San Francisco 49ers: How They Crushed the Steelers on the National Stage
In a strange game featuring two power outages and four Big Ben turnovers, the 49ers beat down the Steelers 20-3.
In the process, San Francisco moved one step closer to securing a No. 2 seed for the playoffs (while slim hopes of a No. 1 still remain).
After a blown transformer delayed kick-off 20 minutes, the Niners jumped out to a 6-0 lead behind two Roethlisberger interceptions and sustained the momentum throughout the game.
During the week, Harbaugh publicly challenged his team to "man up" after a deflating loss to the Cardinals. The players rose above the challenge and weathered everything thrown their direction, including another second quarter black-out.
The Steelers would go on to cut the lead to three, but Alex Smith responded marching the offense down the field and eventually finding Vernon Davis wide-open in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown reception.
Huh, a redzone touchdown?
It was an early Christmas miracle on a night that belonged to the San Francisco 49ers and all their fans.
"I think we showed the world we can play the game of football on a national stage," Vernon Davis said about beating the Steelers.
"At the end of the day that's what it's all about: respect."
I couldn't have said it any better.
Here is how the 49ers earned that respect in their big win over the Steelers:
“Wait, don’t you mean Jim?”
No, that’s not a typo.
John’s Baltimore Ravens are 2-0 this season against the Steelers and he definitely played a role in Monday night's outcome.
The Harbaugh brothers are close, with phone calls on a weekly basis.
Without a doubt, football makes up a majority of those discussions and John surely gave his little brother some pointers on how to handle this week’s opponent.
John Harbaugh did exactly what a big brother should do. He set an example and then shared advice.
Of Pittsburgh’s four losses this season, three have been at the hands of the Harbaugh's.
I think it’s safe to say the Harbaugh family will not be receiving a Christmas card from the Steelers organization.
Now onto Jim, who did a remarkable job preparing his team for the big stage.
Following last week’s stunning defeat at Arizona, I wrote that the Harbaugh-49ers honeymoon was over.
But that doesn’t mean the marriage can’t be just as good, if not better.
In that same article, I asked the question: How will the team respond to adversity?
Well, they responded with an emphatic declaration that the 49ers are back from a ten-year hibernation.
And not to be taken lightly.
Harbaugh and his staff put together a great game plan and the players executed it with precision. They forced turnovers, limited mistakes, won the field-position battle and capitalized on their opportunities.
The secret recipe for victories is no longer a secret: Just add Harbaugh
Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass and before he could even scan the field, #99 of the red and gold was in his face for yet another sack.
A familiar sight Monday night as the rookie totaled 2.5 sacks, eclipsing Charles Haley's single-season rookie record in San Francisco, and only God knows how many quarterback hits.
And before I could even celebrate, my phone buzzed. It was a text from a friend of mine, "Remember when we asked who Aldon Smith was after the 49ers selected him with the 7th overall draft pick?"
My response: "Now we know."
The entire league now knows.
Opposing coordinators must get headaches coming up with schemes to block him. Double team him and deal with the other Smith. It's a lose-lose, but a win-win for Niners' fans.
Quarterbacks probably have nightmares of the flying masked man out of Missouri.
Aldon Smith, still just 22 years old, was supposed to be too raw to contribute until a few years of developing and learning at the pro level. Fans questioned his selection on draft night, he was a "reach." Blah blah blah.
The only reach I see is Aldon reaching for the NFL single-season record of sacks by a rookie, and with his 84-inch wingspan he'll probably get there. He only needs two more to break it, one and a half to tie.
If Monday night's game lasted just one more minute, he may have already surpassed that total.
There is arguably no other team as balanced as the San Francisco 49ers. The stats prove it and so does the 11-3 record. The defense dominates, the offense scores points and the special teams do all the little things to make the wins more easily obtainable.
Special is the perfect adjective to describe the 49ers’ special teams. Or maybe perfect is the perfect word, especially when describing their performance on the big stage that is Monday Night Football.
David Akers was a perfect 2 for 2 on field goals and 2 for 2 on PAT’s. The kicker literally kicked himself into the record books in overtaking Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for the franchise’s single-season scoring record.
Andy Lee, a laughable yet legitimate candidate for team MVP, perfectly punted the ball the entire evening, pinning Pittsburgh deep into their own territory. He averaged over 47 yards a kick and landed four of six punts inside the 20 yard-line. A typical day at the office for the league-leading punter.
Credit to the coverage team, as well, who perfectly chased down the long punts, made tackles, and negated any possibility of a big return.
Those efforts combined to help the 49ers win all-important field position battle by an outstanding 20 yards, on average.
Not enough praise has been sent in the direction of Special Teams coach, Brad Seely who has his entire squad performing at a Pro-Bowl level.
Hey, they may all end up with invitations to the annual game in Hawaii. And if so, they may all have to politely decline due to another game of more importance being played in Indianapolis on February 5, 2012.