Mario Manningham with the graceful dagger.
The order in which the Bills vs. 49ers' winners and losers appear in this article’s headline doesn’t at all convey what occurred on this gridiron matchup.
There was a clear winner, and, well—a less-than-inconspicuous loser.
It was a day filled with franchise records, offensive explosion and complete and utter defensive ineptitude.
The 49ers will commemorate the occasion for years to come. The Bills might want to memorialize it in more of a Hunger Games-type fashion.
Yes—it was, and will be, that bad for the city of Buffalo.
But shockingly enough, there were both positive and negative developments associated with the 49ers on Sunday.
Follow along while we highlight San Francisco’s biggest winners and losers from Week 5 of the 2012 season.
Winner: 49ers Offense
Could we really begin this recap anywhere else?
The 49ers absolutely demolished the Bills in record-setting fashion.
They racked up 621 yards of total offense, including 303 by Alex Smith and 311 on the ground by the Niner backs. It was the first time since an 11-19-61 matchup against the Bears that San Francisco had a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard receivers and a 100-yard rusher.
Erasing a 61-year historical deficit is not your run-of-the-mill day at the office.
A season high of 43 points and highest since Week 5 of 2011 isn't half bad either.
Moreover, the sheer amount of players that received touches would impress any NFL pundit. Seven players recorded a carry, while six receivers made a catch—a number that also would have been seven if not for a botched play to Kendall Hunter.
The offense stretched the Bills out wide, gutted them through the middle and diversified its play-calling in supremely effective fashion.
Receivers, backup tight ends and third-string running backs all made valuable contributions toward the 49ers victory.
And on that note, so did a certain No. 2 quarterback.
Winner: Colin Kaepernick
From Tim Tebow in Week 4 to Brad Smith on Sunday, no backup NFL quarterback utilizes as effective a versatility as Colin Kaepernick.
Whether taking the ball from under center, lining up as a wide receiver or running the pistol offense he executed so well in college, Kaepernick can do it all with limited touches.
The final box score listed his output at 1-of-1 for seven yards passing and four carries for 39 yards and a touchdown. Those statistics reveal a multi-dimensional QB, but certainly not in the way in which Kaepernick showed against the Bills.
He threw a dart toward the sideline on an intermediate route to Kyle Williams. It came from under center and resulted in a first down on the 49ers’ last touchdown drive.
While running the pistol, Kaep deftly read the defense by keeping it on the option or dishing it off to a running back whenever the situation demanded. Hunter was the beneficiary of the latter of those correct reads at the end of the game.
Kaepernick himself registered two 15-plus-yard rushes, with one resulting in a touchdown. It made the defense look plain silly.
And for good measure, the former Nevada man showcased his rocket arm once again by throwing a bomb to Vernon Davis downfield.
Too bad an offensive penalty and VD drop stifled an otherwise stellar NFL throw.
Winner: Alex Smith
Placing Alex Smith all the way down to No. 3 and below his backup, you might ask?
Well, we had to provide a little suspense, didn’t we?
Smith threw for 300-plus yards for the just the third time in his career. After 310- and 309-yard efforts in 2009 and 2010, respectively, Smith totaled 303 against the Bills.
What makes this performance unquestionably superior to the previous two is the end result—his team won the game.
Also, Smith surpassed his previous 95.6 and 92.8 ratings with a near-perfect 156.3. In fact, he produced a 158.3 rating in the first half, which was indeed perfect—literally.
(What a performance drop-off in the second half.)
Kidding aside, Smith defeated his archnemesis—the deep ball—with three 30-plus-yard completions on the afternoon.
One 43-yarder resulted in a touchdown on a perfect back-shoulder pass to Williams. Another 28-yarder landed in the hands of Michael Crabtree for a TD just before the end of the first half.
Smith’s final line score?
18-of-24, 303 YDs (12.6 AVG), 3 TD. Just don’t forget the 156.3 rating or 99.2 total QBR.
Neither his rating nor total QBR of 99.2 had been achieved by a quarterback this season.
Some might deem that as an elite outing—Buffalo Bills defense or not.
Loser: Offensive Penalties
Not to sully a dominating performance by the 49ers offense, but six penalties are inexcusable.
