They were only 2-0, and already pegged as Super Bowl favorites.
But San Francisco’s humbling pummeling last weekend in Minnesota illustrated precisely why the Lombardi Trophy isn’t awarded a mere two weeks into an NFL season.
“I think when you come off a loss,” 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said, “you wanna get back to work and make darn sure it doesn’t happen again.”
But as lagging as the Niners defense looked against the Vikes, the New York Jets, who San Francisco will face today at MetLife Stadium, have their own darn defensive problems.
Their overtime win against the Miami Dolphins aside, New York lost its stellar cornerback Darrelle Revis for the entirety of the 2012 season to a torn ACL last weekend.
“Obviously, it’s a substantial blow to our team,” Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez said. “But at the same time, guys understand that we have to pick up the slack in other areas and the emphasis isn’t just on our corners.”
Filling the Revis void will fall to fellow corners Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, and apparently to newly converted running back Joe McKnight, as well. And while quarterback Alex Smith thrived against a battered
Detroit Lions secondary two Sundays ago, the 49ers’ defense has its issues as well.
Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder dissected the 49ers defense, passing for two touchdowns, while rushing for another.
“We’re not really concerned,” 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. “We understand who we are as a defense. It was a tough football game.”
And if Whitner has a game plan against the Jets’ aeronautic assault, it’s simple.
“They want to get the ball to Santonio Holmes,” said Whitner, who knows Holmes from his college days at Ohio State. “The main thing is knowing where No. 10 is.”
But college aside, Ohio this week is a storyline.
The 49ers broke up a two-week eastbound road trip between Minnesota and New York by training and quartering in Youngstown, a move Harbaugh made last year. San Francisco went 2-0 last season on said road trip, and will try to break even come Sunday night.
Yet the flights still have some jet-lag.
“I don’t even know what time zone I’m in,” 49ers offensive tackle Alex Boone said. “Traveling through time zones like that, it’s a pain to get adjusted to it.”
“Yeah, I was hoping they woulda gone back to San Francisco,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. But all jests aside, Ryan has other concerns.
“The No. 1 priority anytime you play San Francisco is you better be able to stop the run,” Ryan said, highlighting running back Frank Gore, who was held to 63 yards last week.
But Ryan can sum up the San Francisco defense with a single word.
“Yikes,” he said. “It’s a loaded group. Phenomenal defense, and it’s extremely well-coached. Vic [Fangio] does a tremendous job.”