49ers endured a lot in first quarter of season

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49ers endured a lot in first quarter of season
September 30, 2013, 1:00 pm
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The 49ers are expected to be without Aldon Smith for several more games, possibly through the team's Week 8 game in London. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

All the great quarterbacks exude confidence and leadership in the role of team spokesman. Kaepernick must learn his job extends beyond the playing field.
Matt Maiocco

NaVorro Bowman leads the 49ers with 34 tackles. He also has 2 sacks, 4 passes defended, and two forced fumbles. (AP)

The difficult part is over for the 49ers after reaching the one-quarter point of the season with a 2-2 record.

That’s in reference to a schedule that featured three playoff teams from a year ago. But it could also take into account the problems the 49ers encountered along the way in their first four games.

In the second quarter of the season, the 49ers are expected to get some players back off the reserve/physically unable to perform and reserve/non-football injury lists. And the schedule lightens up with home games against Houston and Arizona, a road game against Tennessee, and a trip to London to face Jacksonville. The Titans are the only team the 49ers face during the next four-game section of their schedule that is currently above .500, and they might be without injured quarterback Jake Locker.

Here’s a look back at the first four games for the 49ers’ season:

Offensive MVP: WR Anquan Boldin. In the 49ers’ two victories, Boldin was exceptional. He was NFC Offensive Player of the Week in a Week 1 victory over Green Bay. And he provided huge plays in the victory over the St. Louis Rams. Boldin has 24 catches for 372 yards and two touchdowns. He is the 49ers’ only threat at wideout.

Offensive disappointment: Through three games, the run game was either ineffective or inactive. But Frank Gore and those entrusted with blocking for him were dominant against the Rams. After a 153-yard performance, Gore now ranks eighth in the NFL with 295 rushing yards. Four of the players in front of him have fewer yards per attempt, including Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson. The 49ers need to get the run game going on a more consistent basis.

Off the field: Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was outstanding in the opener. He had two bad games. And, then, he had a very efficient, game-manager-type performance against the Rams. As the face of the franchise, Kaepernick can do a much better job of conveying tone-setting messages when he has a forum in front of the public. All the great quarterbacks exude confidence and leadership in the role of team spokesman. Kaepernick must learn his job extends beyond the playing field.

[REWIND -- Kap's message to angry fans: 'They can tweet to me tonight']

Defensive MVP: Inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman took on a lot more responsibility against the Rams. The 49ers had a gut-check type of game after two consecutive losses. And All-Pros Aldon Smith and Patrick Willis were not available. Bowman stepped up his game on the field, and he showed more leadership qualities off the field. Bowman is the 49ers’ leading tackler, and when the 49ers needed someone to pick up the slack with the pass rush, he obliged, too.

Defensive disappointment: The defense kept the 49ers in the games against Seattle and Indianapolis. But the unit did not get much support from the offense in those games and wore down dramatically in the fourth quarter. The defense surrendered 31 fourth-quarter points in those two games as close games turned into blowouts.

Off the field: Aldon Smith was arrested on suspicion of DUI and possession of marijuana on the morning Sept. 20 – just two days before the 49ers’ game against the Colts. He played in that game, and then took a voluntary leave of absence to enter in-patient treatment for substance abuse. Smith, who recorded 33.5 sacks in his first two NFL seasons, leads the 49ers with 4.5 sacks.

Overall outlook: The 49ers play just three teams with winning records – Tennessee, New Orleans and Seattle – in the final 12 games of the season. The 49ers have sustained one season-ending injury, as nose tackle Ian Williams is out with a broken ankle. Glenn Dorsey stepped into the lineup, and has played well. The 49ers are expected to add a number of contributors back after Week 6, including wide receiver Mario Manningham and cornerback Eric Wright. The 49ers are hopeful Aldon Smith and Michael Crabtree will return a little later. And rookie defensive linemen Tank Carradine and Quinton Dial should be available at some point, too.

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