Hello, and welcome to This Week in Niners Nation. Another week and another victory over an NFC North Opponent. I can't remember where I heard it said, but someone is quoted as saying, "With a win this weekend over the Vikings, the 49ers will wrap up the NFC North." Pretty pertinent. I'm looking forward to this game. There's a lot of aspects to the team's makeup that we'll get to see for the first time this year. How they perform against a bottom tier opponent will give us an idea of what kind of year we're in for. There were a high number of nail biters for a 13-3 team last year due to our limited offensive firepower. The offense is upgraded and the Vikings are a team that most people expect us to dominate. I'd like to see the offense pull away from someone early and put them away. That's wishful thinking, and getting ahead of ourselves a bit, but it is what's expected of us in a season with high expectations.
Maybe some of you are already aware that there is going to be a big change to how your Niners Nation looks and feels. If not, this is a warning. I want you to click the link below, do not panic. Things are going to be different. There are upgrades all around and more picture. Everybody likes pictures. To get a better idea of what's coming I'm leading the links off with this one here from Fooch, explaining the whats and whys of it.
WEEK 2: 49ERS 27, LIONS 19
How is everybody feeling after two weeks? Two wins over two 2011 playoff teams is as good a start as one could hope for. Last weeks game was not as close as the score would indicate. We outplayed the Lions for the vast majority of the game, holding them to 296 yards, with 80 of those coming on their last touchdown drive. We held their heralded defensive front four in check for most of the night. There was a lot to be happy about. There were also quite a few drops and our first turnover since Thanksgiving of last year. Despite outplaying them so thoroughly for the first part of the game, they were still in the game until the last minute (OK, second to last minute). This game gave me the feeling that it could have been lost, much like the second game of the 2011 season against the Dallas Cowboys. We had every chance to put them away, failed to do it, and ended up losing in OT. We were one Matthew Stafford strike away from the Lions trying for a two-point conversion to tie the game, and it should have never gotten to that point. So, do we have a better team than last year? It sure feels like it. I want to see some killer instinct.
The first link is a recap of the game with some quotes from some of our favorite players. Next up are some thoughts on the game from Dylan DeSimone. He notes how great we look fundamentally, singling out blocking and tackling. You take it for granted and forget about it until someone brings it up. It is what sets us apart from most teams and strong fundamental play is the cornerstone of continued success. Then I leave you with the game's highlights.
Game Highlights: 49ers 27, Lions 19. (49ers.com)
WEEK 3: 49ERS at VIKINGS
This weekend's matchup is against the Minnesota Vikings who are a field goal away from being undefeated. The 1-1 record was compiled against two of the front runners for worst team. In Australia, whichever team finishes last wins the wooden spoon. There's not an actual spoon, it's just a hypothetical trophy for monumental ineptitude. The Vikings would also have been in the conversation for that same spoon, except that a lot of things have gone their way recently. Adrian Peterson has recovered faster than anyone anticipated from his December injury in which he tore both his ACL and MCL. Peterson at full-strength for 3/4 of the year is not what landed them with the third-worst record last season. Christian Ponder's poor play during his rookie season had a large hand in that. Following an oft-repeated career trajectory, Ponder has taken leaps forward in his second season, and is actually leading the league in accuracy. I was just as shocked as you when I read this. He has accomplished this against two prospective 'spoonees'.
Four articles for you to check out that pertain to the Vikings game. How do you stop the passing game? What's one of the standout groups for us this season? Secondary. Our DBs have played exceptional football to this point. Two of the league's top passers have stepped up only to come up empty handed. Brand Nubian said, and I quote, "Punks jump up to get beat down." We've also got a link of Patrick Willis laying a hit on Adrian Peterson with a video embedded. An article on Delanie Walker's early season struggles as well as the piece on Christian Ponder's play round out the coverage for the upcoming game.
