I admit to being confused by the San Francisco 49ers. They've played the entire regular season, and I'm still confused about how good they are. Go figure.
On Sunday, they defeated the Arizona Cardinals, a group of men who, in many respects, resemble an NFL team. So, we give credit to the 49ers for their victory and for other things, too.
By beating the Cardinals, the Niners won the NFC West for the second season in a row. That constitutes a big deal and it shows the Jim Harbaugh regime has brought the team to respectability and beyond. All praise to Harbaugh and his regime and the Niners.
By beating the Cardinals and because the Packers lost to the Vikings — you don't want to know those permutations — the Niners get a bye week and they play their first game at home in almost two weeks — Saturday, Jan. 12.
This is what you call Bonanza City because, as every footballer will tell you, at this time of year a team needs to — in the words of Steve Mariucci — "healthy up." The Niners really need to healthy up.
There is the matter of Justin Smith and his injured elbow which isn't merely an injured elbow but involves a torn triceps and will involve corrective surgery at a time and place to be determined. The hope is — Patrick Willis expressed it for everyone — that Smith, whom Willis called a "marquee player," is sufficiently healthied up to play in two weeks even without the surgery.
Here's a fact. The 49ers will need Justin Smith in two weeks. Trust me.
The hope is Vernon Davis will healthy up, too, after missing some practice days with a concussion. He caught one measly pass against the measly Cardinals. Against a real football team, he'll have to do better, even though Michael Crabtree went absolutely bonkers against Arizona catching eight passes for 172 yards. They used to say Crabtree was a prima donna. No prima donna this guy and no crabapple, either. He's the Real McCoy.
But there are some not-so-good things which happened against the Cardinals, an almost-NFL team. These not-so-good things confuse me and restrain me from shouting from the housetops the Niners are the tops.
Here are some not-so-good things:
The 49ers scored only seven points in the first half when the game, which eventually turned into a not-game, still was a game. It was fairly typical of the Niners going to back to when Alex Smith was the starting quarterback. Do you remember?
Against the Cardinals, not really an NFL team, scoring seven in the first half didn't matter. In a one-and-done playoff game against an actual team, a sleepwalker first half orchestrated by Greg "Mr. Conservative" Roman could be lethal in a self-destructive sense.
Crabtree was great against Cardinals' cornerback Patrick Peterson. But you would have to assume Crabtree will face a living, breathing cornerback in the next game, not some poor fellow who was carted into the stadium DOA. And the Niners have no other wide receiver at Crabtree's level, not Randy Moss and certainly not A.J. Jenkins who never has caught a pass in the NFL.
Kicker David Akers missed two easy field goals — missing is what he does. Watching him you wanted to smack yourself in the head and one assumes Harbaugh wanted to smack Akers in the head — in a metaphorical sense, only.