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Although the San Francisco 49ers did not make the playoffs this season, today’s Week 17 schedule led to a busy day of results for the team. The win over Arizona, coupled with several other wins and losses appears to have secured the seventh pick of the 2011 NFL Draft for the 49ers.
However, the subsequent victory by the Seahawks over the Rams to clinch the NFC West division title allowed the 49ers to lock up third place in the NFC West. Had the Seahawks lost, they would have dropped to third because of the division record tie-breaker. However, the current result nets a schedule benefit for the 49ers because it means they get the third place opponents schedule instead of the second place opponents schedule. The vagaries of NFL scheduling mean the 49ers will get to face the Detroit Lions and Tampa Bay Buccaneers instead of the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints.
Listed below is the 49ers 2011 slate of opponents. The schedule of dates for each game will be released later this spring.
The NFL has not released an official draft order, but Eric Branch has indicated the 49ers locked up the 7th pick of the 2011 NFL Draft after their victory over the Arizona Cardinals. Although they lost, the Cardinals look to remain at the fifth pick as all the teams ahead of them lost. Carolina will select first, with Denver, Cincinnati, and Buffalo picking behind them.
Seattle is currently battling St. Louis for the NFC West division title, but even if Seattle loses, the strength of schedule tie-breaker would go in their favor. What’s interesting though is that if Seattle loses, they’d draft worse than the 49ers, but the 49ers would appear to finish second for scheduling purposes. I could be wrong on that, but the second tiebreaker for division standings after head-to-head is division record. Seattle losing would drop them to 3-3 while the 49ers would be 4-2. If that is the case, the 49ers would face the second place team in the NFC North and South, instead of the third place team. Given all that, I think it’s safe to say, LET’S GO SEATTLE!
The Cardinals get called on yet another penalty, an offsides call on the nose tackle. The 49ers get a first down on their own nine-yard line. Anthony Dixon gets the carry and gets nothing out of it. Smith bakc to pass and he's going deep left to Vernon Davis, but it's incomplete and slightly off-target. On third down, it's another deep pass, this one to Michael Crabtree, but it's overthrown as well.
Bartel gets things going for the Cardinals. Or, he had things going for the Cardinals, then they failed to convert a third down, and then a fourth down and the 49ers took over again. Michael Crabtree got a big reception, Anthony Dixon was stuffed at the line a few times, and then Crabtree makes another big catch, while being interfered and dropped on his head. First down 49ers.
Echoes of Mike Singletary still remain, as the 49ers are called for delay of game. Then, Alex Smith misses deep to Michael Crabtree yet again, really overthrown. The 49ers punt, and the Cardinals have the ball on their own 7-yard line.
A bunch of passes to Larry Fitzgerald followed, and some decent running from Arizona. And then, Tarrell Brown picks off Bartel and takes it back 62-yards for a touchdown. 49ers lead 38-7 after the extra point.
The Cardinals got things going ... not at all, once again and they punt following the 49ers score. The Cardinals get called for yet another penalty and everyone is watching the clock. It's not a boring game, but the Niners are up big. The 49ers are on the field again, and it's a five-yard run. Alex Smith throws a pass out of bounds Then another, and it's a punt.
Adam Snyder checked in at left guard for the 49ers on that drive. NaVorro Bowman is called on a penalty and the Cardinals want a re-kick. The return is uneventful and the Cardinals take over at their own 42-yard line. Richard Bartel checks in at quarterback for the Cardinals, and it's a run for three yards. Then he's almost brought down for a sack, but gets the ball away before he's officially down. Ahmad Brooks is called on a neutral zone infraction penalty, and it's 3rd and short for Arizona. Then, it's a deep pass to, you guessed it, Larry Fitzgerald, with Tramaine Brock in coverage once again. It's a 31-yard completion.
Larry Fitzgerald gets another completion, and he gets 18-yards, dropped at the goal line with one yard to go. Dashon Goldson is down and injured on the play. They go back to Fitzgerald again on first down, but Nate Clements comes up with great coverage bringing up a second down. The Cardinals lose two yards on the next play, a big tackle by Parys Haralson behind the line. The third quarter comes to an end.
Third and three for the Cardinals, and Bartel overthrows his man and that brings up fourth down. They elect to go for it, and it's Bartel from the sotgun to Fitzgerald over the middle and Tarell Brown is in on the coverage, incomplete pass.
