So, we are onto the final installment of this long 16 segment journey. We have had our ups and downs, mostly downs; but one thing is for sure, it was a frustrating season for the San Francisco 49ers. No continuity in terms of play-calling, scheme, quarterback play, or coaching style. For all intent and purposes this was an abysmal season for the 49ers.
Today's article will concentrate on the first post-Singletary game, one that really meant absolutely nothing. Jim Tomsula took over in an interim role, and lit a fire under the 49er players. With only five wins up to this point the times that entertained us were limited, however, this win against Arizona was one of them.
Arizona came into this game in almost worse shape than the 49ers, if that is possible. Derek Anderson had blown up in previous weeks, John Skelton was unable to do much of anything; and the team was in complete shambles. Accordingly, this game pretty much played out as I expected.
Arizona won the toss and elected to receive. Starting from their own 29, the Cardinals didn't get anything going. On the first play from scrimmage Tim Hightower went off of left guard for three yards before Takeo Spikes brought him down. Two plays later, on 3rd down, Shawntae Spencer and Manny Lawson combined for a sack on John Skelton, a loss of 12 yards; forcing a punt. However, San Francisco couldn't get anything going on their initial drive. After Brian Westbrook gained 5 yards on two rushes Alex Smith, getting the signal to start in the season finale, hit Ted Ginn Jr for 4 yards; short of the 1st down. San Francisco's defense stepped up forcing another Arizona three and out, as they shut down the Cardinals running game.
Ricky-Jean Francois partially blocked the Ben Graham punt, giving the 49ers good field position at their own 44. Once again, the 49ers couldn't get much going. After Alex Smith hit Vernon Davis on a 17 yard out route, the San Francisco's drive stalled, and they were forced to punt. Justin Smith sacked John Skelton for a loss of 9 yards, and Beanie Wells gained only 4 on second down, and on 3rd down Skelton missed Jason Wright on a short pass. Immediately the 49ers took advantage of the field position and Alex Smith connected with Ted Ginn Jr for a 37 yard TD down the deep right hash; great pass by Smith, and nice catch by Ginn. (7-0 San Francisco)
Once again the 49ers defense stood tall against Arizona's lackluster offense. Dashon Goldson got to John Skelton for a loss of 9 yards, the 49ers 3rd sack of the quarter on the rookie quarterback.
The 49ers took over at their own 43 with 3:04 remaining in the 1st quarter. O'Brien Schofield sacked Alex Smith for a loss of 5 yards on the first play. However, Smith was able to hit Delanie Walker on a short slant, Walker took it 17 yards for a 1st down. Two plays later Alex Smith connected with Josh Morgan for 32 yards down to the Cardinals 14. The quarter would come to an end with the 49ers at Arizona's 12 (7-0 San Francisco, End of 1st Quarter)
Neither team did much of anything on their next drive. Arizona gained 19 yards on five plays, and the 49ers went three and out. Accordingly, Arizona took over at the 49ers 37 with 10:19 left in the half. With the short field the Cardinals took advantage. Beanie Wells carried the ball for 7 yards on 1st down, and two plays later John Skelton hit Max Komar for 8 yards, moving the chains. On 3rd and 8 from the 49ers 20 Skelton, once again connected with Fitzgerald for 10 yards. Eventually the Cardinals would get into the end zone by virtue of a Skelton TD pass to Fitzgerald (10-7 San Francisco) The half would end without much more drama, and the 49ers would go into the locker room up by a mere three points. (10-7 San Francisco, End of 1st Half)
The 49ers would add to the lead relatively quickly coming out of the half. Two plays into the drive Alex Smith connected with Brian Westbrook on a screen for 14 yards. And, two player later he would connect with Vernon Davis up the middle, #85 would take it the distance; 59 yards and a TD (17-7 San Francisco)
San Francisco's defense continuing their great performance would force another Arizona three and out. Two defensive penalties gave the 49ers a 1st down just outside of their own 30. After Anthony Dixon took the 1st down carry off of right tackle for 8 yards, Brian Westbrook would break free for 30 yards off of the right side to Arizona's 30. Two plays later Smith connected with Davis for another 20 yards, just outside of Arizona's 5. After a rare Alex Smith incomplete pass Westbrook would take the ball up the gut for 6 yards and a TD (24-7 San Francisco)
Arizona forced to run the hurry up spread offense had to put the ball into John Skelton's hands, and it didn't work out too great for them. Skelton did complete three consecutive short passes that combined for a 1st down, but on the very next play Ahmad Brooks would intercept a Skelton pass and return it 32 yards, inside Arizona's 10. Two plays later, Brian Westbrook would once again run for a 6 yard TD to put the game out of reach (31-7 San Francisco)
Neither team would do much of anything for the remaining 6:00 of the 3rd quarter, and the 49ers season ending game was looking good heading into the 4th (31-7 San Francisco, End of 3rd Quarter)
San Francisco decided to go into shut down mode heading into the 4th quarter with a 24 point lead. There was a nice amount of Anthony Dixon running and short Alex Smith passes, but really nothing of substance. On the same hand, Arizona was putting the ball up in the air on nearly every play; with little to no success. Richard Bartell eventually replaced John Skelton at QB, but didn't fair much better. With about 4:00 remaining in the game Tarrell Brown intercepted a Bartell pass and returned it 62 yards for a TD. It would be the 49ers final score of the season, and put a cap on an impressive victory over the Cardinals (38-7 San Francisco, End of Regulation)
Post Game Quotes From Niners Community
Good morning everyone. The season is officially over for the 49ers, and I'm officially drained. Last night, I got into Niners Nation and started talking draft and things of that nature, and was almost disgusted with the discussion. Nothing was particularly offensive or anything, I just ... jumped right into it and was immediately bored. So I'm going to sit this one out for a couple days and just enjoy the peace (Ninjames, 1/3/11)
Is Alex that bad? For all you haters.
