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November 14, 2011
The game-winning score that (almost) never was

After Sunday's win over the Giants, coach Jim Harbaugh made special mention of the play call that resulted in the 49ers' decisive touchdown, a 17-yard scamper in the fourth quarter by tailback Kendall Hunter.


"We had been running strong side to the wing, heavy wing formation, then (offensive line coach Tim) Drevno called a wrap play and Kendall popped it," Harbaugh said. "That was big after the interception."

As it turns out, the play was nearly nixed by quarterback Alex Smith before the snap. According to the team's offensive linemen, Smith started to change the play before being vetoed by left tackle Joe Staley.

"Alex almost killed the play," guard Adam Snyder said. "We all looked at Joe, and Joe said, 'Don't do it' So (Smith) said, 'Let it roll.' So we ran it and it worked." It should be noted that Smith, Snyder and Staley are especially tight, and their mention of the near-change of the play call was meant as gentle rubbing of their quarterback and not harsh criticism. Smith was nearly mistake-free in the game in going 19 of 30 for 242 yards.

The 49ers were in one of their power formations on the play. Michael Crabtree, the only wide receiver in the formation, lined up wide left. The two tight ends, Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker, were lined up on the right side of the offensive line. The Giants, meanwhile, overloaded their defense to the tight ends' side, which is where they suspected the 49ers would run.

Instead they went in the opposite direction.

Snyder pulled left from his right guard spot, Staley and left guard Mike Iupati sealed off their men and fullback Bruce Miller did a nice job getting through the whole ahead of Hunter and walling off the middle linebacker. With Joshua Morgan out for the season, Crabtree may be the team's best blocking wide receiver. He took out the cornerback, and no Giant defender laid a glove on Hunter.

"Frank (Gore) and Kendall are running backs who hit the line hard," Snyder said. "And if we can cover our guys up and get to the second level, their running-back skills kick in and make guys miss."

-- 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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