Maiocco: 49ers Leftovers from London

Maiocco: 49ers Leftovers from London
November 1, 2010, 11:39 pm
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Nov. 1, 2010MAIOCCO ARCHIVE49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOMatt MaioccoCSNBayArea.comServing up some football leftovers from London while cruising at 35,000 feet over Greenland . . . and sending while I'm forced to spend the night at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (it's a long story, and I won't bore you with the details) . . . --Quarterback Troy Smith can really throw the football. His 27-yard fourth-quarter completion to Delanie Walker was a beautifully thrown tight spiral. It might have been the best pass we've seen this season.On the next play, his throw-it-up-for-grabs toss to Walker might have been the worst we've seen. Well, it was the worst until Walker went up to make the catch at the 1-yard line for a 38-yard gain."I don't want to put him in the same light, but it's kind of like watching a Brett Favre pass," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said after the 49ers' 24-16 victory. "Sometimes he makes a decision . . . he throws the ball. Am I going to go in there and say, 'Hey, don't do that?' I don't think so."When told of the comparison, Smith said, "I mean, that's not bad -- that really isn't. But to compare myself to Brett is doing Brett a disservice. I've got a long way to go to even come close to being mentioned in the same sentence with him."--From this morning's London Times: "Troy Smith became an instant star on a renowned British sporting stage last night, but the big question is whether many people in this country realised it."--When the 49ers took over with 2:14 remaining and up by eight points, it was pretty obvious they would run the ball three consecutive times. After all, they went to their personnel group that consisted of two backs and two tight ends.If they got a first down, they would clinch the game. If they were stopped, they'd have to punt the ball back to Denver.In the backfield, joining fullback Moran Norris, was not Frank Gore or even veteran Brian Westbrook. Nope, it was rookie Anthony Dixon who got the call."The thing that we wanted to do is get fresh legs on the field," Singletary said. "So we put Dixon in and said, 'Let's go.'"Dixon's three rushing attempts gained 4, 2 and 3 yards. The 49ers were forced to punt, and Eddie Royal's 78-yard touchdown return was nullified by an illegal block in the back. Cornerback Shawntae Spencer clinched the victory with an interception.Dixon played six snaps, and had five rushes for 11 yards. Westbrook was on the field for five plays, and he carried twice for 4 yards, and added one reception for 9 yards.--Tight end Vernon Davis aggravated his right ankle sprain and left the game in the second quarter. He did not return. It's a low-ankle sprain, according to Davis. He said it's not serious, that he felt he'd be able to play Sunday -- if the 49ers had a game. They don't. This is their bye week.--What impressed me most about Troy Smith was the feel he demonstrated in the pocket for sidestepping the rush and creating space to get rid of the ball. That is something Alex Smith needs to work on. The 49ers avoided getting sacked in a game for only the second time this season.A quarterback who can make subtle adjustments in the pocket and get rid of the ball on time can make an offensive line look very good.--The 49ers' offensive line looked good against the Broncos. Guards Chilo Rachal and Mike Iupati, along with Norris, all made nice blocks to enable Gore to plow forward for a 3-yard touchdown on a third-down play that gave the 49ers a two-touchdown lead with less than four minutes remaining.--They've known each other since they were 7, but Troy Smith certainly did not give any special favors to his old buddy, Ted Ginn. Smith directed just one pass toward Ginn, and it was incomplete. The 49ers were intent on running the ball, so they used more two-back, two-TE formations. Ginn played just 12 snaps, and Dominique Zeigler played solely on special teams.--The 49ers had 61 plays on offense, and here's the breakdown of the skill guys: Josh Morgan 58, Gore 50, Walker 47, Norris 29, Nate Byham 47, Michael Crabtree 42, Davis 22, Ginn 12, Dixon 6, Westbrook 5, Adam Snyder (reported as third TE) 4.--The learning continues for rookie safety Taylor Mays. It was pretty easy to predict when Mays took over as a starter upon the abrupt departure of Michael Lewis that he would have his ups and downs. He recorded seven tackles on Sunday, and he has forced a couple fumbles with big hits in his five games as a starter. But he has also struggled a little in coverage -- he allowed Brandon Lloyd to get behind him for a 71-yard pass play.--Speaking of Michael Lewis, he signed last week with the St. Louis Rams. Don't think it's a coincidence that the Rams signed Lewis with the 49ers coming up on the schedule.--Inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes are playing very well. Rookie NaVorro Bowman has been seeing action as part of the 49ers' nickel defense. But with the 49ers protecting an eight-point lead with less than two minutes to play, Spikes remained in the game. He made a tackle of tight end Dan Gronkowski to hold him to an 8-yard gain on the first play of that final drive.--Yes, there is a lot of heat right now on coach Mike Singletary. The most-asked question I heard leading up to the game was, "If the 49ers lose to the Broncos, will Singletary get fired?"I get the impression 49ers ownership intend to ride it out with Singletary. After all, there isn't much benefit to be derived from a midseason firing of a head coach and the insertion of an interim coach from the same staff.--The 49ers (2-6) take a week off, and then they begin the second half of their season against the Rams. Five of the 49ers' final eight games are against NFC West opponents. The 49ers remain in last place in the division, 2.5 games behind the Seahawks, who lead the way at 4-3.