Welcome back, San Francisco. That wasn’t a must-win the 49ers just scored. Nothing this early is. But it was mighty close, and credit defensive coordinator Vic Fangio for taking the 49ers off the critical list. His game plan stifled Philadelphia’s up-tempo offense, forcing four turnovers — including as many interceptions (2) in one afternoon as Nick Foles had last season. But that wasn’t the most impressive number. This is: Zero. That’s the number of points Philadelphia scored in the second half, the two quarters they owned through three weeks — outscoring opponents by an NFL-best 50 points. Vic Fangio, take a bow. You didn’t save a season. But you sounded the fire alarm for the 49ers … and they responded. It’s about time.
2. Looking for a jump start? Here’s a solution. Play Arizona. It worked for the Chargers, Giants and 49ers –a collective 6-0 after losing to the Cards.
3. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You can’t take Chicago seriously as a playoff contender until or unless Jay Cutler figures out how to beat the Packers. He’s 1-10 against them, with 13 TDs and 20 interceptions. That must change.
4. Now I know why Aaron Rodgers told panicking Packers’ fans to relax. He knew who was next on the schedule.
5. Let’s hear it for the New York Giants and Jets. In recognition of Derek Jeter’s last game with the Yankees, both took the afternoon off.
6. It’s the Raiders’ bye week, and take the hint, Dennis Allen. It’s time to turn out the lights.
7. Speaking of schedules, here’s why you want to climb on the San Diego bandwagon: Only one of its next seven opponents has a winning record, and that’s Denver (2-1). The other six are a combined 5-17, including Oakland twice.
8. Adrian who? The Vikings ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns … in the first half … and a season-high 241 for the afternoon.
9. On behalf of Fantasy-Football owners everywhere, what’s up with LeSean McCoy? The guy’s averaging 2.7 yards a carry and has only one TD. “I’m embarrassed,” McCoy said Sunday. He should be.
10. Frank Gore was right. Finally, someone got the message to get him more involved.
11. Having been around Jim and John Harbaugh, I understand why Michigan would be interested in John, not Jim.
12. Prediction: If he can stay healthy, Teddy Bridgewater has the best season of any rookie quarterback. Reason: Norv Turner. The Vikings’ offensive coordinator gives him a legit chance to hit it big quickly. “I’m proud he’s on my team,” coach Mike Zimmer said afterward. He was talking about Bridgewater. He could’ve been talking about Turner, too.
13. Mike Tomlin should be outraged with Pittsburgh’s latest loss, a come-from-ahead disaster vs. Tampa Bay. He singled out stupid penalties (Pittsburgh had 13 of them for 125 yards), saying the Steelers were “undisciplined.” OK, I get that. But what about that last Tampa series? The guy who shredded the Steelers’ defense with a 41-yard catch-and-run was Louis Murphy, a journeyman signed last week off the streets. Dick LeBeau, got a minute?
14. It’s official: The New Orleans Saints are in deep kimchi. Not enough offense. Not enough defense. They can’t win on the road. And Thomas Morstead, not Drew Brees, is throwing fourth-down passes. Four games into the season, the Saints qualify as the league’s biggest disappointment.
15. “I’m confident we will be a playoff team.” Rex Ryan said that in July. Now the question: Which year was he talking about?
16. Of course, Rex is also the guy who said “I feel good about Geno (Smith).” That was after Sunday’s loss and after a frustrated Smith dropped an F-bomb on a fan.
17. When is a loss not a loss? When it’s a Buffalo loss to Ryan Fitzpatrick. Trust me, that one smarts.
18. Now we find out about Baltimore. Terrell Suggs is hurt, and four of the Ravens’ next five games are on the road, including Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.
19. No, Houston is not a threat to Indianapolis in the AFC South, and I can tell you why in one word: Quarterback. The Texans have Fitzpatrick; the Colts have Andrew Luck. Check, please.
20. With two touchdowns, J.J. Watt has one more score this season than Andre Johnson and Arian Foster combined. Honest.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME SIZZLES
1. Dallas RB DeMarco Murray. That’s four straight games with at least one touchdown and 100 yards rushing. The Cowboys are 3-1 because their defense is better, because Tony Romo has cut down on mistakes and because finally, finally, finally they made a commitment to the running game. Trust me, there’s a direct correlation between Romo and Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher. The running game protects the quarterback as surely as the offensive line, and Murray is having a breakout season.
2. Minnesota RB Matt Asiata. Entering Sunday’s game he had 81 yards rushing, no run longer than 8 yards and no rushing TDs. Then he erupts for 78 yards and three scores vs. Atlanta.
3. San Diego WR Keenan Allen. Now I know why the Chargers jumped to take him in the third round of the 2013 draft. He’s the Bolts’ best receiver and just set a career high with 10 catches for 135 yards. “I just got in the mood,” said Allen. “Got in the zone.”
