While reports that Jim Harbaugh has lost the 49ers locker room continue to flow inexorably from media outlets nationwide, the 49ers have their share of problems on the field, too. The last time the 49ers were truly dominant in all three phases of a football game was their season opener, a 28-17 victory over the Cowboys (who have since gone on to win five straight games, and top many professional power polls).
After the convincing win in Dallas, the Niners dropped two games in a row, including a vital divisional matchup with the Arizona Cardinals sans Carson Palmer. Not only did the loss give Arizona an advantage going forward in the race for the division title, but perhaps even worse, the defeat allowed Arizona the momentum and confidence that carried them through their stint without Palmer relatively unscathed. It could prove to be a devastating missed opportunity for San Francisco.
Since then, the 49ers have rebounded nicely to win three consecutive games—each more impressively than the one previous—but the 49ers have still not played and won a complete game in more than a month.
On Monday night, after trailing 14-0 early on, San Francisco rattled off 31 points and allowed the Rams only a field goal for the rest of the game. A large part of the comeback came on the strengths of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who achieved season highs in passing yardage (343) and touchdowns (3). Along with his 37 yards on the ground, it was unquestionably Kaepernick’s most complete game since the 2013 playoffs, and the best game the Niners have played as a team since the opener in Dallas.
Nevertheless, the early 14-point deficit blemished an otherwise dominant night for the 49ers.
Down a game to Arizona already, the 49ers still have to play Seattle twice later in the season. (Seattle has lost two games—both to teams with only one loss apiece.) In addition, the 49ers’ remaining schedule includes meetings with Denver, San Diego, and a rematch with Arizona. Needless to say, the 49ers will not be able to spot two touchdowns to opponents such as these.
The good news is that the Niners are trending up. Their margin of victory has increased in three straight games and Kaepernick, too, seems to be improving with each game. Additionally, the recent return of injured tight end Vernon Davis will aid the offense greatly, as replacements Vance McDonald and Derek Carrier have been terribly ineffective.
The 49ers can also look forward to the league-imposed suspension of outside linebacker and sack machine Aldon Smith being lifted after week 10, right around the time that all-pro inside linebacker Navorro Bowman will look to begin practicing again (after his knee has healed from offseason surgery).
All things considered, the 49ers are legitimately threatened with the possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2010 season. To avoid this, all the many pieces of this talented, but underperforming 49ers team will have to come together at once—a feat yet to be accomplished this season.