Harbaugh working magic with 49ers

BY foxsports • October 2, 2011

That was a huge win for the 49ers in Philadelphia. They battled back in a game the Eagles seemed to have in control. There's no doubt Jim Harbaugh has done a very good coaching job in San Francisco. They're on top of the NFC West at 3-1, and with the way the NFL is going right now, I’d have to say they're a pretty good team.

Now, the Eagles did turn the ball over three times, including the big fumble by Jeremy Maclin in the game's final minutes when Michael Vick was driving his team down the field for the win. How did the Eagles lose that game with Vick totaling 491 yards of offense? He passed for 416 yards. The Eagles rookie kicker, Alex Henery, also missed two field goals in the second half, which is just another reason why Philadelphia is 1-3.

Until this game, the 49ers hadn’t shown a lot of offense. However, Harbaugh has rejuvenated Alex Smith’s career, given the quarterback some confidence, and he passed for 291 yards and two touchdowns. And on a bad right ankle, Frank Gore rushed for 127 yards and the winning touchdown on just 15 carries.

Like Terry Bradshaw said during one of our halftime shows, if I had to practice all week in Youngstown, I’d play angry on Sunday. I don’t think many thought the Eagles would lose this game.

Change of philosophy

Mike Martz, the Bears offensive coordinator, is a unique individual to say the least. He’s obviously smart, talented and has had a lot of success. And he does an outstanding job working with quarterbacks, and all of them have had different styles and arms. Over history, though, his teams have had problems with sacks and turnovers, but they put up a lot of numbers with touchdowns, yards, etc. He's also had success as a head coach.

But having said all that, he’s unique in that he will go a span of not running the ball a lick to the next game seemingly out of midair, like he did against Carolina, having a run ratio of 3 to 1. But you can’t argue with success.

I think Martz likes extremes more than he likes a balanced offense. Extremes keep the defenses off-balance, and it’s a surprise that they're not ready for. Matt Forte proved his point this week by running for 205 yards.

Cam keeps turning heads

I do want to say that Cam Newton continues to impress me. He’s a big, strong, fast guy with a good touch on the football. And he plays with extreme confidence, too, for a rookie. I guess when you look at the success that he’s had, winning the national championship at Auburn, going undefeated last season and also winning a junior college national title, all that success breeds more success.

It also breeds confidence and it’s obvious to me the rest of the team feeds off that. When you have a player as talented as that, they can see all the plays he's capable of making. And they play with confidence. Just look at the way Steve Smith has responded to Newton. It’s fun to play with stars.

Dallas doldrums

What can I saw about the Cowboys? As soon as they start to look like champions, they screw it up. I did a piece on them a few weeks ago and they have to get better at situational football. You don’t get out-scored 31-3 when you are playing at home and you possess the talent the Cowboys have.

I don’t know if they miss Marion Barber, but regardless of whom they have at running back, the Cowboys should have been pounding the ball in the second half. It’s not the end of the world, when you have a big lead, to run it three times and then punt. It’s a lot better than turning it over like Tony Romo did.

Seeing red

Staying in the NFC East, Mike Shanahan is doing a heckuva job. It’s debatable how good Rex Grossman is, but Shanahan is doing a good job with him. Jim Haslett is doing well with their defense. Now, the only game they lost was against Dallas, but they were right there and could have won it. But nobody would have said at the start of the season in the East, that Philadelphia, which we all thought would be on top, would be in last place, and the Redskins, who everyone predicted would be at the bottom, are at the top with the Giants.

Shanahan, with his style, is always going to find good running backs to fit his system. Tim Hightower and Ryan Torain are perfect for him.


We are a month into the season and the two lone unbeaten teams are in the NFC North. Everybody expected Detroit to make a big move this season. The Lions finished last year strong without Matthew Stafford. And Green Bay is an outstanding team. The Packers were probably the consensus team to win another Super Bowl. I expected Detroit to be better. Few expected them, though, to be this good.

When you have Calvin Johnson, you always have a chance at a touchdown. He is that good! Matthew Stafford has proven that every week. Four straight games now with Johnson catching two touchdowns. He’s something special.

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