Delanie Walker (46) and Michael Crabtree (15) celebrate Walker's late TD catch that helped beat the Lions Sunday. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
To the rest of the NFL, this week for the 49ers is known as a bye week.
To head coach Jim Harbaugh, it’s called “improvement week.”
His players have bought into the term, and why not? At 5-1, the surprising Niners already have embraced Harbaugh’s enthusiasm, coaching methods, staff and systems.
So “improvement week” is just some extra time in the middle of the season to work on getting better.
“I love that,” tight end Delanie Walker told the Sacramento Bee. “It is improvement week. We don’t look at it as getting a couple of weeks off, we look at it as getting better and learning our opponent that we got next week.”
After a Sunday off, the 49ers will play host to the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Oct. 30.
One topic the 49ers hope to address is offensive inconsistency.
Though the team’s running game has improved markedly since the beginning of the season, the 49ers offense as a whole can be up and down, from one series or one quarter to the next.
As Matt Kawahara of the Bee pointed out, on 12 of San Francisco’s 16 drives against the Lions Sunday, the 49ers picked up just one first down or went three-and-out.
“We need to execute better, be more consistent, not have stretches where we go three-and-out for two or three drives in a row,” says offensive tackle Joe Staley. “We need to have more consistency in our performance. That’s the main thing.”
The 49ers rank 28th in the NFL in total offense, at 302.5 yards per game, though they have made the most of their opportunites. They rank seventh in the NFL in points per game, at 27.8 – a tribute also to the defense, special teams and their plus-8 turnover margin.
Harbaugh says he and his coaching staff this week can take the opportunity to do some “self scouting” as part of the improvement process.
Harbaugh outlined the 49ers plans for the week, saying Monday was for watching film of the Lions game, Tuesday is a workout day especially geared toward players who have had limited playing time, as well as meetings with individual players and groups to go over what’s happened in the first six games. Coaches will then work on Wednesday, and the players and staff will take a couple of days off before coming back and starting to prepare for Cleveland.
Harbaugh, too, says he plans to step away for a couple of days.
“I would like to see my wife and kids, yes,” he told reporters during his Monday news conference. “I think that would be healthy.”