Sometimes, stats don’t mean a thing. Late in Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 49ers had converted only two of seven third downs. The Buccaneers had converted seven of 15 and because of that had run three more plays from scrimmage.
A year ago, the Bucs came into Candlestick Park and held San Francisco to 11 first downs and zero points. So, for someone who saw only that stat at this point in time might be a little more than surprised to find out that Tampa Bay trailed the 49ers by 45 points at the time.
It was a magical victory for the 49ers, 48-3, representing a breakthrough in offensive, defensive and special teams execution. These were two teams that on paper coming into the game seemed very similar—run-oriented on offense, stout-up-front on defense. Tampa had the better secondary, but San Francisco had more weapons (if only slightly more so) on offense.
Looking back, we realize that the famous words of famed Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman hold so elegantly true. The man who wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Marathon Man, among others, has said that among the experts of the business “no one knows anything.”
The early predictions for “Butch” from studio execs were failure. The early predictions among many for the 49ers were that Alex Smith would continue to fail in San Francisco. Here are the five things we learned in San Francisco’s 48-3 victory over Tampa Bay.