Frank Gore is out for the season with a hip injury. Well, officially he's only "probably" out for the season, but it's the same deal as Tony Romo's collarbone. He will definitely miss most of the rest of the season, and by the time he's ready to go again, either A) they'll be way out of the playoff picture, and there's thus no point in him coming back this season, or B) they're on a hot streak and ready to earn a playoff spot, but that means that his replacement has been playing very well in order to allow that to happen and thus again, there is no point in him coming back this season.
Frank Gore IS the 49ers offense. I'm barely exaggerating. He leads the team in RECEPTIONS as well as rushes and rushing yardage. He gets the ball over and over and over again, and when that doesn't work he gets the ball some more until it does. So, Frank Gore being injured and unable to play seems like the sort of quirk of fate that would all but force the 49er offense to evolve. Which would be the silver lining; forcing this team to open up the offense and spread it out, and actually game plan around the STRENGTHS and talents of Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, and Troy Smith.
On the other hand, they could also just squint until Brian Westbrook starts to look like Frank Gore, pretend the former is the latter, and proceed as usual. Which is much more likely, especially since that's what they did against Arizona, and it actually worked. Which means they'll end up trying to do the exact same thing this weekend against the Packers in Lambeau, because Adjustments Are For Sissies, apparently. But enough of that now; there'll be plenty of time to talk about how the 49ers could have drafted local college kid Aaron Rodgers but instead chose Alex Smith that year, or how A.J. Hawk and Clay Matthews Jr. (or III or IV or whatever that family is up to by now) resemble Visigoths and will probably act accordingly with that appearance when the 49ers try running right at them off-tackle 13 times in a row, later. This week I have GAME NOTES. From an actual win! Might not get another chance to post something like that...
Hey, Frank Gifford telling OLDE TALES OF MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL. Ah the 1989 Montana to Taylor game, good times. I recorded that game once upon a time. Wish i still had it, would probably like rewatching that game more than watching this one.
Joe Staley and Joe Nedney out.
Ginn chases down the opening kickoff and kneels it. Gore up the middle.... FOR TWENTY FOUR YARDS, WOO HAH. Swing pass to Gore a little out of reach. Troy throws high and incomplete to Delany Walker? Uh Oh. Why is Delany Walker the first person they try to throw a pass to? Always? False start on Anthony Davis, 3rd and 15. Hopefuly the Cardinals are as bad at 3rd and 15 as the Niners are. Inside Run by Gore on 3rd and 15 and HE GETS IT? I guess they are. Hah! Fake inside handoff Toss outside to Gore, who gains 4 yards and has his average per carry DECIMATED. Bryan Westbrook IS ALIVE, and he takes an inside handoff with a decoy end around for 2 yards, 3rd and 4. Westbrook in for 2 straight plays for like the second time this season, Troy Smith scrambles and dives past the marker for another first down on the ground. Pass underneath DROPPED by Crabtree. Oy. Would've only gained 2 anyway. Toss left for Gore, he stops and waits for a hole that never appears, no gain. 3rd and 11. Westbrook inside handoff gets to the 29 and it is field goal time, with emergency replacement Shane Andrus. Uh oh. He pushes it wide right. Nice, high kick at a good angle, probably would've been good from 5 yards closer. Hopefully that's not the closest they come to an actual score tonight.
Gore headed to the locker room already, another ominous sign. Well, lets see how the defense does. Cards in the shotgun on first down, BEANIE WELLS FUMBLES. HILARIOUS. Derek Anderson hit him with the elbow with the ball and he never had it or a chance, Abreu Franklin has the ball fall right to him, and he falls on it smartly instead of trying to run with it like a dummy, or how this team often has tried things this year. First down, play action DEEP to Crabtree for the Touchdown! Now quit partying and kick the extra point before we get any Calvin Johnson complete the process nonsense. Shane Andrus hustles out there and kicks before they can review, which may have been a good thing indeed as the eventual replay did show a bit of bobble. I think he still maintained enough control, and the ball never really touched the ground, but then I would think that wouldn't I? Best not to give officials a chance to fuck anything up.
Andrus with a horrid kickoff, unless he MEANT to kick it to the upback at the 20. Cards will start at the 32.
