Luck has been elusive for Mike Nolan since he arrived in San Francisco. He inherited a roster totally bereft of talent. He had the No. 1 draft pick in a year in which there were no saviors. He's had an exodus of offensive coordinators. This year, however, Nolan seems to have found his four-leaf clover: He keeps playing teams at just the right time. To wit:
The 49ers' defenders are preparing as if Westbrook, who has two broken ribs, will play. I'm skeptical. As Westbrook himself pointed out earlier in the week, even if he does play, he's not sure he'll be more effective at less than 100 percent than his healthy backup. The Eagles may make the same conclusion. And moreover, backup Correll Buckhalter might make a lot of sense against the 49ers' defense.
Nolan's "Big Sub" defense has been controversial to say the least. But if you think he's going to retire it against Philly and its West Coast offense, I have some McClatchy stock to sell you. Offenses have been countering the "Big Sub" with the biggest running back on their roster. Deuce McAllister, for example, hurt the 49ers in Week Four. Sammy Morris was effective for the Patriots Sunday.
Buckhalter, while not as elusive as Westbrook, is two inches taller and nearly 20 pounds heavier. If the Eagles are looking to hammer the 49ers - and given the past few games why wouldn't they? - he would be more effective than a 203-pound running back with two broken ribs. The 49ers have to guard against the trap they fell into in New Orleans. As TBC pointed out yesterday, the team went in expecting a heavy dose of Reggie Bush (whom they easily handled) and ended up being blindsided by McAllister.
***UPDATE*** More evidence the Eagles will use a pound-it-out approach: They have moved 6-1, 227-pound fullback Tony Hunt to halfback and made 275-pound DT Dan Klecko their fullback.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis yesterday ripped apart the rumored trade between his team and the 49ers for receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
"Boy, that's a bad rumor, huh?" Lewis said on Wednesday. "Number one, you're going to get a club in trouble for tampering. That club has already been penalized once this year, very harshly. "
"Number two, what club in its right mind would trade for a player that's going to be an unrestricted free agent? Again, if you're going to start a rumor, make it a good one. OK? Make it something that makes some sense to people inside the NFL. It's unfortunate."
It seems that anytime there's an attempt to stir up interest in a player at trade time, the 49ers are used as leverage. Briggs!! (To be said like "Kahn!!!")
-- Matt Barrows