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The San Francisco 49ers needed either a win over the St. Louis Rams or a New Orleans Saints loss to the Carolina Panthers to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC on Sunday. Well, the Saints wrapped things up against the Panthers sooner rather than later, and they did it in a big way. Quarterback Drew Brees absolutely walked all over the Cam Newton-led Panthers, and did so with efficiency that only he can muster. New Orleans certainly did their part in trying to secure the No. 2 seed.
But the 49ers, despite a late comeback from the Rams, held on to win their game. Michael Crabtree had two touchdowns and the 49ers held out to beat the Rams 34-27. St. Louis scored a touchdown, kicked an onside kick, recovered it and then scored another touchdown after a very poor pass interference penalty called on Tarell Brown. But San Francisco tightened up after that, and they get a first-round bye.
New Orleans will have to play in the wild card round, and they'll likely take on the Detroit Lions, as the Green Bay Packers, led by Matt Flynn, out-gunned Detroit to win in the final minutes. Their opponent is still dependent on the Atlanta Falcons in the afternoon games. If Atlanta wins, then it will be a matchup against Detroit for New Orleans.
The St. Louis Rams were helped by a very poor pass interference penalty late in the fourth quarter after recovering an onside kick, and were able to score their second-straight touchdown to bring the game to 34-27 with 4:36 to go. They gave the ball back to the 49ers, who weren't able to do anything at all and had Alex Smith sacked on third down. So, St. Louis got the ball back, and faced an early third down - but they convert, and get closer to field goal range, though they need a touchdown to tie it.
On 2nd and 10, it's linebacker NaVorro Bowman who picks up a big sack and Kellen Clemens goes down with an injury. Tom Brandstater came in and threw two incompletions, and the 49ers got the ball back. After a first down, they were able to kneel it out and pick up the 34-27 win.
St. Louis had made it close on the previous possession with a big touchdown to Brandon Lloyd, after San Francisco had some of their defensive starters on the bench. But anything can happen in the NFL, and with the New Orleans Saints having already won their game, the 49ers had their chances of a No. 2 seed severely threatened. Still, San Francisco was able to hold on.
And they were able to hold on due to a complete effort. The defensive lapses can be attributed to the fact that some of the starters were sitting, including defensive lineman Justin Smith. Tarell Brown also had two interceptions on the day, for the first time in his career. Still, the absence of Smith for the majority of the game helped the Rams run for a good amount, including 76 yards by Steven Jackson and two rushing touchdowns, one from Clemens and the other from Cadillac Williams.
Alex Smith got the scoring started for the 49ers, responding to Clemens' rushing touchdown with one of his own, and then the 49ers went on to score another couple of times before St. Louis started their late comeback. Michael Crabtree caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Smith, breaking a tackle and taking in the catch-and-run, and then caught another one on a trick fake field goal from David Akers. Running back Anthony Dixon also got a touchdown for San Francisco.
Special teams played well, despite a missed field goal from Akers. He would go on to break the record for points scored in a season by a kicker as well as the record for most field goal attempts in a season. Andy Lee had a 66-yard punt early on, and then after being forced to re-kick late in the game, had pinned the Rams down within the five-yard line.
San Francisco will now have to wait some time to see how their schedule looks, as they secure a first-round bye in the playoffs with the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
The Rams took the kickoff in the third quarter, and had a big return, but it was called back for holding. Steven Jackson then took the first down run and picked up big yardage, taking it past the 30-yard line. Patrick Willis was blown up on the play by a blocker - it happens to the best of 'em. But the 49ers tightened up and forced the Rams to punt, halting the early bleeding.
Kendall Hunter gets a nice run to start, but is stuffed on the next play, bringing up a third down. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree makes a great catch and gets a generous spot, which gives the 49ers a first down. It's Hunter again, who is insanely fast, and picks up a first down. Anthony Dixon checks in and gets a couple yards, and then it's an incomplete pass on second down. On third down, Smith is sacked and Andy Lee is forced to punt again.