The Cardinals go right with the shotgun and complete a pass to Andre Roberts over the middle for five yards. Second down, and John Skelton completes another pass, this one to Larry Fitzgerald for five yards, giving them a first down. Once again, another completion for Skelton, five yards again, this one to Max Komar. The next pass doesn't fare quite as well, it's tipped and Ahmad Brooks gets the pick, taking it to the eight-yard line, trying to stiff-arm John Skelton on his way. Isaac Sopoaga got the tip.
The 49ers begin on the eight, and it's a run for essentially nothing, two yards for Brian Westbrook. You can then tag on another six-yard touchdown run for Brian Westbrook, and the extra point is good. The 49ers lead 31-7 with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter.
It's a 19-yard return and the Cardinals take over at the 30-yard line.
The Cardinals begin with an incompletion on first down with defensive end Isaac Sopoaga in his face. Hightower takes the carry on second down, but is stopped by Manny Lawson for no gain. Third and ten with two backs in the backfield, John Skelton takes the shotgun snap and dumps off to Tim Hightower, but it goes right off his hands for an incompletion.
The 49ers start their drive at the 22-yard line, and it's deep to Michael Crabtree over the middle, but it's overthrown. The Cardinals were offsides though, and the 49ers get five yards and a repeat of first down. From the gun with an empty backfield, Smith throws it to the left side without really looking, and the Cardinals are called for yet another penalty. Holding, five yards, and the 49ers have another first down.
1st and 10 from the San Francisco 32-yard line, and it's a handoff to Anthony Dixon, who finds the hole and picks up eight yards. Then it's a thirty-yard run from Brian Westbrook, who finds a big hole on the right side of the line. Another run for San Francisco and it's Anthony Dixon again, four yards this time. On second down, it's a 20-yard gain to Vernon Davis, and he's down at the six-yard line.
Alex Smith is in the red zone now, where he's usually very accurate, but his first pass is incomplete. Then Brian Westbrook takes a carry and he falls down after being tripped up by Barry Sims, but crawls into the end zone before he's touched, apparently. The 49ers lead 24-7 after the extra point. Six plays, 78 yards, 3:06 for that drive.
The Cardinals get the ball on the 27-yard line with an Andre Roberts return.
The 49ers take the third-quarter kick off at the one-yard line and Ted Ginn Jr. takes it 24-yards to the 25-yard line. Alex Smith on the play-action pass looks to his left and overthrows Vernon Davis badly out of bounds with no pressure in his face. Brian Westbrook gets the carry on second down and he picks up two yards, bringing up a 49ers 3rd-and-8. It's a pass to Brian Westbrook and he s dragged past the first down line, before going down-but-not-really, and getting another yard. Adrian Wilson couldn't get him down.
Another first down incompletion from Smith, it's in the ground at Westbrook's feet after he panics. On second down, it's Alex Smith to Vernon Davis for a 59-yard touchdown reception. Vernon just beat his man and was wide open over the middle. He leisurely extended and caught the perfect pass from Alex, and took it in the right side of the end zone with Cardinals in tow. Five plays, 75 yards in 1:58 for the San Francisco 49ers on the drive to open the half. They now lead 17-7.
The Cardinals get the ball at the 35 yards line after the Roberts return and Thaddeus Gibson tackle.
The kickoff goes into the end-zone and Ted Ginn brings it out to the 19-yard line. On first down, Alex Smith throws to his right side and it's a 12-yard completion to wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Second down is a pass gain, over the middle short to Anthony Dixon, who turns to avoid but slides on the slick field and gains two yards. Dixon again for five yards, but it's followed by an incompletion on 3rd-and-3. Andy Lee punts, and C.J. Spillman makes yet another great special teams tackle before Roberts can get anything out of it.
The Cardinals begin on the nine yard line, and then get two yards out of Tim Hightower on first down. They go right back to Larry FItzgerald, who picks up the first down yet again. It's Tim Hightower on the predictable first down run, but this time he picks up ten yards and gets another Arizona first down. 1st and 10 on their own 35-yard line. , it's another first down run from Tim Hightower and a bad missed tackle from CB Shawntae Spencer brings up 2nd and 1. John Skelton goes deep, but it's way off target even with the blown coverage. 3rd and 1 for Arizona. Tim Hightower gets the carry, and he goes right through Parys Harlason en route to a first down. Manny Lawson makes a big tackle on another run on first down though, getting Hightower for a three-yard loss.
Incomplete pass to Andre Roberts from Skelton, and it's a bad one, a dumpoff with nobody around him. The Cardinals go to the shotgun, and get a couple yards but ultimately end up with 4th-and-7, and San Francisco takes a timeout. 32-yard punt from Ben Graham, it's downed just inside the twenty.
