A few readers suggested last week that the 49ers — who handled the Vikings with ease in a Week 1 Monday night game before getting crushed 43-18 by the Steelers in Week 2 — could be a candidate to become the new 2001 Carolina Panthers.

I thought to myself, "Let's hold off on that a little." But after the 49ers went down 21-0 early against Arizona on Sunday, fueled by a pair of awful pick-sixes — it didn't seem quite as far-fetched.

In case you have erased the entire ugly 2001 season from your memory, the Vikings came into the season with high hopes only to lose to Carolina in Week 1. It ended up being the Panthers' only victory in a gruesome 1-15 season. San Francisco has a long way to go to match that futility, but the 49ers certainly look committed to trying.

The Vikings, it should be noted, finished 5-11 in 2001 and Dennis Green lost his job. This year's Vikings at least appear to be moving past that opening loss better than Green's crew did.

Encouraging sign

Byron Buxton has largely been relegated to defensive replacement and pinch-running duty over the past couple of weeks for a pretty simple reason: at the plate, through his first 100-plus major league at-bats, he looked overmatched and was a liability for a team in a playoff race.

In a year of positive developments for the Twins and young hitters such as Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario, the sluggish debut of Buxton has been a bit overlooked but is perceived by fans as a downer nonetheless.

As such, Buxton's very real contribution Sunday — a run-scoring double and his first major league home run — couldn't have come at a better time for the prospect or his team.

Still the ones

If you've been consumed by the Twins, Vikings and Gophers — maybe with thoughts of the Wild and Wolves starting up soon, too — one local team and its best player offered a reminder they are still the very best this market has to offer.

The Lynx are in the midst of their fifth season as the Twin Cities' most consistent winner — the very rare pro team in this market that expects (and is expected) to win every game. On a team of great players, Maya Moore is the unquestioned superstar.

Both delivered Sunday, with Moore going for 40 points in a 72-71 victory at Phoenix that avenged a Western Conference finals defeat last year and launched the Lynx into the WNBA Finals for the fourth time in five seasons.

Saving the weekend

It was shaping up to be a brutal weekend for Oregon football and those who played a key role in the program's rise to prominence. First, the Ducks were blasted 62-20 by Utah. Then former star QB Marcus Mariota came up two points short in a 35-33 shootout loss to the Colts.

Chip Kelly's Eagles, off to an 0-2 start, could have completed the trifecta of Oregon misery. But they hung on to beat the Jets 24-17.

MICHAEL RAND