By Brandon Burnett
Cold, Hard Football Facts Wizard of the NFC West (@B_Burnett49er)
Colin Kaepernick is not your ordinary backup quarterback.
Replacing Alex Smith (who suffered a concussion in Week 10), the second-round pick in the 2011 draft shamelessly embarrassed the NFL's No. 1 pass defense in front of a national audience.
Kaepernick completed 16 of 23 (69.6%), for 243 yards, 10.6 YPA, 2 TDs, 0 INT and a golden 133.1 rating, while proving elusive on his feet.
It was a brilliant NFL debut, especially considering the way the Bears had devastated opposing passers all season.
In fact, it was the best performance by a quarterback against Chicago's defense all season, by any measure, easily surpassing Aaron Rodgers' effort in Green Bay's 23-10 win over the Bears back in Week 2 (68.8%, 219 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 85.3 rating).
When the one-sided Monday Night Massacre came to its conclusion, Candlestick Park's sea of red parted to celebrate the 49ers 32-7 mauling of the Bears, while overtaking the inside track for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Let's dig into five things we learned from Monday Night Football in Week 11.
1. When the 49ers play like this, they're invincible.
How else do you describe it? Of the Niners seven wins this year, not one of them has made anyone say "Wow, they were lucky to pull that one out.". San Francisco hasn't allowed more than seven points in any of its last five victories and now leads the NFC in point differential.
Monday night in particular was utter dominance in every phase of the game.
Offensively, the 49ers piled up 355 yards and averaged 6.57 yards per play. A mind-boggling 227 of them came in the first three drives of the game, which produced 17 points. San Fran had established a 20-0 lead before All-Pro Andy Lee's first punt of the night.
Chicago entered Week 11 at No. 1 in Bendability, but there was far more breaking than bending going on for Da Bears in this one.
"The Kapper" finished with a passer rating of 133.1, and he did it against a defense that had been holding opposing QB's to a passer rating of 61.47 coming into the game.
He executed pre-snap reads like a vet, threw darts all over the field (including one that left Randy Moss wincing in pain) and ultimately looked like the quarterback Trent Baalke and Co. believed he could develop into upon making him the 36th overall pick in the 2011 draft.
The 49ers compiled a boatload of statistical gems on defense. Two interceptions, 6.5 sacks (5.5 from Aldon Smith) and a safety. Before the refs flagged Smith for pushing a player out of bounds that was attempting to recover his teammate's fumble (that's a penalty?), the Niners appeared to be sniffing a shutout.
The Bears finished with just 35 yards of offense through the first half, and four of their first five drives ended in negative yardage. That is dominance at its finest right there, folks.
2. Aldon Smith and Monday Night Football are now officially best friends.
No. 99 must have made it his mission to become the NFL's sack leader before Tuesday morning.
Aldon's 5.5 sacks Monday night give him 15 on the season, one more than he finished with as a rookie in 2011. Fellow second-year linebacker Von Miller is now second in the NFL with 13 sacks.
Get this: 10 of Aldon's 29 career sacks have now come on MNF. And that's in just three games. That is some serious Monday night mastery. He and Justin Smith bull-rushed their way into the backfield over and over until Jason Campbell and the Bears' O-line had been blown into smithereens.
Campbell's presence, or should I say, Jay Cutler's absence, had little effect on the game. Chicago's backup QB simply absorbed the dozen painful blows Cutler would have taken in the loss. The Bears' five men up front simply acted as human turnstiles without any type of one-time entry policy in place.
San Francisco's tenacious D accomplished quite a bit in the win, but Aldon's personal sack party stole the spotlight on Monday night once again.
3. We'll find out shortly if the Seahawks can remain in the hunt to win the NFC West.
At 7-2-1, the 49ers are now 1 1/2 games up on the 6-4 Seahawks. Seattle's next two games are on the road, as are San Francisco's.
If the 'Hawks want a crack at the NFC West title, they'll have to overcome their road blues in a hurry. Seattle is 1-4 away from home in 2012 and its only road win was a 16-12 victory over the lowly Panthers in Week 5. They'll travel to Miami next week with a trip to Chicago right after.
Despite regaining a solid handle on their NFCW lead, the 49ers don't have anything in the bag just yet. Frisco heads to New Orleans next week to face Drew Brees and a revived Saints' squad that will likely be getting Darren Sproles back from injury. After that, it's off to St. Louis for a rematch with the Rams.
Road games against New England and Seattle will come later in the year as well. So, the Niners still have work to do. But if they go about their business like they did Monday night, this won't be much of a race at all.
4. A first-round bye is now the 49ers to lose.
As it stands, the 49ers now hold a half-game lead over the Packers and Bears for the No. 2 seed. They hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over each as well, but that will be irrelevant barring a tie from any of the three teams the rest of the year.
For as dominant as the Niners have been in wins, they were far from impressive in their two losses this season and not much better in the tie with the Rams. It will be extremely difficult for SF to navigate through a tough remaining schedule unscathed, but it is possible—though potentially unnecessary.
The Bears look like they may be in the early stages of a complete meltdown, and their next four games are all against quality opponents. Chicago's Week 13 matchup with Seattle will benefit the 49ers no matter who wins.
The Packers, winners of five straight, may be San Fran's biggest challenger. They too have four quality opponents remaining on the schedule, but that's nothing new for a team who's already faced five of them.
My money says the 49ers win the No. 2 seed over the Pack by a half-game, and Green Bay's controversial MNF "loss" in Seattle will arise as a hot topic all over again.
5. The Cardinals and Rams can kiss their playoff hopes goodbye.
San Francisco would have to lose four of its six remaining games for either Arizona or St. Louis to catch up in the divisional race. And that's if they don't lose again this year. Neither the Rams or the Cards have won a game since October 4, when they played each other.
Even making the postseason as a wild card is a pipe dream at this point. If the NFCW were to claim one of the two wild card spots, it'd be either the Niners or the Seahawks—most likely Seattle.
Basically eliminating Arizona from playoff contention just seven weeks after it held a 4-0 record. Who knew?
You won't hear them admit it, but both of these NFCW bottom dwellers are one loss from realizing its time to direct the focus to 2013.