49ers Week 12 Primer: Will the offense wake up?

It’s almost comical to think that the general consensus before the season started was that the San Francisco 49ers’ offense might have to carry a depleted defensive unit through most of the season. The sentiment would have been even stronger if you knew at the time that Patrick Willis would be lost for the season, and Tramaine Brock would have barely played.

Instead, Vic Fangio’s bunch haven’t missed a beat, and they look almost as formidable as ever now that Aldon Smith is back and rookies Chris Borland and Aaron Lynch have stepped up.

The offense has to start clicking at some point though if the 49ers have any real chance at the Super Bowl. Will the turnaround begin in Week 12?

Recent History

Last season the 49ers were 6-4 and Colin Kaepernick and company were struggling to get anything going when they met Washington on Monday night in Week 12.

Sound familiar?

The game won’t be in prime time for this go-around, but San Francisco has to hope that the matchup has similar results as it helped catapult the Niners to eight straight wins including the playoffs.

In their 27-6 victory in 2013, Kaepernick finally found his groove through the air, throwing for 235 yards and three touchdowns. Anquan Boldin caught five passes for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Vernon Davis added a score of his own.

The 49ers defense was dominant as well, holding Washington to 190 total yards and sacking Robert Griffin six times. 

Players to watch

History has shown that when Vernon Davis has a large role in the offense, the unit can be dangerous.

In the games when Davis was targeted six times or more in 2013, he caught 30 passes for 577 yards and seven touchdowns. The 49ers averaged 32 points in those games, a number they are yet to hit once this season.

Davis, who has been battling injuries and hasn’t looked comfortable since Week 1, has only been targeted six times or more twice this year. In those games (Weeks 1 and 6) the 49ers had their highest point totals of the season with 31 and 28 respectively.

San Francisco needs to get Davis going, and they know that.

After taking the world by storm in his rookie season, Robert Griffin has gone 4-14 as a starter since. Griffin has looked lost at times, and recently drew the ire of his coach, Jay Gruden, who had some harsh words to say about his play (and attitude).

“Robert had some fundamental flaws. His footwork was below average. He took three-step drops when he should have taken five. He took a one-step drop when he should have taken three, on a couple occasions, and that can’t happen. He stepped up when he didn’t have to step up and stepped into pressure. He read the wrong side of the field a couple times. So from his basic performance just critiquing Robert, it was not even close to being good enough to what we expect from the quarterback position.”

“It’s his job to worry about his position, his footwork, his fundamentals, his reads, his progressions, his job at the quarterback position. It’s my job to worry about everybody else. And, yes, everybody else needs to improve. There’s no question about it. But it’s not his place. His place is to talk about himself, and he knows that. He just elaborated a little bit too much.”

Griffin could be playing for his future in Washington over the next six games, and has his work cut out for him this week. How he responds might be the big storyline in this one.

Game changing factor

Through 10 games this season, Washington has only scored more than 20 points three times and been held to single digits twice. That bodes well for a 49ers defense who, sans the debacle against the Denver Broncos, is only giving up 18.8 points per game.

Playing a low scoring team will help the 49ers, who are also struggling to score points and only have 17 touchdowns out of the first team offense all season. Even if the offense continues to stall, 20 points should be enough for San Francisco to come out with a win.

Stats to know

Frank Gore needs 29 yards to pass Ricky Watters on the all-time rushing list. Watters currently sits at number 21 with 10,643 yards. Next up for Gore would be Warrick Dunn, who’s the last of the 10,000-yard club with 10,976.

Gore has been up and down this season, (mainly due to an inconsistent work load) but is still averaging 64.8 yards per game. If he were to keep that average through the end of the season, he would end up eclipsing the 11,000-yard mark with 11,004.

Bottom line

The 49ers haven’t exactly been blowing people away, but a home game against an inferior Washington team that is currently in turmoil shouldn’t give them much trouble. A win here will be a big one, as the 49ers have Seattle looming in Week 13 Thanksgiving night.

Photo: Getty Images

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Al Sacco

Al Sacco is sports expert who knows football, baseball, basketball and hockey. He has spent his time as a sports journalist covering the San Francisco 49ers as a contributor to 49erswebzone.com and Ninerfans.com. He's been a guest on numerous podcasts and has had his work used on ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY.


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