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It's really hard to not get sucked into the hype and exceedingly hard to avoid the biggest of hate trains. While the 49ers' rookie fullback, Bruce Miller, may not be riding a monumental wave of hype, he's definitely reaping the dividends of a hate train pointed in the opposite direction. Much to the delight of many 49ers fans, the team's starting fullback, Moran Norris, missed Sunday's game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and Miller got the start in his place.
What followed was a pretty good game, where Miller didn't do anything amazing, but did show some things that puts him above Norris. Miller's lead blocking is what should matter the most, and while he didn't do anything overly impressive there, any baby step will be considered a huge achievement to fans, due to the aforementioned hate train. That's not necessarily an admonishment of their behavior, they're not being unrealistic about their excitement for the guy.
After all, he's a rookie converting from the defensive side of the ball, and showed no discernible drop-off in talent from a guy who's been something not entirely unlike "average" his entire career. Miller did show some things that make him look a bit better than Norris: he's fast, and aware. He looked good catching the ball and he looked like he had a lot of quick movement getting into his blocks. He did have the fumble, but beyond that, he looked every bit a capable fullback.
Norris stayed in the Bay Area for rehab and isn't currently with the team, so one has to feel he'll probably miss the game against the Philadelphia Eagles. If Miller gets another chance to look at least as good, if not better, than Norris, you can bet he'll get that starting job. Jim Harbaugh is a rookie head coach and he's looking to make sure his team is as good as it can be for as long as it can. Miller might just make the team better.
Here's my first instalment of the NFL Bay Bridge Awards; 10 weekly awards given for especially exceptional (or unexceptional) play/conduct I feel worthy of an imaginary decoration.
While it's true that rookie running back Kendall Hunter came in, and then the San Francisco 49ers offense really started to click, that doesn't mean that Frank Gore is a detriment or that he doesn't have "it," anymore. Many fans were talking about how Hunter needs more carries and Gore needs less, and these folks may just be right ... but there's no way Gore should be taken from his starting role, as others have suggested.
For one, Gore had about double the carries of Hunter, and about double the yards. Gore's longest run of the game was twelve yards, while Hunter's longest was eleven. The only area where Hunter was markedly better was his two receptions for twelve yards. We can assume the two are at least comparable in that area, considering Gore has always been a capable receiver, though he did have one go off of his helmet on Sunday.
So Kendall Hunter came in and had bigger runs at better times, but that doesn't mean he'd be better-suited to be in the starting role. Gore is a one-cut runner who hits the hole hard and is difficult to bring down. When he goes, you generally know where he's going, but his whole thing has been his ability to ... you know ... do it anyway. Hunter comes in, and he's great in small spaces, and definitely great in open space. Like he showed against the Bengals with his ten-yard run, sweeps and tosses work well for him. He's quick, deceptively quick, and it works well. He's a lot different than Gore is.
And that's probably why he's successful.
The folks calling for Gore's benching are acting way too fast on this. Gore is running well and he's the starter - a starter who just received a big contract extension. The 49ers coaches wouldn't have allowed that to happen if they didn't think that he had something left. And again ... Hunter's success is coming as a change-of-pace back.
It's not the entirety of the reason that he's doing well, but part of it is the fact that defenses are preparing for Gore and an offense that runs through him, and then Hunter, the change-of-pace back comes in, and runs an entirely different direction and style. It's almost unfair, especially when you're dealing with a rookie.
Hunter is going to excel in this offense, and he's probably the 49ers running back of the future, but he's right where he should be on the depth chart, and shouldn't be moving up anytime soon.
The San Francisco 49ers suffered a few injuries in Sunday's victory over the Cincinnati Bengals to critical players. It's uncertain if the injuries will be super serious, but they'll be something to keep your eye out this week.
Matt Maiocco of CSN Bay Area reports that Frank Gore suffered a right ankle injury and played hurt through the entire second half, and his status for next week's game is uncertain. If Gore cannot go on Sunday, that will mean more snaps for Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon. Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee got some quotes from Gore.
"I couldn't be myself," Gore said. "Some of the runs, I couldn't make the cut I wanted to make. Hopefully, I get better this week." Gore said he'd have to see how the ankle felt Monday before determining whether he'd be available to play Sunday in Philadelphia.
Gore has handled the majority of the snaps this year, but is averaging a feeble 2.5 rushing yards per carry and only has put up 148 yards through two games. Hunter has been the backup ball-carrier, but hasn't been much better, averaging 2.7 ypc and has 30 yards so far. Dixon has only one carry on the season for six yards, but you'd figure his playing time would increase with Gore's absence.
To discuss the 49ers, head to Niners Nation.
