Judgements VI: Time to believe! The 49ers just showed us why they're for real
So now we know: The San Francisco 49ers are legit.
They’re unbeaten. They’re on top of the NFC West. And they’re off to their best start since 1990 and the fourth time in franchise history.
But they're more than that because Sunday’s 20-7 beatdown of the L.A. Rams was a defining moment in this season. It was proof that the 49ers' aren't going away.
Here’s why: A) It was a humiliation of the defending NFC champions; B) it happened in L.A., with the 49ers now 3-0 on the road; and C) it was accomplished with the one tool every team needs to make it to the top … and I’m not talking about an elite quarterback.
I’m talking about an elite defense.
And let's be honest: San Francisco has the best defense outside Foxboro … but with a catch. Where the Patriots haven’t played a first-class offense, the 49ers have. In fact, they just did, and they were so effective they held Jared Goff and the Rams to no third-or-fourth-down conversions.
You heard me. Zilch.
I know, the Rams were without Todd Gurley. But he’s a running back. Goff isn’t. He’s a high-priced quarterback who led the quick-strike Rams to Super Bowl LIII. But he couldn’t solve New England there, and he couldn’t solve San Francisco Sunday – throwing for a career-worst 78 yards, with no touchdowns, four sacks and a third consecutive defeat.
Extraordinary? You bet. But unusual? Not so much. At least, not for this San Francisco defense, and you can look it up. Only one opposing quarterback this season has thrown for more than 200 yards (Andy Dalton).
But that’s not all. The 49ers rank second in points allowed, second in total defense, first vs. the pass and sixth vs. the run. Plus, they’re tied for third in takeaways. Plus, they have the game's fourth-ranked offense, meaning ... meaning they can beat you on both sides of the ball.
I admit it: I wouldn’t believe in these guys until they beat a quality opponent. Well, they just did.
The 49ers are for real, people. Time to believe.
SUNDAY SCHOOL: FIVE THINGS WE LEARNED
1. Never challenge a pass-interference call. Ever. You can’t beat a system that won’t allow it.
2. Sam Darnold does make a difference.
3. Kansas City isn’t the team to beat in the AFC, and it may not be the team to beat in the AFC West. Reason: Defense. The Chiefs don’t play it … and stop if you heard this before: If you can run, you can run over Kansas City.
4. Carolina has a decision to make when Cam Newton returns, and it goes like this: Cam or Kyle Allen? The Panthers are 4-0 this season and 5-0 lifetime with Allen. They’re 0-8 in Newton’s last eight starts. There’s an unwritten rule that says quarterbacks like Newton don’t lose their jobs to injuries, but tell that to Drew Bledsoe.
5. Defense is back in Denver, and, yes, that’s a problem for Kansas City. Reason: The Chiefs have to go to Denver Thursday. Denver hasn’t given up an offensive touchdown the past two weeks after going their first four starts with five sacks, no interceptions and no fumble recoveries. But the past two games? They have seven sacks, five interceptions and one fumble recovery. Better yet, opponents are 6-for-27 on third-down conversions, and the Broncos' are 2-0. No wonder GM John Elway isn’t interested in trading away his vets.
1. Now we know why the Saints haven’t missed Drew Brees. They have more than Teddy Bridgewater going for them. They have the Pope.
2. Add Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett to the Endangered List. Bad enough to get drilled by Green Bay at home … but the J-E-T-S? Brutal.
3. The Browns have lost their Swagger. No, really. Swagger is the bullmastiff team mascot that retired Sunday … and good for him. He’s been on the job since 2014 and went to every home game when the Browns were 1-31.
4. Dan Quinn has no plans to give up defensive play-calling in Atlanta, but he may have to give up all coaching … sooner rather than later.
5. Um no, Cleveland does not rock. The Browns are 0-3 at home.
6. Miles Sanders has the Eagles’ five longest catches the past four weeks. He’s a running back, and, yes, that’s an issue.
7. If I’m on the road, I want the Saints’ Wil Lutz as my kicker. He made his last 34 field-goal tries there.
8. Yep, Lamar Jackson is a dangerous running back, too, but who’s kidding whom? The guy can’t last carrying the ball 19 times.
