Niners' stay atop AP poll doesn't last long

49ers slide to 4th this week in AP power rankings

The top of the Associated Press Pro32 power rankings is a tough spot to hold, as the 49ers can be the first to tell you. San Francisco's stay atop the AP poll lasted only one week as the Niners' status as the NFL's No. 1 team came crashing down in a hurry after their upset loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

With the Niners falling 24-13 in Minnesota, the Houston Texans became the fourth team in as many weeks to sit first overall in the rankings.

Fresh off an impressive victory at Denver to go 3-0 for the first time, Houston replaced San Francisco as the No. 1 team in voting Tuesday by 12 media members who regularly cover the NFL. Houston earned nine first-place votes and 380 points.

The Niners, who opened the season ranked fourth and took over the top spot last week, slid into a tie for fourth in this week's poll with the New York Giants.

''Decisive win in Denver and big-time performance from Matt Schaub, losing part of his ear in the process,'' 2002 NFL MVP Rich Gannon of CBS Sports and Sirius XM radio said.

Schaub lost a small portion of his left ear lobe when his helmet cut it on a hard hit.

''I don't think we'll be hearing any more questions about Matt Schaub's toughness after the quarterback played with a severed ear lobe ...'' added Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com.

The team in the top slot lost for the third consecutive week. Previously, Green Bay and New England also held the top spot, then lost.

The other unbeaten teams, Atlanta and Arizona, were second and sixth, respectively. The Falcons got two first-place votes and 371 points, while the Cardinals had one and 335 points.

''The Falcons are hot, in all three phases,'' noted former All-Pro safety John Lynch of Fox Sports. ''Is anyone playing the QB position better than Matt Ryan? I don't think so.''

Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune gave the Cardinals the nod.

''It's hard to believe they are the best in football, but they have beaten more good teams and answered more challenges than any other team,'' Pompei said.

Rounding out the top 10 were third-place Baltimore, seventh-ranked Green Bay, No. 8 New England, No. 9 Seattle and No. 10 Chicago.

Last for the second straight week was Cleveland, which lost at home to Buffalo and is 0-3.

''Hope they're not expecting Ray Lewis to hold a pity party for them Thursday night,'' quipped Ira Kaufman of the Tampa Tribune.

Of course, the Browns have a bit of an excuse, as Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News pointed out:

''The Browns have the youngest starting lineup in the NFL at an average age of 24.86 years,'' he said.

The league's other winless team, New Orleans, fell to 27th. The Saints were ranked ninth in the preseason, but have lost twice at home after sweeping their home games last year.

''Now we know the value of a head coach and a quality defense,'' said Pat Kirwan of CBSSports.com and Sirius XM. ''This is starting to look like a lost season at 0-3.''

Not to everyone. Bob Glauber of Newsday had the Saints 22nd.

''Season's slipping away already,'' Glauber said. ''Not what Drew Brees had in mind as his response to Bountygate fiasco. Still enough talent to get back into it, but time might be running out.''

Here's what the AP's nationwide panel had to say about the 49ers this week, with where each expert has San Francisco ranked in parentheses:

Chris Berman (ESPN, 3): Week 3 mulligan

Clifton Brown (Sporting News, 4): Performance at Vikings looked like a rare letdown under Jim Harbaugh.

Rich Gannon (CBS Sports/SiriusXM NFL Radio, 6): Stubbed toe against the Vikes because they couldn't run it with Gore. My one concern, not sure they are good enough right now at WR.

Bob Glauber (Newsday, 4): Life at the top of the power rankings lasted all of a week for the Niners, who didn't have an answer for the Christian Ponder-Adrian Peterson show in Minny.

Rick Gosselin (Dallas Morning News, 4): The 49ers went 2-1 against NFC North in their first three games.

Clark Judge (CBSSports.com, 6): No, I don't get too concerned about that loss in Minnesota. Sooner or later the 49ers were going to trip. It just so happened it was sooner. These guys are not going to go away.

Ira Kaufman (Tampa Tribune, 6): Frank Gore was no factor after falling behind early at Minnesota.

Pat Kirwan (SiriusXM NFL Radio/CBSSports.com, 5): They looked asleep last week but still a very balanced team. Alex Smith is good enough to keep this team in the top ten all year.

John Lynch (Fox Sports, 4): - The 49ers are the latest team to feel the wrath of my No. 1 ranking. They will be back!

Alex Marvez (Foxsports.com, 4): For one of the few times during Jim Harbaugh's coaching tenure, the 49ers failed to show as much intensity as the opposition during last Sunday's 24-13 loss at Minnesota. Don't expect a repeat this Sunday against the New York Jets.

Dan Pompei (Chicago Tribune, 5): Oops. Let's give them a mulligan. Next time we count that drive into the woods.

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