For a team that was playing with an interim head coach and in a meaningless game other than the position of when you will draft the San Francisco 49ers came out and played as if they were going to the playoffs. Too bad they could not play with the same intensity in the important games this season and played the Cardinals more than two times. With a more than likely lockout waiting after the Super Bowl and many of the 49ers playing in the season finale not knowing if they will return next season to the team the 49ers put up one of their best efforts all season winning 38-7. I give a lot of credit to interim head coach Jim Tomsula for getting the players focused and prepared during one of the toughest weeks for the 49ers organization in recent years. With the firing of Mike Singletary last week the 49ers could have came out and laid a goose egg against the Cardinals and it would have been chalked up to the firing. But Tomsula’s energy and passion rubbed off on the players and they came out as if they were fighting for a playoff spot. With the win and a 6-10 record the 49ers will have the seventh pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Let’s hand out some Game Gold Nuggets.
Playing the lowly Cardinals helped but no turnovers was a big reason why the 49ers offense was so successful in the win. Alex Smith was poised all game and had a 37-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn Jr. and a 59-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis. Smith finished the game with a 107.8 passer rating and 276 passing yards. Running back Brian Westbrook took advantage of the 49ers offensive line playing well and had 6.1 yards per carry with two rushing touchdowns. The final game was the 49ers best on offense this season. I think a lot had to do with Tomsula’s energy and telling the offense to go out and fun.
Alex Smith played what was most likely his final game with the 49ers. I could see Smith coming back and accepting a backup role with the 49ers but I think it is time for Smith to be let go. There was so much promise with Smith when he was drafted but with two head coaches who had no respect for quarterbacks and the revolving door of offensive coordinators the negatives were stacked against Smith being successful. Smith will find another to team to sign with and I think will make his mark down the road when a starter goes down to injury. He has the smarts and talent to be a good quarterback in the NFL but he unfortunately started his career with an organization that was and still is dysfunctional.
The offense and defense contributed to the win but I thought the 49ers were going to win yesterdays game on the backs of the defense. With rookie quarterback John Skeleton starting for the Cardinals the defense blitzed all game and it seemed as if every defensive player was involved in pressuring the quarterback. Cornerback Tarell Brown ran back his first interception of the season 62-yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks notched his first career interception and almost finished it with a runback for a touchdown that was eight yards short of the end zone. Brown and Brooks did not have a great season so it was good for them to end on a positive note. Pro Bowler Justin Smith had three sacks in the game.
The special teams was all about punter Andy Lee who had two punts land inside of the ten-yard line.
With interim tag on Tomsula and coordinators Mike Johnson and Greg Manusky most likely on their way out the door all three coaches went all out with nothing to lose. For Tomsula to get the team ready and win with the Singletary firing still fresh amidst a new general manager search he deserved the Gatorade dunk at the end of the game. Manusky and his defense were licking their chops to face a rookie quarterback and Manusky let his defense run wild against the Cardinals offense. Without Singletary on the sidelines to tie Johnson’s hands he went with the passing game and saw Smith hit seven different targets. The biggest sign that Singletary was not on the sidelines: The called pass to offensive lineman Adam Snyder in the first quarter. The pass went incomplete but do you think Singletary would have allowed that play to be called?
Up Next: The offseason
The 49ers are in the midst of searching for a new head coach and general manager as they head into the offseason. Hopefully this time Jed York will get it right.