The San Francisco 49ers are not stuck in a rut. They are a team that is building for their future. As we enter mid-way through this 2005-2006 NFL season, there are a few teams that are statistically at the bottom of the barrel alongside the red and gold. Houston has no excuse for their winless record and no amount of coach firing will get it done. David Carr was hyped beyond his own recognition and ate up the press while forgetting about football. Green Bay is facing the same problem as the 49ers- injuries. Coaches are positive in the Rice-O-Roni city. Players want a victory and pride is driving them to compete.With their starting receiving core in shambles being held up solely by Donald Driver, and a distraught running back crew without Ahman Green for the rest of the season, Packers fans must face the fact that the season is a bust. Brett Favre and Donald Driver can not withstand the double coverage week in and week out for the rest of the season. While Driver’s fantasy stats might go up, the season appears to be a dark road ahead facing Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Atlanta next with Philadelphia just waiting to pick up the scraps. I don’t even want to go further into their schedule for fear that I might shed a tear for Brett.
Injuries seem to be the set back of both teams at the turn of the season. The 49ers o-line will soon consist of a punter from whales, two d-backs and the towel boy during training camps. It doesn’t matter who is back there, Alex Smith, Ken Dorsey, or Cody Pickett, without protection there is no chance for the deep ball and no running game for Frank Gore and Kevan Barlow. With so many injuries to the line and defensive secondary, the path to a victory seems dark.
At the beginning of the season, the one position that looked promising was the linebacker crew. That has also fallen into the deep. With the loss of Jamie Winborn and the biceps injury to Jeff Ulbrich, all of the sudden the LBs don’t look so hot. Andre Carter has really stepped his game up to become a strong starter next to the always-strong Derrick Smith who has had over 100 tackles in the last four seasons. Corey Smith looked very good during preseason reaching the quarterback for multiple sacks in multiple games. Preseason is just glorified practice, but no lineman likes getting beat ever, especially when their quarterback finds himself looking at the fog roll over Candlestick Park.
Head Coach Mike Nolan continues to believe in his young rook’s ability, as do I. With absolutely no protection, it is a miracle that he can even throw an interception, let alone five. This guy is a tall, shotgun, pocket passer that has the ability to scramble, but if he can’t even look at the field before scrambling, how can you expect him to be productive.
Right now their best chances are Gore and Barlow running outside. On Gore’s 72-yard scammper versus the Redskins, I saw no signs that the rook had two knee surgeries while at his stay at Miami. He would have started over McGahee had he not been injured. Gore will get his opportunities this season to show Nolan and Mike McCarthy what he can do if he gets to the corner before the defense. He’s a power runner that has proven it takes more than one guy to pull him down. Barlow is finally picking up stem himself averaging over 4 yards per carry in his last three games. Okay, 3.9 against the Redskins, but with one more carry the 4-yard average would have been eclipsed. It’s nice to see that the RBs recognize that their quarterback is in trouble and they need to step it up.
This season will be a “year-long preseason” for the Niners. The positivity around the coaches and the frustration of losing by the players shows that this team is sick of being a sub-.500 team and ready to do what is necessary to get back to playoff form.
It will be good for football if the shining red and gold were back in the post-season where they belong. You can’t deny walking into their Santa Clara, California facility and seeing five, count them, five Super Bowl Trophies. It’s time for the red fog. Bring back the thunder that made Candlestick leak.