Give yourselves a pat on the back, 49ers fans. Mike Nolan certainly did. Nolan today made special mention of the pandamonium in Monster Park Monday night, and said that the crowd noise even influenced one of his play calls. Early in the third quarter, the Cardinals, who were already backed up, got a penalty on second and long. Nolan said he normally would have declined the penalty and made it third down. But the crowd noise in the south end zone was so deafening that he decided to make it second a 24 from Arizona's own 4-yard line. "It paid off for us," Nolan said. "I thought the crowd had as much to do with the victory as anything."
Remember when Nolan named his so-called "Committee of 10" and Bryant Young wasn't on it? Well, the first order of business for the committee was to approach Nolan and ask that Young be included. Ergo, the Committee of 10 is sort of like the Big 10 conference. It actually has 11 members.
In case you're wondering, defensive coordinator Greg Manusky made every play call last night. Nolan, who had a hard time giving former D-coordinator Billy Davis full autonomy, was very pleased with what he saw. "I thought he did an outstanding job," Nolan said.
Frank Gore dropped a couple of passes, but the coach said he didn't think Gore's still-healing right hand was the culprit. Gore was wearing a glove that had padding on the top, put not on the palm of the hand. By the way, fans love to point out that Michael Robinson is a sub-par back-up running back. But Robinson threw several key blocks in the backfield during the game-winning drive Monday night. His best block saved Alex Smith from being sacked by safety Adrian Wilson on Smith's 25-yard scramble on fourth down. Without that block, the Cardinals win 17-13. Robinson also made a key block on Arnaz Battle's winning TD.
I'm still astounded that there were NO injuries. I think it's the first game I've ever covered where there wasn't at least one guy who came out of the game with a sprained ankle or quad contusion. That's a very good development for a team playing on the road and dealing with a short week of preparation.
You know who quietly had a very nice game? Linebacker Manny Lawson. He was part of the reason Matt Leinart and co. couldn't throw the ball downfield and he made a couple of nice stops -- and one big hit -- in the running game.
Nolan said he didn't see the play in which safety mark Roman was flagged for taunting. The Cardinals scored their go-ahead touchdown on the very next play. Roman told Nolan that he was cut-blocked by a receiver on Leinart's long run downfield even though he wasn't all that near that play. Apparently, there's an understanding between receivers and defensive backs that they won't go after each other's legs on blocks. The Cardinals went against that etiquette and Roman reacted.
Ok, about the B+ grade I gave the offense. Perhaps I was swayed too heavily by the miraculous final drive. Perhaps I inflated the grade too much. Maybe it should have been more like a C- or a D+. But don't you wish you had had Mr. Barrows in high school?
-- Matt Barrows