In celebration of the 49ers remarkable turnover this season, Niner Noise has reviewed each position and handed out grades. Today also marks the one year anniversary of the hiring of Jim Harbaugh. Who would have thought the 49ers would be in the playoffs as a second seed and winners of the NFC West a year ago from today?
The 49ers season of revival in 2011 was engineered by Harbaugh as he brought in the right coaches, kept the rights one from the previous regime, and installed the offense, defense and special teams. No matter how good the coaches or the system a team sets up, you have to execute everything on the field when it counts. The 49ers at all positions this season accomplished this. A perfect storm of the right coaches, players peaking with career seasons that included players already on the roster, along with the free agents signed by the 49ers, came together to catapult them back into the playoffs. Here is a look back at the 49ers 2011 season:
Special teams reviewed by Jared Quan
Click read more to view the running backs season review:
What a year for the San Francisco 49ers. The regular season has exceeded all of the expectations for any Niner fans. It truly was a team effort that made the 13-3 regular season record a possibility. Whether if it was the defense locking down a victory, or if it was the offense winning a game in the last seconds, and even the special teams had big implications on an outcome of a game. The Niners truthfully improved in all phases of the game. I want to take a look back at the running backs which contributed to the Niners success. We all know about RB Frank Gore and the outstanding career he has had for the Niners. He has been the work horse for many years. This season Frank was accompanied by two outstanding rookies.
RB Frank Gore
Before we get to the rookies, I want to show my appreciation to the one and only Mr. Gore. Also Known as the inconvenient truth, Frank has had a remarkable season and was awarded his fourth pro bowl selection in his career. Frank rebounded nicely after a very bad start to the season. I have blogged before that I really believed that it was looking like Franks good years were behind him. Fortunately I was wrong.
Frank suffered an ankle injury after a week 3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals and did not start the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Being benched would motivate Frank and eventually he made his way into the game. Frank ended up having a huge game, going over 100 rushing yards with one touchdown. In the process helping the Niners win the game after being down 23-3. Frank would end up going on a rampage from that point on rushing for at least 100 yards in the next four games with a total of three touchdowns. All Niner wins.
Franks final tally was 1,211 rushing yards, with a 4.3 per carry average, and 8 touchdowns. It has been a very solid regular season for Frank. My final grade for Frank is an A-. The only reason he has a minus is because after the hot streak he did cool down a bit, including a game where he rushed for 0 yards on 6 attempts against the New York Giants. Even though the yardage dropped for Frank, he still was coming up with big touchdown runs, especially against the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks late in the season. Great job this season Frank.
RB Kendall Hunter and FB Bruce Miller
The rookies sharing the backfield with Frank have been nothing short of magnificent. I want to start with fullback Bruce Miller. For the people that do not know Miller was a defensive lineman in college! So as a rookie fullback in the NFL he has done a pretty damn good job. Now the numbers are not eye popping, he has a total of 4 carries for 8 yards. It is not what he has done as a runner but as a lead blocker.
The 1,211 rushing yards that Frank accumulated was possible, to a certain extent, by the blocking of Miller. He’s done a great job this entire season of springing his fellow running backs for big gains. Let’s not forget the 30 yard touchdown reception versus the Washington Redskins. What awesome hands by a former defense lineman, right? My final grade is a B. It is outstanding how great he has played after being converted to a fullback. He will only improve and he gains more experience.
Kendall Hunter was a steal for the Niners in the 2011 NFL Draft. Drafted in the fourth round, Hunter has been the perfect complement to Frank. With the tough downhill running style of Frank, Hunter brings a quick sideline to sideline running style that makes the Niners offense dynamic. He reminds of Brain Westbrook in his prime. Not only can he run east and west, he is also not scared to run up the middle and he is a great receiver as well. Hunter is a very well rounded running back.
His two rushing touchdowns this season came when the Niners needed them the most. His first proved to be the game winner against the Bengals in week 3 and his second versus the Giants would end up being the difference in 27-20 game. My final grade is a B+. I really believe Hunter is the future for the Niners at the running back position. The potential is through the roof with Hunter.
My overall grade is a solid A. The running game is the foundation for the Niners offense. They finished ranked 8th in yards per game. The running game will have to come up big in the postseason, which open up plays in the passing game. I am confident that the running game will do their part. Lastly, be on the lookout for RB Anthony Dixon. As the third string running back, he does not get much playing time, but his build and power is very similar to Frank. He could be a nice security blanket if Frank was to go down with an injury. GO NINERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!