Maiocco's midseason review: Best and worst of 49ers after nine games
The first nine games of the season have been a disaster for 49ers ownership, management and first-year coach Jim Tomsula. The 49ers are 3-6, virtually out of playoff contention, and Blaine Gabbert has replaced their erstwhile franchise quarterback in the starting lineup. The roster has undergone significant turnover, and there have been huge drop-offs across the board. Here’s a look back at the best and worst of the 49ers’ first nine games.
Kicker Phil Dawson wins the award because few others can even be considered. He was the 49ers’ only points-scorer in three games, and he supplied the winning margins in two of the 49ers’ three victories. He has made 14 consecutive field goals and all 10 of his 33-yard PAT attempts. Also considered – LT Joe Staley, who has played every snap and has been the offense’s most consistent performer.
Linebacker NaVorro Bowman got off to a slow start, but he is getting better and better. He looked like his former three-time All-Pro self on Sunday in helping limit Falcons RB Devonta Freeman, the league’s leading rusher, to 12 yards on 12 attempts. Bowman ranks second in the NFL with 88 tackles. Also considered – Aaron Lynch, who has a team-best six quarterback sacks.
There are a lot of candidates, but Colin Kaepernick is the clear choice. Kaepernick was the only 49ers starter to get benched through the first nine games of the season. He had poor pass protection, but Kaepernick was responsible for a lot of his own problems. Also considered – Marcus Martin, a third-round pick in 2014 who Pro Football Focus ranks last among NFL centers.
Safety Eric Reid has tightened things up in recent weeks, but he struggled with miscommunications and poor pursuit angles in the 49ers’ secondary. As a result, the 49ers surrendered more big plays than, seemingly, the past four seasons combined. Also considered – Ahmad Brooks, who has just two sacks; and Tank Carradine, a former second-round pick who has not even earned playing time in his third season.
Best offensive play
This is what the 49ers were supposed to be with a healthy Carlos Hyde. In Week 1, Hyde took a handoff to the right side, then applied a devastating spin move to make Vikings DE Everson Griffen whiff. Hyde received a nice block on the backside from Anquan Boldin and he dove into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown. That play gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead right before the half. They wouldn’t taste victory again for more than a month.
Best defensive play
The Falcons liked the matchup on the left side with Julio Jones against 49ers cornerback Dontae Johnson, making his first start of the season. Matt Ryan lofted a fade for the 6-foot-3 Jones late in the fourth quarter, eyeing the go-ahead touchdown. But Johnson used his 6-foot-2 frame to knock the ball away. That play helped preserve the 49ers’ 17-16 victory, and send the team into the bye week feeling a little better about itself.
Worst offensive play
The 49ers were backed up at the 3-yard line in Week 8 against the Rams. Torrey Smith was lined up outside the numbers on the left side. The nearest Rams defender was 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and positioned on the nearest hashmark. Smith called for the ball, but Colin Kaepernick did not see him. The 49ers stuck with the run play, which resulted in a 1-yard loss. That play captured the 49ers’ first-half futility and frustration, and played a big role in Kaepernick’s benching.
Worst defensive play
It’s not so much that there was a huge breakdown, but it’s what the play represented. Just before the end of the first half, with the 49ers trailing Seattle 10-0 in Week 7, Russell Wilson delivered a 43-yard TD strike to Tyler Lockett. Cornerback Tramaine Brock was right there, but could not prevent the score. Down 17-0, that play drove home the realization that the 49ers were no longer competitive with their NFC West rival.
Best coach quote
“I felt like there’s a lot of work we’ve got to keep doing.” -- Head coach Jim Tomsula, keeping it realistic after the 49ers’ impressive 20-3 victory over the Minnesota in the season opener, Sept. 14.
Worst coach quote
“You try to get under the hood and say, ‘OK. What is it that we’re failing on?’ And at the same time, as a coach, you know the hand that you’re dealt.” -- Offensive coordinator Geep Chryst on Nov. 5, whose job it is to make the most of the personnel on the roster.
Best player quote
“You guys know we have a young team here, and if you do the math, maybe that’s the reason. But once we put those helmets on and go out there, there’s no excuses. You have to be ready to play." -- Bowman, making an early assessment of the 49ers talent after getting blown out at Arizona, Sept. 27.
Worst player quote
“Once again, mechanics are... I’m not huge on them.” -- Kaepernick, who spent 10 weeks early in the offseason working on tightening up his mechanics, Oct. 14.