The San Francisco 49ers, despite some concerns early on in the 2013 NFL season, have certainly gotten back on the path that many people expected them to be on before the start of the year, winning their last five games. Moreover, their smallest margin of victory over their last five games has been a comfortable 12 points.
With the combination of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and Colin Kaepernick on the ground, the 49ers have asserted themselves as one of the premier rushing offenses in the entire league. The fact that they are averaging 153 yards per game on the ground as team this season, the best mark in the NFL, is by no means a fluke statistic.
However, coming off of their bye week their running game will be put to the test when they face off against the Carolina Panthers in week 10. The Panthers, who have made a recent run and now sit at a solid 5-3 for the season, boast the second best run defense in the NFL so far this season, allowing only 79.1 rushing yards per game to their opponents. Carolina’s front seven has proven, as many people projected them to be, to be a stout force that’s hard for opposing teams to handle.
As a result of going up against this Panthers’ defense, the Niners might have to rely a little more heavily on Kaepernick passing the ball in this game. Obviously San Francisco doesn’t need to abandon their run game—Gore, Hunter and Kaepernick moving the ball on the ground is still their bread and butter. However, Kaepernick might be asked to step up and throw the ball a little more in this game as Carolina isn’t as strong against the pass as they are the run. If I had to guess, though, I’m sure Jim Harbaugh and company will have something up their sleeves to put the 49ers in position to win what is likely going to be a defensive struggle.