San Francisco gets things started with a false start. Brian Westbrook takes the carry and picks up 9-yards on the misdirection. 1:28 remaining in the half. It's Westbrook again for the 49ers, and after getting around a tackle or two, he gets the first down. The 49ers hurry it up, and it's a completion to Josh Morgan on the left side, who spins around a defender and makes his way out of bounds with 58 seconds remaining.
1st and 10 on the Cardinals 42 after the 28-yard gain. Alex looks downfield and he's got Josh Morgan over the middle, but it's off target and the pass is behind him. 2nd and 10 for San Francisco. It's a dumpoff to Westbrook, but it's off target and Adrian Wilson put a violent hit on him. The 49ers take their last timeout for an injury.
Anthony Dixon takes the carry and picks up a few yards, bringingu up fourth down and the end of the half.
The Cardinals get a good run out of Beanie Wells, seven yards, but follow it up with a deep incomplete pass with Nate Clements in coverage. John Skelton converts the first third down of the game though, with a pass to Max Komar. From the gun on first down, Skelton isn't pressured, but rolls out to the right side when nothing is immediately open downfield. He picks up two yards and Justin Smith gets a hand on the ball behind and knocks it loose, but he's already going out of bounds. The Cardinals get another first down, this one a pass to Lary Fitzgerald with rookie Tramaine Brock in coverage.
Jim Tomsula makes the first challenge of his NFL head coaching career. It's denied though, and he also loses the first challenge of his head coaching career. The Cardinals respond with a first down pass to Larry FItzgerald, and it's complete in the endzone for a touchdown. This guy will beat you every day. Seven plays, 37-yards, 2:45 for that Cardinals drive that was capped off with a ten-yard touchdown.
The Cardinals get their first first down of the game off a completion to Larry Fitzgerald. Then it's Tim Hightower on the run and he loses one. Arizona is called on illegal formation, but the 49ers decline and it's second down. John Skelton takes off running after avoiding a sack and gets six yards, giving the Cardinals a 3rd-and-5. From the gun, it's a dumpoff to Hightower on the screen, but he gets nothing and the Cardinals punt again. The ball is downed at the six yard line with a Ted Ginn fair catch.
Arizona has positive yardage at this point, though, after finishing the first quarter with -14 total. Alex Smith hands off to Dixon, who gets three yards on the first down run. On second down, it's Brian Westbrook with the carry and he picks up two yards of his own. 3rd and a little-more than four to go for the 49ers Smith, with an empty backfield from the shotgun, he fired off a pass far too soon to Brian Westbrook and missed him by at least five yards. Andy Lee punts it 26-yards, which is probably close to an all-time low.
Alex Smith is booed, with a quarterback rating of 156.2. The Cardinals take over on the 49ers 37-yard line.
Niners Nation has their gameday thread for discussion.
Niners Nation has their gameday thread for discussion.
Dashon Goldson gets a twelve-yard sack on the first play of the Arizona Cardinals drive. The Cardinals lose a yard on the next play too, bringing up 3rd and 19. Skelton is pressured again, and just avoids the 49ers fourth sack by throwing it away. The Cardinals punt yet again and have yet to get a first down. 42 yards for Graham.
The 49ers take over on their own 43-yard line. Smith from under center drops back to pass, goes through his progressions and looks good at first, then tries to spin between his offensive lineman and O'brien Schofield, and gets sacked for his troubles. 2nd and 15 for San Francisco, and Smith is alone in the backfield. It's a slant to Delanie Walker who makes it around three Cardinals players and gets the first down off of a 17-yard completion. Arizona challenged that Walker was down by contact, but they are charged a timeout when it's clear that Walker was down.
From Arizona's 45, it's a toss to Anthony Dixon on the left side, but he gets nothing, and loses a yard to boot. Alex Smith kept his perfect passer rating intact with a 32-yard completion to wide receiver Josh Morgan to put them on the 14-yard line. Alex's next pass goes to offensive lineman Adam Snyder, it's his first incompletion of the game. A short run and the 49ers are faced with 3rd-and-8 as the first quarter comes to an end.
Darnell Docket gets through and gets the sack on Alex on third down though, and Reed attempts and connects with a 39-yard field goal. The 49ers lead 10-0. The Cardinals do something funky with the kickoff that I missed a little bit, and the Cardinals take over on their own 39-yard line.
