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Wednesday, October 30, 2013
49ers second-quarter checkpoint

By Bill Williamson

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The second quarter of the San Francisco 49ers' season is complete. Now let’s look at some key developments as the defending NFC champions sit at 6-2:

Story of the quarter: The perfect quarter. The 49ers went 4-0 in the second quarter of the season and have won five straight games. San Francisco has been dominant in all three phases of the game and have scored at least 31 points in each game during the streak. It is the first time they have done that since 1997. It’s been a stunning rebound from a team that started 1-2 with a lot of adversity. Heading into the second half of the season, the 49ers are clearly a team capable of finishing the season with a downtown parade.

Vernon Davis
Vernon Davis has scored at least one touchdown in four of San Francisco's past five games.
Offensive MVP of the quarter: Tight end Vernon Davis. Last season, there was talk Davis and quarterback Colin Kaepernick had a lousy chemistry. That changed during the 2012 postseason and the two have continued to build their chemistry this season. After suffering a hamstring injury in Week 2, Davis has been explosive. The highlight came in Week 6 when he had eight catches for 180 yards and two TDs against Arizona. It was tied for the third-highest yardage total by an NFL tight end in the past 20 years. Davis’ presence has helped ease the pain of the injuries the 49ers have at receiver.

Defensive player of the quarter: NaVorro Bowman. This is one of the game’s great underrated players. He is one of the greatest defensive forces in the league. Bowman was my choice as the first-quarter defensive MVP as well. Fellow star linebacker Patrick Willis has been coming back from a groin injury that affected him in both quarters of the season. Bowman has picked up the slack and led the charge of a defense that is playing at a high level.

Rookie of the quarter: Corey Lemonier. The pass-rusher has been playing extensively with star Aldon Smith in alcohol treatment for the past five weeks. Lemonier, a third-round draft pick from Auburn, is getting valuable playing time and he is showing he is worthy of it. He has given the team spark in both pass and run defense. Lemonier is showing he has a bright future.

Disappointment of the quarter: Lack of receiver depth. Kyle Williams and Jon Baldwin are simply not ready to be No. 2 and No. 3 receiving options. Both have started opposite Anquan Boldin during the quarter. Neither made an impact. The 49ers badly miss injured receivers Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Even rookie Quinton Patton, who has missed the past four games with a broken foot, may become a better option than Williams and Baldwin. It’s amazing the 49ers’ offense has been so productive with the lack of any receiving options behind Boldin and Davis.

Biggest unanswered question of the quarter: The reinforcements. The 49ers have six players who are set to return Players such as Smith, Crabtree, Manningham and cornerback Eric Wright all could make a major impact. It is unusual for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations to be poised to get this type of boost in the second half of the season. The biggest question is exactly when all of these players will be ready to return.

Fearless prediction for the second quarter: Win in New Orleans. One of the biggest NFL games of the third quarter will come in New Orleans in Week 11 when the 49ers visit the Saints. New Orleans is 6-1 and 4-0 at home. This is one of the best home teams in the NFL. Still, the 49ers will not be intimidated. This team has a steely focus and has been through some tough conditions this season. I see a big road upset in a game that will have major NFC playoff implications. A win in New Orleans would serve the 49ers well. All eight of their final games are against NFC opponents (they went 3-1 against the AFC South). Conference games are paramount when it comes to playoff tiebreakers. San Francisco has just three games remaining against teams with winning records. Thus, a win at New Orleans would be enormous.