If the 49ers lose in the playoffs with Colin Kaepernick, will there be more or less second-guessing than if they lost with Smith?
If the 49ers fail to reach the Super Bowl, the 49ers’ season, as well as Harbaugh’s decision, will be considered an abject failure. There is a strong, vocal contingency of 49ers’ fans who believe that Kaepernick is more gimmick than quarterback and that Harbaugh has seriously injured the team’s Super Bowl hopes by starting him. Though they have been quieted by Kaepernick’s performance against the Patriots, they lie in wait for the next 49ers’ loss, no matter the circumstance.
Do 49ers fans realize the age of their defensive lineman outside of Aldon Smith? Is that the part of the team that will determine how long their championship window remains open?
If fans didn’t know, they figured it out after Justin Smith left last Sunday’s game with an elbow injury. With Justin out, the 49ers were able to generate little pressure–with the exception of Ray McDonald’s and Ricky Jean-Francois’ sacks–and subsequently allowed the Patriots to score four touchdowns in 15 minutes. But beyond the effect on the game, Justin Smith’s absence made one thing apparent: Without Justin, Aldon Smith is not very Aldon-like. A scary thought, to be sure. Without that dominant pass rush, Tom Brady and company showed how easily a secondary can be exploited. With Justin Smith, the 49ers are favorites to reach the Super Bowl. Without him, they don’t make it past the Divisional Round.
Are the Seahawks a team 49ers fans respect? Is there an aspect of playing the Seahawks that is tougher than other opponents for the 49ers?
49ers’ fans do respect to the Seahawks, to an extent. But I think that 49ers’ fans are more likely to fear the Seahawks, though perhaps not publicly. Marshawn Lynch was the only running back to rush for over 100 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers last season. And, Seattle defense has always been formidable. Still, fans could always take solace knowing that the Seahawks were going to be plagued by bad personnel decisions and even even worse quarterback play. But this season has proven the opposite. Though much maligned at the time, the drafting of Bruce Irvin proved insightful. And worse, Russell Wilson is the opposite of bad. Though he hasn’t filled the highlight reels per say, he also hasn’t filled the stat sheet with turnovers. So, yes, fans respect the Seahawks, but they also fear them… and, well, they hate them, too.
Seahawks fans see an opponent who has beaten them three times in a row, but every game was tight in the fourth quarter. How do 49ers fans see those games?
Last season and earlier this season, most fans’ didn’t take the Seahawks seriously. While the Seahawks were a talented team, fans didn’t believe they weren’t a team as talented as the 49ers. Which is to say, fans didn’t believe the Seahawks were ever a serious threat to contend in those games. Rather, they believed the closeness of those games a byproduct of Seattle’s overachieving or luck or both. This game is different though. Some fans are quick to brush off Seattle’s most recent success because of the quality of their opponents. But most know any team that can score 131 points over a three-week period is a legitimate threat.