SANTA CLARA – Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians labeled the 49ers in August as a “sleeper” in the NFC West this season.
The 49ers have been slumbering, all right. But the team’s 1-7 record is not exactly what Arians meant.
“I think injuries have a lot to do with it,” Arians said Wednesday in a conference call with Bay Area reporters. “That’s the biggest thing.
“I still think by the end of the season, they’re going to be somebody you reckon with.”
Arians said 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick looks healthy and was playing at a noticeably higher level on Sunday, as the 49ers came back from the bye week against the New Orleans Saints. Kaepernick threw for 398 yards in the 49ers’ 41-23 loss.
“Kap looks like he’s back healthy now and running and passing like he used to a couple of years ago,” Arians said.
“He’s getting many more reps. As the first-team quarterback you get those reps you don’t get as a backup. He hit a nice groove. He looks healthy. He looks like himself, which is always scary.”
On the other side of the ball, the 49ers’ run defense has not been scary. The 49ers have surrendered a 100-yard rusher in each of their past seven games, the longest streak in NFL history. The 49ers are on pace to be the third-worst run defense ever.
“I think they obviously miss NaVorro (Bowman),” Arians said. “When you lose leaders, that’s very hard – the guys that rally the huddle. But I still think, I see them getting better. It’s a play here and a play there, rather than a bunch of plays.
“The biggest thing, you got to block their safeties (Antoine Bethea and Eric Reid) because they’re such really good tacklers.”