Have I mentioned the San Francisco 49ers are BACK?! Are we through shocking the world yet? We’ve taken down the Dream Team in Philly and Sunday we took down the Darling Team in Detroit.
For the third straight game, the team stepped on the throat of an NFL eastern team considered to be a contender. For the third time in three tries, they have come back in the fourth quarter — on the road — in the east — to win a game. The team heads into the Bye week as the number two seed in the NFC.
Sunday’s bludgeoning of the previously unbeaten Detroit Lions was a vintage street brawl. The Motor City Motor Mouth, a guy named Suh, got his lips handed to him, plain and simple. Fifteen penalties and two turnovers and yet the 49ers still stayed calm and bulled their way to victory on a clutch fourth down game winning TD pass from Alex Smith to Delanie Walker, followed by two close out stuffings by the amazing defense. There’s no way this team would have won this game last year, or even kept it close.
Winning is contagious and the contagion is spreading. For the past few years, there were only four players on the team that you could regularly be proud of: Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Justin Smith, and Andy Lee. That is no longer the case. Each week, new players keep stepping into the limelight. Aldon Smith, Alex Smith, Chris Culliver, Anthony Davis, Ahmad Brooks, Kendall Hunter, NaVorro Bowman …
In previous years, you would look at the schedule and try to find teams we could beat. You look at the schedule now and try to find games they might lose. The team will probably not win every game the rest of the year, but there isn’t a game left on the schedule that isn’t winnable.
And these guys don’t even know most of the playbook yet!
Despite all the false starts Sunday, the O-line again played a dominant game. The signature effort might have been Anthony Davis shoving Ndamukong Suh back on the goal line, allowing Gore to drill in for a TD. A true nutcracker, in your face moment. And a second straight game with 200+ yards rushing. Not methodical yards, but punctuated by two spectacular Frank Gore blow outs up the middle. Right over Suh’s spot in the line, I might add. And it was the rushing attack that put us inside the Detroit ten for the game winning pass.
The defense is gathering much more league wide acclaim than the offense at this point, and deservedly so. The offseason addition of Carlos Rogers, and now Culliver, have turned the secondary from a liability to a strength. The D-line is playing lights out and the pass rush is strong from start to finish. Aldon Smith is fifth in the league in sacks as of today, and he’s getting better every week. Gore is 5th in rushing. Smith is the 8th rated QB. Bowman is 5th in tackles.
As a fan, this game revealed how much my perceptions have changed in just a few short weeks. I was not daunted by that hellacious beginning to the game and never once lost confidence in the team’s ability to win. This was especially telling in the fourth quarter, as the team got the ball for what surely would be its last chance to grab a victory. In other years, I have watched these moments with fatalistic despair, knowing it would be a miracle if we succeeded, wondering who would screw it up, and virtually every time we failed. Sunday, I did not have that feeling. It never entered my mind. Even when it came down to the one last play, I was a bit sphincter fisted, but I did not lose hope. I expect this team to win now. And that is a brand new world.