Despite coming into the season with one of the most talented rosters in the NFL, the 49ers sit at 4-4 at the halfway point of their season. The team has returned from its BYE week and is ready to kickoff the second half on Sunday night against the Los Angeles Chargers.
To make the playoffs and reach their goal of a Super Bowl championship San Francisco will need to improve in three areas.
Here they are.
The common theme during each of the Niners losses in the first half was a lack of execution.
On the offensive side of the ball, mistakes proved costly for San Francisco.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong, starting with the quarterbacks. Against Chicago in week one Trey Lance missed an open throw for a touchdown early in the game. On the opening drive of the second half, he passed up a potential touchdown throw to Jauan Jennings, leading to a sack. Those two errors cost the 49ers eleven points in a game they would lose by nine.
In Denver two weeks later, Jimmy Garoppolo struggled to generate any consistency on offense. The third quarter saw the veteran step on the endline of the endzone for a safety, giving the Broncos two points in a game the 49ers lost by one.
Fumbles have also been an issue. The 49ers are near the top of the NFL in fumbles this season. Against Atlanta, Jeff Wilson Jr. put the ball on the ground and the Falcons returned it for a touchdown. San Francisco was unable to pull itself out of the hole.
Another area that has hurt the production of San Francisco’s offense is penalties. They are one of the most penalized units in the league.
Last but certainly not least is dropped passes.
San Francisco made Deebo Samuel one of the league’s highest paid receivers during the offseason. Samuel’s seven dropped passes leads the NFL, quite an accomplishment when you consider he missed a game due to injury.
Samuel isn’t alone. Jauan Jennings has dropped five passes as well. That means he has not been able to hold on to roughly one out of every five passes that has come his way.
In total, 49ers pass catchers have dropped eight percent of their targets this season. The highest number in the league.
It should come as no surprise that San Francisco’s four best games came when they executed to their potential.
2.) Stay healthy
Since Kyle Shanahan took over San Francisco has struggled to stay healthy. This has once again been the case in 2022.
While Javon Kinlaw and Arik Armstead continue to work their way back from lower body injuries, the Niners had several starters return to practice on Monday.
Among those set to return are Elijah Mitchell, Azeez Al-Shaair, Colton McKivitz, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Kyle Juszczyk and Jason Verrett.
Keeping their starters healthy will be vital to success in the second half.
San Francisco finished the regular season strong on their way to the postseason in 2019 and 2021. They will need another strong finish if they are to make it back this season.
A game and a half behind Seattle for the lead in the NFC West, the 49ers currently hold the seventh and final playoff spot in the NFC.
The schedule sets up favorably. San Francisco will play six of their final nine at home and travel outside the Pacific time zone only once. Tough matchups at the Los Angeles Chargers, Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers will set the stage for what could be a fight for the division lead in Seattle in mid-December.