As Ahmed Plummer ran down the field for his first career TD, head coach Dennis Erickson ran with him stride for stride -- for about 5 yards. Plummer out ran Erickson, but nevertheless, the image of a giddy coach that resembled a Mexican jumping bean more than he did a head coach will forever be imprinted in my mind.
The play was a microcosm for the day as the 49ers demolished the Bears 49-7. On the play, Rumph blitzed Bear's quarterback Kordell Stewart from the defense's left side after following the receiver in motion. This was just one example of the exotic coverages and blitz schemes introduced that had the Bears scratching their heads wondering what block they missed. The 49ers used 4 linebackers early and often, confusing the Bears as the 4th linebacker would line up as the cornerback, the strong safety, or a 5th down lineman.
Stewart felt the pressure as often as the 49ers scored points -- all game. On Ahmmed's interception, it was Rumph's corner blitz that forced the throw into coverage. The 49ers mixed zone with the blitz, Plummer was covering the flat while Parrish had man coverage if the receiver ran a route over Plummer's zone. Stewart didn't read the coverage right and threw the ball right to Plummer.
Had Kordell been anywhere near accurate and had his targets been able to catch, the Bear's offensive production would not have been so bad. Receivers were open, and holes in the defense were there, but Stewart would often overthrow open receivers downfield or throw wide on hitch patterns. Other quarterbacks wont be so forgiving.
Most impressive though, was the 49ers special team's play. Erickson pledged a focus on what people term "a third of the game." As Erickson noted, not very many coaches practice that way. In the past, the 49ers have fielded average if not below average special teams. Against the Bears, Brandon Lloyd blocked a punt, Jimmy Williams forced and recovered a fumble, Jeff Chandler made all 5 of his field goal attempts, and punt and kickoff coverages were well executed. Had it not been for Arland Bruce juggling almost every punt he fielded, his replacement Jimmy Williams fumbling his only return, and Jeff Chandler missing an extra point attempt the special team's unit would have had a perfect day. Even Bill LaFleur, the Niners horrible punter, had a 44-yard average.
The 49ers did not play a perfect game. Although the score may not show it, the offense sputtered at times when they should have been punching the ball in for touchdowns. On five occasions the Niners were in the red one and failed to score. If this problem surfaces often the Niners may be in a little bit of trouble. Especially since they would be relying on a questionable kicking game that missed an extra point -- what amounts to a 19-yard field goal.
If the defense keeps playing like they did Sunday, however, most of the negatives will matter as much as they did against the Bears: not at all. For the first time since 1997 I can honestly say that the defense will win the 49ers some games. A relief, with what could be the most important game of the first half of the season against the St. Louis Rams just around the corner. If all goes according to plan, they wont be able to find their way around our corners and the defense will show the world that Sunday was not a fluke.