Remember when the San Francisco 49ers were supposedly on the brink of destruction? They had badly lost two games in a row, Aldon Smith was gone from the team indefinitely and everyone was ready to label Jim Harbaugh's team as a pretender?
Yeah, me neither.
Since that embarrassing home defeat to the Indianapolis Colts in Week 3, the Niners have quietly reeled off five wins in a row by an average of 22.6 points, looking more and more like last year's NFC championship-winning team with each subsequent week.
At 6-2, they now have what I regard as a perfectly timed bye week—right smack-dab in the middle of the schedule, giving them an opportunity to heal up before the second half of the season.
They were never really gone, but it's about time the general public recognizes that the 49ers as "back."
Sunday's dominant 42-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in London was further proof of that.
I'm well aware that the Jaguars, are, well, the Jaguars. Putting major stock into a performance against Jacksonville is akin to deeming a team a Super Bowl contender after a solid preseason win.
Moreover, wins over St. Louis, Houston, Arizona and Tennessee probably aren't really impressing anyone. But it's not that the Niners are winning these games or even the margin of victories.
It's how they are winning: a conservative attack through the air, a hard-nosed running game—with a little bit of the read-option mixed in—eating up chunks of yardage on the ground and a physical defense frustrating the opposition.
Going across the pond didn't change that Saturday.
The Niners chewed up 221 yards on 38 carries. Colin Kaepernick threw just 16 times but completed 62.5 percent of his throws for 10.3 yards per attempt and zero turnovers. He also ran for 54 yards and two scores.
Outside of Anquan Boldin, the Niners' wide receiving corps is still depleted. But with Vernon Davis terrorizing defenses, Frank Gore never aging and Kaepernick providing a good blend of smart play through the air and explosive plays on the ground, this offense looks good.
Defensively, they held the Jaguars, a team with a lot of talented offensive weapons (Justin Blackmon, Cecil Shorts, Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Brown), to a meager 4.5 yards per play.
In the red zone, the Jaguars were 0-for-2 while the 49ers were 5-for-5.
That's efficiency—a mark of a real contender.
Things are only going to get more difficult from here on out, as San Francisco gets a surging Panthers squad and the explosive Saints following their bye.
But that's something the current Niners can handle far better than the Week 3 Niners could have.