This Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers will play in the second of their four primetime games. The schedule makers definitely did not think the 49ers would be looking for win number one at this time. I know everyone is frustrated, and even from a fan’s perspective, you can really feel the tension rising. With every firing, every Mike Singletary interview blow-up, and criticisms from under-performing wide-receivers, the state of the franchise becomes more and more uneasy. Fingers are being pointed in all directions.
But believe it or not, there is some good news to look forward to. San Francisco had a tough first four games with three of them on the road, and two of those at notoriously hostile environments. Sunday marks only their second home game this year, and they play at Candlestick again the following week. The next three opponents are the Michael Vick-less Eagles (2-2, both those losses occurred when Kevin Kolb played), the Oakland Raiders (1-3), and the Carolina Panthers (0-4). And after that, will be an international game versus the highly efficient, but touchdown inept Kyle Orton and the Broncos (2-2), two home games against the St. Louis Rams (2-2) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-1), and a Monday Night showdown at Arizona (2-2). And who knows who is going to be the Cardinals’ quarterback by then! 7-4 here we come.
I am getting ahead of myself because I can taste the playoffs already. When your team is winless, all you have are your dreams. Interrupting my illusions is the primary order of business: get that elusive first win. I really like the chances the 49ers have Sunday night. Last season’s version of Kevin Kolb is nowhere to be found, and fortunately for the hometown team, he is starting for the visiting Eagles. Kolb currently has completed 60% of his passes, for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He has been sacked four times in two games played and has a quarterback rating of 71.1. Not that Alex Smith really has anything to boast about, but the defense must be jumping for joy that the resurrected Michael Vick is out.
Without Vick’s scrambling ability, and rocket arm, the dangerous receivers of Philadelphia aren’t much of a threat. Speedster DeSean Jackson only caught three catches for 19 yards with Kolb under center last week. Compare that to the two weeks Vick was the quarterback where Jackson caught four and five passes for 135 yards, and 153 yards, scoring in both of the games. His counterpart Jeremy Maclin only had one catch for 15 yards and no touchdowns. Last week was the only game Maclin did not score. For some strange reason, Kolb ignores his two best receivers, and looks for his worst–Jason Avant. Avant had four receptions for 31 yards and was the intended target for the hail-mary that any other eligible receiver on the team would have caught. The only player I’m deeply concerned about is running back LeSean McCoy. An imitation of Brian Westbrook, McCoy thrives on swing, screen, and check-down passes. Fearing to throw the ball downfield, Kolb hit McCoy 12 times and he gained 110 yards. It is however uncertain whether he will play this week due to a rib injury. If he does, I hope Patrick Willis is up to the task of punishing the most likely threat.
I’m focusing on the Eagles’ shortcomings because we’re all aware of the flaws of our team. But doesn’t thinking about how much better it is to be playing against Kevin Kolb than Michael Vick put your mind at ease? Then take into consideration they’re playing the team from across the Bay Bridge, doesn’t that make you believe a turn around is possible? No team is going to run away with the division. The NFC West might be won with an 8-8 record. All the 49ers have to do is get in the win column, and build from there. Simple enough right?