St. Louis begins with a big play, as they have done on almost all of their drives, hitting Lance Kendricks for a first down. Then they seemed to stall out until third down, when Brandon Lloyd catches another big one, taking the Rams closer to field goal range. They face a first and twenty after a holding penalty, and then Lloyd catches a pass for a couple to bring up second and long. Play action on second down goes to Kendricks, but it falls incomplete. Then Patrick Willis forces an incompleteion and the Rams go for a field goal. It's from 49 yards out and it's good after hitting the upright.
The 49ers take over and start a nice drive, with good plays by Dixon and Vernon Davis. Davis catches a 34-yard reception, going over 100 yards on the day. The offense sort of stalls out though, and David Akers goes for the field goal. Actually, he doesn't, it's a fake and he hits Michael Crabtree for a touchdown, putting the 49ers up 27-10. The referees review it, but everything is good.
Aaaand, we enter the fourth quarter, with the 49ers up by 17.
The St. Louis Rams begin the second quarter rather awesomely, with running back Jerius Norwood taking a direct snap and throwing a pass out to quarterback Kellen Clemens. It's picked off by cornerback Tarell Brown and the 49ers take off in St. Louis territory. Alex Smith goes on to hit Michael Crabtree on two short passes, the second of which is a bubble screen that Crabtree takes 28 yards for a touchdown, after breaking a tackle. So David Akers kicked off and the Rams took over just before the 20-yard line.
St. Louis faced an early 3rd and 6, and Ahmad Brooks breaks through to pick up a big sack on Kellen Clemens, and they were forced to punt from within their own endzone, again. This time, the punt was a good one, and there was a holding penalty on the Rams. The 49ers elect to have them re-kick, and almost block it the second time, but it all backfires and the 49ers take over back in their own territory.
But the 49ers get the offense moving, with some short runs and then a deep 44-yard pass to tight end Vernon Davis, who hauls it in at the sideline. That's something Smith hasn't been able to do much this season. The 49ers have the ball at the 12-yard line, but Alex Smith is sacked for an eight-yard loss and after an incompletion, the 49ers have a third and seventeen. A short pass to Crabtree goes for nothing and Akers come out for a 36-yard field goal. It's good, and the 49ers lead 17-7.
The Rams punt after almost losing a fumble, and the 49ers respond by punting back. So that happened. The Rams took over again, and Clemens throws a great pass to Danario Alexander, but Dashon Goldson makes an awesome play in coverage and forces an incompletion. On second down, a run is stuffed and the third down play goes nowhere. So Donnie Jones has to punt yet again. The 49ers start at the 42-yard line, near midfield.
The 49ers get a big run from Hunter, and then pick up a few more yards, leading to a 42-yard field goal from Akers, to put the 49ers up 20-7. St. Louis takes over with a minute left and two timeouts. Brandon Lloyd catches a nine-yard pass and the Rams go in hurry-up. Kendricks falls down and a pass his way falls incomplete. Another incompletion and the Rams will punt. 49ers kneel to kill the clock and we reach halftime.
Below, some sexy Crabtree touchdown goodness.
The San Francisco 49ers actually lost the coin toss for once, and were forced to receive the opening kickoff, something they're not used to doing. Either way, reserve kick returner, Kendall Hunter, made it out past the 20-yard line before slipping and falling. That's what we call "crisis averted." After that, the 49ers hit a couple first downs via tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore. Then it's some more Davis, which of course means Ted Ginn Jr. and Braylon Edwards were taking his catches earlier in the season. Totally.
Safety Colin Jones sees the field on offense, and he goes in motion for a fake fly sweep and looks insanely fast doing so. Kendall Hunter picks up a couple yards on that play, but Alex Smith is forced to throw it away on third down, so kicker David Akers comes out and misses a 48-yard field goal.
