The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up the number two seed today with a 34-27 victory over the St. Louis Rams. There were some hiccups in the final six minutes, but the 49ers held on to complete what has been an impressive turnaround from a year ago. A year ago this time, Niners Nation was beginning preparations for a new coach and the upcoming NFL Draft (we'll ignore that stick lockout situation). Now, we get playoff action for the first time in site history!
Although there is hopefully a lot more 49ers football to be played over the next month, that doesn't mean we can't enjoy some of the record-breaking and other historic performances by the 49ers in the 2011 regular season. They lost out on a chance for the fewest rushing touchdowns in a season, but that should not take away from what has been one of the most dominant rush defenses in NFL history.
With the victory today, the 49ers improved to 13-3, marking their first 13-win season since 1997. The victory was their sixth road victory over the season, which is their highest total since 1996. They also had their most 10:00am PT victories (five) since 1990. In recent years we've complained about the early starts and the proven disparity of those starts. All it takes is a few wins to move past that!
There were plenty of MVPs on the day, but Andy Lee deserves special kudos as he set the single season record for highest net punting average at 43.99 yards. His 50.9 gross average is the third best mark in NFL history. One of my favorite sequences of the game came in the fourth quarter and showed Andy Lee's #beastmode in action. Lee boomed a punt 58 yards inside the Rams ten yard line and saw it bounce out of bounds at the seven. The play was called back because of a holding call on Anthony Dixon. Lee then proceeded to kick a 64-yard punt that was down at the Rams one. That is Andy [site decorum] Lee in a nutshell.
One other statistical note is that Alex Smith went over 3,000 yards for the first time in his career, finishing the season with 3,150 yards. He finished with his highest career attempts total by four, but also finished with his highest yards per attempt, finishing the year at 7.06 yards per attempt. He also finished with the third best TD-to-INT ratio in 49ers history, behind only Steve Young in 1992 and 1994. He didn't have a "superstar" season, but he did what was asked of him and he was a key contributor to the 49ers 13-3 mark.
Head after the jump for a rundown of some of the notable stats and performances from today's game.
With the win...
· The 49ers secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and earned a first round bye.
· San Francisco improved to 13-3 this season, marking the first 13-win season by the 49ers since 1997 (13-3).
· San Francisco is tied for the best record in NFC West history since realignment in 2002 (Sea. - 13-3 in 2005).
· Head Coach Jim Harbaugh tied Steve Mariucci for the 2nd best record by a rookie head coach in NFL history. He became just the 4th rookie head coach in league history to win 13-or-more games. Harbaugh also became the first head coach in NFL history to do so with a team coming off a losing season.
· The 49ers won their 6th road game of the season, marking the most road wins by the club since 1996.
· It marked the first time the 49ers have won at least 5 games in a season with a 10:00 am PT start since 1990, when the team went 5-0 in those games.
Akers' Big Day
· K David Akers connected on 2 of 3 FG attempts and all 4 PATs, giving him 166 pts. scored on the season. His 165 pts. set the NFL record for most pts. scored in a single season with no TDs.
· Lined up for a FG attempt late in the 3rd qtr., K David Akers took the direct snap and connected with WR Michael Crabtree for a 14-yd. TD. This marked Akers' second career pass attempt and first career TD pass. For his career, Akers is 2 of 2 for 25 yds. and 1 TD.
· P Andy Lee boomed 5 punts for 284 yds. (56.8 avg.), including a net of 51.4 and 2 punts downed inside the 20-yd. line. Lee set the NFL record for highest single-season net punting avg. of 43.99. The previous record was held by Oak. P Shane Lechler who had a net avg. of 43.85 in 2009.
Keeping ‘Em Out Of The Endzone
· The Niners allowed just 23 TDs in 2011, tying the fewest TDs allowed in a single season in franchise history.
Points Are Hard To Come By
· The 49ers defense ranks 1st in the NFL, allowing just 14.3 points per game (Prior to the afternoon games).
· The 14.3 points per game allowed ranks 3rd in franchise history for a single season.
Knocking It Out
· The 49ers defense registered 7 PDs on the day at St. Louis, giving them 104 for the season. The 104 PDs rank 2nd in the NFL this season, prior to the afternoon games.
Limiting The Opposition
· This season, the 49ers have allowed just 26 pts. off of turnovers, ranking 1st in the NFL (GB - 45 and NE - 47).
· Since 1995, the 26 pts. allowed off of turnovers ranks t-2nd in the NFL.
Taking Care of Business
· QB Alex Smith threw for 17 TDs and just 5 INTs this season, a TD:INT ratio of 3.40. His 3.40 TD:INT ratio ranks 3rd in franchise history.
· QB Alex Smith threw for 219 yds. on the day. He has now thrown for 3,150 yds. on the season, marking his first 3,000 yd. passing season.
Making Plays With His Feet
· QB Alex Smith scrambled for a 8-yd. TD run just before the 2nd qtr., registering his 4th career rushing TD and 1st since 9/11/11 vs. Sea.
· WR Michael Crabtree tied his career high with 9 recepts. for 92 yds. and 2 TDs, marking his first career 2-TD performance.
· Crabtree hauled in a short pass from QB Alex Smith and raced 28 yds. for the TD.
· With the team lined up for a FG on 4th down in the 3rd qtr., K David Akers took the direct snap and connected with Crabtree for a 14-yd. TD.
· Crabtree has now registered a TD in each of the last 4 games against StL.
100 for 85
· TE Vernon Davis recorded 118 rec. yds. on 8 catches, including a season-long 44yd. recept. from QB Alex Smith in the 2nd qtr. This marks his 7th career 100-yd. game.
· RB Anthony Dixon notched his 2nd TD of the season and 4th of his career after his 1-yd. TD run in the 4th qtr.
· DT Justin Smith brought down Rams QB Kellen Clemens in the 1st qtr. for his 7.5 sack of the season and 72.5 of his career.
· LB Ahmad Brooks registered his 7th sack of the season, a new career high. He now has 20 career sacks.
· LB NaVorro Bowman took down Clemens for his 2nd sack of the season.
What Can Brown Do For You?
· CB Tarell Brown recorded 2 INTs on the day for his first-career 2 INT game. He picked off RB Jerious Norwood in the 2nd qtr. for his first INT, followed by another pick in the 4th qtr. off QB Kellen Clemens. Brown's 4 INTs this season sets a new career high.
Making Their Debut
· WR Brett Swain made his first start with San Francisco.
· WR Joe Hastings made his NFL debut.
· RB Frank Gore played his 100th career NFL game.
Extending Their Streaks
· TE/LS Brian Jennings has now played in 192 consecutive games.
· DT Justin Smith has now started 171 consecutive games, dating back to his rookie season in 2001. Smith's consecutive start streak ranks 3rd among defensive players and 5th among all NFL players.
· TE Vernon Davis has now started 75 consecutive games, which ranks 3rd in the NFL among TE's behind Tony Gonzalez (83) and Jason Witten (79).