Inside the numbers: Week 5
After a surprise loss to the Vikings, 49ers have had back-to-back dominant games
Once a 'game management' offense, 49ers are explosive on that side of the ball
The 49ers are No. 1 in Offensive Passer Rating, No. 3 in Passer Rating Differential
Throw out any notion of a stoic "game-management" offense in San Francisco, pigskin peeps.
The 49ers are deadly right now on both sides of the ball. They combine the league's best defense with an offense that possesses a very rare combination of high efficiency in the passing game and historic explosiveness on the ground.
San Francisco's 24-13 Week 3 loss at Minnesota appears to have been just what Dr. Jim Harbaugh ordered: a big whiff of statistical smelling salts to awake his sleeping offensive giant.
The 49ers responded to the loss in Minnesota -- to what we now know is a pretty good 4-1 Vikings team -- with two dominating, knockout-punch victories straight out of the 1995 Nebraska Cornhuskers playbook. Tom Osborne's national champions rolled over one helpless opponent after another at the college level, including a 62-24 win over the No. 2 Florida Gators in the Fiesta Bowl.
The 49ers have won in similar fashion over the last two weeks at the pro level: a 34-0 Week 4 win at the N.Y. Jets, a team that went toe-to-toe with the powerful Texans Monday night, and then a 45-3 win at home against the hapless Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The win over Buffalo was historic in many ways:
The 49ers became the first team in NFL history to top 300 yards rushing (311) and passing (310) in the same game.
The 621 yards of offense were the most by the 49ers franchise, historically one of the league's most glamorous offensive teams.
The 621 yards were most surrendered by the Bills in their long history of under-achievement and shattered dreams.
The Bills have surrendered 90 points in their last six quarters of play. And they've been torched for 37.5 PPG in their last eight road games. So they can't stop anybody, especially away from home.
But San Francisco's awesome average of 9.86 yards per play against Buffalo was the second highest in an NFL game since 1951 (according to the play index at profootballreference.com). The Greatest Show on Turf 2000 Rams ripped off 9.90 yards per play in a 57-31 win over the Chargers.
The 49ers built a reputation as a defensive-oriented team in 2011, pairing a stiff defense (14.3 PPG, 2nd) with the proverbial "game management" offense.
The defense is still dominant here in 2012: San Francisco is No. 1 in the NFL through five weeks, surrendering just 13.6 PPG.
But that defense is now paired with a legit Super Bowl-caliber offense that does everything well.
Alex Smith, Frank Gore and the San Francisco offense are both deadly efficient while ripping huge chunks of yardage. It's a very rare combination.
Gore and the 49ers produce 6.08 YPA on the ground, on pace for the best average in history. The single-season record of 5.74 YPA on the ground was set by the 1963 Browns. That Cleveland team was powered by Jim Brown at the peak of his powers.
Smith and the 49ers are No. 1 in Offensive Passer Rating (108.02), the most efficient passing offense in football: better than Matt Ryan and the Falcons (106.08), Tom Brady and the Patriots (102.76) and Peyton Manning and the Broncos (100.71).
The 49ers are No. 1 in Real Quarterback Rating (99.85), our measure of all aspects of quarterback play, not just passing. Teams better in Real QB Rating are 66-11 (.857) through Week 5, according to the Cold, Hard Football Facts.com Correlation to Victory table.
The 49ers are No. 1 on the Relativity Index, which sizes up reach team relative to the quality of their opponents. San Francisco is +17.5 points better than their opponents compared to their performances in other games. Chicago is a distant second (+13.9).
The statistical domination has equaled domination where it matters most: on the scoreboard. San Francisco tops the NFL in scoring differential through Week 5 (+81)
Only one other team, meanwhile, has enjoyed even one victory by more than 31 points this year: Chicago (No. 2 in scoring differential) beat the sad-sack Jaguars 41-3 on Sunday.
The 49ers, meanwhile, have ripped off a pair of 34- and 42-point wins in consecutive weeks.
Not even the 16-0 Patriots of 2007, the most dominant NFL team since World War II, outscored back-to-back opponents by a total of 76 points. The Brady Bunch was 66 points better than the Dolphins in Redskins in consecutive midseason games.
The closest comparison for a team that dominated so thoroughly in back-to-back weeks may come from the legendary Super Bowl champion 1985 Bears.
Mike Ditka's famous gang of bullies steamrolled the Cowboys 44-0 and the Falcons 36-0 in consecutive weeks in November -- right before running out of steam against Dan Marino and the defending AFC champ Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
The Dolphins won 38-24, handing the 1985 Bears their only loss while preserving the legacy of the 17-0 Dolphins of 1972, in what is widely considered Marino's finest hour and the greatest game in Monday Night Football history.
San Francisco enjoys a similarly glitzy showdown Sunday when it welcomes Eli Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion Giants to Candlestick Park in the marquee matchup of Week 6. The Giants won at San Francisco in the NFC title game back in January.
If the 49ers gain revenge on Sunday, we'll know they are quite a bit more than a two-week statistical flash in the pan. The 2012 49ers could harvest this statistical gold mine all the way to the Super Bowl.