Naturally, the St. Louis Rams take over and start driving big time. Steven Jackson was stuffed on first down, but then Brandon Lloyd caught a big reception and that's when Jackson got started up again. St. Louis got themselves into the red zone with tough running from Jackson, and Kellen Clemens had Lance Kendricks in the end zone but completely missed him. Of course, that didn't matter, because Clemens scrambles in for an 18-yard touchdown, the second one the 49ers have given up this season, and they took a 7-0 lead.
If you blinked, you missed the 49ers next offensive possession. But hopefully you didn't miss the 66-yard punt by Andy Lee, which really turned things around in the field position battle. The Rams started way back, and after a sack by Justin Smith, the Rams had to punt, and it was puny in comparison. Lee laughs at the unappealing and tiny punt from their punter.
Either way, it was just what the 49ers needed. They've been playing the field position battle game all year. So Alex Smith comes out, and hits Hunter on a nice screen that picks up a first down. Michael Crabtree catches a shot pass, is hit hard, put pops around anyway and picks up the first down. From the eight-yard line, it's Alex Smith who runs around and dives for an eight-yard scoring touchdown of his own.
St. Louis takes over and Clemens hits Lance Kendricks for a nice gain, and the quarter comes to an end with the game tied at 7-7. Here's some delicious touchdown run goodness below:
The 49ers and Rams released their inactives for Sundays game and in some good news for the 49ers, Patrick Willis will be active for the first time since straining his hamstring December 4 against these very Rams. Willis has been practicing the last two weeks and will get a chance to shake off some game rust before the playoffs get going next week. The 49ers need a win or a Saints loss to secure the number two seed.
The 49ers will also be without Kyle Williams and Ted Ginn. Both receivers sat out all three days of practice this week as Ginn is dealing with a sprained ankle suffered against the Steelers and Williams suffered a concussion last week against the Seahawks. Brett Swain and Joe Hastings will play in their place as the 49ers go with only three wide receivers. There are some reports floating around that safety/special teamer Colin Jones might get some spot duty at receiver as well if needed.
The San Francisco 49ers clinched a playoff berth many weeks ago, but true to form, will be battling all the way through the last game of the regular season in hopes of securing the No. 2 seed. They are the heavy favorites against the hometown St. Louis Rams, but will be without some key players in Week 17.
According to Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area, the Niners are expected to be without three significant cogs of their team. Receiver Kyle Williams sustained a concussion in last week's game and has not been medically cleared to play as of Saturday night. Also dealing with a head injury from a brutal hit is Delanie Walker, whose fractured jaw was recently wired shut. He is not expected back in time for any playoff games.
Also questionable for Sunday's game is receiver Ted Ginn Jr., who is still dealing with ankle injuries. The Niners will make a decision on him 90 minutes before kickoff. Since Williams and Ginn usually handle duties on kick returns and punt returns, the 49ers will need to make some adjustments against the Rams. Reggie Smith is expected to handle punt returns, while rookies Chris Culliver and Kendall Hunter will split duties on kick returns.
For all news and information regarding San Francisco football, please visit Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers head into the final week of the regular season still in search of the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. As they hit the road to take on the St. Louis Rams, they'll still need a loss by the New Orleans Saints to secure the No. 2 seed, but a win over the Rams is still part of the equation. You can bet that the Niners will be wanting to continue their string of successes and finish their comeback season on a winning note.
We have all of the pertinent information for those of you hoping to follow the game as it happens.
Time: Kickoff is scheduled for 10:00 AM PST at Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
TV: FOX will televise the game (KTVU FOX 2). Your commentators will be Chris Myers and Tim Ryan.
Radio: The broadcast, as always, will air on KNBR/BONE, or on Sirius 137.
Betting Line: The Niners are overwhelming favorites to win by between 10.5 and 11 points, according to our friends over at OddsShark.
