San Francisco 49ers: What Is Their True Identity?

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Oct 13, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman (53) celebrates after recovering a fumble during the fourth quarter at Candlestick Park. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the Arizona Cardinals 32-20. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

When Jim Harbaugh stepped in as the head coach for the San Francisco 49ers three years ago after leaving Stanford, he established a new identity for this team.

This identity was focused purely on old-school, smash-mouth football. He brought with him from Stanford one of the most unique power running schemes the game has ever seen. After being one of the worst defensive units in the league, the 49ers were transformed by Harbaugh’s defensive schemes over the course of one offseason. Their aggressive, physical defense was what propelled them to a No. 2 defensive ranking in Harbaugh’s first and second years.

However, to begin this season, the 49ers have faced an identity crisis for the first time in the Jim Harbaugh era. For the first two games, the league’s fourth best rushing offense from a year ago was nowhere to be found. That second ranked defense was shredded through the air and the ground by the Green Bay, Seattle, and Indianapolis offenses while leading the league in missed tackles. And to cap it off, one of the most dynamic young quarterbacks from a year ago, Colin Kaepernick isn’t even in the top 20 in passer rating among starting quarterbacks.

Despite convincing and dominant wins in the past three games against the Rams, Texans, and Cardinals, all quality opponents, there is still an apparent identity crisis. Who are the San Francisco 49ers?

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