Two weeks into the NFL’s 2012 season, and the 49ers have already won two games in which the score is no indicator of how dominant they’ve been. The 49ers beat the Lions 27-19 at Candlestick Park last night, but the game wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicates. Up until the waning moments of the fourth quarter the lions had only mustered four field goals. Had it not been for a deep completion to Calvin Johnson thanks to a missed offensive pass interference call, the Lions probably would have turned the ball over on downs and the game would have been over.
San Francisco will surely get a lot of credit from the media now. Several sports personalities, including Jim Rome and Michael Irvin (who predicted four touchdowns for Calvin Johnson last night), have become “believers” in Alex Smith. Everybody knows about the 49ers defense and their run game. But I want to talk about all aspects of the win last night, not just those “sexy” angles from ESPN.
Random bits of Ruthlessness
- Aldon Smith is a phenomenal pass rusher and he looked stout against the run, but watch for teams to exploit his inexperience in coverage during the course of the season. He looked really raw in coverage last night and gave up some big chunks of yardage on swing passes. With Parys Haralson out, the 49ers will need to coach Smith up quickly.
- Mario Manningham has quietly become one of the best additions this offseason. He split reps with Randy Moss last night and shined when the ball came his way. Three catches for 28 yards and a 29-yard pick up on a reverse are not too shabby for a guy who isn’t playing every down.
- How long is Randy Moss going to be cool with seeing such limited playing time and targets? He was only thrown to one time, so unless they’re planning on trying to get defenses to forget about him (and I don’t think they will), he’s been a non-factor so far.
- Delanie Walker is going to have to really step his game up. From memory, he has four drops on the season of easily catchable balls. He also got called for holding to negate a big Alex Smith run in the fourth quarter.
- Speaking of drops, Smith would probably have a completion percentage over 80 had it not been for receivers dropping balls. Last night’s game featured drops from Walker, Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree, Bruce Miller, Manningham and Vernon Davis. None were poorly thrown balls.
- Vernon Davis had another two touchdown catches last night. With so many weapons on the field, it’s going to be hard to key on Davis every play. He might just take his touchdown record back from Rob Gronkowski this year.
- People are calling it “the Moss effect”: Michael Crabtree is coming of age. He had three catches on the 49ers’ final touchdown drive, all for first downs. His hands look fantastic, his routes look clean. He could be in for a 90 catch, 1,000 yard season if he stays healthy.
- The 49ers have by far the most complete defense in the NFL. Fantasy owners are still sitting their running backs when they play the 49ers, and now they might want to sit their quarterbacks too. Kevin Smith had 53 yards on 16 carries, and Matt Stafford had under 200 yards passing and no touchdowns before the garbage time scoring drive. The defensive backfield looked better than ever – flying around, hitting hard and keeping yet another elite quarterback in check.
- Frank Gore is forever young. I wrote in the offseason about how Gore might have another productive season in response to fantasy experts that said players should stay away from the 29 year old back. The way he’s running right now, he might have even more than that left in the tank. He’s so patient, so savvy and so explosive when he hits the hole. He showed some ankle breaking cuts last night, and it seemed like every time he touched the ball he ran for a first down. He may not have the home run speed that he had in years past, but he definitely seems to be benefitting from Kendall Hunter.
- Anthony Davis might be one of the chippiest players on the 49ers. He got into it with the Lions’ Cliff Avril on Twitter following the game last season and dominated Avril last night. You’d like to see him put a muzzle on the extracurriculars during the game, but as long as he continues to keep Alex Smith clean it doesn’t really matter what his attitude is. Check out BASG's postgamer for some more hilarity from the guy who made #StopCohn possible.
- Alex Smith, Alex Smith, Alex freaking Smith. I don’t want to swoon too much, but I’ve got an unbelievable man crush on this guy. I used to feel like the whole “never had two years with the same offensive coordinator” excuse was a complete cop out; now I’m not so sure. Jim Harbaugh has done a fantastic job of coaching up Smith, who almost quarterbacked his way out of the NFL completely two years ago. Smith had a revival last year by being safe and getting the job done when he needed to, but Smith looks like a completely different quarterback in his first two games than he did last year. Don’t just watch the highlight reel on Sportscenter; check out every play that Alex Smith dropped back for on Sunday. He’s setting his feet, going through his progressions, showing pocket awareness and throwing accurate balls. He used to look like Colt McCoy dropping back. He’s starting to look like Tom Brady now.
If there’s one complaint I have about Alex it’s that he’s not looking downfield and finding the open receivers deep. That, of course, doesn’t matter if Smith is completing passes and moving the chains, but you’d like to see more big plays for this offense. Nevertheless, I’m going to go ahead and say it right now: he may not be recognized for it, but in terms of quarterback rating and completion percentage, Smith will be one of the top five quarterbacks in the league when all is said and done.
- One more thing: check out this dude photobombing Smith's postgame interview with NBC. I don’t know who you are, or how you got on the field, but I respect you, photobomber. You’ve got gusto. You’ve got swag.