From pretenders to bona fide Super Bowl contenders.
The San Francisco 49ers are taking the league by storm this season as they rise to a 5-0 record joining the New England Patriots as the only two teams remaining undefeated entering into week seven of the regular season. Yes, you read that right. The team that ended off their losing 2018-2019 season at a dismal 4-12 is not only topping the NFC West but also team efficiency charts with a total DVOA of +58.1%.
I, like many, have discounted San Francisco’s success so far as a fluke or a fever dream. But, can you really blame me? This time last season San Francisco was ranked 29th in team efficiency with a total DVOA of -22.6%. That’s 29th out of 32. I’ll admit their meteoric rise has been incredible to watch but I’d be lying if I said I anticipated it coming. Richard Sherman and his defense aren’t taking any of the success as a surprise though. In his post-game press conference, Sherman had a message for anybody still discounting the boys out of the Bay.
“It’s business as usual. The previous performances should have been enough to get these guys the respect they deserve.”
What the Niners lack in their reputation, they’ve been sure to make up for this season in their record. Niners fans and skeptics alike can’t deny the explosive defensive play that led them to their decisive victory over the defending NFC champs down in Los Angeles.
This Sunday was a must-win for the struggling Rams coming off of a hard-fought loss against the Seahawks. Given their reputation as the defending NFC Division champs and San Francisco’s horrendous history against divisional opponents – having gone 2-10 in NFC West contests since Kyle Shanahan’s start in 2017 – it was only a matter of time before the streak had to end. The big, bad boys out of the Bay, however, had different plans.
After an early first-quarter punch to the gut from Goff and company putting San Francisco down 7-0, the Niners completely dismantled the Rams offensive scheme denying them a single point for the rest of the game. Goff was honest with reporters about the impression San Francisco’s dominant defense left on him after the game.
“No it’s not surprising,” Goff said of the Niner’s success this season. “They’re coached very well and defensively they’ve got some dudes up front who can do their thing. They’re going to give a lot of teams some problems.”
“Let’s be real we haven’t been winning here the first two years.”
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh spoke to reporters about how this season’s success is impacting the San Francisco locker room. Despite his hype man reputation, the man behind this explosive defense knows there’s always work to be done to keep the streak alive. Saleh said, “Let’s be real, we haven’t been winning here the first two years. So with every win, you just keep stacking up confidence.”
A light schedule in the coming weeks will only help boost that confidence. You could argue that they are taking on the worst team in the league in Washington this Sunday if you – like most of the country – forgot that Miami still existed. The Panthers also won’t pose a major threat to this defensive juggernaut when they face off.
If you’re among the skeptics and the doubters who swore the Niners would peter out after their early bye week or be stifled by the Rams it might be time for you to start making the apology rounds to all the San Francisco faithful you scoffed at.
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