This simply should not happen—especially at home.
The most troublesome was that half of the infractions negated big plays.
Mike Iupati’s hold brought back a Davis 21-yard gain, Gore’s chop-block cancelled out Crabtree’s 41-yard catch-and-run and Delanie Walker’s tripping penalty backed up the 49ers deep in their own territory after a Hunter first down.
False-start calls on Iupati, Gore and Joe Staley were the other blemishes to an otherwise flawless day.
Still, Jim Harbaugh will be none too pleased with these avoidable mistakes.
Loser: Randy Moss
What will Randy Moss amount to by season's end?
It’s difficult to say whether Moss falls into the “winner” or “loser” category.
If he lands in the winner bracket, one would say that his mere presence on the field opens up things underneath for the other playmakers. Moss garners the attention of multiple defensive backs, while his 49er brethren reap the benefits.
And hey, he even got his hands on his 154th career touchdown catch earlier this year.
On the other side of things, Moss has a total of eight catches for 88 yards on the season. He had just one catch for 11 yards off two targets on Sunday.
So will Moss remain as a forgotten shadow or some secret weapon for Harbaugh’s future disposal? Will he develop resentment for his lack of utilization in the offense, or will he be pleased riding the sideline until the 49ers reach the playoffs?
Only time will tell. But as of now, Moss drops into the “loser” category.
Winner: Running Game, Offensive Line, Pass-Catchers
Combining three into one seemed appropriate. This list could go on and on, otherwise.
Again, 311 yards and three touchdowns on the ground are statistics one usually sees out of NCAA run-first offenses.
On this day, however, it was the 49ers’ rushing attack that accrued such a total.
Gore carried the ball 14 times for 106 yards and a score, his first 100-yard game since Week 1. Hunter’s 81 yards also would have amounted to three digits if Anthony Dixon’s 21 yards and a TD didn’t get in the way.
Both were their consummate selves in grinding their way through small openings and bursting for double-digit gains.
Furthermore, Smith ran for a career-high 49, Kaepernick contributed 39 and Bruce Miller and Williams added 15 more.
Like San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain gifting his teammates in appreciation of their efforts toward his perfect game, the 49ers running backs should reciprocate in kind toward their offensive linemen.
Iupati, Staley, Alex Boone and Co. constantly opened enormous holes for 49ers rushers. They utilized both their massive size up front and elite athleticism downfield.
(Boone could be seen charging toward the end zone in front of one of his running back compatriots on one such play.)
Quarterback Alex Smith should also convey his supreme appreciation. He did not suffer one sack during the entire game.
Truth be told, he was only hurried and/or touched a total of three times.
The 49ers pass-catchers also had a fantastic day at the office.
Crabtree was money all game long. He caught six out of seven targets, showcased his yards-after-the-catch abilities and recorded his fourth career 100-yard game.
Joining him on the 100-yard train was tight end Davis. VD hauled in a 53-yard strike and was a big-play target throughout. He totaled 106 yards and 21.2 yards per catch.
Meanwhile, Williams proved to all his detractors that he belongs in the NFL. He grabbed a beautiful 46-yard back-shoulder touchdown and contributed to the diverse rushing attack with an end-around. He also averaged 22.5 yards on kick returns.
Finally, Mario Manningham put the icing on the cake for this corps with his tiptoe TD grab for a 31-3 49ers lead.
The game was fairly out of reach after that.
Winner: 49ers Defense
At the start of the game, the Bills led the NFL with 16 offensive touchdowns.
At the end of the game, they were stuck on 16 touchdowns.
Minus one field goal-generating drive, the 49ers defense completely stifled Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense.
Chris Culliver picked off a Fitzpatrick pass, All-Pro Patrick Willis forced a fumble and Dashon Goldson recovered it to contribute to a plus-one in the turnover ratio for San Francisco.
Take away Brad Smith’s one successful Wildcat run for 35 yards and this defense limited the Bills rushers to a meager 54 yards.
And on one true final note, Buffalo accumulated one-third the total offensive yardage as San Francisco—yes, one-third.
We’ll give the credit to the defense on that one.
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