Arizona begins with a false start and then Skelton is swarmed by Parys Haralson and Justin Smith. He throws it away, but it's called a sack, a nine-yard loss. This man is a pro bowler. On second down, the Cards get four yards and are faced with a 3rd and 20. They spread things out in the shotgun and Manny Lawson swarms Skelton, forces an incompletion and almost gets a safety. The Cardinals punt again and get called for holding. It's a 37-yard punt and the 49ers take over at the Arizona 37-yard line.
On the first play of the 49ers drive, Alex Smith fakes the handoff, stands in the pocket and delivers a perfect strike to Ted Ginn for 37 yards and a touchdown. With the extra point from kicker Jeff Reed, the 49ers lead 7-0 with five minutes remaining in the first quarter. That's one play for 37-yards in seven seconds. Just a beautiful pass from Alex Smith.
The kickoff from Reed goes to Andre Roberts, who takes it at the four-yard line and gets to the 24-yard line.
The Cardinals take over at the 12-yard line and it's Hightower with the carry, two yards off a toss to the left side. Another run to HIghtower, and Manny Lawson hustles to push him out of bounds with four yards to go. It's a pass to the left side on third down, Parys Haralson is quadruple teamed, of all things, but the pass is incomplete and the Cardinals will be three-and-out again. Ray McDonald almost gets a hand on the punt, it's downed at the 44-yard line, the Cardnals thought they had the ball back, but it bounced off an Arizona plaer, not a 49ers player.
Smith, from under center fakes the handoff and its swarmed, but dumps it off to Vernon Davis, who takes it 17 yards to the 39-yard line, to get the first first down of the game. Anthony Dixon takes the first down carry and picks up ... none. Arizona calls a timeout. From the 39-yard line, Smith hands off to Brian Westbrook, who gets two. From the gun on third down, Smith gets wide receiver Michael Crabtree, but it's only for three yards and the 49ers will punt again, after one first down.
Ahmad Brooks is called on the false start, but the penalty is declined. Andy Lee punts and there's a lot going on at the line, the 49ers get the ball at the one-yard line and it's NaVorro Bowman who got it. Arizona challenged, and it looks like it's going to come back. Yep, Arizona is not charged a timeout and it will be at the twenty-yard line where they begin their drive.
Add tight end Stephen Spach to the Cardinals inactives, he suffered a left calf injury in pregame warmups and will not be playing. The Cardinals won the toss and elected to receive. Andre Roberts got the kick at the three and brought it back to the 22-yard line and was brought down by C.J. Spillman.
1st and 10 for Arizona, it's Hightower with the carry and he picks up three. A short pass and the Cardinals have a third down early on, and they get a false start, setting them back to 3rd-and-9. Skelton from the shotgun, and he's swarmed immediately by LB Manny Lawson and CB Shawntae Spencer for a 12-yard loss.The Cardinals elect to punt, and Ted Ginn muffs the punt, his first of the season and the 49ers take over at their own 40.
Smith starting at quarterback, under center he hands off to Brian Westbrook who gets nothing. The 49ers go with the same play on second down and get five. Dockett and Anthony Davis get into it, and Vernon looks like he wants a piece. Ted Ginn catches a four yard pass but it's not enough, the 49ers will elect to punt.
Andy Lee gets the ball to the 12-yard line, where it's fair caught. It's a 39-yard punt.
Checking in from the Rambus press box at Candlestick Park, and the 49ers have just announced the inactive players for the game. No surprises here for either team. Patrick Willis is the big one for San Francisco, he'll be out with rookie NaVorro Bowman getting the start in his place next to Takeo Spikes, and his backup, Keaton Kristick, is also out. Joe Staley remains out and off of injured reserve, apparently the team had no use for that roster spot. Tight end Nate Byham, DE Will Tukuafu, and cornerbacks Phillip Adams and William James round out the inactives for San Francisco. David Carr is the emergency backup quarterback.
No surprises for the Cardinals either, the big names are Larod Stephens-Howling, the kick returner and linebacker Joey Porter. Porter and 49ers tight end had a nice little feud last season when Porter was with Miami. Ben Patrick, Marshay Green, A.J. Jefferson and linebacker Gerald Hayes are the inactives for Arizona, with Derek Anderson being the emergency third quarterback.
The San Francisco 49ers square off with the Arizona Cardinals tomorrow afternoon in a game with no playoff implications. Week 17 of the NFL schedule leaves both teams on the outside looking in and more or less battling for pride. However, this game has numerous implications when it comes to the eventual draft order for the 2011 NFL Draft.
