The 49ers are 0-3. They have the second-worst point differential in the NFC, and they haven’t won a home game in more than a year.
But amid these glum times, some have found reasons to be optimistic.
To them, this 49ers team is on the cusp, ready for a breakout.
You’ve surely heard them — they’re the people who point to the 49ers’ defensive performances in Weeks 1 and 2 and then the offensive performance in Week 3 as a clear sign that the team is close.
They’re the ones posting online and calling into sports talk radio saying things like: “I think we have the right people in that locker room and the right coaches… Once we put it together it’ll be good.”
Wait… that was 49ers’ quarterback Brian Hoyer after his team’s loss last Thursday to the Rams. But he’s not alone in thinking the 49ers just have to “put it together” to find themselves in the win column.
If only it were that easy.
The 49ers, with nine days to rest and prepare, will head to Arizona Sunday to play an 0-3 Cardinals team that’s going to be coming off a short week.
If ever there was a time to “put it together”, it’d be Sunday.
I’m not optimistic that the 49ers will.
The 49ers are yet to surprise me this season, and until they do, there’s no reason to believe they can win.
Now, this isn’t to say the 49ers are going to go winless this season — there’s enough quality on their side of the field and, more importantly, plenty of bad teams on their schedule.
The Jets won a game on Sunday, after all.
But don’t expect more than a handful of victories from Kyle Shanahan’s team, and certainly don’t believe that this Niners team is going to make a run at winning the pitiful NFC West this season. (It’s seriously been suggested.)
Yes, seven or eight wins could claim the Niners’ division, but it’s going to take an incredible turnaround for this San Francisco team to find itself in contention with that kind of mediocrity.
Context is everything in understanding success and failures, and it doesn’t shine a favorable light on the 49ers’ performances so far this season.
A question: was the 49ers’ defense successful in the first two games of the season or were the Panthers and Seahawks’ offenses poor?
I lean towards the latter.
The Panthers have scored one touchdown since their Week 1 win over the 49ers. One.
Of the three defenses Carolina faced this year, you could argue that San Francisco’s, which allowed two touchdowns to the Panthers, was the worst.
And while the Seahawks put up some points last week against Tennessee, that was Russell Wilson late-game voodoo — don’t read too far into it, that game wasn’t close.
This season, Seattle is averaging 3.8 yards per rush (a number well below where they expected to be) behind an offensive line that looks to be the worst in football.
Credit to Robert Saleh’s defense for holding Seattle to one touchdown in Week 2, but don’t pretend that they were playing the Seahawks of years past.
And while the 49ers were playing with only three days of rest, I can’t overlook the fact that Jared Goff was able to look like the second coming of Joe Montana last Thursday night. While only four of the five touchdowns the Rams scored deserve to be tacked on the 49ers’ defense, those are still four touchdowns allowed to the Rams, who averaged 7 yards per play in the game.
So far, the 49ers’ defense has only performed well against bad offenses and played poorly against an above-average unit.
So why is there optimism?
The 49ers’ offense shouldn’t inspire confidence either — not when you take a look at the whole three-week picture:
The first two weeks, the 49ers couldn’t score a touchdown, but one performance against the Rams, where they scored four touchdowns in the second half against a team on three days rest, is sparking positivity?
Do you really think that kind of performance can be recreated in the weeks to come?
The Rams defense is bad — really bad — and Hoyer did what an adequate starting quarterback should do against them. It’s important to note that only 69 percent of Hoyer’s throws were accurate last Thursday and nearly a quarter of Hoyer’s yards in that game came on inaccurate throws, per Pre-Snap Read’s Cian Fahey.
87 of Hoyer’s 332 yards were gained on inaccurate throws.
— Cian Fahey (@Cianaf) September 22, 2017
There are positive things happening in Santa Clara. I even agree with Hoyer that the 49ers have the right coaches in place to turn the team around.
But that turnaround will come in 2018 and beyond.
So far this season, this 49ers roster hasn’t done anything unexpected: They’re yet to put up a good defensive performance against a good offense or a good offensive performance against a good defense.
And because of that, it’s impossible to claim the 49ers are ahead of schedule.
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