The San Francisco 49ers handled their business and the opposing team once again Monday night imposing their will upon the Arizona Cardinals for a 24-3 victory.
The 49ers have not allowed a touchdown in four of their last five games. The NFC West leaders used their winning formula of power running, bruising defense and phenomenal special teams play to destroy the Cardinals in every facet of the game. As a team, the Niners only rushed for 113 yards, but it proved enough as Alex Smith threw only one incomplete pass the entire night.
Smith finished 18 of 19 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, rebounding from consecutive games where he turned the ball over on interceptions. San Francisco’s top defensive unit forced turnovers, sent Arizona into a realm of one-dimensional play only able to rush for seven yards.
Here’s what we learned.
1. All those who were buying the Arizona Cardinals being a team on the move (up) can cancel their bets.
This team will battle St. Louis to stay out of the NFC West cellar. Outside of Larry Fitzgerald, no one fears their offense. Though their defense can play off the charts at their best, they have yet to muster enough consistency to keep the team more than faintly relevant. With road games against Green Bay and Atlanta sandwiching a bye week, Arizona will lose six straight games before an opportunity to come up for air against the Rams.
2. Not only did the 49ers create more separation between themselves and second place (Arizona and Seattle) in the NFC West; the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams will no longer legitimately threaten the Niners for the division title.
San Francisco is clearly better than every team in their division. Now undefeated (2-0) in division play, they must fall asleep at the wheel to fathom a loss against St. Louis or at home versus the same Cardinals they pounded Monday night. The true threat to San Francisco sweeping the division is a road game versus Seattle. Their only lost in the division in 2011 was to Arizona at home.
3. Though there were a couple of hiccups earlier this season; the coaching staff of the Niners, mainly Jim Harbaugh and Greg Roman, now get the picture. They cannot ignore one of the top running attacks in football.
The 49ers success hinges on Frank Gore and his supporting cast – Kendall Hunter and Brandon Jacobs. Running backs rushed the ball only 16 times against Minnesota despite more than five yards a rush. Not only did the play calls lean more towards the pass against the Giants, but Alex Smith picked that game for his worse performance of the season with three interceptions. Not on the arm of Smith, but on the legs of the running backs will wins depend. More so, the “Wild Kaep” receiving minimal run the last couple games further shows Harbaugh and Roman are convinced. Monday night provided more evidence.
4. Teams in the NFL can play their best and still take a loss. The 49ers are not one of those teams.
The Niners will beat any team in The League even if their opposition brings its best. From the frontline to the back end, their defense can pose a problem to every offense. Their offensive unit is big and athletic up front with great backs, the best tight end combination out there with a strong core of wide receivers. Alex Smith has shown what he can do when the offense is popping on all cylinders. In the last two seasons, Smith has led the Niners to a 19-5 record.
5. Football played in the NFL is a man’s game. Nevertheless, when a team is resilient and nasty in the way they hit their opponent, the advantage usually stays in their favor. Time and time again, we watch the Niners pound their opponent into the ground. This quality is another primary reason why they win games.
They have sent opposing players to the locker room, to the sideline and to the point of tapping out, whether explicit or implicitly. A team cannot shut four of their eight opponents out of the end zone without being imposing and pressuring an opponent to address being hit one more time for one more play. San Francisco held the Cardinals to seven yards rushing. In their last four wins, the 49ers have outscored the opposition 116-12.
After a while, physicality grows greater than physical, it eventually becomes psychological for the opponent. It bode the Niners well last year. Expect nothing different this year. Barring injuries, do not expect San Francisco to lose more than a couple games for the rest of the year.