All football fans will know about the ‘Super Bowl hangover’. The San Francisco 49ers are looking like the latest NFL team to be afflicted with this curse. This is because the NFC champions have found themselves at the bottom of the NFC West with a fairly unsatisfactory 4-6 record.
The 49ers have just been soundly beaten 27-13 by the New Orleans Saints. This followed on from two recent losses against Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, and now there’s a sense of panic at Levi’s Stadium. The last time that the 49ers suffered from the Super Bowl hangover was in 2015 when the team fired head coach Jim Harbaugh after slumping to a disastrous 5-11 season.
It’s still too early to say whether the current coach Kyle Shanahan will suffer the same fate, but it’s clear that things need to change fast if the 49ers hold any hope of attaining a playoff place. The NFC West is known for being the toughest division in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks have managed to repeat their impressive form of last season. Plus, the Arizona Cardinals are looking like a team reborn as was seen in their 24-20 victory over the 49ers in the first game of the season. (Not to mention the Cards’ thrilling win on Sunday thanks to this amazing Hail Mary.)
The 49ers’ next few games don’t look easy. They take on their divisional rival LA Rams at the end of the month, before meeting the in-form Buffalo Bills at the start of December. So what issues do the 49ers need to fix ahead of these massive games?
Injuries affecting the 49ers’ defense
Much of the 49ers’ success last season was based on the sheer strength of their defense. Admittedly the Niners’ defense has managed to put in some solid performances this time around. The best evidence of this came when they virtually silenced the New England Patriots to a 33-6 defeat in early October.
But with big embarrassments such as a 43-17 loss to the rapidly improving Miami Dolphins, it seems as though the defense just isn’t as cohesive as it was last time around.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will take much of the blame, but the sheer number of injuries sustained by key defensive players should not be ignored. While San Francisco seems to be able to stop the running game of most teams, there remain big questions about how effective the team’s pass rush is with the current injury predicament.
Is Garoppolo the problem?
If there has to be one player who gets the blame for the 49ers’ relatively dismal record, it has to be Jimmy Garoppolo. The quarterback is widely believed to be beneath the standards of a team of the 49ers’ caliber, and it seems as though his confidence is slipping with some subpar performances.
But there remain more questions in the offense. Admittedly the absence of star running back Raheem Mostert hit the team hard, but the addition of a quality wide receiver would certainly help a San Francisco team that’s become too reliant on the run. All of which means that time is quickly running out for the 49ers to fix their problems.