The 49ers playoff positioning scenario is fairly simply in Week 17. At 12-3, the 49ers are tied with the New Orleans Saints for the second best record behind the Green Bay Packers. If the 49ers beat the St. Louis Rams or the Saints lost to the Carolina Panthers, the 49ers claim the number two seed. If the reverse happens, the 49ers drop to the number three seed.
Both games will be airing at 10:00am PT, so neither team will have an advantage in terms of resting players. However, if the 49ers are blowing out the Rams in the second half, it is possible Saints might make a move to start resting some of their starters since a bye would be unlikely at that point. It makes for an intriguing chess match on Sunday.
The rest of the NFC is close to set, but there is still some drama left. The big game is Sunday Night Football between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. The winner goes to the playoffs as NFC East champion and the loser goes home with nothing. It should make for a hotly contested game.
The Lions currently hold the number five seed and the Falcons are sitting at number six with a chance to climb past the Lions. Detroit travels to Green Bay in the morning and Atlanta hosts Tampa Bay in the afternoon. The Packers have nothing to play for having clinched the number one seed and lost their first game two weeks ago. It will be interesting to see how many players they try and rest and how soon that happens. If Detroit gets the victory, Atlanta will have nothing to play for in the afternoon and could end up resting several starters.
The San Francisco 49ers needed to find a replacement for Braylon Edwards after releasing him earlier in the week and they have promoted wide receiver Joe Hastings from the practice squad to take his place. According to an official release, Hastings (6-0, 185) originally signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent on July 27, 2011. He was released following training camp and was signed to the 49ers practice squad on September 4.
A 24-year old native of Wichita, KS, Hastings starred collegiately at Washburn University where he played in 35 games (14 starts), and hauled in 119 receptions for 2,033 yards and 17 TDs during his career. Hastings will wear No. 13 on Sunday.
Due to the lack of depth in the organization among wide receivers, the team will likely give Hastings a tryout of sorts against the Rams to see if he is capable of filling in for the playoffs. Due to Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams being injured, the 49ers will likely go with Michael Crabtree, Brett Swain and Joe Hastings as their starting receivers. If one of them get injured, well, it could get ugly in San Francisco.
Should Hastings not cut it on Sunday, the 49ers are rumored to have a veteran WR waiting in the wings to replace him in the playoffs. With the practice squad being more and more involved with the team, one has to wonder if the change will affect team chemistry, especially if they bring in an outsider to fill in for Hastings.
For more, head on over to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers currently have a spot open on their roster, after cutting free agent acquisition Braylon Edwards earlier in the week. With injuries to receivers Kyle Williams, Ted Ginn Jr. and Josh Morgan, that position will definitely go to another receiver. As it stands, the only healthy receivers are Michael Crabtree and Brett Swain, the latter of which has seen very limited time on offense this season.
Most expect receiver Joe Hastings to be elevated from the practice squad, and given some of the signs around practice and the like, it's a safe bet. Not only should Hastings be elevated and active, he'll likely see a lot of playing time, even if the 49ers are still battling to win the game and secure the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. It's because the 49ers want to see what they have in Hastings, and see if they need to find a receiver in free agency before the playoffs start.
Obviously, it would be much better for the 49ers if Hastings had a big game on Sunday.
You can also expect to see some other players, like Kendall Hunter, Chris Culliver and Reggie Smith. All of them are likely to have some return duties with Ginn and Williams still injured. The latter, Smith, would likely be the starting punt returner. Hunter is just a player the 49ers really want to get the ball to as often as possible, so he'll probably be the starting kick returner.
It's also likely that Frank Gore gets reduced carries on Sunday, so Hunter could see significant time on offense.
The 49ers released their final injury report for the week of practice Friday afternoon and TE Delanie Walker has been officially ruled out. Also a concern for San Francisco are WR Ted Ginn, CB Chris Culliver, RB Bruce Miller, CB Carlos Rogers, WR Kyle Wiliams, and LB Patrick Willis, all listed as questionable.
