Coming into this season, few were high on the San Francisco 49ers chances of improving on their 2010 finish. Given their spotty preseason performance, a mini-campless off season, a new coaching staff and the ever controversial Alex Smith under center, the 49ers were written off by a great many fans and media pundits alike. After a 3-1 start which included a huge come from behind victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the 49ers entered Week 5 with many still doubting that they could make it happen against a young, talented, well coached Tampa Bay Buccaneer team. By the end of the 4th quarter on Sunday, those in doubt (including Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Michael Strahan, Jimmy Johnson, Jamie Dukes, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, a host of other media pundits and a few doomsayers who shall remain unnamed) were presented with an abundance of inconvenient truths.
Inconvenient Truth #1: Alex Smith is a Good Quarterback
Before any of you think of calling me another "Alex nutswinger" or homer of the week, you should know that I was initially underwhelmed with the 49ers' decision to retain Smith for another season. But what you, I and everyone else that watches this team have to get comfortable with is that the man is no longer a liability. That's right, kids…Alex Smith has become good quarterback. Not great, but definitely good. Last week against the Eagles, he posted a 112.1 QB rating. Today against the Buccaneers he posted a 127.2 QB rating with an 11 for 19, 170 yard, 3 TD performance. Is Smith suddenly the best QB in the league? No. Currently, he's the league's third highest rated QB, with a 104.9 rating. But Harbaugh's influence on Smith is showing up to a greater degree week over week…and week over week he has become more efficient. This Sunday, he finally put together four quarters of good football. I am sure that there are detractors out there that will scream from the top of their lungs that "coldseriousfootballreality.com
" (or some other flavor of the week football stat site) states that Smith is a fluke…and they will be wrong. For the first time in a long time, the 49ers are winning football games…and the play of Alex Smith has had a lot to do with it.
Inconvenient Truth #2: The Offensive Line Does Not Suck
Prior to this game, I wrote that the 49ers' entire offensive line would have to pick up where they left off in the second half of their game against the Eagles for the 49ers to have a shot at winning. The O-line did more than pick up where they left off…they absolutely dominated a defensive line that blew them off the ball last season. Adam Snyder was downright nasty as the lead for Coach Harbaugh's staple "power" runs. Mike Iupati was blowing guys off the line. For the first time this season, Anthony Davis and Joe Staley were locking down the edges against competent pass rushers. Jonathan Goodwin looked as solid as he has in a 49er uniform. The 49ers put together their second big day on the ground, notching 213 yards rushing against a very good Buccaneer defense. But perhaps the most telling statistic from the O-line's big day is this: 49er quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick were not sacked once.
Inconvenient Truth #3: The 49ers have a Pretty Good Secondary
Last week, the 49ers secondary surrendered 416 passing yards to Michael Vick. Even though the 49ers won the game, many (myself included) were a little worried that the 49ers were victimized deep by the Eagles. What a difference a week makes. For the third straight week, free agent acquisition Carlos Rogers collected an interception and is now tied for the league lead. Rookie Chris Culliver nabbed a downright artistic interception in the third quarter. For the second straight week, Dashon Goldson laid down the law over the top, delivering a highlight reel hit on Tampa Bay's Mike Williams which forced the Bucs' third turnover of the game (pushing the 49ers' turnover differential to +10). It is still early and the 49ers have a great many challenges ahead of them, but to this point, it looks as though secondary coach Ed Donatell has his guys improving, and that is more than anyone could have expected at the outset of the season.
Inconvenient Truth #4: Frank Gore is still Frank Gore
Two weeks ago, Frank Gore was being questioned left right and sideways, by fans and media alike. Had the 49ers "bell cow" finally become ground chuck? Well, if last week's 127-yard romp over one of the league's worst run defenses didn't silence the doubtful, today's 125-yard rushing clinic ought to have done the trick: Frank is still the man…and the man can still tote the rock. Big time. Gore averaged 6.3 yards per carry today, running inside, outside and pretty much anywhere else he felt like running. For the 49ers to enjoy the kind of success they did today, they'll need him to keep it up over the next 11 games.
Inconvenient Truth #5: Jim Harbaugh Knows What He's Doing
When the 49ers struggled to generate yards over their first 3 games, there were many that questioned Coach Harbaugh's play calling, going so far as to compare him to Mike Singletary and/or Jimmy Raye. The aforementioned noted, last week he outfoxed Andy Reid, the NFL's longest tenured head coach. This week he absolutely trounced Raheem Morris. Over the past two weeks, the offense that could scarcely muster 250 yards of total offense per game has posted over 400 yards of offense (442 against Philadelphia and 418 Sunday against Tampa Bay), pushing their per game average to 300 yards. In a mere 9 weeks, he's taken a team that hadn't put together a winning season in 8 years, installed a new offense and has them off to their best start since 2002. He's coached his team to its biggest win since 1987. If it wasn't evident early on, it sure as hell is now: Jim Harbaugh knows what he's doing.
And what is the sum of the aforementioned? It's what could end up being the most inconvenient truth of all (for the rest of the NFL at least): for the first time in almost a decade, the 49ers are on their way back to relevance. Enjoy the ride 49er fans. Enjoy the ride.
By: Alan R.
Date: October 14, 2011 at 9:57 AM
Comment: Your sarcasm about ColdHardFootballFacts.com is curious, given that they have the 49ers ranked as the number one most efficient offense and defense in the NFL.
7. SAN FRANCISCO (4-1)
Last week:48-3 win vs. Tampa Bay
Next three weeks: at DET, bye, vs CLE
The Cold, Hard Football Facts: Why are the Niners here? They are in the middle of an unprecedented run of efficiency. They rank first in Scoreability AND Bendability, which is a pretty strong testament to the power of Jim Harbaugh.
