It’s just one week, but I’ve suggested that San Francisco’s win in Green Bay last Sunday was the most impressive of the opening week.
Maybe it’s because most figured the Packers to be the elite of the NFC. Maybe it’s because Lambeau Field is such a tough place to win for opponents (Green Bay was one of three teams in 2011 to go unbeaten at home in the regular season). Maybe it’s because I was seeking some type of validation from the Niners after their surprising 13-3 record a year ago.
I got it.
I think it’s fair to say San Francisco is viewed as a defensive-minded team that loves to pound the rock and beat up the opposition. It’s a defense that ranked number one in the league last year in rushing and takeaways and #2 in points allowed and interceptions. This unit could easily be labeled super heroes:
CAPTAIN AMERICA: 5-time Pro Bowler Patrick Willis, who has the second most tackles in the league since he suited up in 2007.
IRON MAN: NaVorro Bowman, first-team all pro in his first full season as a starter.
THOR: Aldon Smith, whose 14 sacks last year is the second-most ever by a rookie.
HULK: Justin Smith, a three time pro bowler who has started 171 straight games and leads all defensive lineman with 727 tackles.
What has made San Francisco the new “bully on the NFL block” is the weapons they’ve added on offense.
They have legitimate weapons in Mario Manningham, Randy Moss and Brandon Jacobs and they drafted wide receiver AJ Jenkins. That’s in addition to Frank Gore, who has averaged 125 yards per game against Detroit since 2005 and Vernon Davis, who is one of the most athletic and versatile players at his position. Add that to one of the best offensive lines in football and you have the new standard in the NFL.
None of this means the Lions can’t win. They absolutely can because of their weapons and their strength: the defensive line. But this club needs to win the battle of the trenches and make more than a couple plays down field if it hopes to compete, otherwise it could be a long night by the time the lights go down in the city. (Sorry bad reference to the band Journey)
Matt Shepard is the host of Shep in the Morning on WDFN-1130 AM and reports for the Ford Lions Report Live. He will be in San Francisco this Sunday when the Lions face the 49ers. Follow Matt on Twitter @ShepMatt
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