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The Faithful were in a deep dark place in Week 1. Yet, the fears and doubts about the turbulent off season began to fade when out of nowhere the 49ers pieced together a dominant performance to kick off the season. After last week’s fiasco in the Steel City, the Vikings game appears to be a mirage, an infomercial for the 49ers season.
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The performance in the Vikings game was so unexpectedly great that it was hard, even for the most doubtful, to not buy into this team as some sort of magical quick fix product. So, we bought it, took it home, and opened it up. Unfortunately, come Week 2 all of the hyperbole following Vikings win about the 49ers being the “NFL’s new sleeper team,” looked a lot more disappointing than the JedCo. version we though we saw on Monday Night Football. The Steelers provided a reality check to any inflated expectations that the Faithful may have had going into Week 2. Let’s face it, the 49ers aren't THAT bad, but they are not nearly as good as the Vikings made them look.
Heading into the Steelers game there were two big concerns: pass rush and pass defense. What did the 49ers fail at miserably in Week 2? You guessed it. Antonio Brown made our secondary look horrible. Roethlisberger was not pressured all day and had his way with a vulnerable secondary. Tramaine Brock and Kenneth Acker were exposed by Ben Roethlisberger, who had his way with both corners all day. Safeties Eric Reid and Antoine Bethea consistently took horrible angles on deep balls, which led to big play after big play. When Darrius Heyward-Bay catches a long touchdown, you know something is wrong.
Offensively, the 49ers didn’t look that bad. Kap played well in the tough position he was put in by the defense. Last season Kaepernick would have crumbled under the constant bombardment, sacks, and general lack of help from the offensive line. However, the only thing that matters is the scoreboard. Regardless of the 49ers offense mustering up some impressive 16–17 play drives and controlling the ball, you can't win games if you don't put points on the board. Three points out of three long drives just doesn’t cut the mustard.
I can’t believe I’m saying this but Carson Palmer will test the defense in the passing game again this week. Palmer has started the season hot, with a 7-1 TD:INT ratio. The defense will have its hands full with the Cardinals stable of playmakers. And let’s not forget the resurgence of Larry Fitzgerald (not that he every really dropped off).
In order to find any success, the defense must pressure Palmer and Eric Mangini has to be more effective with his blitz packages. Palmer doesn’t force defenses to submit to his will like Big Ben but it will be interesting to see if the 49er defense can rally this week. Honestly, they can't do much worse than last week. Weirdly enough, the defense only needs to do is enough to give the offense a chance.
The offense needs to continue to sustain what they have done well, good play calling and play generally mistake free. They also need to minimize their main weakness, finishing. The Cardinals defense will be tough test, but the Niners have the ability to challenge them if they can spread the ball around and establish the run early. Torrey Smith flashed the deep threat potential the 49ers haven’t had since the offense featured a washed-up Randy Moss. They should feature him more and put Arizona’s aggressive defense on their heals.
This may be a tipping point game. A win sets a positive trajectory to compete in an open NFC West. Another demoralizing loss could start a downward spiral to 6-10’town.
Huss: 27-24 49ERS
Josh: 34-23 CARDINALS