San Francisco 49ers Emerge As Serious Contender
By Jerrell Richardson
Although the records of the 49ers and Jets were an identical 2-1 entering their game, San Francisco quickly proved that they are by far the better team. San Francisco started slow, but ended fast, dominating their opponent in all aspects of the game, resulting in a resounding 34-0 victory at MetLife Stadium. After suffering their first defeat of the season last week, San Francisco bounced back and are back to the style of play that had them atop the NFL Power Rankings just last week.
Alex Smith played one of his worst games under Jim Harbaugh last week, and needed to show that it was a fluke and not a trend. The problem with this week was that the team had so much success on the ground, and built an early lead that there was little need to pass the ball. Smith finished the game a modest 12-21 for 143 yards and no interceptions or touchdowns. He had his moments hitting receivers on mid range passes and changing plays at the line based on what he saw the defense was giving him, but also showed that he and his receivers are still not where they need to be. He missed both Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree on wide open throws that both would have resulted in long touchdown passes. He held onto the ball on back to back plays in the first half that pushed them outside of field goal range, and his early miscues kept the game closer then it needed to be in the first half. Grade: C+
Colin Kaepernick came into the game and lit a fire under his teammates. His final stats were 0-1 through the air and 5 rushes for 50 yards on the ground, but his effect was so profound that it would be surprising to not see him featured more in games game plan in the following weeks. He scored the teams first touchdown and his one throw he showcased his cannon of a arm, with a shot down the field to Randy Moss, that although incomplete showed that he is not just in the game to run. He also showed some class when after the game was well out of reach, he had a play in which he could have walked into the end-zone but choose to slide down short of the goal line. Perhaps it was the fact that Tim Tebow was on the other sideline, but something sparked the 49er coaches to put in Kaepernick and he responded, and it was Kaepernick who looked more like Tim Tebow then Tebow did. Grade: B+
The offense played good enough, but left a lot of points on the field. The final score was not misleading as the Jets offense never woke up, but it could have been much worse, if the 49ers were clicking. The bright spot on the day was the rushing game. Frank Gore led the way with only 62 yards, but that was because everyone seemed to get a chance to run the ball. San Francisco had 9 different players carry the ball, accumulating 245 yards. Kendall Hunter continues to be a solid two punch to compliment Frank Gore, and the physical running game made its reappearance after taking last week off.
The Receivers though need to get their act together. The mid range and short passing attack is there, but there is still no real threat down the field. Due to his speed Randy Moss continues to get perhaps too much respect for the underneath routes, but the passing game has failed to live up to the expectations that came with adding so many weapons at the wide receiver position. Vernon Davis was targeted twice, and Manningham led the team with only 3 receptions, so the team will have to develop this part of their offense to round out the team. Grade: B
Any questions about the defense were answered this week. Granted they were playing a Jets team that has struggled at times to move the ball, but New York did have 2 wins on the season and scored 41 points against a very good Buffalo defense in their opening game. After the 49ers failed to to record a sack the week before, they came out and hounded Mark Sanchez all day. The team finished the day with 3 sacks, and its pressure helped caused the errant and tipped pass that landed in the hands of Patrick Willis for the teams sole interception. They also forced a first half fumble by Sanchez that kept the Jets off the scoreboard when they were in the position to at least score a field goal when the game was relativity close. However, when looking at the total yards on the day of 145 for the Jets (45 on the ground and 100 through the air), it’s clear that this game was over before it started.
They smothered the Jets running backs, neutralized Tim Tebow and never game Mark Sanchez time to get comfortable in the pocket. San Francisco as a defense played so well that it seemed destined for the Jets to bring in Tebow, as he could not do any worse, but wisely left him on the sidelines as once they turned in a pass only offense, the last person they would want to try and bring them back would be Tim Tebow. Grade: A
David Akers was off. The usual automatic kicker finished the day 2-4, which obviously had no effect on the game, but he will certainly need to get back to his normal self as the team moves forward. Andy Lee also had a somewhat off day with a 34 yard punt that seemed to go off the side of his foot, but finished the day with a 46 yard average on 4 punts. The team was able to block a point that set up an easy touchdown that was the nail in the coffin.
The return game is starting to get back to where it was last year as well with Ted Ginn Jr. finally stepping back on the field. Due to his emergence in his absence the team had Kyle Williams returning kicks and Ginn on punts. As was the story of the game, neither needed to do too much other then signal fair catches but it was nice to see both on the field as the potential of a big play is now presence in the return game. Grade: B
It’s hard to find fault with a team after such a lopsided victory, but there were a lot of areas that they team could improve on, and with two missed touchdowns and two missed field goals the team left 30 points off the board. More importantly though a win is a win, and this was against a quality team. As they did last week though San Francisco will need to spend very little time basking in the result of the game, as up next is the team that took their place as the NFC representative in the Superbowl last year, and will need to play better to beat the same team that the Jets put had so much success in week 1, the Buffalo Bills.
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Jerrell Richardson is a Bay Area native who due to a college career at San Diego State University has grown an appreciation for all things sports related in California. His heart will always remain in San Francisco though where he currently resides and covers everything from the San Francisco 49ers and Giants to the San Jose Sharks and California Bears Baseball team. His work can be found on Examiner.com.