The 49ers enjoyed enumerable standout performances during their 12-4 season and run to the NFC Championship game. With this in mind, 49ers.com picked the best of the best in terms of players, highlights and team decisions from 2013.
Frank Gore was our mid-season offensive MVP and Vernon Davis turned in 15 touchdown catches on the year. Both were worthy of being named offensive MVP for 2013. But when you consider the full body of work and where the 49ers ended up, the honor must go to Colin Kaepernick. Without San Francisco's play-making quarterback, who knows if the 49ers would have made it to a third-straight appearance in the NFC Championship game. Kaepernick was solid in the team's six-game winning streak to close out the regular season. He was even better in back-to-back road playoff wins against Green Bay and Carolina. Sure, Kaepernick committed three turnovers in the NFC title game loss, but he was also largely responsible for the team's 17 points against the NFL's top defensive unit, a group that held a Peyton Manning offense to 8 points in the Super Bowl. The 2013 season was Kaepernick's first 16-game run at being a starter in the NFL and all things considered, the 49ers quarterback proved he belonged and there will be better performances on the way.
This spot could really be filled by so many different players, but it’s hard to imagine choosing anyone but NaVorro Bowman. The four-year pro led the 49ers in tackles (145) and racked up five sacks, four fumbles and two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. Bowman’s season ended shortly before his teammates’ when he suffered a major knee injury in last month’s NFC title game, but the campaign isn’t defined by its end. As the Len Eshmont Award winner, his teammates awarded him one of the organization’s two MVP awards. At 49ers.com, we happen to agree.
Phil Dawson was so money and he doesn't even know it. The 15-year veteran kicker stepped up to the plate to deliver a game-winning kick in his first ever playoff appearance against the Green Bay Packers. He was twice named NFC Special Teams Players of the Week and he connected on 32-of-36 field goals in his first year with the 49ers. Dawson is a free agent in 2014, but Jim Harbaugh has spoken out about retaining Dawson's services for the future. "Pay the man," San Francisco's coach said of Dawson. At one point of the season, Dawson connected on a franchise record of 27 consecutive made field goals. It's hard to beat a performance like that.
Anquan Boldin, San Francisco’s other team-voted MVP as the Bill Walsh Award winner, was a solid, dependable pro’s pro from day one of his first year here. But he was so much more than that. The 11-year veteran led the 49ers with 85 catches and 1,179 receiving yards to go with his seven touchdowns. There were one-handed grabs and mano-a-mano battles along the way, but Boldin’s big touchdown grab in the conference championship game may have been his best highlight.
This was one of the toughest choices to make. The 49ers had several breakout performances by defensive newcomers. How do you decide which one was more impactful? You can't. So the defensive newcomer will be split three ways. Rookie free safety Eric Reid, veteran nose tackle Glenn Dorsey and fourth-year cornerback Tramaine Brock will share the honor. Reid was the winner at the halfway point of the year and did nothing to lose his spot as the top defensive newcomer. Reid totaled 77 tackles in the regular season, third-most on a stacked defensive unit. The No. 18 overall draft pick added four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Reid continued his stellar play and was joined with the emergence of Dorsey and Brock as defensive starters. Dorsey, a high-profile draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, thrived in his first year with the 49ers totaling 41 tackles and 2 sacks. After taking over the starting nose tackle role in Week 3, Dorsey became a force on one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and added nine tackles in the postseason. Brock, too, took over a starting position, only his opportunity came in late November. Brock never lost his starting role at cornerback and the team won each of the final six regular season games with No. 26 in the lineup. Brock led the team with five interceptions and recorded 37 tackles and 15 pass breakups. He was also rewarded with a four-year contract extension.
The "Pick at The ‘Stick" will go down as one of the most electric plays in Candlestick Park history and, yes, that’s partly because it occurred in the last game at the 49ers home for five decades. Consider this, however: Argubaly the team’s best player, in safety Eric Reid’s eyes, made it. Linebacker NaVorro Bowman’s right-time, right-place snatch of the football on cornerback Tramaine Brock’s stout pass-break up was great in itself. Bowman’s 89-yard return for a game-winning, playoff spot-clinching touchdown was something else entirely. And we won’t soon forget it.
The best offensive play of the year took place in one of three heavyweight fights between the 49ers and Seahawks. This time it was at Candlestick Park and it happened to be San Francisco's only win against the Super Bowl winners. The victory was due in large part to Gore's 51-yard, fourth-quarter run. The vintage cut-back dash helped set up a 22-yard game-winning kick from Dawson. Gore surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the seventh time in his illustrious career. He provided many clutch runs over the course of the 2013 season, but none was more critical to the team's overall success than his season-long run against the Seahawks.
In his second career playoff game, seasoned veteran Phil Dawson made the biggest kick in his life. And it was true. Dawson’s 33-yard game-winner with three seconds left in the NFC Wild Card playoff game at freezing Green Bay was his third executed attempt for the game. San Francisco’s specialist would be a perfect 7-of-7 in tries during the postseason, propping up the 49ers offense whenever it needed aid. Like Boldin, another veteran first-year player, Dawson was a staple from the first day he got here until the day he cleared out his locker.
Just when you think you have the 49ers defense figured out, they went out and did something you weren't planning for. That was the case in the team's NFC Divisional Playoff win over the Carolina Panthers. With the Panthers looking to plow forward for a goal-line touchdown early in their home playoff game, the 49ers shocked their opponents with a new, 5-3 goal-line alignment. Instead of showing the same goal-line formation they had used all season long, Fangio devised an un-scouted plan for Carolina and its quarterback-sneaking expert, Cam Newton. The new scheme featured Pro Bowl outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks lined up as an interior 'backer. The formation quickly provided immediate results. Brooks stuffed Newton on a fourth-and-goal sneak from the 1-yard line and the 49ers later denied Pro Bowl fullback Mike Tolbert on a third-and-goal power run. The wall-like defensive performance on the goal line provided a huge spark in San Francisco's road playoff victory.
There were other savvy signings made by Trent Baalke and the 49ers brass, but the re-signing of Perrish Cox stands above the rest. The story of his acquisition in and of itself is unique enough: San Francisco waived Cox on Nov. 12 to make room for the return of rookie linebacker Nick Moody. Then Cox yo-yoed on and off the roster of rival Seattle before Baalke brought him back on Monday, Dec. 30. By Sunday, Jan. 5, Cox barely ever left the field for the team’s Wild Card playoff opener opposite Green Bay, serving as the nickel corner in the stead of injured veteran Carlos Rogers. He performed admirably when he was need most and without much notice.
READ: Unsung Hero Contributes at CB
Michael Crabtree and the 49ers didn't win the NFC title game, but the fifth-year wideout handled the loss as well as he posisbly could. Crabtree's rivaly with Richard Sherman will be one of the most anticipated aspects of the 2014 season. We, like you, can't wait.
"That was the best birthday present I've ever gotten. Second, only to being born. That was awesome."
Credit this to budding comedian Jim Harbaugh, who dropped this sneak set-up and perfect punch-line on reporters during his Dec. 23 postgame press briefing. The coach was referencing The Pick at The Stick on the night of his 50th birthday.
You read our picks. Now it’s your turn. Share your season award selections in the comment section..