Monday, October 8, 2012

And Now You Know

Since losing to the Minnesota Vikings 2 weeks ago, the 49ers have outscored their opponents 79-3 en route to a pair of dominant victories. Their win over the Jets was done primarily with defense, and that's not to say that the defense didn't have a good day yesterday (only allowing 3 points is usually a good performance), but more that the offense stepped up substantially, running up a franchise record 621 yards in a 45-3 whipping of the hapless Buffalo Bills.

This was the complete performance that the 49ers have been looking for all season. Back home after a pair of games in the East, the 49ers beat Buffalo with a totally balanced attack. Alex Smith threw for 303 yards and 3 touchdowns, Frank Gore rushed for 106 of the 49ers 311 yards on the ground, six different 49ers scored Touchdowns, and in the process, the 49ers became the first team in NFL History to tally over 300 yards of Rushing and Receiving in the same game.

Yes, this is the kind of game the 49ers needed. Heavily favored to beat the lesser Buffalo Bills, the 49ers defense went out and controlled the game from the outset, allowing Buffalo very little success, and cutting off any potential chances they might have had. Even when the 49ers made their lone mistake—a fumble by Colin Kaepernick—the defense went out and forced a fumble of their own right before halftime, resulting in a last-minute touchdown pass from Smith to Michael Crabtree, opening up a large lead and basically removing any kind of drama from the game.

Offensively, though the 49ers once again started slowly, only netting a Field Goal in the 1st Quarter, things did appear different. The usually run-happy 49ers unleashed Alex Smith early, allowing him to throw the ball around at will through most of the first half, and well into the second half. Where last week, Smith wasn't moving the ball around to his receivers much, he seemed to be able to hit them at will on Sunday, completing 18 of 24 passes before departing in the 4th Quarter with a sprained finger.

Looking at the larger picture, the performance on Sunday, though coming against a putrid team, was something the 49ers needed to prove they were as good as many thought they were after week 1. It's easy to look great in September and then fall apart, particularly when your season is basically 16 weeks under a microscope in the NFL. Teams change, teams adjust, teams gel and teams come unglued, and it happens every season. Parity has made it such that it may not be the best team that comes out on top in the end, it's often just the team that gets it together at the right time. After beating the Packers and looking really good in doing so to start the season, many had anointed the 49ers as the class of the NFL. But since that game, the 49ers hadn't really had a complete victory. They were winning, which helps, but they also had one real stinker as well. A game like Sunday's can go a long way to remind everyone what this team is capable of when everything clicks.

The key for the 49ers, of course, is to keep it going. Particularly with a trio of  big, nationally televised matches coming up, beginning next Sunday with the team that ended their season last year, the New York Giants.

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