San Francisco Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio noted that Patrick Willis would play if he's able, but the Niners may err on the side of caution for their star linebacker as the head into the playoffs. It's looking unlikely that Kyle WIlliams will play, still suffering some effects of a concussion, and Ted Ginn practiced all week so he's expected to play.
OUT - TE Delanie Walker (jaw)
QUESTIONABLE - CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), WR Ted Ginn (ankle), RB Bruce Miller (knee), CB Carlos Rogers (knee), WR Kyle Williams (concussion), LB Patrick Willis (hamstring)
OUT - CB Justin King (shoulder)
DOUBTFUL - QB Sam Bradford (ankle), QB A.J. Feeley (right thumb)
QUESTIONABLE - DE Chris Long (ankle)
For more on the team, head on over to Niners Nation for continued coverage.
The San Francisco 49ers have caught a bit of the injury bug in the last few weeks of the season and many should expect the team to play it safe on the ground on Sunday against the Rams. The team is still battling for their seed in the NFC playoffs, and while their top priority is to receive home field advantage, staying healthy for the postseason is crucial. Here is the full injury report from Thursday's practice.
Do not be surprised to see the 49ers run heavily in week 17 with both Ted Ginn and Kyle Williams unlikely to play because of injury. With the Rams potentially without their top-two quarterbacks on Sunday, San Francisco's defense will likely have an easy time assuming they can contain Steven Jackson for most of the contest.
For more on the team, head on over to Niners Nation for continued coverage.
The Patrick Willis watch seemed to be postponed until the NFC Playoffs. Without Willis, the San Francisco 49ers are unlikely to beat top offenses like the New Orleans Saints and the Green Bay Packers, as he can dominate a game from the middle linebacker spot and put his top-notch defense in the best possible position to win football games.
However, the Niners still have a lot to fight for, like the right to take a week off by earning the two seed. So San Francisco still needs a big victory in Week 17 to complete a solid turnaround and get that first-round bye. Willis might be pressed back to action if he's ready to go.
As an approach to this game, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is contemplating putting linebacker Patrick Willis in the game.
"This is a game we have to win," Fangio said. "If he's healthy enough to play, he'll play."
Willis has missed the last three games with a right hamstring strain and was limited in practice on Wednesday -- the first practice he has participated in since the injury.
"Good, looks fine to me right now," Fangio said of Willis' recovery.
The 49ers are playing the Rams, so it's not like they'll be facing a team that's going to seriously scare them. However, it might be best to put Willis on the field and ensure a victory if he's healthy. He's going to have to play at some point anyway.
To discuss Willis and the 49ers, head on over to Niners Nation.
The San Francisco 49ers head into Week 17 of the 2011 NFL season with the number two seed right there for the grabbing. The 49ers can secure the two seed and accompanying first round bye if they defeat the St. Louis Rams or the New Orleans Saints lose to the Carolina Panthers. Given the injuries that the 49ers are now dealing with (Delanie Walker, Kyle Williams, Ted Ginn Jr.), a bye week would be quite fortuitous.
This final weekend of the regular season features games that primarily will impact some of playoff positioning within the NFC. The NFC East remains to be decided, but five of the other six playoff spots are secured. The two wild card teams, Atlanta and Detroit, are shuffling for fifth and sixth seed positioning, but otherwise, the slate is fairly set in the NFC.
