This is our reward. For everyone who kept the faith through weeks of Titans-Rams and Ravens-Browns, the days of meaningful, excellent football are finally here. Along with the underappreciated marquee game of the week, we have a pair of hugely important, season-defining matchups to boot. Carolina–New England, San Francisco–New Orleans, and Kansas City–Denver would probably have been the best game from any of the past four weeks. Some might say it’s too much all at once. I disagree. To get you fully prepared, we decided to break down the (possibly) deciding matchup from the weekend’s three best games. Enjoy, everybody. We deserve this.
In the NFL, rivalries are fleeting. There are exceptions (Dallas-Washington, Chicago–Green Bay), but stakes, as much as familiarity, are what breed contempt in pro football. If the Redskins are 5-10, no one cares about their Week 17 game in Dallas.
For the past decade, the games we’ve come to anticipate are the games between teams who’ve played often and for something. In the early part of the Manning-Brady era, the Colts and Patriots seemed to play at least once a year (and they still do). At some point, we shifted to the Ravens and Steelers, who spent two games seeing who could be the first team to 17 points and/or turn the other team into dust. Now, the league’s best rivalry resides in the NFC West, and we get our first installment of the season Sunday night.
"The running game in pro football has gotten so boring," former 49ers coach Bill Walsh remarked some years ago. "There's just four or five plays they can run. I think the whole thing is headed in the wrong direction, and it's really unfortunate." Even after his passing in 2007, Walsh’s observation had held true for some time. That is, until now. And fittingly, it's the 49ers leading the way.
The Pistol read option plays aside (we’ll get to those), the 49ers' multifarious running game uses many of the same blocking schemes Walsh taught for nearly four decades. Jim Harbaugh deserves much of the credit — the vision for these 49ers is certainly his — but the mastermind behind the 49ers' weekly game plans and the coach who deserves credit for taking Walsh’s criticism to heart is San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman.
Easy. Niners. Because Vernon Davis apparently has an interior design company. My favorite things about Vernon Davis's design company's website: Davis and partner Antone Barnes (Davis is CEO, Barnes is COO) push "ENTER" together during the Flash intro; the idea that they convinced Sean Smith to buy a piece of art is a selling point; the fact that the site's soundtrack sounds like Bernie Williams's New Age electronic-music side project Aura and Mystique; the philosophy, as pointed out by Rembert Browne, that throwing a Keith Haring in someone's living room is a design motif; and, finally, as my associate Robert Mays just mentioned to me, that this whole outfit seems an awful lot like Entertainment 720.
Kevin Greene walked through the tunnel, hands in pockets, eyes fixed on his feet. As some players jogged and some players sulked, the coach of the Packers’ outside linebackers — a group tormented by Colin Kaepernick all night — kicked at the ground in front of him. He was halfway to the locker room when he finally looked up, took a breath, and exhaled.
The thought when Kaepernick became San Francisco’s starting quarterback was that where Alex Smith’s Niners were a safe team reliant on defense and error-free football, Kaepernick’s version was capable of delivering such a 45-31 bludgeoning. As the Packers left the field Saturday night, they looked like a team that had seen the business end of Jim Harbaugh’s vindication.
In the words of Shane Ryan, if you were out "living a life of leisure" last night, you missed a blackout during Monday Night Football. Apparently, San Francisco is in the business of writing bad checks or something, because on two separate occasions, the power went out in the entire stadium. Everything was fine, seeing as it wasn't a Raiders game, but people didn't really know how to react. There was a great deal of speculation, some finger-pointing, and overall confusion.