Now that was an ugly game. From the very beginning, it looked like it was going to be ugly for just one team, the San Francisco 49ers. Andy Dalton went 5-for-5 on the team's opening drive, for 61 yards and led his team right into the red zone. The Bengals ran the ball a couple times and then Dalton threw his first incompletion. This led to a field goal, which was good for the 49ers, but if the Bengals were going to keep playing like that, it signified bad things to come for San Francisco.
Fortunately, they didn't keep playing like that, and with a big 39-yard reception to Vernon Davis in the third quarter set the 49ers up in the red zone. Then, Alex Smith hit Michael Crabtree in the back of the end zone for a beautiful touchdown, but a referee throws the flag and says Crabtree was out of bounds, then came in to touch the ball first. A replay shows that he was definitely not out of bounds, but being unable to challenge a flag means the 49ers had to settle for a field goal.
That being said, those two drives were the lone bright spots offensively. Well, there is the small matter of the 49ers' fourth quarter drive to take the lead. Joshua Morgan started things off with a first-down reception, and then it was rookie Kendall Hunter, replacing Frank Gore after a bad fumble (which led to three Bengals points, giving them the 6-3 lead), with a toss to the left that should have got about eight yards, but he fought for the extra two and got a first down.
Vernon Davis catches an eight-yard reception, and it's Hunter again to pick up the two and get the first down. Davis gets another eight yards on his next play, though it should have been ten, but he fumbled. Rookie fullback Bruce Miller was on it and it's officially eight yards. Vernon Davis gets the next one, a throwback screen that goes for huge yardage and takes the 49ers into the red zone. Hunter takes it on the left side for a huge touchdown and that's a lead the 49ers would never relinquish, taking a 10-6 lead over the Bengals. David Akers would put up another field goal to give them a 13-6 lead, and the 49ers would give up a free safety at the end of the game to run the clock out, making it officially 13-8.
Aside from that, it was definitely an ugly game on both sides of the ball for both teams. While the 49ers defense played well, they were porous at times, and couldn't get the kind of pressure that the Bengals were able to get. The secondary had lapses where they gave up big chunks of yardage, and at other times looked like they'd shut down any offense. The inconsistency on defense is scary ... if they give up huge chunks of yardage on the first and last drives of the game, but are shutdown for everything in between, it still will probably not be good enough to win games.
After giving up six sacks to the strong Dallas Cowboys pass rush, they gave up another six to the Bengals. Frank Gore didn't look great, and it's still up-in-the-air as to whether or not that's because of the offensive line. Smith was inconsistent, but good play from Kendall Hunter and Vernon Davis give hope for the offense. They did have ten penalties, and while some of those were on defense, most of them were the issue of the offensive line.
It's a good win, as all wins are, but an ugly one. The 49ers will need to play significantly better in week four against the Philadelphia Eagles, but for now, they'll enjoy the 2-1 record.
After deferring to start the game, the 49ers received the second-half kickoff. Bruce Miller gets the first reception of the half, and then Isaac Sopoaga checks in at fullback - Frank Gore gets the first down easily. After that, it's a nine-year completion to Delanie Walker, who bobbles it but eventually comes down with it. Miller gets his first carry, and there's a fumble on the play. After what was probably the longest fumble pile in NFL history, the 49ers ended up with the ball, and a first down.
Then the offensive line broke down once again and Alex Smith was sacked simultaneously by three different Bengals players, including former 49er Manny Lawson. Fortunately, one of them was offsides and the 49ers got the call, but ended up once again with a 3rd down after Frank Gore failed to make anything happen with a couple runs. Michael Crabtree gets a pass right to him on third down and it would have been a first down, but he drops it. It was a great pass right to his hands. 49ers punt, but the Bengals call a fair catch at the five yard line.
Their drive goes nowhere, the Bengals can't get anything going through the air and the 49ers have the ball again. Michael Crabtree catches an eight-yard pass, and then the 49ers pass the 50-yard line for the first time with a 39-yard completion to Vernon Davis, setting the team up with a first and goal. Crabtree makes a huge catch in the end zone for a touchdown, but the officials say he stepped out of bounds, and the 49ers instead get a five-yard penalty.
So naturally, they get called on a false start and have to work from five yards back. Kendall Hunter gets the carry and picks up four yards and the 49ers have a 2nd-and-goal at the six-yard line. A rollout and completion to Bruce Miller goes nowhere, and then Smith tries to run it again, and it goes nowhere. So David Akers comes out to kick a field goal. It's good, and the 49ers tie things up.
Looking at the replay of the Crabtree penalty, it doesn't look like he stepped out of bounds. He actually definitely did not step out of bounds, so the 49ers were robbed on that play. After that, the Bengals got the ball and Dalton once again could not put anything together. Tarell Brown was in on a great pass defense on third down. The 49ers come out, get sacked a couple times, and that's the end of the third quarter.
