In 2017, the San Francisco 49ers shocked the world with their recent hire. Trading in a microphone for a clipboard, television broadcaster Jon Lynch made the jump to an executive role, hoping to change the culture out in the Bay Area.

Three years into the job and a pair of struggle seasons finally seem to be paying off for the Pro Bowl safety and his staff. To plainly put it, Sunday’s outing against the Green Bay Packers allowed the 49ers to step forward and show the world what many around the NFL community already knew.

The best team this season can be found in Levi Stadium. And right now, it’s not that close of a battle.

Sunday’s 37-8 victory was not only a proper step for Kyle Shannahan’s offense but also a statement win for the defense. Against Aaron Rodgers, one of the league’s best, the front seven made him look useless for all but a drive in the third quarter.

Collecting three sacks in the first quarter, the 49ers’ defensive front was able to rattle the future Hall of Fame quarterback into making consistent mistakes. The run game was depleted- being held to only 117 yards on the evening.

Five sacks led to the lopsided win for San Francisco, and they were short-handed without the likes of Dee Ford coming off the edge. Not only is this defense good, but it’s also historically unique and could be the reason the 49ers make a trip down to Miami come February.

The offense continues to find a rhythm with Jimmy Garoppolo under center. His stats won’t wow the crowd in MVP conversations, but throws like a 61-yard touchdown pass to George Kittle will give hope. He’d also connect with rookie Deebo Samuel for a 42-yard score just before halftime.

Garoppollo’s inconsistencies have been blinded by the success of the defense. Heading into the fourth quarter, Rodgers had only 18 completions for 94 yards. He’d finish with a season-low 104 yards, excluding the -38 yards on sacks from the evening.

The New England Patriots defense has been herald one of the best units this season. They fall behind the success of San Francisco approaching the final weeks of the season. The team’s league-high 44 sacks make them a threat to reach the backfield on every snap.

And all Lynch had to do was struggle for three seasons to get the proper pieces. A miss on Solomon Thomas turned into a hit by Nick Bosa. Even as the youngest player of the defensive line, the rookie sensation has dominated in the trenches with eight sacks.

Lynch waited patiently to transform San Francisco into a contender. With a healthy Joe Staley and Mike McGlinchey, the offensive line should only add to the threat. How does a player with Kittle’s skills slip to the 146th pick? And a second-round selection was all it took for them to land a quarterback who is 16-4 as the starter.

The question has been asked all season if San Francisco should be considered a contender? Yes, and you’re not going to get another answer if you pay attention. The offense is doing their job while the defense is making historic marks on their way to a postseason berth.

The 2016 Atlanta Falcons ranked 2nd in total offense, averaging 415.8 yards per game. The 2014 Seattle Seahawks defense led the NFL by allowing a league-low 267.1 yards per game. If you combined both rosters, you have the 2019 49ers, who are on pace to potentially finish with a 15-1 record.

Can they contend for a Super Bowl? Their next two outings against Baltimore and New Orleans could make that more clear. The defense is there, but the offense will be the x-factor.

Don’t be shocked if come late January we see a rematch of Sunday’s action back at the Bay. The defense is talented enough to carry them to a championship matchup.


Happy Turkey week Two Minute Warning fans. Sorry for the late post, but when you work like a dog, you sometimes are going to slip in some category. But better late than never is my mother’s motto for everything. That’s probably because she’s late to everything, but enough about my personal struggles.

Let’s get you caught up on what you missed around the league during Sunday’s action.

Pittsburgh, go away…or you know, be good?

The race for last place in the AFC Wild Card standings could be the most exciting matchup to watch moving into the final weeks of the season. Not because the teams are good, but rather which roster with problems will win out to take control.

The Pittsburgh Steelers have re-entered the chat room, for better or worse.
Pittsburgh could be on their third quarterback of the season following the benching of Mason Rudolph. Potentially, the team could have just wanted a change of pace and Devlin Hodges could have just picked up the victory before heading back to the bench. Then again, following the Myles Garrettgate, is there a reason to play the former third-rounder again?

A 16-10 victory over the winless Cincinnati is the ultimate humblebrag. Sure, your weapons were depleted, but come on a six-point victory? Who are you trying to fool Steelers? Apparently, everyone since they sit a 6-5 and remain alive in the wild card race.

Credit to Kevin Colbert for the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade to remain competitive without Ben Roethlisberger in the mix. The defense is the reason the Steelers are hanging around and that first-round pick could be worth the second-year safety’s production.

Pittsburgh closes out the year with games against New York, Arizona and mixed result teams in Cleveland and Buffalo. Could they win four of five? Maybe. Three wins put them above .500 and more than likely holds the tie-breaker over the Browns.

Are any of the theses teams competitors to New England or Baltimore? No. But damn, you have to give Mike Tomlin credit. The season was D.O.A. in Week 2 and now they are just a few wins away from returning to the postseason.

Go Gore Go

History was made Sunday afternoon up at New Era Field. And no, there still are those people who make the Josh Allen jokes and continue to doubt him despite a good season. Yeah, I’m a little salty on that.

Instead, running back Frank Gore passed Barry Sanders in the record book for third all-time in rushing with 15,289. The veteran rushed three times in the first half for 13 yards. He would play a complementary role behind rookie Devin Singletary until a late fourth-quarter drive. In the end, Gore finished with 65 yards and helped eat up a majority of the clock.

