At the start of the NFL season, certain things were safe bets. Just about everyone knew, for example, that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick would keep dominating the AFC East. On the opposite coast, however, things were a little less clear. Very few analysts had Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers coming out of the NFC West.
But, more than halfway through the season, the 49ers are leading their division and conference, sitting on an 8-0 record. Their road to the Super Bowl, however, will have to go through one major obstacle.
San Francisco’s season so far
After tearing his ACL early in the 2018 season, Jimmy Garoppolo returned to action in the 49ers season opener. While he didn’t blow anyone away in Week 1, San Francisco’s defense carried the team to victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
With each passing week, Garoppolo’s offensive performances improved, but he’s still yet to post a truly dominant outing. While he’s thrown for around 300 yards in a few outings, there have been other games when Mayfield hasn’t broken the 200-yard plateau in the air. Things have gotten a little better since the arrival of Emmanuel Sanders, but the rest of the team has been able to keep things moving in the right direction.
San Francisco’s offensive line has been dominant, keeping Garopolo out of trouble; they’ve also helped support a balanced rushing attack, taking some of the pressure off the young quarterback. The 49ers defense has also stepped up, allowing the fewest yards per game in the entire NFL. While their games haven’t always been works of art, there’s a reason the 49ers are undefeated.
Deion Sanders’ analysis of the 49ers
While it’s hard to pick too many holes in an undefeated team, Deion Sanders thinks the 49ers have one flaw. Speaking on NFL Gameday, the legendary corner expressed praised the team but mentioned some concerns about Garoppolo’s ability to win the big game.
“Not only [are the 49ers] for real, where is the weakness,” Sanders said. “The offensive line, they can run the ball with anybody, against anybody. George Kittle, arguably the best in the league. Garoppolo is doing the doggone thing…On the defensive side of the ball, they’re taking the ball away.”
But, despite that praise, Sanders wasn’t all positive. “Only concern that I may have,” he continued, “is Garoppolo ready for the lights, camera, action down the home stretch? Because the only team that can give them problems right now is those guys that go marching in with the Saints behind Drew Brees.”
How can the Garoppolo and the 49ers beat the Saints?
When Sanders made his comments, there was no way anyone would have predicted the Saints losing to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. New Orleans got off to a slow start, and Drew Brees was unable to get set in the pocket; their normally strong offense only put up a paltry nine points.
Yesterday’s upset should give the 49ers a perfect gameplan for their date with the Saints next month. Their defense will need to pressure Brees early and often; if New Orleans can’t get their offense rolling, San Francisco can ride their ground game to victory. On Sunday, Matt Ryan only threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns; that’s a performance that Garoppolo can easily imitate.
No matter what happens when these two teams meet in the regular season, both clubs have their eyes firmly looking towards the future. Don’t be surprised if they meet again in the playoffs, with a shot a the Super Bowl on the line.