• Bret Rumbeck

5 big questions for 49ers-Colts

5. Is the defensive line tired of holding up the team?

Without a doubt, the men playing defensive line are what’s keeping the 49ers from becoming a total embarrassment. This position group continues to improve with each game and can be relied upon to make a play when needed.

Plus, the team has young stars emerging, notably defensive lineman DeForest Buckner. Rookie Solomon Thomas also played his best game against Arizona, got his first career sack, and kept his opponent on skates throughout the match.

Nobody is going to speak publically about the 49ers’ deficiencies, and certainly not a rookie or a reserve player. But these men must sit in the film room or team meeting and throw their hands up in frustration with an offense that resembles a 1980s NFL follies video.

At some point, each bad team reaches a breaking point. The 49ers have not hit theirs yet, but it’s a matter of time before a veteran leader starts calling out the offense for not doing its job.

However, a few wins may change a few minds.

4. Can Brian Hoyer have a positive impact on the outcome of the game?

Short answer: No. Hoyer was never the answer at quarterback. The team knew it, the fans knew it, but we all harbored the empty hope that Hoyer could be a shade above average. That’s all we asked. What we received was a terrible quarterback.

Longer answer: Through four games, Hoyer’s shown a fantastic ability to set the team up for field goals. Now, that’s not a horrible skill. Removing all other factors from Sunday’s loss, the 49ers needed an overtime score to win the game against Arizona.

Hoyer delivered on that request.

He drove them down the field, putting together 17 plays and using 7:36 minutes of clock. Hoyer put kicker Robbie Gould 23-yards out for an easy three points.

But asking for more from Hoyer, such as an overtime touchdown, is an exercise in futility. There’s a Thanksgiving table full of steaming blame to pass around on offense; the interior offensive line is sub-par, and Hoyer’s receivers (tight ends included) are dropping passes.

Ultimately, the quarterback is the leader on offense, and it’s just a matter of time before we see someone explode on the sideline. The best we can hope for is Hoyer to put the field goal team into position to put a prime number on the board and occasionally drive down the field for a touchdown.

3. How can defensive coordinator Robert Saleh fix the secondary?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the overall play from defensive backs in the NFL has deteriorated or if the 49ers have almost no ability to find good cornerbacks.

Methinks both elements are a reason, but the 49ers’ inability to find talent is probably the leading issue.

Arizona knew the secret to beat the 49ers: attack the secondary, specifically cornerback Rashard Robinson. Once quarterback Carson Palmer knew he had a victim, he kept going after Robinson… again, and again, and again. It was brilliant football, and I’m shocked it took the NFL four games to figure this out.

Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can fix the secondary, but it’s going to take a total breakdown in how to play the position properly. He cannot allow the corners to rely on a pure athletic ability to make plays. Too often the corners are out of position or beat by a few steps. Saleh needs them to play the position properly, or not play it at all.

2. If play-action helps Hoyer, why not run it more often?

Pro Football Focus issued some interesting numbers on Hoyer following the loss to Arizona.

Through four weeks, when Hoyer uses play-action, he is 26-for-39, with 313 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and has a 97.5 passer rating.

However, there is a severe drop in skill when Hoyer attempts all other throws. He’s 60-for-109, with 545 yards, three interceptions, and 57.3 passer rating.

It’s a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde approach to running an offense. But, the 49ers cannot run a play-action each time they wish to pass.

Reason: The offense loses the element of surprise. Play-action is supposed to fool the linebackers. If they are dropping into coverage and don’t take the bait, the backbone of the play is shattered.

However, head coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan certainly can call plays that roll Hoyer out to the right or left. Putting him on the move isn’t a play-action, but it cuts the number of reads for Hoyer.

1. Can the 49ers beat the Colts, or should I go hiking?

This question depends on where in the world you might be reading the 49ers Hub. If it’s still sunny and warm, don’t forget sunscreen, a hat, and a big bottle of water. I’m sure your dog would appreciate the exercise, rather than watch you curse the plasma screen on the biscuit-colored wall.

Each Sunday, I remember how much I love football. The 49ers are – and have been – painful to watch. Like you, I’m bored with the field goals, bad passes, and blown coverage; the ‘Brick by Brick’ mentality was a clever marketing ploy, but it’s like we’re watching a team show up to a construction site with Tonka trucks and a Fischer Price tool belt.

Maybe instead of 'Brick by Brick,' we agree this team had to be reborn in the Matrix and is just learning what it takes to win in the NFL. At some point, they’ll have an understanding and surprise us all.

This weekend, the 49ers take on the one-win Indianapolis Colts, in a game that’s certain to be as exciting as a kindergarten Christmas pageant that takes place just before nap time.

I wouldn’t blame you for a minute if you decided to discover the wonders of nature.