San Francisco 49ers @ St. Louis Rams: The 49ers could head into this game with a receiving corps of Michael Crabtree, Brett Swain and Joe Hastings, but they remain heavy favorites against a Rams team that is trying to figure anything out. The 49ers will go with a heavy dose of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and their dominant defense in hopes of putting this game away early. PICK: 49ers
Carolina Panthers @ New Orleans Saints: The Panthers are playing solid football lately and Cam Newton should run away with Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, the Saints are playing dominant football at home this season. This could be a really fun game to watch. PICK: Saints
Dallas Cowboys @ New York Giants: A week or two ago it seemed like the Cowboys were going to lock the NFC East up. Instead, they find themselves in position for a minor collapse. I've got a feeling the Giants pull this one out at home. PICK: Giants
Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Atlanta Falcons: The Bucs are in the midst of a 2011 collapse that has been unbearable to watch. At the same time, if the Lions beat a Packers team that has nothing to play for, this becomes a toss-up since Atlanta would have nothing to play for due to being a game back of Detroit. PICK: Falcons
Detroit Lions @ Green Bay Packers: Green Bay is more than likely going to give their starters some rest time this week. At the same time, a single half could be all they need to put together a decent sized lead against the Lions. This game is a toss-up and one you should avoid when it comes to wagering. PICK: Packers
The San Francisco 49ers are looking to wrap up the season with a win over the St. Louis Rams, securing themselves the No. 2 seed for the upcoming playoffs. Now all the need is to get themselves healthy to do so.
Well, good news 49ers fans, All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis took part in Wednesday practice at team headquarters in Santa Clara, and according to CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, likely will be ready this Sunday if the team decides to play him. Willis has been out the last three games with a hamstring strain.
Wide receivers Ted Ginn (ankle) and Kyle Williams (concussion) did not practice Wednesday, neither did tight end Delanie Walker who might be out for the season with a likely broken jaw. Coach Harbaugh noted he'll know next week whether Walker could be back for the playoffs. As for Williams, he is yet to be cleared for football activities with his concussion.
49ERS PRACTICE REPORT
Did not participate: TE Delanie Walker (jaw), WR Ted Ginn (ankle), WR Kyle Williams (concussion)
Limited participation: LB Patrick Willis (hamstring), CB Chris Culliver (shoulder), FB Bruce Miller (knee), CB Carlos Rogers (knee)
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation to get your fix.
The San Francisco 49ers have a glaring shortage of wide receivers now that Braylon Edwards has been released, and the team is searching for ways to fill the void. According to CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco the 49ers plan on using in-house talent to take up Edwards' mantle, though former 49ers receiver Terrell Owens has been reaching out to current 49ers to let them know he's available if they need him.
@DonteWhitner Let em kno if they need me, I'm ready homie!! I'm ready 2 take em deep!!— Terrell Owens (@terrellowens) December 28, 2011
Whitner vouched for him nicely, though I doubt it will sway Jim Harbaugh in any way to sign another veteran receiver with pre-madonna tendencies and a healing lower leg injury:
@terrellowens I know u are! And I'm ready to Vouch for...and let everyone kno how GREAT of a teamate u were in buffalo!— TWHITNER(@DonteWhitner) December 28, 2011
Owens hasn't played at all this season due to a knee injury, and no NFL team has showed interest in picking him up. I wish T.O. all the best, but I think a return to the Niners would be a bad move for everyone.
For more on the Niners, head over to Niners Nation to get in on the action.
Had the New Orleans Saints lost on Monday Night Football, then the San Francisco 49ers might not be huge favorites over the St. Louis Rams. Sure, the 49ers just beat a much tougher team on the road, but if they had been able to secure the No. 2 seed with a Saints loss, then some key players might have been out of action. Carlos Rogers, Justin Smith, Alex Smith, Frank Gore and possibly others might have been rested against the Rams.
Instead, the 49ers will likely not be so conservative. New Orleans won, so they'll have to play this one out to earn a first-round bye. St. Louis is struggling and in the running for the No. 1 pick. In fact, most of the power rankings now have them at the very bottom. So it's no surprise that the 49ers are favored heavily in this matchup.
Odds Shark has posted the opening odds, and San Francisco is currently a 10-point favorite on the road against St. Louis. Some lines have them as high as 12-point favorites. The 49ers won the first meeting between these teams, scoring 16 points - going with the over might not be the best idea.
The San Francisco 49ers need either a win over the St. Louis Rams in Week 17 or a New Orleans Saints loss to get the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. For more on the 49ers, check out Niners Nation.
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