Cards in the I Formation this time, heh. Hitch to Fitzgerald gets 5 or 6. Hightower hesitates like he's going to flea-flick it, but keeps it and runs for a yard or so, it is 3rd and 5. DEEP pass to Beanie Wells and he toasts Takeo Spikes to the tune of 43. Taking that suck at stopping 3rd downs to new levels already, I see. WR screen gets 4. Hightower up the middle for 2. 3rd down and 3, uh oh. Fortunately Hightower starts to look downfield before he takes care of catching the ball, and that wiill count as a rare 3rd down stop as Jay Feely (? didn't know he was a cardinal now. Kickers, the migrant gypsies of American Football) kicks a 31 yarder with ease.
TOM RATHMAN SIGHTING~! on the sidelines. Weird to see him as an older, glasses wearing man. Guess that also applies to Singletary. Ginn takes it at the 4 and gets around people, but runs out of green field at about the 45. Gore is BACK, and he gets 9.5 up the middle. Gore dives for a 1st down on the next play, but the 49ers take the offside penalty and get a little extra. Troy Smith has an aeon to throw and finds Josh Morgan on the left sideline for 9. Anthony Dixon comes in to poach for Gore and dives for the 1st down. The scrub backs do not block well, and Troy Smith has to dance to give himself a chance to throw the ball away. Troy pumps, runs outside, and finds Vernon Davis. There ya go, have Troy Smith MOVE AROUND, it works. First down. Westbrook runs up the middle for 8. Michelle Tafoya, sidechick reporter, says Gore "took himself out of the game". Westbrook dives for just enough to get a first and goal at the 3. And here comes our OLD FRIEND DELAY OF GAME, 49ers have to burn a time out to save it, and we have our first sighting of Singletary running down an offical to yell at them, this time about the play clock not being reset properly. How about we get the play in quicker, Mike? We know its going to be a Tailback Dive up the middle again, how long does it really take to call the play they run more than any other? Of course, it has sorta been working on the Cards...
Toss to Westbrook and he reaches for the pylon, but with his other hand, which does not count, second down at the 1. Anthony Dixon with an unimaginative run off left tackle that loses a foot. Uh oh. Right Side, and this time Anthony Dixon leaps and gets a little bit of the ball beyond the goal line, which is more than enough to break the plane and piss off fantasy players everywhere by poaching a TD that would've normally gone to Frank Gore. It is 14-3 with :29 seconds left and the 49ers are... kicking ass? Amazing. I love these shitty divisional rivals and this shitty division. Shane Andrus kicks off much better this time, and the coverage team compensates by allowing the returner to run more and the Cards start at the 32 again, anyway. Hightower thrown for a loss as Reggie Smith is in the backfield almost in time to take the handoff himself. First Quarter Over.
Going the other way, 2nd and 13, pass complete but Nate Clements with a great trip up tackle right away, 3rd and 10. Empty backfield shotgun, pass complete for 9.5, close enough for a bad spot to fuck them. Amazingly the guy half-ran out of a Patrick Willis tackle. Pat desperately clinging to jersey, just enough to slow it up. 4th down and about 1 football length short. Cards line up to punt and do. Ginn again does what you are not supposed to do -- run backwards, and again makes it work somehow, 12 yard return or so and the 49ers start just beyond the 20.
Westbrook with by far his most action in a game thus far as he runs up the middle and staggers for the last steps of a 7 yard run. Anthony Dixon abandons his blocking post, which rushes the throw to him and dooms that attempted screen pass for a loss. Westbrook runs inside on a quite conservative 3rd down and they will punt. Better get Frank Gore back in if they're going to keep trying that. Their guy runs backwards on the put and does not have the success Ted Ginn does, and the 49ers throw it for a loss at the 15.
Travis LaBoy gets a piece of Derek Anderson's arm as he throws, and the ball wobbles to incompletion. Beanie Wells runs for a yard or two. 3rd down pass is way high and way incomplete, home fans starting to BOOOOOOOOOOOO. 3 and Out, I like it when the other team's quarterback sucks, thank you for signing Derek Anderson. Very long punt (64), and VERY LONG return, as Ted Ginn is tripped up on the other half of the field, 49ers will start in Cardinal territory.
