The San Francisco 49ers (2-0) have had an electric start to the 2012 NFL season. In arguably the harder conference, with certainly one of the tougher schedules, the Niners have handled their past two opponents. With great defense, we've seen this team control the tempo, get an early lead and never relinquish it.
On Sunday Night Football, the 49ers hosted the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park. This was their second NFC North opponent in as many weeks, which is one of the stronger divisions in all the NFL. However, San Francisco did not flinch, but rather welcomed the challenge with open arms.
The 49ers once again bullied a team into playing their style of football and outlasted them. For my thoughts on San Francisco's second win of the season, please continue after the jump.
Blocking and Tackling
To no surprise, the 49ers stood out fundamentally. They did a bang-up job on both sides of the football when it came to blocking and tackling. The Niners brought that physicality and immaculate technique from minute one.
It seemed that everyone was bringing that "oomph" on their blocking assignments; taking pride in their jobs. This helped the 49ers stay balanced on offense, making them difficult for the Lions to defend for sixty minutes.
Not just the offensive line either; the tight ends, full backs (Bruce Miller and Will Tukuafu) and receivers did an excellent job creating lanes. They worked hard and played really smart football.
And defensively, the 49ers just continued to assert themselves as the league's best unit. They just don't beat themselves and they make their opponents earn every inch the hard way. Detroit could not capitalize on opportunities because San Francisco did not really allow them any. They did not miss tackles and they were so fast to the football, that the Lions just looked shook and hopeless.
It seems that each week, it's getting harder and harder to doubt Alex Smith. He looked so impressive, going 20-of-31 for 226 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. And honestly, had it not been for half a dozen dropped passes, Smith would have completed 80-plus percent of his passes.
He continues to execute this offense, and make smart football decisions. He was reading defenses, changing plays at the line of scrimmage, running a complex system. Smith could also optimize a play even when it's collapsed - limiting the play's loss and setting themselves up on the following down.
And did someone say toughness?
After taking an elbow to the bridge of his nose from a Detroit defender, Smith threw his second touchdown of the night to seal the win as he bled from the face. We're watching the transformation of Alex Smith from game manager to field general.
About halfway through this game, I growing frustrated with Michael Crabtree. Given the match-ups, the balance on offense and everything else considered, I thought he was poised for a huge night. Throughout the course of the game, he did not seem to be that much of a factor -- though I was extremely impressed with his effort in the run game from start to finish.
Then late in the game, when it was a one-score game and the 49ers really needed to make a push to close this one out, it was Crabtree who came up big. Crabtree converted multiple third and longs on a crucial scoring drive in the 4th quarter -- including a daunting 3rd and 14.
It was a big moment for him, as he finished the day leading the 49ers in receptions (6).
Overall, it was great to see Crabtree come alive like that in the passing game. But truthfully, it would be nice to see more consistency throughout the game. San Francisco could have closed this one out much earlier but it wasn't happening. In the future, they might not be so lucky.
I hope Crabtree's finale on Sunday night was a sign of things to come and he can carry that momentum going forward.
This is a bad dude.
At the moment, Smith has three sacks in his first two games, on pace to break his rookie stat-line of 14.
He is so good at defeating his blocks, that it's made him formidable against the run. And usually, Ahmad Brooks is the tough run-stuffer, but Smith has come on strong. He keeps his defenders at bay while reading the run, and then makes his move. His long arms are such an asset and his finesse in traffic makes him nearly unstoppable.
On Dashon Goldson's interception, the only one of the day, Aldon Smith had dropped in coverage and spooked Matthew Stafford. His large presence lingering in the backfield made Stafford hesitate just enough that he did not commit to a full release or holding the ball, which caused him to throw a duck near the free safety spot.
Standing on it's own, Aldon Smith's transition to a full-time starter makes the 49ers defense look superior to the 2011 product they put on the field.