SAN FRANCISCO — Like a Frank Gore sweep, it started slowly, gathered momentum and finally took off like a rocket. The 49ers stopped holding themselves back at Candlestick Park on Sunday, and the result was jaw-dropping: a franchise-record 621 yards of total offense, and a 45-3 thrashing of the overmatched Buffalo Bills.
You like balance? The Niners ran for 311 yards and passed for 310, becoming the first team in NFL history to break 300 in both columns in the same game.
"It means a lot, man, just being a part of this," tight end Vernon Davis said of the yardage record. "You're talking about legends who played here. Legends — Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice. To be able to perform on this level, and do it better than what they did? I mean, that's a huge honor."
With a 34-0 shutout of the New York Jets a week earlier, San Francisco has routed consecutive opponents by a cumulative 76 points. You have to go back to the Bill Walsh era, victories over the Falcons (35-7) and Rams (48-0) in the final two games of the 1987 season, to find that sort of superiority by the 49ers.
Asked whether Sunday's game was as dominant a performance as he's seen from the Niners, linebacker Ahmad Brooks answered, "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes." And then he added another "yes," one for each teammate who scored a touchdown.
By the late stages of the game, the Bills hardly seemed to be trying. When the Jets disappeared in similar fashion in Week 4, it was considered an indictment of Rob Ryan's team. When back-to-back opponents wave the white flag, you have to wonder if the 49ers aren't just beating people into submission.
For much of the first half, though, this was anything but a runaway. The Niners hurt themselves with untimely penalties and poor kick coverage, and failed to punch the ball into the end zone in short yardage.
With a minute left before halftime, the San Francisco lead was just 10-3, and the Bills looked poised keep it at least that close when defensive tackle Marcell Dareus recovered Colin Kaepernick's fumble at the Buffalo 17-yard line. But on third down, Patrick Willis jarred the ball out of tight end Scott Chandler's hands after a reception, and safety Dashon Goldson picked it up for the 49ers.
On the next play, Smith passed to the open Michael Crabtree for a 28-yard touchdown pass to pad the lead at 17-3.
The 49ers never looked back from there, scoring on Gore's short touchdown run in the third quarter, and on Smith's 10-yard pass to Manningham, Kaepernick's 16-yard run and Anthony Dixon's 3-yard capper in the fourth quarter.
Everyone, it seemed, got into the act against Buffalo. It was the 49ers' first game with a 300-yard passer (303 for Smith), 100-yard rusher (Gore with 106) and two 100-yard receivers (113 for Crabtree on six receptions, 106 for Davis on five catches) since Nov. 19, 1961, when quarterback John Brodie, running back C.R. Roberts and receivers Aaron Thomas and R.C. Owens did it against the Chicago Bears.