The game is tied up 3-3.
Again, if you're the type who enjoys blinking or slight turns of the head away from the area of the television, you're probably going to miss the 49ers' drives. To begin the second quarter, Vernon Davis had a dropped pass and Alex Smith had a bad pass. That's really about it, and Andy Lee was called on to punt yet again.
The Bengals took the field and benefited from a Parys Harlason offsides call, but good pass defense from the 49ers, mostly from Carlos Rogers, forced an eventual punt. Rogers got in front of a pass on the right side and almost picked it off, which is par the course for him. A.J. Green threw aside three or four 49ers players just before that, but he was still pushed out of bounds.
Alex Smith ran the ball on a designed run, after faking to Frank Gore, and was blown up bad by Nate Clements. The 49ers were called for holding on that play and they got set up with 2nd and 18, Gore got a big run to set up 3rd-and-6, and it was Michael Crabtree who got the reception to convert to first down. Unfortunately, the offensive line continues to struggle, shuffling Adam Snyder and Chilo Rachal, and then Jonathan Goodwin leaves the field with an injury. So naturally, Smith is sacked on third down and the 49ers have to punt.
Ahmad Brooks gets a big hit on Andy Dalton to start the next Cincinnati drive, forcing his helmet from his head. Then, Tarell Brown has excellent coverage on A.J. Green on second down. The 49ers go with a deep zone on third-and-long, giving up the underneath pass, and the Bengals punt again.
Then the 49ers take the field and actually start to put together a good drive. The offensive line continues to suck, but Vernon Davis gets a first down, and then Kendall Hunter catches a pass on third-and-long, and turns it into a first down by powering through Manny Lawson.
Michael Crabtree hauls in a beautiful catch for an eight-yard reception just after the two-minute warning. Alex Smith's next pass, to Joshua Morgan, is incomplete as the throw gets there a little late. Gore goes on 3rd-and-2, and doesn't get anything, the Bengals clog up the line. No offensive line blocking at all on that play, and the 49ers have to punt.
The Bengals didn't take a shot and let the clock run out to end the half. They lead 3-0.
The 49ers deferred on the kickoff (for the third straight week) and that saw Andy Dalton and the Bengals offense take the field. They started off with a pass on first down and a completion for a first down. What followed was Dalton going 5-for-5 to get the team into the red zone with 61 yards. San Francisco's defense held though, stopping Cedric Benson twice and holding on third down, with Ahmad Brooks forcing the pressure on Dalton and getting the incompletion. Cincinnati kicked the field goal and got three points out of their starting drive.
If you blinked, you missed the 49ers going 3-and-out. Their first drive started with a good completion to fullback Bruce Miller, but after that did nothing. Quarterback Alex Smith was sacked on second down, and it looks like they did the same play on third down, but this time it was an incompletion to Miller, and they were forced to punt. No runs on that opening drive for the 49ers.
Cincinnati came back out, this time trying to run the ball, and they were unsuccessful. Although defensive back Carlos Rogers gave up a few extra yards with a broken tackle, he righted the wrong with great coverage on third down to force a punt. Ted Ginn Jr. would go on to return the punt 14 yards.
Frank Gore got his first carry of the game, and it was good for five yards. Completions to Josh Morgan and Vernon Davis followed, and the 49ers looked like they might have some sort of offense. Kendall Hunter caught a two-yard pass, but Joe Staley was called for a false start and Smith was pressured heavily on third down, bouncing a pass to Michael Crabtree. To make things worse, Andy Lee shanked the punt and only got four yards out of it.
The Bengals take the field again near the end of the first half, and Dalton throws the ball right to Parys Haralson, who sees it bounce off of his hands. They reach a 3rd and 12 at the beginning of the second quarter and get a completion, but it's well short. Through one quarter of play, the Bengals lead 3-0.
The 49ers and Bengals released their inactive lists for Sunday's game, and as expected wide receiver Braylon Edwards and fullback Moran Norris are both deactivated with knee and fibula issues respectively. The 49ers will likely go with Ted Ginn Jr. and Joshua Morgan at wide receiver and rookie Bruce Miller at fullback.
In other 49ers roster news, the team announced that Dashon Goldson will move back into the starting lineup at free safety in place of Madieu Williams. Jim Harbaugh had said Goldson would get some playing time this week but this is a fairly significant change.
The 49ers free safety position has been in flux ever since the lockout ended. Reggie Smith appeared to win the job before a knee injury sidelined him. The 49ers then brought back free agent Dashon Goldson but he also banged up his knee, which got Madieu Williams into the starting lineup. All three players are available today so we'll see if there is any sort of rotation.
