by Jordy McElroy
The New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints all have reasons for feeling like they’re the best team in football, but none of them held all-world quarterback Aaron Rodgers to 104 passing yards in a shocking 37-8 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers.
That “baaad man” Rodgers ran into that “baaad” 49ers defense.
The red and gold had cheese for dinner in a game where they sacked Rodgers five times and held the Packers to 198 total yards of offense. Yet, the biggest gut punch to the rest of the league was seeing 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo captain the smooth offensive machine engineered by coach Kyle Shanahan to one of their most balanced performances of the season.
The former heir to Tom Brady’s throne reminded the league that the 49ers are far from just being a one-dimensional team riding the coattails of their monstrous defense. With All-Pro tight end George Kittle back in the lineup, Garoppolo aggressively attacked the Packers secondary for 253 yards and two touchdowns with a 70.0 completion percentage.
Not only did he put the porn star memes on hiatus, but for at least a week, he put all of his naysayers on hush mode.
Garoppolo isn’t going to be the next Brady. He might not even be the NFL’s next elite quarterback. But the 49ers don’t need him to be either one of those things to continue on their expedited path of success. They simply need a competent player with a good arm to run Shanahan’s offense.
Make no mistake, the head coach is the brains of the operation for the 49ers. It’s the same coach that had Matt Ryan looking like the best quarterback in football three years ago with the Atlanta Falcons. His mere presence on the sideline gives the team an edge over nearly every opponent in the league. He completes the trifecta of success in football—elite coaching, a No. 1-ranked defense and a top-10 offense.
The Patriots are the only team with an argument towards having the best coach and defense in the league right now, but their offense is sputtering worse than it has in years. Quarterback Tom Brady, 42, is another year older and playing with limited offensive weapons.
New Orleans gave up 31 points to the Carolina Panthers’ offense and was forced to scratch and claw for a win at home on Sunday. Baltimore has looked better on defense, but their secondary ranks 17th against the pass in a year where they have been torched at times by opposing quarterbacks.
The 49ers are the most complete team in football.
Of course, the Ravens could change that narrative if they win on Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams and then knock off the 49ers in a much-anticipated Week 13 tilt. The Saints will also have their chance to turn Garoppolo back into a meme and put an abrupt end to the hype in Week 14.
Consecutive road trips against two of the best teams in football will expose the 49ers for better or worse. The sanity of the rest of the league surely depends on the latter after watching Rodgers go 0-for-13 on third down and eat dirt for an entire game.
Shanahan has the pieces lined up to run the table the rest of the way and deem checkmate to the NFC—a sobering realization for a fledgling head coach that was supposed to be nose-deep in a rebuild.