Those 49ers teams ran through opposing defenses with the skill and grace of ballet dancers wearing helmets and cleats and won five Super Bowls from 1981 through 1995. They were tougher than they were portrayed as being, but their style was weighted toward finesse, not power.
That was then.
It is now – not how the 49ers play now.
The 49ers of 2012, who play the Lions at Candlestick Park on Sunday night, have skilled players across the board on offense and defense. But grace is hardly their calling card. They’re style is suited for hobnail boots, not ballet slippers. They run through offenses – and defenses – and leave battered and bruised bodies in their wake.
The 49ers under coach Jim Harbaugh are built for power. They have it everywhere – offensive line, running game, and at every level on defense – and it was on full display in a 30-22 victory over the Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 1.
It had all the trappings of one of those old military parades – with the tanks, artillery pieces and armored personnel carriers rolling down Main St.
Might was right for the 49ers, and the Packers were mostly bystanders.
“They have it all,” said Lions safety
“They have a great running back (Frank Gore). A tight end (Vernon Davis) who can run as fast as any receiver in the league. And they have some great receivers (Michael Crabtree and Randy Moss.
“They have the total package.”
“It's both,” he said. “They obviously have great talent. They stop the run, get after the passer. They have good DBs in the back end.
“That's a pretty good formula for a good defense. And they have a great scheme. They play it well.”
After Week 1, it is fair to call the 49ers the best team in the NFC, based on how they bludgeoned the Packers for 60 minutes on their home turf.
One key statistics – the running game – showed how superior they were. They ran for 186 yards while holding the Packers to 45. They won the battle of the trenches.
The Lions were not as dominating in their 27-23 win over the Rams. They had to drive 80 yards on their final possession to beat a rebuilding Rams team that was 2-14 a year ago.
I ranked the 49ers No. 1 in my Monday Countdown Week 1 poll. Most oddsmakers favor them over the Lions by close to a touchdown. There is no argument here with that.
The Lions have enough firepower on offense to win, but the 49ers deserve to be clear-cut favorites.
It’s a good matchup for Sunday Night Football on NBC, but in terms of must-win games or defining games, Week 2 of any season is way too early for that. Too much of the season is left for that.
Rob Parker of ESPN, a friend and former colleague at The Detroit News, asked coach Jim Schwartz on Thursday if playing the 49ers is a statement game. If the Lions beat a team of the 49ers’ caliber, what statement does it make to the rest of the NFL and to the Lions?
It’s a legitimate question to ask, but I understand the perception of beating teams with winning records, but I don’t agree with it at this stage of the Lions’ development.
They were 10-6 last season and have enough good players that there shouldn’t be any more measuring-stick games. The issue isn’t who but how the Lions play.
No matter who they play or where they play them, from the Indianapolis Colts at Ford Field to the 49ers and Packers on the road, the season is a week-to-week grind.
“I think we’re past the point of needing a Sunday-night game, or a statement game, or anything else,” Schwartz said. “You know what we need to do? We need to go out and win games and keep on winning games and put good performances on top of good performances.
“We do that, and we’re going to be happy with our season. If we start worrying about other stuff, then we’re going to get off track and we don’t need to worry about other stuff.”