As it currently stands, the 49ers would be drafting either fifth or sixth. There are four teams with worse records than the 49ers and then five teams with the same 5-10 record. The first tie-breaker for draft order is strength of schedule. I can’t find the link now, but I recall seeing that the 49ers had one of the worst schedule strengths in the 5-10 group, with Arizona being either slightly better or slightly worse.
The loser of tomorrow’s 49ers-Cardinals game has the chance to rise as high as the number two pick in the draft if things fall their way. This is unlikely, but still possible. The 49ers and Cardinals are the only teams in the 5-10 and 4-11 group that is playing amongst themselves. The remaining teams are all facing better teams. Here’s a list of the pertinent games as far as 49ers draft position is concerned:
4-11 Bills @ 10-5 Jets
4-11 Bengals @ 11-4 Ravens
4-11 Broncos vs. 8-7 Chargers
5-10 Lions vs. 6-9 Vikings
5-10 Texans vs. 8-7 Jaguars
5-10 Browns vs. 11-4 Steelers
5-10 Cowboys @ 10-5 Eagles
6-9 Titans @ 9-6 Colts
6-9 Redskins vs. 9-6 Giants
6-9 Seahawks vs. 7-8 Rams
If the 49ers win tomorrow, they would then find themselves looking at how the 6-9 teams have faired. I don’t know how strength of schedule could change tomorrow but that could play a big impact on where the 49ers draft. The 49ers could draft as high as number two, but it seems like even with a win tomorrow they would still be drafting in the 10 or 11 range.
No smoke and mirrors this time 'round for the 49ers, and no question as to who will be starting at quarterback. With no rotation planned or any last-minute trickery, Alex Smith will be taking all the snaps under center for the 49ers on Sunday. Citing experience and nothing more, Tomsula named Alex the starter this morning. This past Sunday, Smith came in with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter after Troy Smith threw a bad interception and almost matched his full-game stats in that ten minutes, but it wasn't enough and the 49ers lost, and with it, eliminated from the NFC West playoff race. They were never in the wildcard race.
Alex will come in and make the start, and probably do a lot of damage to the Cardinals in his final start of the year, maybe the final start of his career with the San Francisco 49ers. It would be fitting, and maybe the new coaching staff will like what they see and bring him back, much to the chagrin of many 49ers fans.
The other big news out of the Jim Tomsula press conference is related to linebacker Patrick Willis, who recently had another operation on his right hand and will miss the first game of his four-year career. Willis was recently elected to the 2011 Pro Bowl, and may not play due to the procedure. Rookie NaVorro Bowman will be making the start in his place, and the team signed Alex Joseph, a rookie, from the Panthers practice squad to practice and play for the final week.
The 49ers are out of the playoff race, eliminated from contention for the NFC West division crown and haven't once been in the running for the wild card all season, with one game remaining on the schedule. On Sunday, the Arizona Cardinals come to town, also eliminated from the playoff race, also playing for nothing more than pride. Maybe some folks there are playing for their jobs, but everyone in San Francisco probably can't do anything at this point to change their own fate.
Mike Singletary couldn't change his, and when all his appeals ran dry, he was relieved of his head coaching duties. It's been a rollercoaster of a season that featured the world's first thrill ride that actually dipped underground to the center of the Earth, because the 49ers spent an awful lot more time barreling down, down, down than they did going steadily up. Now the 49ers are hading in an entirely different direction, looking for a new general manager and better results next year.
But hold the phone, week 17 is still coming up, and the 49ers still have a game to play, against a hated division rival no less. Both teams have a plethora of questions and those question marks will continue to permeate every article regarding the team for the next few months, a final, meaningless game will not answer them.
Still, 49ers interim head coach Jim Tomsula insists that he is preparing to win a football game. He's on a one-week schedule, not looking beyond Sunday, not worried about his job security. All business, all determination, Tomsula wants to show the organization that he's a team player and can get things done. But how will he do it?
He'll need to start by picking a quarterback, and he's promised to not drag the process out. As soon as he knows, he assured everyone, he'll let us all know. A month ago, the 49ers beat the Cardinals 27-6 in Arizona, with Troy Smith under center. He didn't play all that well though, getting less than 150 yards, but he did have a nice scoring strike to Michael Crabtree.
The 49ers defense came up big in that game, and it's the only point of continuity for the 49ers. It'll be up to them to stop the Arizona Cardinals, led by ... John Skelton. More to follow in the coming days.
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