The 49ers have officially hit their mid-way point in their 2011 season, and nobody could have drawn it up any better than how it's gone so far for this team.
You take away that late game comeback by Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys and this team is sitting right along with Green Bay as the only un-beatens in the league. Granted, they haven't had the hardest of schedules thus far, and their 2nd half schedule has just Baltimore and Pittsburgh as the only 2 winning teams, but they've played steady football, and these wins are certainly no fluke. We talked a lot in the last post about Alex Smith, and how he's become a completely new QB under Jim Harbough and put up another solid game Sunday vs. the Redskins. Smith threw for 200 yards with a score and led the 49ers to another easy victory. Alex also upped his season QB rating to 97.3, good for 6th in the NFL. Again, he hasn't put up ridiculous numbers by any stretch, but his 2 int's are the lowest total of any NFL QB who's thrown for 10 or more TD's. His lack of turnovers and ability to keep drives alive this year has been what's set him apart from the pre-2011 Alex Smith. He's on pace for a 20/4 touchdown/interception ratio for the season, and I see him just getting better and better. You can attribute a lot of his success, as well as the hole offense, to the much improved O-Line. The unit has really gelled together and is starting to play up to their potential, loaded with high-round draft picks. They've also helped pave the way for a determined Frank Gore, who collected his 5th straight game over 100 yards rushing after a very slow start to the year.
The offense has been surprising this year, but the strength of this team still lies on the defensive side of the ball, and if they keep up with the way they've been playing, that defense will be sending numerous players to the pro-bowl in February. There are already 3 guys who I think are pretty much locks to be there, and those three are linebackers Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and cornerback Carlos Rogers. Their linebacking corps have become one of the better bunches in all of the NFL. Along with Bowman and Willis, they have rookie linebacker Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks who have 12 sacks between them so far and each appear to be getting better as the weeks go by. The only spot on defense where they still get exposed occasionally is in the secondary, but even that seems to be tightening up as the weeks go by. It's hard to fathom, judging where this team has been over the previous 10 years, but they could very well be looking at a 14-2 or 13-3 record for this season. A record that strong wouldn't just get them to the playoffs, it would like get them a first round bye too, something this team hasn't had since the days of Steve Young, Garrison Hearst and Terrell Owens. The difference between that team and this one though, is this team is much younger and appears to be just hitting it's stride. Good time to be a Niner fan.