Every running back would love to become the all-time leader, but Gore’s quest to the best will likely end with a bronze medal. He’s nearly 1,500 yards behind Walter Payton and over 3,000 yards behind Emmitt Smith for the crown. At 36, his role is to be the veteran leader and a mentor to younger backs.

Still, a 15-year career throughout four teams is a feat few have ever completed. And Gore did it with flare throughout the way.

Tannehill Time for Real?

Remember when Ryan Tannehill was expected to be no more than a backup in Tennessee? Remember when the select few said he should be the full-time starter over Marcus Mariota? It couldn’t have been me, could it?

(Cricket sounds.)

The transition from Mariota to Tannehill in Tennessee hasn’t been all smooth, but another game with a win under their belt keeps the Titans playoffs alive. Sitting at 6-5, they remain just a game behind Houston in the AFC South race.

Outside of a 16-0 loss to Denver, Tannehill has been exactly what the Titans needed. They’re 4-1 with him at the helm and the offense has found a passing identity that was never there for Mariota. And Tannehill’s four-touchdown performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars proves the process is working in games they’re expected to win.

Tannehill could prove to the team he’s the plan moving forward entering the home stretch. Both games against Houston could be winnable, giving them a lead in the division while Oakland proved to be a pretender against the Jets. Indianapolis is just Titans light, so the matchup should be fair.

Nothing should stop Tennessee from drafting a quarterback next season, but Tannehill’s progression could make it a lesser priority. Hopefully, the clock won’t strike midnight and force Tannehill to go back to Tannehilling.

Despair in Dallas?

Jerry Jones is known for giving his coaches a long leash. If you don’t believe it, look at the Jason Garrett tenure and that’s all the proof you need. But even after giving his long-time coach the vote of confidence last month, the mood swung following a 13-9 loss against the New England Patriots.

“With the makeup of this team, I shouldn’t be this frustrated,” Jones told reporters Sunday evening in Foxborough.

Special teams were a critical factor in the team’s loss Sunday. Brett Maher missed a 46-yard field goal in the first quarter while Chris Jones’ punt was blocked on the ensuing drive. An early N’Keal Harry touchdown in the first quarter ended up being the difference-maker in Gillette Stadium.

Jones did not publicly speak of a coaching change, but his postgame comments told the story clear as day. Something will need to change for Garrett and perhaps several other names to stick around. It would be easy to let the coach walk as Garrett is in the final year of his contract.

Dallas still holds a one-game lead over the Philadelphia Eagles, who lost to Seattle at home. The Eagles’ schedule is a cakewalk to end the season as they’ll face Miami, Washington and the New York Giants twice.

Depending on how Dallas plays over the next two weeks, Dec.22 could be a “winner take all” for the NFC East. One team is being left out of the postseason and best believe Garrett can’t afford to be that team.

Parting Shots

It’s Thanksgiving this week, meaning I’m making these parting shots things I’m thankful for in the NFL thus far. You may not like it, but then again, you’re not the one writing, so sorry if your team is featured on this list.

10.) I’m thankful for fat guy touchdowns. On Sunday, Tampa Bay’s Vita Vea became the heaviest player to score a touchdown in the NFL at 347 pounds. If anyone could have him on a fantasy team, that would be worth all the points.

No, literally, all of them.

9.) I’m thankful for crazy NFL fans who make this job fun to do. This guy is my winner because…I mean, look at him. If they let him bring the chair into the stadium, give him the fan of the year award.

8.) I’m thankful for chirpy players who enjoy giving attitude to other teams. On Sunday, Buffalo’s Shaq Lawson got into the face of Denver’s Connor McGovern following a two-sack performance.

I mean, he has five sacks on the year, which is a career-best but, I wouldn’t remember your name either if I was from Denver bud.

7.) I’m thankful for one game wonders that give a fan base hope. On Thursday, Texans wide receiver Will Fuller returned to the lineup and made seven catches for 140 yards. On next week’s TMW, we could be seeing him back on the injury report because, hey, that’s what happens all the time.

6.) I’m thankful for starting Derrick Henry against the Jacksonville Jaguars in fantasy this week. Sometimes a player is at his best against one opponent. For Houston, T.Y. Hilton has been their kryptonite and Henry could be the same for the Jaguars.

Thanks, Derrick, from one Alabama alum to another. I’m in the postseason because of you!

5.) I’m thankful for believing in Russell Wilson since his days at Wisconsin. With Sunday’s victory against the Eagles, the MVP front-runner now is the only quarterback to start his career with eight winning seasons. I knew you could do it, champ!

4.) I’m thankful for underrated receivers and yes, I would consider Mike Evans underrated. On Sunday, he became the second player in NFL history to reach six 1,000-yard seasons to being his career. The second name? Randy Moss.

And yet, no one even mentions Evans’ name because he plays for the Bucs.

3.) I am beyond thankful that touchdown celebrations are a thing in the NFL. The Titans’ offensive line likely will take the cake for me this season on the best celebration. It’s climbing up the record books.

2.) I’m thankful for players like Za’Darius Smith. Following a sack Sunday evening, the outside linebacker lifted his shirt to show support saying, “We love Eileen,” the mother of an equipment staff member who is battling cancer. Players with a platform who do things such as this will always have a special place in my heart.

1.) I’m thankful for each day I come here and write. So many people I know don’t have the experience or time to be a full-time writer, yet somehow, I’m lucky in that sense. And you, the readers, always make me want to be better. You always make me strive for better content and for that, I’m grateful.

From the PFN Family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving. Thank you for an incredible season and for helping us grow throughout the process.

Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.