Did you know Barry Sims is still in the league? Yeah. Get well soon Joe Staley. Troy Smith looks deep before dumping off to Moran Norris, and even he half-runs out of an ankle tackle and gets 6, maybe its their night? Troy Smith lofts it and overthrows Josh Morgan on the left side. 3rd and 5, 49ers have run on every 3rd down so far. They are in the gun and throw, deep over the middle to Vernon Davis. Valiant effort by the Cardinal DB to stick Davis with his shoulder/forearm. He goes down before Davis does. Hitch left to Josh Morgan gets 6. Westbrook runs left for the 1st down and they are pimpslapping the Cardinal Defense up front. 1st and goal at the 8. Westbrook up the middle for his first 49er touchdown, Mike Tirico calls it as "And the 49ers are manhandling the Cardinals up front!" and they really are. Andrus converts to make it 21-3 with 7:23 left and the crowd BOOOOOOS. Love it.
Kickoff return gets outside and the Cards get it at the 40. Beanie Wells runs for 4. Pressure comes but a little too late and the pass is complete to Fitzgerald for a first down. Beanie Wells bounces off a few people for 8 yards off tackle right, Cardinals showing their first little fire. Uh oh. Wells up the middle for a first down and plus, but HOLDING wipes it out, woo hoo. Screen pass tipped and almost bobbled by the receiver into an interception. 3rd and 12, and the receiver fights his way into dual possession of the ball, which equals a Cardinal first down. High pass to Fitzgerald, who of course can and does outleap everybody for 11 yards and another first down. Fitzgerald outleaps again in the endzone for an apparent TD, but the back judge is able to see him lose control upon contact with the ground. Whew. Unfortunately the crowd is now pumped up. Ahmad Brooks fights off a hold to throw Beanie Wells for a loss, crowd BOOOS probably the lack of a challenge, but it was a clear incompletion. 3rd and 13. Doucet drops the WR screen and spikes the ball down in frustration, which is supposed to be a delay of game penalty now, but oh well. Crowd BOOOOS as Jay Feely comes out and makes it 21-6 with 2:16 left. Ginn returns the ensuing kick off for a long way, but it will come back and does. Holding way back where it usually is. Ginn never looks like he's running very hard/fast, but he actually is, it's kinda odd. He must have long legs. Anyway, 1st down at the 11, Westbrook runs left, finds a hole, finds 7 yards, and finds the 2 minute warning.
Westbrook up the middle for 4 and a first down. This is RUN DOWN YOUR THROAT shit, old fashioned, and almost all without Frank Gore. Play action OFF CRABTREE'S HANDS and right to a Cardinal DB for an interception, ugh. High but very catchable, both his hands were on it, horrible play after all that down your throat running. Cards back in it if they get a TD here. Cards at the SF 42. Justin Smith brings pressure on the play action and it is thrown incomplete. Shontae Spencer deflects a low pass for Fitzgerald nicely, 3rd and 10. Ray McDonald barely misses a sack, Derek Anderson throws it away, and BOOOOS. Ginn lets the punt go past him and its a touchback. Bullet dodged, thanks Defense. Okay, sit on the ball this time guys. :48 left, I Formation is a good sign. Westbrook up the middle for 5, Arizona Time Out. Westbrook offtackle right for a first down, and this time the Cards let the clock run out, and its HALFTIME
HUGE RETURN oh shit, but salvation comes in the form of yellow cloth, back that one up. Hightower runs for 4. Tafoya reports that RB Coach Tom Rathman has "hidden Frank Gore's helmet" for now. Another run loses a yard, 3rd and 8. Gruden predicts blitz. None comes, Clements with a nice knockdown, and BOOOOS. 49ers start at the 30 after the punt.
