49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

October 17, 2010
It's ugly, but the 49ers avoid big mistakes for first win

The 49ers are on the board. Their 17-9 win over their cross-Bay rivals today wasn't always pretty but it keeps the flicker of a playoff appearance alive. I'd sum up the key points, but Mike Singletary did a good job of it with this quote:

"No. 1 ... we won the turnover battle," he said. "No. 2, we played good football on the defensive side and didn't allow big plays. And I think we were able to run the ball when we had to. And, of course, Alex made a big-time play that really made the difference. So I think all of those things add up to a win."

To be more specific on those four points:

1. Not only was this the first game that the 49ers didn't commit any turnovers, it was only the second time they didn't commit multiple turnovers. Instead, they forced two by the Raiders, an interception by Manny Lawson and an interception at the end of the game by Takeo Spikes. (Although Spikes didn't seem to have learned from Nate Clements' Week 4 blunder; he took off toward the end zone and was caught from behind).

2. The defense held Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell to 83 passing yards (not a typo) and Michael Bush was held to 47 yards. During the game, Campbell went 35 minutes between completions.

3. Frank Gore ran for 149 yards, including a 64-yard gain on a sweep to the right in the fourth quarter. That gain set up the 49ers game-clinching touchdown. Gore now ranks third on the 49ers' all-time rushing list behind Roger Craig and Joe Perry.

4. Alex Smith did not play brilliantly. But he did something he has seldom done heretofore - he made a brilliant play when he had to. His 32-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree at the end of the third quarter was the defining moment in the game. He also went without an interception for the first time all season.

Last week, Smith had vowed to play more fearlessly and to throw caution to the wind. That approach, however, was heavily muted as it became clear the game would be more of a defensive battle. In fact, the rallying cry was far different: Just don't commit a turnover ...

"One of the things we said going into the game was that we wanted to make sure that every possession we had offensively - that we wanted it to end with a kick. And that's something I really wanted to stress, and I think Alex got it, and that was big for him today, big for our offense."

The game also featured a bit of fun. Facing a third-and-two situation late in the game, the 49ers sent in defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga - all 330 pounds of him - to play fullback. To further the "Refrigerator Perry" analogies, the 49ers call the play "22 Ice" with Sopoaga known as "The Ice Truck."

"Oh, I was so anxious," Sopoaga said afterward. "I was looking forward to it, but this is just fullback. I played rugby 12 years of my life. You know, rugby people - we play with no helmets and no pads, so this is nothing. I love it, I enjoy it and I hope there is more coming."

There were a few injuries. Nate Clements (leg contusion), Manny Lawson (rib contusion), Josh Morgan (thigh contusion), Justin Smith (hand laceration), Parys Haralson (calf contusion). All of them returned to game. Trainers examined Vernon Davis' head, neck and shoulders after he hit the ground hard upon scoring a 17-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. he also returned to the game.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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