By Jerrell Richardson
After piling up 245 yards on the ground in last week’s blowout win over the New York Jets, it was assumed that the game plan this week for the 49ers would be much of the same. Although San Francisco did finish the day with another dominant performance from the running game (311 yards), it was Alex Smith and the passing game led the team to its 45-3 trouncing of the Buffalo Bills. Once again the team got a strong performance from both sides of the ball and continue to solidify themselves as one of the most complete teams in the NFL.
Alex Smith played his best game as a quarterback. He has had more important wins, but none more impressive then what he did on Sunday. He eclipsed the 300 yard mark for the first time this year, completing 18 of his 24 attempts, with 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions. For weeks he has just missed connecting with his receivers on mid range and deep passes, and finally appeared to be in sync with his new weapons. Alex Smith spread the ball around completing passes to 6 different receivers, took what was given to him, and and made the occasional play with his feet when he needed.
Alex Smith was far from perfect, but when looking back at the game, there is very little that he could have done better. With the first half winding down in a 10-3 game, Smith was pulled for Colin Kaepernick and the Wildcat Offense. The result was a fumble by Kaepernick, and what appeared to be a squandered opportunity to make it a two-possession game. After the defense got the ball back, Smith put the nail in the coffin, showing that he is more then a game manager when he hit Michael Crabtree for a 28-yard touchdown, giving his team a 17-3 halftime lead, and taking the life out of the Bills. Grade: A
The plan for the offense was to score points early, and cruse to a victory. Although they did struggle for most of the first half, the offense finally played up to their potential in the second half, showing how dangerous they are when everyone is able to contribute. The numbers alone are staggering as San Francisco had a 300-yard passer (Smith), 100-yard rusher (Frank Gore), and two 100-yard receivers, (Crabtree and Vernon Davis). On 3rd down San Francisco was 7-for-11, amassing 621 total yards, while averaging 12.4 yards per pass and 8.2 per rush play. To say that they dominated would be an understatement.
If not for a few mistakes that cost the team points, the final score could have been even worse. The knock on the 49ers for the past year has been that they are unable to get any big plays and this was not the case Sunday as they gashed the Bills defense all day. They did play a Buffalo Bills defense that has been one of the worst in the league this year, but with 79 points in the past two games, the San Francisco offense is making a statement, giving hope that they are starting to catch up to their top-tier defense. Grade: A
The 49ers defense did not give the Bills a chance to breathe. From the opening whistle they opposed their will and stifled the Buffalo attack. They forced a 3-and-out on the first drive of the game and held the Bills off the board after a long kick return put them in a prime position to put some early points on the board on their second possession. With the tone set early, San Francisco never looked back and was able to take the will from their opponent who had no answer for the constant pressure that the 49ers applied.
After receiving such high praise for their performance against the Jets, the defense continued their impressive play, limiting the Bills to 10 first downs and 204 total yards. Patrick Willis. fresh off his NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors, forced a fumble that helped break the back of the Bills, and he was helped by his teammates in shutting down all phases of the Bills offense. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who entered the game with the most touchdown passes in the NFL this year, had a day to forget, finishing with 126 yards and a pick. Grade: A
The 49ers Special Teams were more or less given the day off. The coverage units did allow back-to-back long returns to Leodis McKelvin in the first half, one resulting in a touchdown that was called back by a penalty and the other giving the Bills excellent field position, but neither resulted in points. David Akers was only needed for a chip-shot 19-yard field goal and Andy Lee punted twice and was his usual self with a 56-yard average. Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn Jr. had good returns in their limited action and Lee’s hand stood up throughout the game as the holder. Grade: A-
The NFL is all about momentum and right now San Francisco has it in their favor. However, they also must keep in perspective who they just beat. The message, since their loss to Minnesota, has been to not get complacent, so after two wins in such a dominating fashion it appears as though this team will not have that problem, as this was the perfect game for them to take their foot off the gas. The team showed that they learned their early season lesson, so they need to approach every game the same. The team is now 4-1, and next week will play their much-anticipated rematch to last year’s NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants, who also will enter the game with momentum on their side.
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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.