The so-called Super Bowl hangover has been something that has struck some of the past teams that lost in the big game. The San Francisco 49ers are the latest potential victims of the hangover after losing to the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl.
There have been a few injuries that have caused some to worry about certain positions such as wide receiver. However, this team is built to win.
Michael Crabtree is out until at least November. He was a prime target for Colin Kaepernick. The two players seemed to have great chemistry, as Crabtree’s numbers took off when Kaepernick became the quarterback. Now that he is gone, who will step up in the meantime? Let’s take a look at some key players at the wide receiver position:
Anquan Boldin – Boldin is a player in a similar mold to Crabtree. Both are big, strong receivers whom defenders bounce off of at times. Boldin can line up in the slot and did a lot of damage from that position. He is the kind of player that will be perfect for Kaepernick because he doesn’t have to be wide open to be able to get the reception. Kaepernick can trust Boldin to fight for the ball and make a play. He will be a leader on this team, especially when it comes to the receivers.
Kyle Williams – Williams is a playmaker who will stretch the field for the 49ers. He is especially dangerous from the slot position because he is such a shifty and quick player. Williams has the ability to catch a short pass and take it to the house. He has been out of the preseason games as he has rested his knee but rest assured, he has showed up in practice.
Quinton Patton – Patton has been a pleasant surprise. He fell to the fourth round and the 49ers got him. After missing most of the preseason due to a finger injury, Patton has come on strong. He has played in two games and has two touchdowns already. The second touchdown showed that he does have break away speed.
Another variable to consider is how Vernon Davis will affect the passing game. He will be the top receiver for the 49ers and is a mismatch for linebackers due to his speed as well as defensive backs due to his size. He and Kaepernick have been a potent combination throughout training camp and the chemistry between the two is getting off to a very good start.
The thing that will help this football team fight the Super Bowl hangover the most on offense is the offensive line. This unit has the ability to line up shoe to shoe and put the team on their back by way of the power running game. Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman will not hesitate to use their jumbo package, even in the middle of the field.
If things aren’t going right for the offense, they can always line up and play smash mouth football like they did in the 2012 NFC Championship game against the Atlanta Falcons. They physically over-matched the Falcons as they relied on the power offense to get them back into the game.
The other side of the ball also has some positives that will carry over into the 2013 season. Justin Smith will be healthy and has shown that he can still wreck havoc in opposing backfields. He is the classic two gapper that will help keep NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis (two of the best side line to side line patrolling LBs in the NFL) clean.
There are some questions in the secondary, but the best thing for a struggling secondary is a fierce pass rush. Aldon Smith is an outstanding pass-rusher who has a full arsenal of techniques. He is capable of impacting games by the pressure that he can get on the quarterback. His ability to power his way to the quarterback is a very underrated part of his game. Look at the screen shot below:
Here you see Aldon Smith bull rush his way to the quarterback while three defenders are attempting to stop him. Despite facing three blockers, he still got to sack Jason Campbell. This was one of his five sacks that night.
The steady improvement of NaVorro Bowman will also be a major factor in defusing the Super Bowl hangover. Patrick Willis is definitely one of the top inside backers in the NFL today but Bowman is a serious contender to dethrone him as the best. The advantage that Bowman brings is his pass defense. He had big time plays to close out games last year.
Let’s look at this play against the Green Bay Packers:
Here you see Bowman started at his standard alignment (red circle) and faked a blitz. This fooled Aaron Rodgers into thinking he would have a clear throwing lane to his receiver, Greg Jennings. Bowman showed enough agility to get back into the passing lane and jump up to make the interception that helped seal the first win of the season.
Ahmad Brooks is an unheralded player on this defense as well. He did get named as a second team All Pro last year though. This was in part because of his pass rush ability but also his ability to drop back into coverage. No play better highlighted this than a 50 yard pick six that Brooks had against the Saints.
Here you see Ahmad Brooks drop back from the line of scrimmage and intercept a pass by Drew Brees. Brees didn’t think that Brooks could get his depth that quickly and tried to rifle it in to his receiver. He returned it for a 50 yard touchdown. This came right after an interception by Kaepernick and it turned the momentum around going into halftime.
Above all else, the 49ers have the best coaching staff in the NFL. Harbaugh and Roman are two of the brighter offensive minds in the NFL. They have shown the ability to adapt their scheme to their players. The remarkable thing about their adaptability is that they can do it on the fly.
That Falcons game is an example of how they can change schemes mid game. The passing game just simply was not working so they relied on their best unit, the offensive line, to take over. They were able to come back and win after being down 17 – 0 on the road.
Vic Fangio is one of the best prepared defensive coordinators in the game. Donte Whitner is on record saying that he can get a really good feel for his opponent just by reading Fangio’s tip sheet. Mike Tomsula is a very energetic coach that has helped some of the 49ers’ young pass rushers develop, most recently Corey Lemonier.
Ed Donatell will have the task of getting Eric Reid, the rookie starter at free safety, ready to take over for former All-Pro, Dashon Goldson.
This coaching staff has shown a penchant for getting players in position to make plays and that will continue in 2013. It will be the biggest reason why the 49ers will not fall victim to the Super Bowl hangover curse.