It was a disappointing Super Bowl Sunday for Niner fans in San Francisco and those who traveled to the game in New Orleans, as the team fell to the Baltimore Ravens, 34-31. But worry not, all is not lost.
The future looks particularly bright for San Francisco. According to many sports books in Las Vegas and offshore, the team is a favorite along with the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick returns to lead the offense and if the Super Bowl was any indication, he has all the tools to lead the team back in years to come. Frank Gore looked spry as ever and Michael Crabtree is developing into a true #1 receiver.
The defense struggled in the first half against the Ravens, but was solid following the power outage meltdown at the Super Dome, allowing only two field goals in the fourth quarter. Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman lead the D, and Justin Smith is expected back healthy after off-season surgery scheduled for this week.
Some question marks remain on the team, with the secondary leading the way. Joe Flacco, for the most part, had his way with the 49ers cornerbacks, who struggled to defend the deep ball all postseason long. Getting a top-flight defensive back likely tops the shopping list for the team this off-season. Wide receiver is also another position of need. The Randy Moss experiment was mostly a bust and injuries to Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams hurt the team’s depth in the playoffs. Basically, the team could add more depth at receiver and across the defensive line.
The other looming question is what the team should do with embattled former starting quarterback Alex Smith. Trade rumors are sure to pop-up with so many jobs open for competition this off-season (NY Jets, Arizona, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Philadelphia among others).
Perhaps the biggest roadblock in the 49ers quest to return to the Super Bowl next year – the team’s competition in the NFC West. Like San Francisco, Seattle looks like an emerging yearly contender. St. Louis is improving and with a new quarterback, Arizona could also be a contender. Competition is getting much stiffer in the division.
Overall, it was a great season for the 49ers and one to build on for the future.
Photo Credit: San Francisco 49ers, via Facebook