The Niners Are Good

Cleveland: 3 San Francisco: infinity.

Jim Rome
October 08, 2019 - 9:35 am
Nick Bosa and Baker Mayfield

USA Today

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Cleveland: 3
San Francisco: infinity.

That wasn’t a win, that was a statement. That was a coming out party. In primetime. The only football game on. The entire nation watching. And every other player in the league.  And the NINERS put on a show. 

If you didn’t know about the 49ers before last night, now you know. If you thought they were only undefeated because they hadn’t played anybody, you needed all of one play from scrimmage to know they’re no joke:

83 yards. And there are a bunch of Next Gen stats that probably won’t tell you more than your eyes already told you – Matt Breida is fast. Very, very fast. I’m not sure what Cleveland’s Demarious Randall was thinking on that play, but I know what he wasn’t doing – and that’s catching Matt Breida.

That is how you start your first possession of a primetime game at home. And capping it off with a wave to the guys chasing him was perfect.

And it only got better for San Francisco, and worse for Cleveland, from there. Because the first play after the Niners kicked off, Richard Sherman picked off Baker.

An 83-yard TD run followed by an interception is a sub-optimal start on the road. And it continued to spiral. And when it was over, the Niners were up 31-3 and had their best win in years.  

And as good as the Niners were last night, the Browns were that bad and actually even worse. They were a complete disaster. The offensive line was a turnstile. Mayfield was running for his life the entire game. Antonio Callaway was a catastrophe. They were committing penalties. Still. Making mistakes. Still. Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. And then a few more things went wrong after that. 

And no, I’m not even going to dignify you losers to ask whether there’s cause to hit the panic button. There isn’t. It’s a long season. You don’t win a Super Bowl in October. They were in first place in the division three days ago, there’s no reason to lose your mind just yet. 

Besides, I’m a glass half-full guy. I’m all about the positive and the positive is that San Francisco is back. With a vengeance. 

This is the San Francisco team that John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan expected. They are fast. They’re explosive. They have great play-calling, but you knew that would be the case with Shanahan. But what you may not have expected is the physicality they play with. That crew is violent. On both sides of the ball.

They are tough as hell. How many times did they run through first contact? How many times did George Kittle catch a third down pass short of the sticks and drag guys past the first down marker?

Kittle is an absolute beast, and should be more of a star than he already is. And if they keep winning the way they did last night, he will be. 

And so will a bunch of guys on that defense. Starting with Nick Bosa. That dude had a season last night: four tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

And one flag plant. Well, actually, two flag plants. There was an imaginary plant after one sack and a real one after the game. And he was still talking after the game was over.

If that’s true, Bosa saying “Ba-ker, Ba-ker” and “come on, pick it up, we want a challenge” is incredible. And so is the rest of that Niners defense. They get after the quarterback, they haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season, and they have an attitude to them. And they can put immense pressure on the q.b. With just their front four.  And as we have seen time and time again already this season, if you can get after the q.b., the browns are in big trouble. Mayfield’s a baller, but he’s not making plays lying on his back. No one is. 

So, the Niners were looking to send a message. And make a statement: They were looking to make a statement, about themselves, and about the Browns. Because it’s really clear that a bunch of the Niners didn’t like the Browns, and Mayfield in particular, going into game and that went to another level after the pre-game handshake. 

As Richard Sherman told Mike Silver: "What's amazing, and annoying, was him not shaking hands at the beginning. That's some college bleep. It's ridiculous. We're all trying to get psyched up, but shaking hands with your opponent -- that's NFL etiquette. And when you pull bush league stuff, that's disrespectful to the game. And believe me, that's gonna get us fired up."

It sure as hell did. And I know that there’s a nation of haters who are ready to jump all over Mayfield for that. But Cleveland didn’t lose the game because he didn’t shake hands with Richard Sherman before the game. They lost it because they played terribly, and they played terribly against a really good team.

They made mistakes in every possible way that you could make a mistake, and they did it against a fired up team with a lot to prove. 

And speaking of proving things, Sherman had a message for the doubters: "Don't flip-flop. If you said we weren't going to make it, you said we were some way early on, stick with that position. Hold it. Don't try to give us credit now. At least stick by your word because I want you to sound like an idiot at the end. We know what we have in the building."

What they have in that building is a ton of talent, a ton of speed, and a ton of toughness, and a ton of confidence. And if you didn’t know about them before, now you do. And don’t look now but the NFC West is the best division in football right now.