It appears to be official: the 49ers are BACK. The only undefeated team in the NFC and atop the standings in the NFC West.
For the second week in a row, they dominated the TOP, this time by 39 to 21. The running game didn’t do much damage, and the passing game was efficient but unremarkable.
But this game belonged to the defense. They held the Rams to 157 total yards. A mere 48 yards passing from Rams QB Jared Goff, who was sacked four times. Three fourth down stuffs, one on a remarkable goal line stand where they stopped the Rams twice from the one yard line. And not a single third down conversion the entire game.
Jimmy Garoppolo continued his ragged ways. Sometimes great, sometimes not. But one stat that’s hard to ignore: he wins games. Sunday’s victory ran his record as the 49er starter to 11-2.
And the team should only get better. In a month, they’ll have their starting tackles back, plus WR Trent Taylor and FB Kyle Juszczyk. And CB Ahkello Witherspoon, who’s been adequately replaced for now by Emmanuel Moseley. Just in time to face the Seattle Seahawks in a November battle for NFC West supremacy. Deja vu to the 2011-2013 seasons.
The rise of the defense to the top of the NFC is entirely the product of a suddenly superb pass rush. The secondary has gone from a liability to a strength. And it’s contagious. Even mostly useless Solomon Thomas had a key sack yesterday. A bona fide one and not the occasional garbage sack near the LOS on a scrambling QB. Arik Armstead is playing more like a high first round draft pick is expected to play.
It’s still too early to forecast where this team might eventually wind up. But only a rash of injuries seems capable of derailing them now. They are definite contenders for the postseason – now and into the future. The basement days have ended.