The San Francisco 49ers received a wealth of rewards on Sunday as they defeated the Arizona Cardinals 27-13. First, with the win they solidified the NFC west divisional title, a title that was very much in jeopardy after losing to the Seattle Seahawks the week before. And second, with a little help from the Minnesota Vikings, the 49ers also clinched a first round playoff bye thanks to the Vikings defeating the Green Bay Packers. These two occurrences undoubtedly favor the 49ers and is a huge boost to their confidence heading into the playoffs. It just might be the much-needed momentum to propel them to the Super Bowl.
And though the 49ers were heavily favored in the contest against the Cardinals, it was a relief to see them get back to their roots to win football games. It’s almost as if someone in the organization is reading the articles on this site. Time and time again, it has been mentioned here that 49ers greatest strength is their running game, and dedication to that part of the offense is what drives them to victories. It’s when they choose to drift from the running game that they falter against opponents. Yesterday they ran the ball on 37 plays from scrimmage, and Frank Gore got 20 of those carries. It’s old school, smash mouth football, and it is the only game plan that truly works for them. Gore finished the night with the 20 carries for 68 yards and one touchdown. And back up LaMichael James also chipped in with seven carries for 49 yards. It was a stark contrast to what was done in the running game against the Seahawks, and the outcome of both games proved it’s worth.
Quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a very good bounce back performance going 16 for 28 on passing attempts for 276 yards and two touchdowns. It has become very evident that his success is in direct relation to the success of the running game. He is a young quarterback, and too much pressure on his shoulders leads to mistakes on his part. He is most definitely talented, and he can take the 49ers to the Super Bowl, but the offense cannot revolve around his talents alone. He has to have a strong rushing attack at his disposal if he intends to be successful. 49ers fans can only hope that the offensive game plan is geared in much the same way as in their win against the Cardinals as they move forward in the playoffs.
With such a strong running attack, the wide receiver production is opened up to higher level as well. As evident by wide out Michael Crabtree catching eight balls for 172 yards and two touchdowns. It was not only him though either, six different receivers caught passes in the game that saw only 29 passing attempts. And even though he caught only one reception, Vernon Davis just may see a boost in production if the game plan stays this way. Especially since wide receiver Mario Manningham is out for the season with a torn ACL.
The only concern on the 49ers part now, besides the playoff opposition, is the kicking game. David Akers missed another two field goals in the game against the Cardinals. He now has 13 misses on the year, and has seven missed field goals in the last six games. It’s obvious that his confidence level is at an all time low, as this is his worst year of his career. Not sure what or if the 49ers can do about it at this point, but the expectation level in the field goal department is not very high going into the playoffs.
The much needed bye in the first round will allow the 49ers to truly take stock of what works for them and what does not. Fans can only hope that the week off will guide them in the right direction.
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