2019 49ers: Going To The Super Bowl!

(originally written 9/15/19)

Mark it down, readers: The 2019 49ers are going to the Super Bowl. Patriots, Chiefs, all other AFC Championship hopefuls, start game-planning now. Because here today, September 15, we know who your February opponent will be.


I don't want to hear that San Francisco's Week 1 victory came at the expense of a poor Bucs team with a mediocre quarterback, because it was the 49ers who made them poor and/or mediocre that day. I don't want to hear anything about Cincinnati playing for a rookie head coach, without their best player, on one of the hottest days of the year, as key players dropped all over the field.
The Bucs and Bengals may not be at the level of the Patriots or the Chiefs or the Rams or the Saints. But these are two competing, professional NFL teams with big, angry NFL players trying to knock the 49ers into oblivion. And they have each been beaten soundly by those rising San Francisco 49ers.


On their home fields, no less!


Today, other than the broken leg of OL Joe Staley and a rare missed kick by Robbie Gould, did you see anything go wrong for the 49ers? (Excluding the Bengals' late TD.)


The Red and Gold's offensive line completely owned the line of scrimmage, creating one gap after another for Matt Breida (121 yards despite sitting much of the 2nd half), Raheem Mostert (83 yards) and Jeff Wilson (34 yards) to charge through, often untouched. Granted, much of the team's 259 rushing yards came in what amounted to garbage time, but 259 yards is still 259 yards. The score by Wilson, only recently promoted from the practice squad in place of injured Tevin Coleman, was his first in the NFL...but health permitting, not his last. Jerick McKinnon who?


At one point early in the 4Q, San Francisco ran eight straight times for net 39 yards (Wilson did lose six on one play, the lone TFL Cincy recorded) that honestly felt like 69. By then, Cincinnati might have been gassed and/or deflated, but still. (And this was after Staley left!) Wanna keep Jimmy Garoppolo healthy? Well, has any QB ever gotten hurt handing the ball off?


Early on, in spite of the horrendous defensive breakdown by Cincinnati's secondary that left Marquise Goodwin more open than a block of 7-Elevens (yeah, he scored on the play), it looked like a ballgame. In fact, the Bengals answered on their very next possession with help from the Niners' own defensive breakdown, specifically DB Jaquiski Taart allowing Bengals WR Tyler Boyd to gain 48 up the left sideline. 


Aside from that, Cincinnati didn't get much at all (in the closing minutes, another goof allowed WR John Ross to turn a 16-yard catch into a 66-yard TD, however). Early, RB Joe Mixon touched the ball a lot, but ultimately managed just 27 total yards, with a long of seven. Andy Dalton, one week after throwing for a career-high 418 yards, never looked comfortable after his 8-for-8 start, as Ronald Blair, Arik Armstead and friends supplied steady pressure. 
In fact, Blair and Deforest Buckner brought Dalton down twice in three plays in the 3Q, which seemed to squelch any hope of a Bengals comeback (they were down 31-10 at the time).


Blair, the reserve DE, chipped in three TFL, two of them while the game was still close, and might have had another sack had he not been held in the 4Q. LB Kwon Alexander's play on Cincinnati's final drive of the 2Q—a strong open-field tackle, a pass broken up, scaring Cincy RB Giovani Bernard into a drop, and of course the drive-ending interception—was nothing short of pristine. CB Richard Sherman...well, I barely heard his name during the broadcast except for the story of his first interception ball. (Apparently, ex-Bengals coach Marvin Lewis called him undraftable, so when Sherman nabbed pick #1—which happened to be vs. those Bengals—he flung it at Lewis. Thanks, FOX analyst Chris Spielman.)


WHAT ELSE FIRED ME UP?


⦁    Garoppolo succeeding without leaning heavily on George Kittle. At times last week he seemed zeroed in on his star TE to the negligence of all others, but SF won today with just three and 54 from Kittle. (Also, Kittle contributed in other ways, namely his blocking.)
⦁    I nearly seized after Mostert's 29-yard TD run midway through the 2Q...until it was called back by two holds.
⦁    Brieda's 2Q dancing near the LOS, allowing him to turn a third-down loss into a 34-yard gain.
⦁    Emmanuel Moseley's big hit on Bengals KR Darius Phillps after Wilson's TD.
⦁    Ahkello Witherspoon picking up where he left off last week, nearly picking Dalton off in the 2Q. (We could have done without the frustrated ball kick, however.)
⦁    The opening play, where Armstead snuffed out a Dalton play-action pass attempt with an eight-yard sack.
⦁    Dante Pettis not only on the field, but completing a 16-yard pass to Mostert. Pettis is on my fantasy team, but he's also on coach Kyle Shanahan's naughty list, it seems. So anything he contributes at this point is found money.
⦁    Anytime Bengals WR Alex Erickson was targeted. In a miscommunication, Dalton missed the open Erickson in the end zone on one play, but when he did hit him two other times, the Wisconsin alum dropped the ball.
⦁    Goodwin taking a HUGE hit from DB Jessie Bates after a 25-yard gain...but holding on tight, extending a drive which ended in three points.

There is plenty more to discuss, including the status of San Francisco's NFC rivals, but A) I've got a personal deadline, and B) you might already be asleep at this point. So in closing, I'll just show you this tweet from longtime SF Bay Area radio fixture Damon Bruce:

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Need I say more?

See you in Miami.

2009 Topps #116 Omar Infante, Braves