Ah, those 49ers. They’re boring. They haven’t beaten anybody. Their secondary is vulnerable. Their quarterback doesn’t match up to Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady or Drew Brees.
All they do is win. After Sunday’s 26-0 win over the offensively challenged St. Louis Rams, they stand at 10-2, the second-best record in the NFL, and they’ve won the NFC West. They must be doing something right.
There’s no chance to rest now. They have to keep the pedal to the metal because it’s vital that they be the No. 2 seed in the NFC. That would give them a bye in the first round, and it also means they’d probably be at home against the New Orleans Saints, who seem likely to be their opponent.
The Saints are built to play on the artificial turf of the Superdome and feature an explosive offense which often has Brees throwing 40-plus times in a game. In the ’Dome, with sure footing, no wind and a fan base creating noise like a rock concert, the Saints are almost unstoppable. Just ask the New York Giants, who got blitzed by a 49-point game.
They’d have none of those advantages at Candlestick. The fans would be strongly for the 49ers, the footing wouldn’t be so sure and … well, you have heard about the Candlestick winds, haven’t you?
I’m sure if you canvassed the national media, they’d overwhelmingly pick the Saints over the 49ers, assuming they meet. But after watching the Niners all season, I think there’s a substance to them that is underappreciated.
The 49ers are a blue-collar team. They just keep coming at you, and they almost never falter. Their only failures this year were to Dallas in the second game and to the Ravens in Baltimore on Thanksgiving Day, and I think that, if they meet either team in the postseason, they’ll win.
More than anything, the 49ers are consistent. They don’t beat themselves. That starts with the quarterback, Alex Smith, who had another interception-free game Sunday. Though he still doesn’t get the credit he deserves, he’s very intelligent and doesn’t force the ball into coverage. He’s also very accurate — more than 70 percent Sunday. That consistency has enabled the 49ers to control the ball for at least two-thirds of the game against division foes St. Louis and Arizona — which also keeps defenders rested, able to make big plays late.
One reason the Niners haven’t been spectacular: They’ve lacked a wide receiver who could consistently make plays downfield. Braylon Edwards was supposed to be that guy, but he’s been injured most of the season and, in fact, didn’t play Sunday.
But Michael Crabtree, though he lacks blazing speed, has been improving each game. Sunday, he got deep for a Smith pass, made a nice move after catching the ball, and completed a 52-yard touchdown.
Later, Kyle Williams, who does have outstanding speed, caught a short pass, made a couple of nifty moves on defenders, and raced the rest of the way for a 56-yard touchdown.
That’s your 49ers, an evolving team that believes in itself, even if others don’t. The last time I saw a 49ers team like this was 1981, and you know what happened that year.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.