49ers win! 49ers win! 49ers win!
Well, that's where the article would have been going had the San Francisco 49ers eked out the win Monday night. The story might have delved into the crazy conspiracy theory that they had been playing possum against the Seahawks the week before.
No, the reality is far more simple than that: The 49ers are a work in progress, and that work is progressing.
A young, physical team will age well, whether it's over the course of a game, a season, or a dynasty. Monday night's game, albeit a loss, allowed the 49ers to flash their true colors in a positive light. Unlike the Seattle fiasco, there's a healthy amount of favorable accomplishments upon which to look.
The night started disgustingly. A safety and a touchdown resulted in a nine-point lead for the incumbent Super Bowl champions. Unlike in the Seattle debacle, however, the 49ers would play four quarters of football.
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment by San Francisco was that they brought a consistent offense to the field. Not only did they move the ball well (and better as the game progressed) but they scored touchdowns. Yes folks, the 49ers finally got into the end zone, and they did it three times compared to New Orleans' two visits (unless you count that safety.)
Rookie bulldozer Anthony Dixon even took his first NFL regular-season carry into the end zone for a go-ahead six points, begging the question: how do we get him the ball more?
The offensive line played cohesively (eventually) and the 49ers established the run. This (eventually) set up the passing game.
Any man who has been charged with the task of breaking rock or concrete with a sledgehammer knows the job is, at first, unrewarding and tedious. It's simply a matter of time—and constant striking, however, until a crack forms. Soon, the rock shatters.
If they had not turned the ball over four times, this article's tone would probably have a different pitch.
The 49ers' defense also looked much better than they did eight days prior. They settled down but stayed fired up. Patrick Willis even sacked Drew Brees, and nailed running back Reggie Bush with a vicious hit at one point. Bush would unfortunately break his fibula later, recovering a muffed punt.
Most teams wouldn't have been able to withstand the mauling the 49ers dished out, but the Saints aren't most teams. With pressure and coverage, the Red and Gold effectively took away much of the Saints passing game, but dink-and-dunk screens employed by their offense worked efficiently, and provided New Orleans with an auxiliary scheme to still move the ball in route to the win.
For the record: Drew Brees looking like Joe Montana out there—on a windy Monday night at Candlestick Park—that should be illegal.
The Saints know it was they who eked out the victory Monday Night, and they'll be leaving town with a 2-0 record, a battered backfield, and a healthy respect for the smash-mouth San Francisco 49ers.