With the 37-8 shellacking of the Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football, the San Francisco 49ers moved their record to 10-1 on the season, leaving them atop the NFC. But what does the win over the Packers tell us about the Niners chances at a championship? Niner Noise investigates.
The time has come to put the oft-repeated question to bed: are the San Francisco 49ers for real?
The answer is a definitive yes.
Maybe it was fair to call the team to task after much of its 8-0 start, seeing as much of the opening portion of the team’s schedule featured teams who have proved to be anywhere from awful (Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins), to mediocre (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers) or disappointing (Los Angeles Rams, Cleveland Browns).
And up until Sunday, the one team in the playoff race in either conference they played, the Seattle Seahawks, beat them on Monday Night Football in Week 10.
So it might not have been completely out of line to continue to hold the 49ers to task, to expect more of them when the schedule called for it. And on Sunday night, the Niners more than lived up to those expectations.
In a game that was flexed to Sunday Night Football because of the supposed quality of the matchup, the 49ers forced a fumble by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on the fifth play of the game, and subsequently punched the ball into the end zone on the next play.
The 7-0 lead was one they’d never relinquish. And the rout was on.
To be certain, it wasn’t a perfect game. As effective as the 49ers defense was essentially from the Packers first offensive snap, the Niners offense was the opposite, managing just 41 yards of offense on their first five drives, albeit en route to a 10-0 lead.
But an impassioned between-drive speech by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo seemed to light a fire under the offense, who finished the half with drives of 59, 61 and 22 yards, scoring 13 more points to give the team a 23-0 halftime cushion.
The reason for rehashing the imperfection of the 49ers first few offensive drives is a simple one: It’s fair to say last year’s team would have crumbled under their ineffectiveness and likely never recovered. This might have granted Rodgers, a future Hall of Fame quarterback, time to recover from a rocky start, and allowed the Packers to stick to their game plan of running the ball.
But this year’s team has shown resilience unlike any that has been seen by the organization in many years, probably since their last trip to the NFC Championship game following the 2013 season.
Most importantly, head coach Kyle Shanahan’s team has proved themselves to be one of the more multifaceted teams in the NFL.
A truth which came to the limelight on national television on Sunday night
They’ve played games where the defense dominated to the point where the offense didn’t need to do anything (the win in Washington). They’ve played games where the running game ruled the day (the win over Carolina).
And, more recently, they’ve seen Garoppolo step up and take over when the rest of the offense stagnated, like he has in both wins over the Cardinals and this thumping of the Packers.
There’s no doubt the 49ers have plenty of tough tasks left in the final five games of the year, including trips to Baltimore this coming Sunday, a date in New Orleans the following week and closing out the season — possibly with the NFC West on the line — in Seattle. And just like the rest of the league, the 49ers will have to continue to prove their mettle every week.
But shutting down Rodgers and the rest of the Packers offense on Sunday should prove to the rest of the NFL that the 49ers are indeed a force to be reckoned with. They aren’t perfect, and they still need to figure out how to stay consistent on offense and contain quarterbacks who can run, but the San Francisco 49ers should now have shown themselves to be one thing:
Contenders to win Super Bowl LIV in Miami on Feb. 2, 2020.