After a dominant 23-13 victory on Sunday, the San Francisco Forty-Niners look as though they have righted the ship and moved on from their previous struggles. The win over the St. Louis Rams the teams second straight and as a result it moved them one step closer to gaining the sixth and final playoff spot in the NFC.
Once 6-4, the Niners were facing the possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time under Jim Harbaugh. Their quarterback was in a funk and they had a tough time moving the chains. However things have changed in the last two games. Colin Kaepernick has thrown four touchdowns, zero interceptions, and has averaged almost ten yards a pass. The running game has suffered, but the passing game has started to break out. A large factor in this development is the addition of offensive weapons. Michael Crabtree showed that even though he is still recovering from his Achilles surgery, he can be a factor for the Niners. He hauled in a 60-yard pass, and even though he didn’t break away for a touchdown he showed that he can contribute to this team right away. Even on the plays in which he didn’t get a catch he provided another weapon that the defense had to cover. This allowed Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis to have huge games. Davis averaged a stellar 20.5 yards per catch, and Boldin had 9 receptions. This offense has made some progress, and the most encouraging thing is that the last two games have been weak in the running game department. If this team can get both facets of the offense going teams will have a tough time stopping them. Being able to run or pass with success on any given play is something that could take the team to the next level. If they can make even more progress on that side of the ball they have to be considered as dangerous as the New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks.
The defensive side of the ball has also been outstanding. They held the Rams to six points after three quarters and 13 total. Perhaps the most important stat is that they didn’t allow conversions on either of the Rams fourth down attempts. They also sacked Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens three times and tallied seven quarterback hits in all. The consistent pressure led to multiple missed throws, and Clemens completion percentage was a measly fifty percent. They also held running Zac Stacy to under four yards a rush. It was a thorough beat down that built upon an already stellar season for the defense. They are 4th in pass defense, 10th in running defense and 6th in total defense. Perhaps more importantly is the fact that they are eighth in turnover differential. Being able to force turnovers is something the defense has been able to do with consistency this year.
Ultimately the team appears to be in good shape. If they can beat the Seahawks next week then they will be in excellent position to reach the postseason and make a run at the Lombardi Trophy. Its only been two games, but it appears that the Niners are finding their groove at the most critical time of the year.