4. San Francisco WR Stevie Johnson. He scores his first TD for the 49ers — and San Francisco’s first second-half TD all season — and it’s with a remarkable catch that was all about body control. Johnson’s score seemed to revive the 49ers, who outscored Philadelphia 13-0 in the second half and rebounded with a huge come-from-behind victory.
5. Minnesota WR Jarius Wright. I can understand if it’s Kendall Wright. But Jarius? I didn’t know much about him until Sunday. Apparently, Atlanta didn’t ether. Wright’s the guy who led all receivers in Minnesota’s demolition of the Falcons with eight catches for a game-high 132 yards.
FIVE HALL-OF-FAME FIZZLES
1. Anyone with Oakland. I don’t care what you call it … a disgrace, an embarrassment, a catastrophe. No word can accurately describe just how dreadful the Raiders were … and are. For those keeping score, that’s 10 straight defeats and counting.
2. Buffalo QB EJ Manuel. He misses too many throws and makes too many mistakes. He could’ve … no, should’ve … won Sunday, but his most critical throw was a 80-yard interception return by J.J. Watt — a TD that put Houston ahead to stay.
3. San Francisco special teams coach Brad Seely. One punt is blocked for a TD. Another is returned for a TD. What in the name of Ray Wersching is going on? Seely is one of the game’s best, but not on this day he wasn’t.
4. Pittsburgh P Brad Wing. You’re up by four. Fifty seconds remain. You’re punting from your 17, but your opponent has no timeouts left. So what do you do? Bang it 50 yards? Nope. If you’re Wing, you launch a 29-yard wounded duck that sets up Tampa Bay for its game-winning drive.
5. New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. A year ago, he resurrected an historically rotten defense, somehow turning the Saints into the league’s fourth-ranked unit. Now, they look historically awful again, and look no farther than takeaways for an explanation. The Saints don’t make them. Through four games, they have one. Period. “Right now,” Ryan said afterward, “nobody’s doing worse than the Ryan brothers.” The two are a combined 2-6.
WHAT WOULD LOMBARDI DO?
It’s third-and-3 at the Philadelphia 24, and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick throws an incomplete pass. But the 49ers are called for offensive pass interference … if, that is, Philadelphia’s Chip Kelly accepts the penalty. He does, making it third down all over again, this time from the 34. So W.W.L.D.? Take the play, of course. Kelly’s not playing with the 1985 Chicago Bears’ defense. So take the play and force the 49ers to surrender the ball. He didn’t, and it cost him. Kaepernick scrambled for a first down on the next snap, the 49ers ran four more plays, burned another two minutes and took the field goal they would’ve had anyway.
ON THE HALL-OF-FAME RADAR
1. Miami QB Ryan Tannehill. He throws for a season-high 278 yards. He runs for another 35. He completes 14 straight passes. He looks confident in and out of the pocket. He posts a season-best 109.3 passer rating. And he wins. OK, so it was against the Raiders. Nevertheless, it was such an impressive performance that even his coach could remember his name.
2. Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Make that eight straight over Chicago, pushing Rodgers’ record vs. the Bears to 11-2 when he has 10 or more pass attempts. He seldom looked better than he did Sunday, putting up a season-best 151.2 passer rating.
3. Houston DL J.J. Watt. Let’s save voters the trouble and name him All-Pro now.
4. San Francisco RB Frank Gore. That 55-yard touchdown reception was the longest of his 10-year career, and his 119 yards rushing nearly equaled his total (139) through the first three weeks.
5. San Diego QB Philip Rivers. He completes 74.4 percent of his passes, with three touchdowns, no interceptions, a season-high 377 yards and a passer rating of 130.0. So what’s new? Over his last three games, all wins, Rivers has eight TDs, no interceptions and a passer rating of 128.1.
THIS WEEK’S HALL-OF-FAME NOMINEE
Baltimore WR Steve Smith. There wasn’t “blood and guts everywhere,” as he predicted, but there was a lot of Steve Smith — with seven catches for 139 yards, two touchdowns and a lot of gloating. Smith now has 429 yards receiving, the most in NFL history for a 35-year-old receiver through four games. “I’m 35 years old,” Smith said Sunday, “and I ran around them boys like they were schoolyard kids.”
0— Punts in Chicago-Green Bay game, only the second time in NFL history that’s happened
4 — Straight seasons with at least three rookie quarterbacks starting in September
5-26 — Oakland’s record over its last 31 games
7 — Geno Smith turnovers this season
13 — Andrew Luck TD passes, including 8 the past two weeks
20 –Straight games with Antonio Brown catching at least five passes for 50 or more yards
29-0 — Baltimore under John Harbaugh when Ravens hold opponents to 10 or fewer points
558 — Minnesota yardage vs. Atlanta, the most for the Vikings since 2004
1,027 — Indianapolis net yards the past two games