49ers Defend Home Field and Stay in Playoff Hunt With Statement Win
Many say champions are made by the moment. The 2012 NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers have been counted out for most of the year. Sunday, they affirmed their place in defending their title for the upcoming playoffs by defying the critics and handling the Seattle Seahawks 19-17. Here is my picked six.
1) The road to Superbowl XLVIII may go through Seattle, yet the Seahawks must defend their home turf against a team they played earlier in the season. Why does this present a problem? The opponent for Pete Carroll and his number one seeded group could definitely be the Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints or the 49ers. Each team loss tough games during the regular season versus the Seahawks. However, a series of games against the same opponent raises the level of difficulty in claiming success. What cannot be defended is the argument against the impact of the 12th man. Nevertheless, I am not buying the Seahawks as this year’s NFC representative for the big game on February 2.
2) Dare it be said; the critic’s take on Seattle continues to be blaringly clear. They are a different team on the road. Fortunately for their visiting opponents, what produces a loss on the road can happen at CenturyLink Field on any given Sunday. The greater odds of this happening will be against teams who have the ability to go toe-to-toe with Seattle. Of the five other teams more likely to make the playoffs, three have the greatest ability to pound the Seahawks as a road team: New Orleans, Carolina and San Francisco.
3) Michael Crabtree is not 100%. Notwithstanding, he is an absolute factor for the 49ers offense and their ability to produce wins. It is the hope that Crabtree will get stronger and stronger with more practices and games under his belt. In his first two games this season, Crabtree has caught 6 for 108. Those are great numbers for one game and not bad for a two-game return from an Achilles injury. Colin Kaepernick and Crabtree left a few plays on the field Sunday and produced favorable looks from a Seattle team who double teamed Vernon Davis throughout the contest and also had to switch Richard Sherman onto Anquan Boldin throughout the game. The 49ers still require that deep threat from the wide receiver position. Regardless, with Crabtree on the field, the Niners are appearing more like the team who made a Superbowl run last year.
4) San Francisco has many of the pieces that a team requires to make it to the Superbowl. Most important is a running game. The Niners have a top run game without very much emphasis on the read option. To date, Kaepernick has rushed from 407 yards. Expect to see more to come from that part of the Niners playbook. Also, expect the team to continue their dependence on Frank Gore and one of the best offensive lines in football.
5) Colin Kaepernick is looking more and more comfortable and is picking up a consistent stride; the perfect timing for a team with big time aspirations. Surely, Kaepernick is a young quarterback on his way to superstardom. No one can doubt he has all the tools and the right attitude to continue his ascension to the top of the ladder. During the time when he could barely depend on his wide receivers, he publicly conveyed the leadership attitude required for winners. Now that the 49ers offense is growing healthier, Kaepernick’s comfort in the pocket is visible. He finished Sunday 15-29, 175 yards and 1 touchdown. His QBR was only 67.5, but he made plays and put his team in a position to win. Notably, the Niners are pulling the trigger for the read option a bit more. Expect Kaepernick to catch a defense slipping a few times before the season closes.
6) By the time the playoffs begin, the 49ers may be best team in the NFC. If the 49ers win their final three games, they will end the season at 12-4. Outside of their beat down loss in Week 2 versus Seattle, the Niners have not been beaten definitively this season. Like one play truly made the difference for San Francisco Sunday in the win. The same can be said in their losses versus the Indianapolis Colts, Panthers and Saints. Even while prone by injury, the 49ers could easily be 12-1 at this point in the season. With the addition of Crabtree and the health of the rest of the team, the Niners will be an extremely tough out in the playoffs this year. Three things San Francisco does very well make them highly effective in January. They have a great defense, a strong running game and have the penchant for making the game-deciding big play.