Ladies and gentlemen, there is a defense in San Francisco.
I know, I know. We shouldn't read too much into the 49ers' absolute shellacking of the hapless Chicago Bears 49-7 on Sunday. Just one game. Curb your... well, you know the rest.
But holy crap, doesn't a game like that just get you excited?
Now mind you, I didn't actually get to see the game. TV execs in Portland seem to think that all we care about down here is the Seahawks. Guuuuh.
But watching the highlights and reading everything I could observe about this game, I'm freakin' stoked.
In a display of sheer and utter dominance not seen around these parts since the height of the George Seifert era, the 49ers' defense was borderline dominant, the offense was efficient and agressive, and the special teams were... well, special.
But I'm not getting out of hand here. Is the Bears' offensive line bad? Yep. Is Kordell Stewart even worse? Oh yeah. Was the Bears' defense on its heels all day long? Yes, oh yes.
But you don't win 49-7 unless you're good and, yes, if your opponent is bad. If I could count the number of times I said to myself "resurrected Bears defense my eye!" as I listened to the web radio broadcast during the game, I'd be a rich, rich man. (And apparently I've turned into an 19th century gentleman. My eye!)
So the final verdict? It definitely appears that our beloved 49ers will be no slouches on defense this year. There's still work to be done (What, the offense can't score in the red zone? You can't throw a ball to Terrell Owens over Jerry Azumah's head?), but this is already an improved team for Dennis Erickson's influence. And the rest of the year is gonna be damn interesting.
Didn't the Niners already do this whole song-n'-dance last year? Once again, San Francisco faces an important statement game against the Team Formerly Known As The St. Louis Rams. You already know about Kurt Warner's six fumble performance against the Giants. Looks like someone's deal with the devil finally expired. (Hey, is it sacriligeous to implicate a known devout Christian of satanic dealings? I don't think so.)
The Rams have lost some of their luster. One huge losing season will do that to you. And Mike Martz's ineptitude has done a pretty solid job of dumping a bucket of brown paint over whatever luster was left. I don't understand. You have Marshall Faulk, quite possibly still the best football player on the planet, in your backfield, and you throw the ball 50 times?! Your QB is displaying some pretty obvious signs of a concussion and you keep sending him back to pass? Is Martz really this cocky to think that his vaunted passing game is enough to carry him past any opponent? That he doesn't need a certified Football God to touch the ball to win? Someone needs to be slapped.
But the truly scary part, the kicker, and the real indicator of how dangerous the Rams really are, is that this is a game still easily lost for the 49ers. With Marc Bulger (Or as I call him, "Son of Warner") back behind center (where he should have been all along), the Rams could still sneak up on the 49ers if they go into St. Loo all cocky-like. That cannot happen. The 49ers must go into St. Louis looking to punish the Rams. Hit everything that moves. Get the Rams down and then crush them. Create immediate and definitive separation between the two teams early, and the Rams will give up. They are soft on offense. The 49ers finally have just as much speed on defense as the Rams do on offense, and twice the strength. That advantage must be exercised. Andre Carter, Julian Peterson, Bryant Young, Tony Parrish and Ahmed Plummer must rally their unit and put the Rams down. Period.
Okay, with the drill sergenat segment over...
The Rams are weak in the secondary, and the Niners can exploit this weakness. At corner, the Rams are starting Travis Fisher and Jerametrius Butler. That ain't good. Aeneas Williams has moved to free safety to preserve his health, but by doing that the Rams lose his coverage skills, eroding as they may be. Niner castoff Fred Weary plays nickelback for the Rams, and that might be a key. Or it might not. Regardless, the fact that St. Loo has a man playing nickel that couldn't beat out Rashad Holman for a roster spot speaks volumes about where they are.
The Rams front seven is still strong. The LBs are swift and the line is good at rushing the passer. Good news for the 49ers is that Kyle Kosier played amazingly against the Bears and looks like he can hold down the RT spot just fine until Scott Gragg's foot heals. He keeps up that kinda play, he could be another Heitmann-esque steal.
Ideally, I'd like to see the 49ers attack the Rams deep early. Get those young corners wet behind the ears a bit. If the Niners can build a two score lead early, it will allow them to attack St. Louis on defense. Orlando Pace and Kyle Turley didn't have great inaugural games against the Giants, and if that continues, it'll be a long day for Bulger.