How nice of the NFL to give the Niners a BYE week so the Bay Area can concentrate on rooting for the Giants to win the World Series.
It’s been a strange beginning to the 2014 season. The new stadium opened with great fan fare, then came the rumors of a locker room revolt against HC Jim Harbaugh to the arrest of Ray McDonald for domestic violence to the shabby, penalty assisted losses to the Bears and the Cardinals.
It was expected that the defense would struggle without arguably its two best players — Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman. But, with the exception of the second half of the Bronco game and the rash of penalties in games two and three, the defense has played respectably well. Not great, but okay enough for an explosive offense to win games.
Unfortunately, the offense has been just good enough or just not good enough, which is a bit of a disappointment. We anticipated “prolific” attached to this unit, given the new four deep WR group. That has not been the case, so far. Perhaps injuries to the O-line and the TEs have something to do with the under-performance of the offense. Perhaps the “it’s new, we’re working on it” explanation has some value. Whatever. It hasn’t been championship caliber by any means.
The biggest surprise this year might be Jim Harbaugh’s mostly rational behavior on the sidelines. He hasn’t been screaming at the refs like a roided out maniac, so either he’s learned this behavior might be counter-productive, or he’s ingesting beta blockers in the locker room.
The biggest disappointment has easily been Tank Carradine. This DT/DE was counted on to be a force this year, at least as a pass rusher. Instead, he’s been inactive every week but one, and didn’t get in the game the one time he was activated. A complete zero this year. Ahmad Brooks has been another underachiever, and we may see rookie Aaron Lynch taking some of Ahmad’s snaps when Aldon returns.
Michael Crabtree has also been disappointing. He’s nominally our number one WR, but both Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd have outplayed him. They have similar numbers to Crabtree in only half as many snaps. And their catches have almost always been crucial plays. This is Crabtree’s contract year, and he was expected to put up big numbers. He has not.
The surprising vulnerability of the Seahawks is the best tonic for the 49ers 4-3 record, the worst seven game mark of the Harbaugh era. With two good teams in the NFC East and two good ones in the NFC North, there might not be room for a wild card entrant from the NFC West. The team will need to get healthy and get on a roll to make it’s fourth straight trip to the playoffs.