2014 NFL Playoffs: 5 Reasons Why San Francisco 49ers Don’t Have What It Takes
San Francisco 49ers: 5 Reasons Why They Won't Advance in the 2014 NFL Playoffs
Last February, the San Francisco 49ers came up seven yards short of a Super Bowl victory. This came behind the arm and legs of a quarterback who had started eight career games in Colin Kaepernick, who led San Francisco on an improbable run that finally ended at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. When Kaepernick's fourth-and-goal pass sailed out of the back of the end zone to end the Niners' hopes, fans were left with a sour taste in their mouths.
Still, Kaepernick apparently showed enough promise throughout the playoffs to be hailed as San Francisco's next great quarterback. He surpassed Robert Griffin III as the NFL's top jersey-seller, and adorned the covers of both ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated. To be fair, the hype surrounding Kaepernick set impossible standards for the second-year starter out of Nevada, but he looked absolutely horrid early in the season, surpassing 200 yards passing only one time in San Francisco's first five games.
But even after a 1-2 start, the 49ers finished the season at 12-4, ending the season on a five-game winning steak, good enough to snag the no. 5 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Kaepernick showed improvement down the stretch, and the San Francisco defense hasn't allowed an 100-yard rusher since Aldon Smith returned to the lineup in Week 10. They currently sit third in oddmakers' books with 7-1 odds to win it all this year, and why not? Having been there last year and giving their young quarterback a year to mature, many assumed San Francisco could only progress in 2013.
But while San Francisco has shown flashes of greatness at times this season, compiling several quality wins and looking impressive on both sides of the ball, there are many causes for concern with this 49ers team. From their tenuous pass offense to their recently vulnerable pass defense, here are five reasons why the San Francisco 49ers don't have what it takes to advance far in this year's playoffs.
5. Bad Matchups
When San Francisco took down the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional playoffs last year, they did it at home and behind a career performance from Kaepernick. He finished with 444 total yards (263 passing and 181 rushing) in an outing that provided a plethora of plays for the year-end NFL highlight montage.
This time around on the road against a revitalized offense who just got Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb back from injury, things won't be so easy. A repeat performance from Kaepernick is unlikely, and Green Bay will have a chip on their shoulder from being embarrassed the last time these two met in the playoffs.
If San Fran gets past the Packers, they'll have the Seattle Seahawks or Carolina Panthers waiting for them in the divisional playoffs. In three meetings against these teams this season, Kaepernick has thrown for a combined 393 yards, or an average of 131 yards per game. Both secondaries seem to have Kaepernick well-pegged, and advancing against either will be difficult.
4. Inconsistency of Vernon Davis
Davis has been the epitome of inconsistency at the tight end position this season. He's somehow compiled 850 yards receiving, good enough for sixth in the league, while putting up under 22 yards in six different contests. In two of these, Davis was kept off the stat sheet altogether, not recording a single catch.
Davis is the key ingredient in the San Francisco passing attack, and this type of inconsistency is unacceptable if the Niners want to advance far into the playoffs.
3. Weakening Pass Defense
Though the Niners are seventh in the league in defending the pass, allowing on average 221 yards per game through the air, their usually stout secondary has shown cracks in the foundation over the final weeks of the season. After only allowing three 300-yard passers over the first 15 weeks of the season, San Francisco has given up two games of more than 340 yards passing over the last two weeks.
These numbers come from Carson Palmer, currently six years past his prime, and Matt Ryan, who's looked like a shell of his former self this year. If Palmer and Ryan can pull off games like this against the Niners' defense, what's keeping guys like Rodgers and Peyton Manning from doing it?
2. Defense Has Fallen Off In Past Playoffs
After consistently being one of the league's top defenses throughout 2012, San Francisco was abused in the playoffs, giving up an average of 30 points per game to opponents. Kaepernick saved the Niners with a couple of huge performances, but with Kapernick's offensive stats down this year, don't expect San Francisco to be able to eke by with theses types of performance on defense again.
1. Terrible Pass Attack
Kaepernick was never expected to rack up Drew Brees-type yardage, but for San Fran to finish the year with the 30th-ranked pass offense was unforeseeable. Kaepernick has averaged a dismal 186 yards per contest, only eclipsing the 200-yard mark six times during the regular season.
You can bet that opposing defenses will stack the box in an attempt to get Kaepernick to throw the ball more often. The return of Crabtree has certainly added a boost to the San Francisco offense, but even with him lining up at wideout, their passing attack is still among the league's worst.