An excellent Defense is a fan’s best friend.
The 2011 49ers have such a friend. As the team takes the field each week, we don’t know how well the offense is going to do, in terms of getting points on the board, but we do know that the defense will be quite good at keeping the other team out of the end zone.
Offenses lay an egg far more often than defenses do in the NFL. A good defense is as close to money in the bank as it gets. Especially in the playoffs.
Offenses can screw up any number of ways. Interceptions, tipped passes, dropped passes, fumbles, sacks, 79 yard drives that fizzle at the one yard line — a whole slew of factors that can take 400 yards of result and turn it into 12 points on four field goals.
But defenses keep your team in the game each and every week. Sometimes, good defenses even directly win you some games.
Ever since Patrick Willis came to town, the 49ers defense has been excellent at stopping the run. What the defense was not so excellent at was stopping the pass. 3rd and 15? No problem. Zip. Completion. Time after maddening time.
Not this year, though. San Francisco is the 4th stingiest team in the league on third down plays, allowing opponents to convert only 31.3% of the time. Seven out ten times, it’s bring in the kicker/punter time.
Sunday’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, are the 10th stingiest on third down plays and the third rated team in yards given up, so their defense is no slouch. Ask Pete Carroll, whose Seahawk team splatted its way to a mere three points against Cleveland last Sunday.
The Cleveland offense is not something you would want to devote a scrapbook to, however. Unless it was a very small scrap book. A chihuahua sized edition. So 49er fans can approach this game most serenely by repeating those comforting words: In Defense, We Trust.
The 49er offense didn’t look too good for the first three and a half games this season, either. Since then, it has resembled a juggernaut, with the offensive line performing at a level unseen in these parts since 2006. Is this line for real? Can we believe in it? It’ll take a few more games to reach that reality. The true test might be the Giants game two+ weeks from now. Unless it honks out against Cleveland or Washington and the size of our dreams gets shrunk in a hurry.
This should be an ordinary game and an ordinary victory. A show up for work, put in your time, go home for dinner deal. No heroics necessary. In that sense, it’s a remarkable game, because no game has been ordinary here since 2002.
The 49ers are almost a double digit favorite to beat the Browns. This marks the first time this year they will be a unanimous choice to win a game. There will be no “disrespect” factor to rev up the boys for an all out effort. Can they handle this sort of expectation? If they can, we will be officially moving into the era where it’s safe to invite friends over to watch a game and not have any worries that they will demolish your big screen TV with an angry fusilade of thrown beer bottles.
This will be the fourth home game of the season and neither the team nor a certain player has yet been booed. Zounds!