For the want of a Niner game, let’s go over the team at the midway point of the season. Offensively, the team has survived a bunch of preseason (and regular season) injuries to get themselves back into the playoff picture when it was a little murky after week 3 and the Niners were 1-2. Those first 3 games were strangely pass oriented. It worked for the Green Bay game, but the Seattle and Indy games were laden with sacks, hurries, and no continuity or sustained running. Both games were close heading into the 4th quarters, but both ended up being blowouts as the defense faded from being on the field too long, and the offense kept turning the ball over.
Since those games however, the Niners have once again strapped themselves to the bell cow, Frank Gore. He is seemingly just as fresh as he was 5 years ago, and is still playing at a very high level. With Gore running successfully, other aspects of the offense now work. The passing game has gotten fairly effective, even though there are mainly two targets, VD and Anquan Boldin. Bruce Miller has come on as a check down, after some early season drops (the Seattle game especially he dropped a TD). The Niners even threw a swing pass to Gore last week (!). The good news is Marion Manningham will soon be back on the field for the 2nd half push. And Colin Kaepernick, who overcame a foot injury in the Green Bay game, has settled down and has once again become a viable read-option threat.
Defensively, the team has overcome injuries to the D line. Ian Williams was knocked out of the season with a broken ankle in week 2 on a cheap-shot block low and behind Williams, and Glenn Dorsey has been in and out with different tweaks. Nnamdi Asomugha went down to injury, but has been more than ably replaced by Tremaine Brock. Then there is the machinations of Aldon Smith and his arrests, rehab, and subsequent reinstatement a few days ago. Through all this, the defense has gotten stronger, due to the emergence of guys like Corey Lemonier and rookie safety Eric Reid. Patrick Willis as fought through injuries, but the star so far is NaVorro Bowman. He leads the team in tackles, and is all over the place.
The good news for the team is the injuries and distractions they have overcome to build this 6-2 record. I don’t know how or if the injury to Kaepernick had anything to do with the stopping of the read-option (and I actually called for it in the GB game), but the offense was out of sync until the ground game got going in week 4 against the Rams. The team is getting depth help from Quinton Dial and Tank Carradine after this bye, as well as Manningham, and hopefully soon, Michael Crabtree.
The team is setting up to be in good shape for the 2nd half of the season. How this shakes out with Seattle and their injury problems with their O lline remains to be seen. I’m not holding out much hope for TB to do anything on the road in Seattle, but the Atl game next week may be a stumbling block for them. The hope is the Niners can get to the Dec 8th game with Seattle even with them.