By: STL Niner Fan
Date: October 11, 2011 at 1:31 PM
Comment: Wow..it is good to be a Niner fan right now. Its been a long time since I've had the benefit of witnessing the Niners hand out an ass-whooping of galactic proportions. We won in all three phases of the game. A complete victory.
So why am I nervous and pessimistic? All I can think about is how bad we will get destroyed in DET next week. Do we have an answer for Calvin Johnson? Austin Miles torched us. I would surely like to go into our bye week 5-1.
After almost 10 yrs of bottom-of-the-barrel football, I'm having a hard time truly believing we have "turned the corner" even though most of evidence would support it. I suppose its simply a defense mechanism to protect me in the case of a bad loss, or god forbid a series of losses. I really hope this time the supposed turnaound is for real. Here's hoping we lay down the annual Stafford season ending injury...just kidding...sort of...
Date: October 11, 2011 at 11:52 AM
Comment: what happened to all the fans that were calling for a trade of Kolb? Or all the people getting on Baalke and Cousin Larry for not making big free agent signings? Or all the people who didn't believe in Harbaugh's plan? It's still early, but I would go on Yahoo, Merc, PD, and defend the niners decisions when all these so called fans just talked shiz...I told the people to just be a fan and support and cheer...now all those negative ppl seem to have disappeared since the 9ers are starting off well...Alex probably won't be the next great, but it looks like he finally has a chance to succeed...Finally, I'm so sick n tired reading comments like, Alexcuses, Alice Smith, or Alexis Smith...and the to all the fans that boo Alex, please just support your team no matter who is in there. Thanx
By: Lucky Phil
Date: October 10, 2011 at 7:13 PM
Comment: Why I can't stop loving Coach Sing. #1 No one ran faster or screamed louder to call a time out. #2 No one dropped his pants faster and bent over quicker in front of 52 guys. #3 Believed X's and O's belonged on a Tic Tac Toe Board. #4 Couldn't play Tic Toe for shit but could beat the hell out of you in a staring contest. # 5 First coach I ever heard thank a team for kicking his ass (game #1) and continued losing 4 straight because he meant it. #6 No one watched more film than Sing. #7 Watched Jesus of Nazareth 25 times a week. #8 Strong Faith in God. #9 Unyielding commitment to stupidity. #10 Everyone has a motto they will be remembered by, a message that will be replayed long after they die. For every Niner that picture burned into the back of their cornea's is Sing bending over screaming "All Nuts No Brains!" Have a good week AJ, Go Niners!
Date: October 10, 2011 at 9:13 AM
Comment: Call me crazy but if, and I hope and will beat the Lions we will be second in the NFC. With that said could end up with a first round bye in the playoffs!
Date: October 10, 2011 at 8:55 AM
Comment: #1 I have supported Alex for seven years it is really great to see him perform well. I still am not convinced that he can keep it up. I have always said Alex was a mans man now he is starting to show that he is a QB.
#2 The O-line did suck for awhile but at the moment they are playing very well.
#3 Secondary seems to be playing better but is that because the offense is staying out on the field longer and scoring points and the defense gets rested.
4# Hard call here. I love Gore but I even could of run through the holes the O-line created.
5# I have never doubted Harbaugh since the first day.
What I feel is that emotions run high amongst fans. They get too high when things are going great and too low when things are going bad. Thats why fans are fans. We still dont have enough input to really say what this team is about. Its looking good tho.
Date: October 10, 2011 at 8:09 AM
Comment: My man, AJ. QFT!!!...each and every point spot on. The sheer magnitude of the impact of this coaching staff screams at ya especially VS previous regimes. Finally, our players have the coaches they deserve. They like kids again, enjoying the love of football. Those smiles say it all, huh? I truly enjoyed yesterday's "E" Ticket ride.
Date: October 10, 2011 at 1:56 AM
Comment: Inconvenient Truth: Number 22 Rogers playing great ball for the Niners while we salvage what we can from that 80 mil contract for the other 22 (Clements)
Date: October 10, 2011 at 1:46 AM
Comment: AJ. Way to let the 49ers successes do the talking for you. I prefer it to letting the 49ers failure doing the talking for you. I get the feeling Harbaugh isn't shooting for "improving." I suppose I wouldn't want to "improve" on myself either. I would certainly prefer whatever it is that happened this weekend. After spending the day looking at Picasso's works instead of watching the 49ers, I wonder who came out the better man. God bless the DVR. After last week I was amazed at people for calling our win a failure by the Eagles instead of a victory by us. This week I can honestly say the Buccaneers got shocked by the 49ers D. The 49ers defense is elite, and I challenge anyone to say otherwise. I don't even care about Alex and Frank Gore right now. I know they are both doing well.I wonder that no one is talking about the 49ers defense. Everyone should be talking about the 49ers defense right now. But Alex looked like a pro this Sunday, so yea. Way to let the talent speak for itself. Harbaugh really needs to be taught a lesson, right? I wish Morgan didn't get hurt. He's more intragal to this offense than most people realize... You can't account for injuries. But they happen.
Date: October 9, 2011 at 10:43 PM
Comment: Another inconvenient truth: the Niners don't miss Takeo Spikes because Bowman has filled in admirably for him.
Date: October 9, 2011 at 10:19 PM
BEST IN THE WEST and all the nonbelievers are now
officially PUT ON NOTICE. The 49ers ARE BACK! and
have made it GRRREAT!!! to be a 49er faithful fan again!
"WELL, WE'RE MOVING ON UP" the NFL Power Rankings and deservedly so. Good times!