Giants won't recognize this 49ers offense
October, 7, 2012
By Mike Sando | ESPN.com
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesKyle Williams was one of three San Francisco wide receivers to catch a touchdown pass on Sunday.SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers had just piled up a franchise-record 621 yards Sunday, 20 more than their combined total through three games last season.
They pounded the Buffalo Bills by a 45-3 count, bringing their two-week scoring differential to 79-3.
They had become the first team in NFL history to reach 300 yards rushing (311) and 300 yards passing (310) in the same game.
They had produced a 300-yard passer (Alex Smith), a 100-yard rusher (Frank Gore) and two 100-yard receivers (Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis) in a single 49ers game for the first time since John Brodie (323), C.R. Roberts (107), Aaron Thomas (131) and R.C. Owens (107) did it against Chicago back in 1961.
Amid all this history, the 49ers' left tackle and center sat on the stools before their lockers at Candlestick Park and griped about how penalties wiped out a 21-yard pass to Davis, a 41-yarder to Crabtree and a 14-yard run -- all on drives that failed to produce points for the NFC West co-leaders.
"We could've had 700," left tackle Joe Staley said.
"Yeah, it still should have been more," center Jonathan Goodwin said.
"We didn't run that many plays ," Staley said.
"We didn't want to let those opportunities get away," Goodwin said.
Across the locker room, Davis, the tight end, drew a blank when asked which team was next on the 49ers' schedule.
"Next week, uh, it's a long game ... who do we have next week?" Davis said.
Oh, the 49ers only have on their schedule in Week 6 the team that kept them from the Super Bowl last season.
"We do have the Giants -- you're right," Davis said. "It's a long game, as you can see. ... They're a good team. They beat us last year and knocked us out of the Super Bowl, so we gotta come strong."
The Giants aren't going to recognize the offense San Francisco put on the field Sunday, the one that amassed more yardage in one game than the all-time great 49ers teams featuring Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig ever did.
"The best offensive performance I've ever been a part of, as far as 11 guys," Smith said.
The Giants will recognize their former teammate, receiver Mario Manningham, as the player shaking Bills cornerback Aaron Williams to get ridiculously open for a 10-yard scoring pass Sunday. But they'll be struck by how much progress the 49ers have made at wideout.
In January, when the Giants scored a 20-17 overtime victory at Candlestick Park, Crabtree's single 3-yard catch accounted for all of San Francisco's production from the wide receiver position.
"We've got athletes, we've got playmakers," Crabtree said. "We just gotta use them, gotta create that identity. We can't talk about it. We've just got to do it."
Crabtree, Manningham and fellow receiver Kyle Williams caught scoring passes against the Bills. Smith completed 12 of 14 passes to them for 189 yards. Randy Moss appeared long enough to make a leaping grab for an 11-yard gain, as if to remind the Giants on film that the receiver with more career touchdown receptions than any player other than Rice can be a factor, too.
Crabtree, Williams and Brett Swain were the only receivers to appear for the 49ers in that championship defeat. Ted Ginn Jr., whose injury absence the 49ers lamented in that game, wasn't even targeted Sunday. He returned three punts against the Bills and will handle those duties against the Giants.
"We're so much better, so much better," Davis said. "We've got receivers all over the place. Kyle Williams, Manningham, Crabtree, Randy Moss. I mean, we're loaded. That is the unique thing about it. We've got all these guys that contribute. They are playing at a high level."
The only concern Sunday centered around the light wrap Smith wore on his right middle finger. The quarterback said he injured the finger while throwing for Davis on a second-and-10 play with 11:26 remaining and the 49ers ahead 31-3. Smith stayed in the game for two more plays, gaining 8 yards on one scramble and 17 on another. He underwent X-rays afterward and sounded unconcerned.
Smith played perhaps his finest game as a pro. He completed 18 of 24 passes for 303 yards with three touchdowns, no turnovers and no sacks. His NFL passer rating (156.2) marked a career high. Smith has posted four of the five highest single-game ratings of his career since coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman arrived before last season. His accuracy stood out during a deep sideline pass to Davis. His feel for the game and anticipation jumped out on the scoring pass to Williams, a back-shoulder throw that wasn't called that way in the huddle.
"Alex was really on the money all day," Harbaugh said. "It was a little windy out there, but he was just putting it in, pin-pointing it."
Roman sported an angry eye after the game, but not from anything the Bills did to him. He cited a lack of sleep and perhaps thinking too hard.
"But they told me I'm going to live," Roman said, "so I'll be all right."
Cosmetics aside, Roman has the look of a coach at the peak of his powers. Nearly everything the 49ers have tried over the past two weeks has made the opponent appear wholly unprepared to cope. Running plays for backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick. End-around runs for wide receivers. Powerful runs outside the tackles, where the 49ers had outgained every NFL team by at least 83 yards before Sunday.
The checklist this time called for the 49ers to finally connect on deep strikes. The team hadn't completed a pass longer than 30 yards before Sunday. Smith had connected on 15 of them last season. He found Davis for 53 yards, 33 of them before the catch, on a play-action strike Sunday. He found Williams for a 43-yard touchdown on a pass traveling 28 yards past the line of scrimmage. There was a 28-yard pass Crabtree caught in the end zone and a 10-yard throw Crabtree turned into a 36-yard gain.
"We really wanted to take some shots," Roman said, noting that he thought getting a lead would force the Bills to take chances on defense, opening up additional opportunities down the field.
The 49ers converted seven times on 11 third-down chances. That was up from a 1-for-13 showing on third down against the Giants in the playoffs last season.
The Bills aren't the Giants, of course, but these 49ers aren't the ones from last season, either. Their defense appears similarly equipped, having allowed 349 yards over the past two games. But their offensive line is turning into a dominant unit. Right tackle Anthony Davis helped hold the Bills' Mario Williams to two tackles and two quarterback hits.
Smith, under duress on six of his 12 third-down drop backs against the Giants in that playoff game, had nothing to worry about Sunday. The Bills had to respect the 49ers' multifaceted ground game, which has produced 556 yards over the past two games.
Bring on the Giants.
"Played them twice last year, a lot of baggage, a lot of history," Smith said. "A little unfinished business, I guess."