Last seven games for A.S.,11 tds 3 ints. Obviously if a there is a good QB available the Niners need to get him, but is bringing back Alex Smith as insurance that bad of an option? Really, how stable have the Niners been during the A.S. era? He didnt have the luxury of good management and coaching like Montana, Young or even Garcia. The Niners have been a squad of rank amatures over the last 8 years and have been making me pine away for the days of Mooch at the mimimum. Now I know I'm the Alex Smith honk who lives in Utah now, but I, as many of you did, got to see those glory days of the Niners. I did it live in NoCal with the rest of you. Is this anything like the organization you remember? So yall' can rail on Alex Smith then blame the next young QB who fails...or should I say, when the Niners fail him. Now do I think Alex is as good as Montana or Young?? Of course not, but Garcia? Sure.......And so it ends.... Heres to a better next season.. Go Niners. (utah pens fan, 1/3/11)
On getting doused with Gatorade:
"Oh, those guys, you know, listen I've got great guys, you know, great guys here, good people. You know, that's - they're putting that on me that's all, you know - getting a laugh." (Jim Tomsula, 1/3/11)
how can you not like this guy
On his schedule in the next few days:
"Me? Stopped when that thing hit 00:00, I'm not making any more schedules. (Laughing). I'm scheduled. We have a team meeting at 8:00 in the morning, I'll be there."
players like him or he would not have had gatoraid on him lol (Hungry Hunter, 1/3/11)
I understand that this game really didn't mean anything. In fact, a 49ers loss would have given them a better draft pick. However, it did feel good watching this game. Any time that your team can come in and destroy their opponent, it is a good thing. It did appear that the 49ers played much more loosely in this game. Some of it could have had to do with the fact that their was no pressure on them, but I believe that Tomsula's coaching style fit well into the type of game that it was. Too many times during the season the 49ers played too tight, so it was nice to see them have fun.
There were a lot of standout individual performances in this game, but I really want to focus on how the team came together amid controversy to play one of their best games of the season. The first half was a little bit of the same, but they stepped it up big time in the 2nd. The coaching staff made necessary adjustments, and the players went out and executed. Sure, some of it had to do with the opponent they were playing, but more had to do with the teams all-around performance.
San Francisco dropped a few draft spots with the win, and some would argue that a loss would have been better; I am not one of them. Arizona did have more 1st downs, but a lot of that came in garbage time. Additionally, San Francisco went 2-11 on 3rd down conversions; something that had been an issue all season long. Other than that I really didn't see much wrong with this performance.
Alex Smith finished just over 50 percent on his attempts, but the completions were dead on. Overall, Smith finished what many believed would be his final 49er game on a high note. He threw for 276 yards and 2 touchdowns en-route to a 107.8 QB Rating. Vernon Davis, Josh Morgan and Michael Crabtree were extremely productive in passes thrown their direction. Out of 16 targets they had 10 receptions for 202 yards and a TD. Obviously, I loved the way the defense played. Justin Smith finished with 10 tackles, 3 sacks, 4 QB hits, and another 3 QB rushes; what a great stat line for the all-pro defensive end. NaVorro Bowman also played great in the absence of Patrick Willis, who missed his 1st career game; he finished with 8 tackles.
Game Changing Plays
The minute that San Francisco fired Mike Singletary and replaced him with Jim Tomsula on an interim basis. Lets be real for a second; this game would not have turned out the way it did had Singletary been allowed to coach his final game. San Francisco would have played much more uptight knowing what was going to come the next day; Singletary's imminent firing. Within the game, the 59 yard TD pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis stands out to me. It put the 49ers up by 10, and gave them all of the momentum
It was nice to see the 49ers go out on a high note. This was an incredibly frustrating season, and I know one meaningless game won't change it. However, it did show to me that this team does have the talent to contend with the right mix of scheme and coaching. I also enjoyed seeing us lay a but-whipping on the two time defending NFC West Champion, Arizona Cardinals.
Alex Smith: 15/29- 276 Yards- 2 TD- 0 INT- 2 Sacks (107.8 Rating)
Brian Westbrook: 13 Rushes- 79 Yards- 6.1 AVG- 2 TD
Vernon Davis: 3 Receptions- 96 Yards- 1 TD
Josh Morgan: 3 Receptions- 59 Yards
Michael Crabtree: 4 Receptions- 47 Yards
Richard Bartel: 16/28- 150 Yards- 0 TD- 1 INT- 1 Sack- 57.1 Rating
John Skelton: 14/25- 92 Yards- 1 TD- 1 INT- 5 Sacks- 60.8 Rating
Tim Hightower: 12 Rushes- 30 Yards- 2.5 AVG
Larry Fitzgerald: 11 Receptions- 125 Yards- TD