JEROME BETTIS BLOG: 49ERS "ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL"
By JEROME BETTIS
Sunday's biggest upset was the 49ers losing at Minnesota, and I think it's a case of San Francisco falling asleep at the wheel. Here's a team that's arguably the best in football and they lose to a club that no one expects to have the ability to stop or beat the 49ers.
You have to give credit to the Vikings. They had a solid game plan and they won even though they're not the better team. But the 49ers obviously played down to their competition, which leads me to wonder whether maybe, just maybe, San Francisco is starting to get a big head.
One thing I knew about last year's 49ers was they were a very humble team that was trying to grind its way. Now that they're the favorite in every game maybe that has taken a slight edge off. That could be proven wrong, but I'll be watching to see whether they're frontrunners.
One thing that's for certain is that it was ridiculous for them to only give Frank Gore 12 carries. That's a case of not being committed to the basics. At the end of the day, when you go away from what makes you who you are, that's when you lose football games.
And with San Francisco losing we're down to three undefeated teams. I think Houston is the best of those 3-0 teams, and Atlanta is second. The surprise 3-0 team is the Arizona Cardinals, who have been playing extremely well, and beating impressive opponents. They won at New England in the Patriots' home opener and they totally destroyed Philadelphia on Sunday.
REPLACEMENT OFFICIALS SITUATION AT A TIPPING POINT
Early on this season I think there was a good understanding of the situation with the replacement officials. Everyone KNEW there would be some missed calls, and everyone was willing to work within those confines while negotiations with the regular officials continues. But now I think we're starting to reach a tipping point.
The coaches are frustrated and they're starting to get fed up. That was never more evident than when Bill Belichick, who's a fairly stoic coach, ran after a referee and grabbed him. That's a significant moment, and it shows the NFL needs to speed up the negotiating process, because you're starting to see a deterioration of the integrity of the game.
The players also are starting to push the boundaries. It's just like with children. They're learning what they can get away with, and we're seeing the chippiness and the fights. The replacement refs haven't been in a situation like this, where they need a feel for the ebb and flow of the game, and how to control it. You saw four or five situations in the Patriots-Ravens game where there could have been an ejection or at least an unsportsmanlike conduct flag, and the replacement refs didn't throw it.
Now you have a serious problem, because the games are becoming more and more dangerous.
TORREY SMITH'S REMARKABLE PERFORMANCE
What Torrey Smith did Sunday night was extremely courageous. I've been in situations where teammates have lost loved ones, but never the night before the game. It was just incredible to see him come out and perform that way, under that much stress.
You know he was playing with a heavy heart, and that he wasn't able to keep his brother off his mind. But he kept his focus and made catches on some really tough balls, which is nothing short of phenomenal.
IT'S HARD TO FIGURE THE GIANTS AND STEELERS
The New York Giants went on the road in Carolina and looked like the champs of old, the team that won the Super Bowl a year ago. But this is a team that so far has been pretty inconsistent. They look like NFL champions one week, and the next they look like they don't belong in the playoffs. Will we see that same team that crushed the Panthers when the Giants play the late game next Sunday at Philadelphia? That's the question for the Giants.
And my Steelers don't look like themselves. Their calling cards have always been their defense and their power running game, neither of which was able to do anything against the Raiders. Their running game was atrocious. They weren't able to get any traction running the ball and they couldn't stop the Raiders from moving the ball.
Seeing the Raiders run the ball so effectively on Pittsburgh was very disappointing. That included Darren McFadden's 64-yard touchdown, and he wasn't the only running back who's coming off an injury who had a big day.
Adrian Peterson had another solid game, against San Francisco, and the other RB who's coming back from a torn ACL, Jamaal Charles, ran for 233 yards for Kansas City. It surprises me those guys have been able to regain their explosiveness so fast. I really believe that in past years guys who were coming back from an ACL needed two seasons before they had that explosiveness again, but these guys are really bucking that trend. That says something about modern medicine and rehab techniques.
TRACKING THE ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS
We're starting to see reality set in for this collection of rookie quarterbacks. They are going to have games where they struggle, period. We've seen glimpses where the rookies have made us say, "Wow! They're playing like veterans." But these guys are still rookies and they're going to take their lumps and have their growing pains.
We saw that with the Colts and Andrew Luck losing to a Jacksonville team that hadn't been looking all that great. RGIII and the Redskins were beaten at home. Cleveland and Brandon Weeden and Miami and Ryan Tannehill also lost home games. So you're seeing a situation where the rookie quarterbacks are just that -- they're rookies.
The NFL's No. 6 rusher all-time reviews each week's action with his "Around the League with Jerome Bettis" blog. Bettis retired after his Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL in 2006 and The Bus is expected to be a strong candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in January's voting. Bettis was a six-time Pro Bowler and since 1996 his The Bus Stops Here foundation has worked to help underprivileged children in inner cities.