Gore officially out for the game. Crabtree catches a pass on the sideline for ten. Moran Norris takes the handoff from Fullback and "runs" for lack of a better term with the ball for a foot or two, officials call #53 of the Cardinals for leading with the helmet. Personal Foul, first down, play action pass to Ginn on the right for 10 and a first down. Cardinals flinch and encroach. Westbrook runs to the right for 3, and things get CHIPPY as Haggans (#53) pushes Delany Walker's helmet off at the face mask. Snap Infraction makes it 2nd and 7, which is a fancy phrase for a false start by the center. Westbrook runs for a 1st down up the middle, getting just inside the 20. Iupati, one of the rookies, false starts. Bah. Pass is dropped by a big hit on Josh Morgan, nice of Crabtree to fall on the ball just in case. 2nd and 15, 49ers call time out with 9:36.
First play after the time out is... a sack. Timeout wasn't long enough, well, at least Troy held onto the ball. 3rd and 19, pass to Ziegler gets about half of that, setting up what is hopefully an easy field goal for the scab kicker. Shut up about blocking kicks, Gruden, nobody wants to hear that nons---Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. See what you did, Gruden? Cromartie came off the edge quickly and dove in and got a hand on it. Fuckers. Gruden better talk about blocking kicks when the Cardinals line up for a field goal, is all I can say.
27, 1st and 10, pressure up the gut and Derek Anderson MEETS MISTER PATRICK WILLIS. Wells dives for two yards and a cloud of BOOOOOOO. 3 man rush, short pass is complete for not enough and BOOOOOOOO. It's nice to hear the other team crowd shit on the bad offense for once. 49ers get pressure and MAY have blocked the punt, TALK ABOUT THAT GRUDEN, it takes a decent Cardinal roll and ends up slightly shorter than a respectably average punt.
Double Reverse, Westbrook to Josh Morgan, gets 13, nice little play there. Westbrook up the middle for 6, the gameplan clearly is to just pretend Westbrook is Frank Gore, a nice change from apparently forgetting he's on the team. Draw up the middle behind the fullback and Bryan Westgore gets close to 20, he is over 100 yards rushing for the first time since December of 08. Anthony Dixon in for a relief run, off the right side for 3. 185 rushing yards already, very nice, almost double the season average. Davis to the left, fights off a tackle and falls forward for 3. 3rd and 4. 49ers in the gun, Troy throws a little too high for Crabtree in the slot, and here comes more Field Goal Adventures! What will go wrong this time? Nothing, apparently. 38 yarders is down the middle and MNF goes to commercial break bumper music to cut off the BOOOOOOOOOOOOS.
Upback returns the kick to the 37. Screen pass ruined by pressure from Mr. Patrick Willis, and the MNF crew brings up an 85 Browns/08 Chargers graphic to bury the NFC West's future 7-9 winner, meanwhile the Cardinals burn a time out. Anderson complete downfield to Doucet as Jaworski tries to calm Gruden down by pointing out that someone will probably get to .500 or better. Pass thrown late into double coverage and Takeo Spikes intercepts, and laterals to Clements during the return who returns it deep enough that the penalty during the return -- a personal foul on the Cards, not the expected return Hold -- puts the ball half the distance to the goal. Gruden or Jaws (they sound so alike) advocates Regime Change at QB. Meanwhile, I couldn't help but expect that whoever chased Nate down from behind would punch the ball out and the Cardinals will recover. Luckily no.
Coming back from break, there is a challenge that Spikes may have been down by contact at the point of interception. Doesn't look like it can be conclusively overturned. Takeo Spikes has played 182 games without ever being on a playoff team; the NFL record was set by some kicker in the 50s and 60s at 195. No evidence to overturn it, so it is of course overturned. Still, the personal foul is enforced. #73 clotheslined Spikes in the back of the head after getting blocked by him. Classy. 49ers ball at midfield, finally. First down pass is too short for Crabtree. Westgore spins out of a tackle and runs for 12 and a first down. Westbrook up the middle for 7 more. 18 for 121 and a TD, 6.7 average. Westbrook up the middle for just enough to get a first down and run out the 3rd Quarter.
