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Thursday, November 10, 2011
Fraudulent 49ers? This one should be fun

By Mike Sando

Some of the first comments left beneath the previous item on schedule strength came from San Francisco 49ers fans fearing the information could undermine the legitimacy of the team's strong record.

"Any way to see a break down on what it's been like up to this point and who stands where so the haters can stop saying the Niners haven't played anybody?" Michael Orona asked.

The 49ers owe no apologies for their 7-1 record, in my view. They've gone 4-0 on the road. Half their victories have come against teams with winning records against teams other than the 49ers. San Francisco beat the previously undefeated Detroit Lions at Ford Field. The 49ers put together a furious comeback to win at Philadelphia. They won at Cincinnati. They beat Tampa Bay by 45 points when the Buccaneers were 3-1.

But wait, here comes a withering critique from K.C. Joyner in an Insider piece posted Thursday. Joyner suggests the 49ers could be the "ultimate playoff pretender" of the 2011 season. He says the 49ers' defense has beaten up on bad offenses while faring much worse against good ones. And he says the 49ers' low rankings in various offensive stats reflect limitations that will reveal themselves when it matters most, in the playoffs.

This could be true, but Joyner could be overstating his case. I put in a call to him and hope to follow up.

The 49ers held the Lions to season-low figures in average gain per pass (4.4) and yards per play (4.2) despite getting little help from the 49ers' passing game. The Lions have a one-dimensional offense, but they've been productive overall. The 49ers handled their offense. The 49ers' defensive struggles against Dallas in Week 2 were isolated to a few plays near the end of the game -- plays qualifying as aberrations given the broader context. San Francisco led that game by 10 points in the fourth quarter.

I've been consistent in differentiating the quarterback play San Francisco is getting from the quarterback play other top teams are getting. Alex Smith is not Aaron Rodgers or even Eli Manning. It's just difficult to argue with the formula San Francisco has used to win so consistently this season. Looks like the 49ers will need to fare well against the Giants, Baltimore and Pittsburgh to win over some of the skeptics.