9. There is no home-field advantage in Kansas City. Sunday’s loss marked the first time since Andy Reid’s first season in K.C. that the Chiefs dropped back-to-back home games. Dating back to the playoffs, it was the Chiefs' third defeat in their last four games at Arrowhead.
10. Ka’imi Fairbairn’s days as Houston’s kicker are numbered, and it’s not those missed extra points that convince me. It’s that last Houston series. The Texans passed up a 45-yard game-clinching field goal with 2:31 left to gamble on a fourth-and-3. It worked, but that’s not what matters. This is: The Texans didn’t have enough confidence in Fairbairn to make the easy call.
11. Bruce Arians said one of the reasons he took the Bucs’ job was because of Jameis Winston. Wonder what he thinks now.
12. Guess no one will be asking Stefon Diggs if he’s happy.
13. Maybe we should have known Dallas was a mirage. The Cowboys’ three wins are vs. opponents that are 3-14.
14. The Rams and Chargers have lost as many games in six weeks (7) as they lost in an entire season a year ago.
15. Now, more than ever, Philadelphia needs to make Jacksonville an offer it can't refuse for Jalen Ramsey.
16. Unofficially, that might have been the end of the Marcus Mariota era in Nashville. He gets benched for the first time in his five-year career on the same day that Winston commits six turnovers. Not a good day for the top of the 2015 NFL draft.
17. So how good is Houston? We find out next week when the Texans go to Indianapolis. They’re the two teams that beat the Chiefs.
18. Zach Brown, report to the principal’s office. Brown is the Philadelphia linebacker who called Kirk Cousins – his former teammate -- “the weakest part” of the Vikings’ offense … and, yes, that was prior to Sunday’s carnage.
19. The last time the Chargers were blanked in the first half was December, 2015. They've been outscored 38-0 in the first half of the last TWO games ... by teams that were a combined 1-8 when they played them ... and at home. Plus, they just lost to a duck-call champion. Think about that when you wonder why the Bolts are at the bottom of the AFC West.
20. In case you’re wondering, the difference between 4-2 and 3-3 is more than one game. Sixty-three percent of 4-2 teams reach the playoffs, but only 36 percent of 3-3 teams do.
MY TOP FIVE
New England … Honk if you want Gronk.
New Orleans … Who dat winning without Drew Brees?
San Francisco … Tougher to handle than Lombard Street.
Seattle … Russell Wilson makes move to front of MVP class.
Green Bay ... Never a dull day in Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood.
MY BOTTOM FIVE
32. Al Riveron … Where every day is Flag Day.
31. Miami … Next loss: Buffalo.
30. Cincinnati … Marvin Lewis, please call home.
29. Washington … Today, Jay Gruden considers himself the luckiest man on earth.
28. Atlanta … Falcons go to “Joker” one week, star in it the next.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
"Reviewing judgment calls, like PI, is slowing the game down and affecting he quality of the product. Let's get back to football and let the officials apply their judgment in game speed. Watching plays at 10 percent speed and looking for contact is not how the rules should be applied." -- Former NFL referee and now TV analyst Gene Steratore.
STAT THAT MIGHT INTEREST ONLY ME
The Saints haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in the first quarter since Week 16, 2018. The streak of seven games is the longest active one in the NFL.
AND ONE THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU
Patrick Mahomes was on the field for four snaps … that's right: four … in the fourth quarter. But that’s what happens when you have a defense that leaks like the Andrea Doria.
SUNDAY’S GOLD JACKET
BALTIMORE QB LAMAR JACKSON. He combined for 388 yards from scrimmage – including a career-high 152 rushing – and three touchdowns, making him the first player in the Super Bowl era to rush for 150 yards and throw for another 200 in a regular-season game. OK, so it was vs. Cincinnati, but so what? There are no asterisks in the NFL. If there were, the New England schedule would be a village of them.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE
“Ignorance is bliss.” – Minnesota quarterback Kirk Cousins on criticism.
GOLD JACKET QUOTE II
“The refs are never an excuse, but I’ll probably be fined for this … but it was pretty bad out there. Kinda ticks me off.” -- Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield on the officiating in Sunday’s Browns-Seahawks game.
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