49ers make a statement by staying perfect
Team has not been 4- 0 since 1990 and will have to keep proving itself, columnist Jarrett Bell says.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – If you were one of the naysayers, a prognosticator or just a plain non- believer who didn’t see this particular collection of 49ers amounting to much, Richard Sherman is speaking to you.
“You want idiots to sound like idiots,” Sherman said after a 31- 3 win over Cleveland Monday night. “You want them to hold that position the same year. Don’t flip- flop with us. If you said we weren’t going to make it, that we were some way early on, stick with that position. Hold it. Don’t try to give us credit now. If you had us going 3- and- whatever, stick to your word, because I want you to sound like an idiot at the end.”
In other words, there’s no more room on the 49ers’ bandwagon, though their season is just a quarter of the way through. And there’s nobody better than Sherman to make that point clear.
After San Francisco ( 4- 0) put a fresh layer of kick- butt on the Browns in prime time – the 49ers rushed for 275 yards, threw effectively enough, suf
“If you had us going 3- and- whatever, stick to your word, because I want you to sound like an idiot at the end.”
Richard Sherman 49ers linebacker
focated Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland offense – Sherman, 31, was in classic form. Shoot, we haven’t heard him with as much in- your- face messaging since his days with the Legion of Boom in Seattle.
Please don’t stop him. He’s on a roll. And so is his young team.
The last time the 49ers were 4- 0? Go back, way back to 1990, when Joe Montana was in the midst of an MVP season, throwing to Jerry Rice. When Charles Haley was still a Niner, kept in check ( occasionally) by his big brother, Ronnie Lott.
Now this team that coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch have put together is starting to look like the grand vision, coming to life.
Hey, it’s early. Shanahan ( whose dad, Mike, used to be a coordinator in these parts with Steve Young throwing the rock) told his squad, according to primo tight end George Kittle, “All that’s guaranteed is that we can go 4- 12.”
You know what it’s like in the NFL. What have you done lately?
The 49ers are the NFC’s only undefeated team. At the moment, they are the team to chase for the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.
But regardless of how passionate Sherman is, it’s way premature to assume anything. Next up is a trip to Los Angeles, where you can bet the defending NFC champion Rams will be salty.
So the 49ers will have to prove themselves all over again in a few days. Then again and again.
Maybe the question of whether the 49ers’ perfect record is legit has been put to rest. They beat the Buccaneers, Bengals and Steelers before the Browns came calling. That’s not exactly toppling the 1985 Bears, ’ 72 Dolphins or ’ 66 Packers. But beating the split- personality Browns was seemingly a quality win because, well, Baker, OBJ and the crew have had so much hype.
As well- earned and legitimate as it is, the Monday night massacre ranks even higher because it came before a primetime audience against a formidable opponent. It’s good enough because the Browns were that next team on the schedule.
If you want to crown the 49ers as anything right now, call ’ em honorary AFC North champs ( sorry, Baltimore), with three of their W’s coming against teams in that division.
And it sure is a stretch that they’re in the same sentence as the 1990 squad, though this is not of their own doing. The ’ 90 Niners were back- to- back defending Super Bowl champs, going for a three- peat and advancing to the NFC title game.
These 49ers are eager to establish their own identity. The blueprint looks tight. It includes some major physicality in the trenches. San Francisco has invested heavily in collecting premium talent on the D- line, including the two edge rushers – Nick Bosa and Dee Ford – added this year. Figure that Mayfield, sacked four times and battered into three turnovers, can vouch for that.
The O- line has investments paying off, too, reflected with the season- high rushing output. Then there’s Jimmy Garoppolo, who was obtained and paid to be the efficient marquee man. So far, so good, so healthy. And Sherman, who joined the 49ers as a free agent last year after being dumped by Seattle, brings that wise veteran presence who will speak up when needed.
Sherman knows. He saw the Seahawks develop from a collection of talented wannabes into a Super Bowl champ, and they had arguably the league’s best defense for five years running as it stayed in the championship hunt during that span. One of their most significant statement wins came when they upset the Patriots and Sherman got in Tom Brady’s face afterward and asked, “You, mad bro?”
Well, the Browns aren’t the Patriots. But at least the 49ers have some talent, moxie and optics to work with when it comes to statement victories. Bosa, who became the first 49er in a quarter- century to produce multiple sacks ( two), a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in the same game, got a measure of revenge against Mayfield for that silly, “plant the flag” act that the quarterback pulled during their college days.
And he trash- talked Mayfield in the process, which was his own “You mad, bro?” moment. So there’s some in- yourface persona being developed here, too.
It will be tempting to declare the 49ers as the best team in the NFC. Tough to go that far given the way the Saints have played without Drew Brees. Sherman’s old team has a quarterback playing like an MVP in Russell Wilson. And the Rams are suddenly pressed to prove their mettle.
At least the 49ers are in that conversation. When you’re building a championship program, the W’s – whenever, however and against whomever – provide the reason to keep believing.
“We’ve just got to be consistent,” Sherman said. “When you have a young team, it’s about teaching them how to win.”
The 49ers scrapped against the desperate Steelers ( sans Ben Roethlisberger) and won despite committing five turnovers. On Monday, they dominated from the start – Matt Breida ripped off an 83- yard TD run on San Francisco’s first snap – and earned style points.
“Then you’ve got to learn how to win these games,” Sherman added, considering the showcase in prime time.
Done. Now go beat a division rival. Then keep it flowing.
49ers cornerback Richard Sherman encourages the home crowd before a play Monday against the Browns at Levi’s Stadium.