It seems appropriate now to take a quick look at the 2010 season thus far and offer up some feeble excuses for the stumblebum start the 49ers have presented us. This will be the last time this year that any excuses can be offered. So, let’s pig out while we can on the Lousy Breaks Factor that scrambled the first five games of the season.
Before the season started, most fans felt the team would lose both the Saints game and the Falcons game. The team complied, even though it could, and should, have won both games. A goodly portion of fans also felt the Eagles game would be a dicey proposition. We have not matched up well against that team for several years, and once again, even with Kevin Kolb at QB, and not Donovan McNabb, the Niners still got pretty well torched by the Eagles trenches and speed receivers.
Losing those three games would not have surprised the blogosphere, which would have felt reasonably comfortable being 3-3 at this point in time. It was the losses to Seattle and Kansas City that were not expected.
Now that the season is six games old, it is clear that Seattle is nowhere near as bad as most prognosticators felt they would be, and Kansas City is surprisingly looking like the dominant team in the AFC West. The Eagles just manhandled the Falcons last Sunday, and that team is looking like the best team in the NFC East this year.
Given these three preseason unknown tidbits, the team’s poor start is not so hard to fathom. The Niners have also been attempting to work two rookie O-line guys into a rebuilt unit that some day will probably be pretty good, but certainly is a work in progress at the moment.
IOW, the football gods had planned to sabotage the team in the early going. Thanks, fellas. The upcoming games, however, offer no hidden gimmicks of godly subterfuge. From here to the end of the season, only two games should be up for grabs — the road games against the Packers and Chargers. Ergo, there can be no excuses for not going at least 8-2 over the remaining games, with five of those wins coming against NFC West rivals. And if this team is really a good team, we should win all ten of them.
There probably aren’t ten 49er fans in the universe that actually believe the team can win all ten remaining games, and roar into the playoffs on an eleven game winning streak. But that is precisely what teams do when they “emerge” and have a favorable schedule to ride the fateful pony of fame to the finish line. The 1981 San Francisco 49ers did pretty much that very thing.
Buuuuttttt…., that 1981 team had a few things going for it that this 2010 team does not.
For one, their defense finished second in the NFL, allowing a paltry 15.6 pts per game. This current defense was expected to rise to that level this year, but it has not. It has regressed.
The 1981 team had a stable O-line that had played together for three or four years and it had Joe Montana at QB, and although he had not yet become JOE MONTANA, most observers would still rank him above the current QB, Alex Smith. The 1981 team finished 7th in the league in scoring. Not gonna happen with the 2010 team. The real eye-opening difference is the turnover ratio. The 2010 team is decidedly in the minus column, while the 1981 team was #1 in the league at a whopping +23.
Then there is that little matter of the Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator. Which leads to the Play Calling on Game Day. No statistics are necessary to suggest a decidedly whopping big-ass difference between the 1981 team and this 2010 team. And the difference is not a good thing.
With ten games left to play, some of these perceptions and stats can certainly change for the better. Mike Johnson might get better and better. The O-line might settle down and get reliable. Smith might finally come into his own.
But the biggest advantage is the schedule. It is chock full of winnable games. Starting this Sunday, we will begin to see if the team is up to the task of winning those games. It’s a long shot, no doubt about it. But as of this moment in time, it is still a shot.