Another story to emerge during the week was OLB Clark Haggans receiving a 3-game ban from the League for a DUI. We knew this was a possibility when he was signed, but it was a surprise to many. Was this the first discipline handed out since the Bounty-gate suspensions were overturned? It is definitely on the heavier end of the spectrum and one has to wonder if the Commish is going to be heavy-handed for a while. To fill in for Haggans, who has yet to play a down, the 49ers signed Eric Bakhtiari to a two-year deal. Bakhtiari was great in the preseason, filling in for both Ahmad Brooks and Aldon Smith while they missed time nursing injuries. He lead the team in tackles, if my memory serves me correct (it's been too long of a week to fact check preseason stats, sorry). Some observers thought he earned a spot on the team with his play, and now that he's been given a two-year contract, does this mean he'll be sticking around?
One of the biggest stories of the year to date is the situation with the referees. It's been a debacle, to say the least. There's been nothing but bad reviews and it's clearly hurting the product. The best thing that can be said is that no one can find an instance where they absolutely changed the outcome of the game in one flick of the flag. They've definitely influenced games with their special brand of confusion. So how does the League stand by their hardline stance on player safety when they allow men who are unqualified to arbitrate the games? From the play I've watched to date, you have the sinking feeling that they're going to get someone killed, either literally or figuratively. How long will the fans put up with this before they turn off the TV? We may soon find out.
The second link questions our usage of Randy Moss. Should we be getting more from him? It's hard to argue with results and two wins over two quality foes is all that matters in the bottom-line oriented NFL. We've also yet to see Brandon Jacobs, LaMichael James or A.J. Jenkins on the field. We've got an embarrassment of riches. What we can't have is Moss getting upset or I'd see him out the door a la Braylon Edwards. When we're ahead in games, there's far less need to utilize his best attributes. He had to know when he signed with us that we were going to be a run-first team that planned on winning games, thus limiting the need to pass. Hopefully it works out for the best. More on this in the fanposts section.
There's one last thing to mention before getting to this week's fanposts. NFL Films president Steve Sabol passed away this week. He shaped the way I view the NFL's history. My view of the past and the great players from before my time is one long Sabol produced film. He brought slow motion and montages to sports. Where would sports be without slow motion montages?
Fanpost, fanpost, fanpost. That's a fairly accurate description of what you are about to receive. Wait for it....BAM
The mostly highly rec'd fanpost comes from chirop1. It's more of a revisiting of a fanpost from a few years ago and if you like the 49ers and you like children, then this has got tons of cute kids dressed in Niners gear. Taking nothing away from chirop, but I have a sneaking suspicion that kids in Niners gear is the easiest way to win this purely symbolic prize.
There are three other fanposts that I'd like to include. First we have liberty_JAC discussing where Alex Smith sits alongside some notable QBs in regards to interception-free play. I like the piece because he refers to Alex Smith as The Phoenix. If there wasn't already a 110 degree hole in the dessert with that name I'd love to see him own it.
Whistlingmountain has a good bit on our salary situation. He breaks down our committed cap space by position over the next few years. A lot of work went in to that, and if you want an idea of who might still be on the team in, say, 2014, then it's worth checking out.
And finally, a number from BKisforSF. This piece deals with what we are all afraid might be lurking beneath the surface but are afraid to talk about. Sort of like that 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' movie my wife made me watch, but less creepy. Since the signing of Randy Moss, there's been an unofficial over/under for the date that Moss will implode on the team. Time will tell. If he does lose it, I'd love for him to allow a bit more time for A.J. Jenkins to develop. Mario Manningham is more than capable of doing what Moss does for us, which is provide a deep threat, and we may even be better off getting Mario on the field more. Just some food for thought. And a TD reception in Minnesota will probably remedy everything. If we are comfortable in the game I'd like to see us test the defense a bit with some more medium-to-long range passing. We need to practice this stuff in real games for the day that we may need it.
Thanks for reading. Hope you're enjoying this new feature and hope you're ready for the changes that are coming. Fooch is going to be there every step of the way and is committed to answering people's concerns or complaints to make the transition as smooth as possible. Feel free to make your voice heard. Constructive criticism is always welcome. Get ready.