Empty backfield shotgun, pass in the flat to Delany Walker, STOP THAT. This is the time where it's finally appropriate to be as unimaginative as they always want to be. Keep running. Westbrook up the middle, this time he is stopped at the line of scrimmage. Troy drops back and passes to Morgan, who runs for a first down. Hey, a passing 3rd down conversion, I remember those. Run up the middle for 4. Troy throws for the back corner of the end zone, but it is too far out for Vernon Davis. Not a bad call, just not a good enough throw. 3rd down. Smith is sacked but tries to throw out of it, but the official calls it a fumble rather than intentional grounding. Cardinals get it, and could've run it back if they'd been quicker, but they were slow to scoop it up. They're calling it a backward pass as we go to break. Challenge it anyway, please. DUMB play by Troy nevertheless, should've just taken the sack and taken the field goal.
We have a challenge, thanks to the commercial break giving them a bunch of time to think about it. Pretty clearly forward on the replay. Not by a lot, but enough. Of course, I thought the last challenge was obviously not overturnable and it was overturned. So who knows what these officals look at, or even if they look at anything at all. Maybe they just huff ether under that hood. Ruling on the field is overturned and is now 100% ether free. Long, rambling, but informative explanation by the referee explains that the clock must be reset and that because of the original call they by rule can NOT call it intentional grounding now. 26 yard field goal attempt is good in the Continued Adventures Of Shane Andrus, backup kicker. 27-6, yay.
Decent return, but Dominc Ziegler is injured on the play and was laying around awkwardly as we go back to break.
No hint as to what the injury might be, he's just assisted off. Anderson still in, to the surprise of the MNF crew, and he complets a short pass to Fitzgerald. Empty backfield shotgun pass for a first down to the right sideline. Cardinals no-huddling already. Short pass complete again as the 49ers have gone prevent with a 3 man rush and everyone else back. Another pass downfield picks up about 20 and another first down, 49ers respond with an actual 4th rusher as the Cardinals complete another short pass out of bounds, 2nd and 3. Complete short over the middle for another first down as the 49ers have abandoned all attempts at actual pressure. Manny Lawson knocks down the next pass. Justin Smith gets up and knocks down the next pass. Cards going empty backfield gun this whole drive, eliminating the chance of a surprise run. Sign in the crowd shows "Help Wanted: Offense/Defense" HAH. Pass is too deep out the back of the endzone for Fitzgerald, and it is 4th down in Go For It Territory. Cards have a back now, Pass is incomplete in the endzone, Clements covering close but not called for a flag, despite the receiver's protestations. Hey, they're going to win convincingly, how unusual.
Anthony Dixon up the middle for 2 or 3. Up the middle again as it is Anthony Dixon time, apparently. 3rd and 3, I Formation, pitch, Dixon gets the first down, lowers the shoulder, and stays in bounds. Very Nice little play there. Paris Lennon, the LB who tried to blast Dixon, hurt himself doing so.
Dixon to the right for 9 yards, 49ers with a running game clinic tonight. No sooner do I say that than Dixon ruins his own dive by having to recover his own fumble. 3rd and 2, Dixon quickly to the sideline. Pitch to Westbrook, who gets the first down and then goes down in bounds, but Anthony Davis is called for a Hold. 3rd and 12, and Westbrook runs up the middle to kill time as they pan to Jed York's luxury box, he's looking almost as Young Mobster as Eddie D used to. 49ers false start on the punt, hilarious. Andy MVP Lee on the field and gets off a rocket that is modestly returned for 7 yards to the 32. Derek Anderson "throws down the middle Somewhere" in the words of Mike Tirico, hahahaha. Pass to Hightower incomplete and swatted down by the blanket coverage of MISTER PATRICK WILLIS. 3rd down pass bounces short and naturally gets BOOOED. Cardinals punt team out in a sign of surrender, Ginn makes a fair catch. Anthony Dixon continues to dive forward and eat time. Dixon sweeps right for 6 and a first down, one more play should be enough to reach the two minute warning. Dixon shocks the world by diving up the middle for 3, and Two Minute Warning. 254 Rushing Yards by the SF Ensemble Tonight.
"ALL I WANT FOR XMAS IS A QB" sign. Sign big enough to leave doubt as to which team he's a fan of. Dixon offtackle left, the clock runs, 3rd and 1, one more run for a first down by Dixon up the middle, and now we can kneel and run the clock out. One Kneeldown is all that's needed, and I get to post game notes on a WIN for once.