems out of whack, actually, though Michael Crabtree is continuing to assert himself as our top WR and the go-to guy he was drafted to be.
The Rams and Dolphins both took away the deep ball, forcing greenhorn QB Colin Kaerpernick into an Alex Smith imitation and that trend is likely to continue. Imitators are applauded at comedy clubs, but not so much for football teams in the stretch drive of a Super Bowl or bust year.
With the deep routes closed, Vernon Davis has become a glorified extra offensive lineman. With Mario Manningham sidelined Sunday, it was hoped there would be a sighting of our first round draft pick AJ Jenkins, but alas, it was not to be. He suited up, he played, he zeroed.
Can all blogomaniacs be wrong? Or is the play calling simply not suited to the personnel? With Kaepernick’s arm and legs, we should have three WRs on the field at all times, with Delanie Walker moved to the bench. Kaepernick is a de facto extra running back on every play. Do we really need seven offensive linemen and Walker or defensive lineman Will Tukuafu blocking furiously for a three yard gain? Or in the case of third and one, for no gain at all.
This kind of game plan is not going to get us to the Super Bowl. Jim Harbaugh sacrificed a lot of locker room and fan credibility to put Kaepernick into the lineup. Why would he then put handcuffs on the guy and ask him to be a game manager who pops loose for a fifty yard run once in awhile? A mystery. But clearly, the Harbaugh/Greg Roman brain trust is coming under unflattering scrutiny for the first time since these boys arrived on the scene. If you’re going to be bold enough to stick Kaepernick in, then be bold enough to give him a scheme to succeed with and ditch the Jimmy Raye knockoff program.
They had best light a fuse under themselves soon, or this season is likely to be far, far shorter than anyone hoped it would be when the year began.