If J.T. O’Sullivan and the 49ers showed the world that they were learning to win two Sundays ago against Seattle, they flipped the script completely in showing that they seemingly are learning to annihilate weaker opponents altogether.
Yes I said weaker opponents, something that while it might have existed in the previous three seasons under Mike Nolan wasn’t really believed by most until a thorough 31-13 drubbing of the hapless Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park last Sunday. Sure the 49ers have played some games against teams with worse records and who might have looked like on paper to employ lesser players. However they had never in the Mike Nolan era just demolished and ran roughshod over a team as they did in this contest.
This is not to say that I am predicting a Super Bowl berth for the youngsters in red and gold, I’ll save that for the Cardinals fans who are so unaccustomed to winning that they’re screaming NFC Championship. I will also acknowledge that this was in fact the Lions, they of 471 rushing yards allowed over the first two games of the season. The franchise, who has recorded only three sacks through three games, has zero interceptions over that same time and who has started the season 0-3 thanks in part to your 49ers.
There is a time and a place to get truly excited about a team’s chances for success in a season, opening up 2008 against the equivalent of the three stooges isn’t that time or that place. What is though is a chance to be optimistic (there’s that word again) about the prospect of actually being competitive and entertaining.
Of course as many well remember the 49ers began last season with 2-1 record and then proceeded to finish it with a 3-10 meltdown in which they were mostly outmatched and ran off the field. This season, one in which they have been able to move the ball seemingly at will in all three games, there is far more reason for hope.
Said cornerback Walt Harris; “We take things one week at a time. Our next focus is New Orleans. We don’t want to focus on anything but one game at a time, one win at a time.”
There is a sense that last season this was not the case. This team had not been there before, starting 2-1 and being on top of the division was not something they were accustomed too. Might they have looked too far ahead into the season at games that appeared to be more important then the next in line? It sure seemed that way as both offense and defense hung one another out to dry. The coaching staff was also clueless as to how to stop the leaks which while they started as cracks in the armor culminated in becoming gargantuan sized pot holes on the road to January.
After putting together a dramatic come from behind win in Seattle the week before, the 49ers were able to dominate in their most complete game in years on both sides of the ball against one the of the NFL’s doormats. Make no mistake, last years 49er team would not have done this, it wouldn’t have happened and in fact they might have lost this game completely. This seasons squad harassed quarterback Jon Kitna all day long, allowed Frank Gore to have his way with the Lions suspect defense and corralled two stellar receivers in Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams who combined finished the day with only six catches for 58 yards and no scores.
Gore finished the game with 27 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown. He also caught four passes for 32 yards, ending week three as the NFL leader in total yards from scrimmage with 412. Gore truly has taken on the role of Marshall Faulk in this offense, at least in regards to how many times he is touching the ball and the production he is giving the team when called upon.
“This is a different team we have now,” Gore said. “It’s fun. It seems so easy now. Last year it was a struggle. It was a struggle to get the ball across the 50, and now we can score 21 points like it’s nothing.”
In addition to all of this the JTO Show appears to be running full steam ahead as the former journeyman quarterback notched another good game and posted a passer rating of 123.3. He ended the win going 16 for 23 for 189 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with eight different receivers in all and also found an open Isaac Bruce in the first quarter for the wideouts first touchdown as a 49er.
To say he has been the most pleasant surprise of this young season would not be doing the man justice. He has taken this offense and this team and made himself its leader. With his command of the huddle, his intensity and passion for winning, O’Sullivan has his team believing that he can and will lead them to victory.
The 49ers most important man on Sunday however might be one who never even set foot on the field unless you count walks to and from the locker room. Mike Martz has revitalized this 49ers offense and it appears that the entire team is feeding off of his confidence. That this is the best the offense has looked in the last six years is an understatement, sure it’s early in the season yet but for the first time in what seems like an eternity, there is reason to be excited about Bay Area football again.
At least on this side of the bridge anyway.