49ers make a state­ment by stay­ing per­fect

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - JIMMY GAROP­POLO BY TONY AVELAR/ AP

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 effec­tively 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 Mayfield and the Cleve­land offense – 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 play­offs.

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 Mayfield, 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 five years run­ning as it stayed in the cham­pi­onship hunt dur­ing that span. One of their most sig­nificant 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 first 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 Mayfield for that silly, “plant the flag” act that the quar­ter­back pulled dur­ing their col­lege days.

And he trash- talked Mayfield 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 five turnovers. On Mon­day, they dom­i­nated from the start – Matt Breida ripped off an 83- yard TD run on San Fran­cisco’s first 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.

CARY ED­MOND­SON/ USA TO­DAY SPORTS

49ers cor­ner­back Richard Sher­man en­cour­ages the home crowd be­fore a play Mon­day against the Browns at Levi’s Sta­dium.

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