Not that they needed it, but the San Francisco 49ers have passed yet another tough litmus test in their quest to establish dominance in the NFC.
On the road, in the Fox Game of the Week with a majority of the country watching, the Niners barged into the Super Dome in New Orleans and beat down the Saints 31-21.
The buildup for this game was all about whether Colin Kaepernick would once again steal the spotlight from Alex Smith. Kaepernick did indeed do that, as Smith watched him and the Niners from the sidelines. But the star of the day wasn’t Kaepernick, it was the defense that made Drew Brees’ life a living hell. He did manage 3 TD passes, but was picked off twice by the Niners and each time for TDs.
Drew Brees is known for picking apart offenses, but as Ahmad Brooks and Donte Whitner took their interceptions back for touchdowns it looked as if they knew what Brees was going to do before Brees did it. Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, and Ahmad Brooks each had 1.5 sacks in the game, with Patrick Willis notching half a sack of his own. Aldon Smith’s 1.5 sacks gives him 16.5 on the season, and 30.5 since his debut last season which is a new fastest mark to reaching the 30 sack milestone. Smith has already become one of the NFL’s most feared pass rushers, and if he maintains this pace could become one of the best ever… but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
Colin Kaepernick did nothing to dissuade his supporters, and while he wasn’t spectacular his 16-25 for 231 yards and 1 touchdown, and 6 rushes for 27 yards and another touchdown. He did throw one bad interception on a play that broke down quickly, he forced the ball and was penalized for it. But lets keep in mind that this was his second NFL start, he gets a little slack in this case, as long as he doesn’t make a habit of plays like this.
The 49ers have taken a strangle hold on the NFC West at 8-2-1, with the 6-5 Seattle Seahawks struggling to keep pace. They also have a comfortable lead on the number 2 seed in the NFC, they’re 1/2 game in front of the Chicago Bears, which might as well be 1 1/2 games because the Niners hold the tiebreaker over the Bears with their victory over them in week 11. At this point the 49ers simply need to keep cruising until the playoffs arrive. They head to St. Louis for a division matchup against the Rams. There are no easy games in the NFL, but the 49ers absolutely should demolish the Rams. As the Kaepernick era continues to get rolling, and the Smith era begins to fade away, the 49ers can use games like this to further hone Colin’s skills.