This Super Bowl would have been a bit tougher to take had they not been outperformed in nearly every aspect of the game. The Baltimore Ravens beat the 49ers in just about every match up including composure and poise. While the Niners did make it a game in what became one of the more exciting Super Bowls in league history, it left fans already thinking about how to improve this team so San Fran can win the title next season and take that next step forward.
Joe Flacco helped the 49ers family realize that we do have some deficiencies on that highly regarded tough nosed defense. The injury to Justin Smith certainly had a negative effect on how the 49ers played defense. They were forced to blitz more, therefore leaving themselves more vulnerable in the secondary.
The Niners defensive backs are a good unit together but definitely have a very weak link in the chain. Chris Culliver, who is more famous for his anti gay comments than his play on the field has become an absolute liability in the Niners secondary. He was the one who allowed Jacoby Jones to get 10 yards behind the defense and score that touchdown near the end of the first half. He was flagged on a crucial 3rd down pass interference call and got beat deep on several other occasions. This isn't an isolated incident folks. This happened all season long.
So while the league rates and ranks the 49ers near or at the top of every defensive category, they still have a lot of work to do. Over the past 5 years the 49ers have solidified their offensive line and concentrated on bringing in highly talented skilled position players like Michael Crabtree in the 09' draft and Mario Manningham via free agency. Now with the emergence of Colin Kaepernick, the 49ers have plenty of weapons and stability on the offensive side of the ball including the QB's new found rapport with stud TE Vernon Davis.
This off season the 49ers will need to focus on defense. Dashon Goldson is a free agent and he should be a top priority for the Niners to resign. He's a safety in linebackers clothing and a pro bowl player. But they do need more help in the secondary as I have mentioned my disgust with Culliver. Perhaps the Jets would be interested in making some sort of deal to send Darrelle Revis and Tim Tebow over to the Niners for Alex Smith and a first round pick! It makes sense for both teams as these are the main trade pieces for each organization.
While Revis and the comforts of his island would be top choice by the bay in San Fran, there are a bunch of other cornerbacks that are available in free agency for 2013. Names like Aquib Talib, Rodgers-Cromartie, Cary Williams, Quinten Jammer and many others are available to talk to once the fee agency period begins. The Niners need to look at those names and even a pass rusher. The only legit sack master on the team was Aldon Smith and once Justin Smith went down he didn't record a sack in his last 5 games. It goes to show you how much of a team sport football actually is.
A few names the 49ers may want to look at on the defensive line would be Cliff Avril, Dwight Freeny, Kyle Van don Bosch, Richard Seymore or do you bring back Sopoaga, Franklin and Jean-Francoise? The 49ers were the best defensive unit in football until Justin Smith tore his tricep. Once that happened, the Niners were allowing 30 points regularly. The Niners rarely substitute on defense because they lacked depth on their bench and believed their starters were 3 down players. These are both true statements so the 49ers main objective is to get some depth on defense, especially at linebacker. But even more importantly, they need focus their attention on getting another solid pass rusher and a cornerback that you can trust will be where he's supposed to on every given play and not watching the number on the back of the wide receivers jersey who juts burnt you for a touchdown.
For once I can say I am satisfied with the 49ers offense. I don't expect Randy Moss to be back but that's okay because Manningham will be back in 2013 healthy and ready to go. The 49ers will most likely look elsewhere for a third wide out. LaMichael James and Kendall Hunter are fantastic back ups to Frank Gore who is still one of the best backs in the league. The future is bright with Colin Kaepernick under center. Well maybe not under center but that Pistol formation looks pretty sweet so far.
The 49ers will come back hungry in the 2013 season. It's been a mountain they've had to climb. Last year they made and lost the NFC Championship. This year they made and lost the Super Bowl. We all know what the next step is. They have the coach, they have the quarterback, they have a bunch of skilled players and they have the means to get players that can help this organization take the next step and win the Super in New York next year. And by the way, my next article will be on the SBXLVIII in the Big Apple.