Do the 49ers Lack a Killer Instinct?
As the fifth the seed in the NFC, the San Francisco 49ers are arguably the hottest team heading into the postseason. They've won six in a row and 11 out of 13 to finish the regular season. However, the 49ers haven't exactly looked pretty along the way.
Star quarterback Colin Kaepernick isn't exactly shredding defenses with the pin point like precision of predecessors Joe Montana and Steve Young. This season the 49ers offense has frequently stalled in the red zone.
In their final four games of the season against playoff caliber opponents (Arizona being the only team to miss postseason at 10-6) in Carolina, New Orleans, Arizona and Seattle, the 49ers scored a combined five touchdowns.
That may not sound too bad until you realize that the 49ers attempted 13 field goals in those four games. Thirteen field goals against five touchdowns is simply not a recipe for sustaining success in the NFL.
Furthermore, not a single one of those touchdowns came way of the ground game. Ever since Frank Gore came into the league in 2005, the 49ers have featured a strong running game as their backbone. But this year they have struggled punching in touchdowns on the ground and in general short-yardage situations.
Conversely, during their run to the Super Bowl last season, the 49ers scored 13 playoff touchdowns against just five field goal attempts. Granted they may have attempted a few more field goals had David Akers not been in a season long funk. But the point of the matter is that the 49ers were a missed holding call away from their sixth Super Bowl championship largely because they were able to finish off drives with touchdowns.
At the this time a year ago the 49ers were playing at a level that inspired confidence. Whenever they took the field, Kaepernick was capable of leading a touchdown drive. This season hasn't been nearly the same. Sure enough they've finished with another tremendous record at 12-4. But if you're a 49er fan, it's hard to believe you would be anywhere near as confident about these upcoming playoffs as you were going in the past two seasons.
In 2011, the Alex Smith 49ers finished 13-3 and earned a first round bye. Late in the season they beat Seattle in Seattle, an impressive win that helped them clinch that bye.
In 2012, even though they were crushed by Seattle late in the season, they were still riding high after knocking off the vaunted Patriots in New England the week prior.
This year they are riding that six game winning streak but they certainly haven't inspired the same level of confidence. There is no real signature win in the mix. They beat Seattle but by the slimmest of margins. In that game the offense managed just one touchdown and settled for four field goals on their home turf. Versus the 2011 win in Seattle and 2012 win in New England were big time signature wins.
While the 2013 49ers are certainly capable of running the table and winning the Super Bowl, there is more to be concerned about going into this year's dance than the previous two. Despite the impressive 12-4 record, the 49ers simply have yet to fire on all cylinders.