49ers set franchise yards record, beat Bills 45-3

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.

"We were very creative on offense," tackle Joe Staley said. " ... We're mixing up the packages and personnel, and it keeps their defense on their toes. They have to prepare for so much. I think the volume that they have to prepare for week in, week out is going to make this team dangerous."

Early on, the Bills practically dared Smith to beat them, stacking the box with eight defenders to clamp down the 49ers' potent running game. It didn't do wonders for Buffalo's pass coverage, and Smith took full advantage, finding open receivers all over the field. He hit Davis for 53 yards on the 49ers' first drive, found Kyle Williams for a 43-yard touchdown on a nifty back-shoulder pass, and connected with Crabtree for gains of 36 and 28 yards, the second one a touchdown.

Smith had his most productive game of the season — by halftime. His first-half numbers: 12 of 15 for 237 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a perfect passer rating of 158.3. He finished the game at 156.2.

"Alex is very, very efficient right now, in many ways," Davis said. "He's making the correct decision, he's letting the ball go on time, he's taking chances. And he's making plays."

The QB's sterling play masked some inefficiencies for the 49ers in the first half. They failed to cross the goal line after looking at second-and-goal from the 1, settling for David Akers' 19-yard field goal midway through the first quarter. Then again, this team has had red-zone problems throughout Jim Harbaugh's tenure.

More surprising were the penalties, like a chop block by running Frank Gore that negated a 41-yard pass from Smith to Crabtree, and a tripping call on tight end Delanie Walker that wiped out a first-down run by Kaepernick. Even more out of character, the San Francisco special teams started the game in a stupor. Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin had an 80-yard punt-return touchdown nullified by a holding penalty after the 49ers' first possession, then erupted for a 59-yard kickoff return (no penalty this time) after Akers' field goal.

Ultimately, none of it really mattered because the Bills simply couldn't compete with the 49ers, just as the Jets couldn't. After a loss at Minnesota in Week 3, NFL analysts wondered whether the Vikings had found the blueprint to beat Harbaugh's team. Since then, the Niners have put the blueprint through the shredder, regaining their place as the team to beat in the NFC.

You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or phil.barber@pressdemocrat.com.