The San Francisco 49ers will be without the services of wide receiver Braylon Edwards this weekend, as they have officially declared him out for Sundays' matchup against the Bengals with an injured knee. Edwards had a surgical procedure done on his right knee recently, and is out indefinitely.
The Bengals will have to play without rookie linebacker Dontay Moch and starting slot reciever Jordan Shipley. Moch is battling a foot injury and Shipley tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season. Defensive end Robert Geathers (shoulder) and guard Otis Hudson (knee) were both listed as doubtful, and receiver Jerome Simpson was listed as questionable with a non-injury related issue.
For more 49ers coverage, be sure to check out Niners Nation.
For the San Francisco 49ers, opening up the offense and letting Alex Smith throw the football might be the best thing to do. When Smith has the time to throw, he's looked more and more like he should get more opportunities to have the game in his hands. That being said, San Francisco came into this year with one overarching expectation: the offense would operate through running back Frank Gore.
While Smith might be looking at an increased chance to make things happen on Sunday, the 49ers really need Gore to pick things up and be the centerpiece of the offense. A run on first down shouldn't bring up 2nd and 8 every single time ... Gore was signed to a three-year extension, and by most accounts, has not slowed down in practice. Even if Smith moves the ball, Gore needs to be better than he has been. He's supposed to be one of the league's premier backs, and if he's not there anymore, we'll know very soon.
The Cincinnati Bengals don't exactly have a porous run defense, but in both games they've played, they've given up at least as much as Gore has had in week one and week two. Gore rushed for 47 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts in week two against the Dallas Cowboys, and 59 yards off of 22 attempts, with a long of 18 against the Seattle Seahawks in week one. As a contrast, the Bengals allowed Willis McGahee to go for 101 yards and a touchdown off of 28 carries, and Peyton Hillis added 57 yards off of 18 carries in week one.
Factoring in the backups, the Bengals have allowed 208 rushing yards through two weeks, and that's a number Gore will like one way or another. This isn't do-or-die for the 49ers running back, but it's certainly a point where he needs to be able to move the chains, otherwise the team just might see a little more of Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon.
The San Francisco 49ers received some good news at practice today as quarterback Alex Smith was cleared to both practice and play in this week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. In addition, wide receiver Michael Crabtree was able to participate in limited drills and continues to look like he will play on Sunday. Here is the entire injury report:
CB Tramaine Brock (hand), QB Alex Smith (concussion)
WR Michael Crabtree (feet)
Did Not Participate
No real surprises here. It is unfortunate that Edwards will miss the game, but he had to have a basic procedure on his knee, which could leave him out between two and four weeks.
With Crabtree back in the mix, depending on his health, it will be interesting to see if Smith and the coaching staff open up the playbook and attempt to incorporate him into the offense in as many ways possible.
For more 49ers coverage, be sure to check out the good guys at Niners Nation.
According to CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has been fully cleared to practice the rest of the week and play in Sunday's meeting with the Cincinnati Bengals out at Paul Brown Stadium.
Smith suffered a 'low-grade concussion' during Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss to the Cowboys according to a team spokesperson, so low that it wasn't even recognized during the game. Smith took six sacks but did not report any problems to the team's medical staff, and it is not fully known when he actually sustained the concussion. Alex made sure to talk with 49ers director of football operations and sports medicine Jeff Ferguson before leaving the stadium to let him know that something wasn't right..
Regardless of his injury, Alex stayed on the field to finish the job, something that head coach Jim Harbaugh really admires about him:
Tough son of a gun," Harbaugh said Wednesday when asked about Smith. "He was making some big-time plays."
It was the first concussion ever sustained by Smith in his seven year career in the NFL, well, that had been reported anyway. Hopefully it will be his last.
For more on the 49ers, head over to Niners Nation.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith has been dealing with a concussion this week, according to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area's Matt Maiocco. The news comes as a surprise to many since Smith didn't get the concussion during Sunday's game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite the concussion, Smith was a full participant in practice on Wednesday, according to The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows. Limited or missed practice time for Smith would be a detriment to the 49ers, who are already dealing with injuries to key receivers such as Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree. The former is out with a knee injury indefinitely after taking a hit during Sunday's game while the latter continues to deal with a nagging foot injury.
Crabtree may return this Sunday, but his return will be insignificant if Smith isn't around to throw him the ball. Thankfully, that doesn't look like a real possibility. Smith practiced without limitations on Wednesday and should be under center on Sunday.
The San Francisco 49ers will be losing wide receiver Braylon Edwards for a decent period of time. Edwards suffered a knee injury during the Niners-Cowboys game this Sunday, and has apparently ruled to be out indefinitely. The 49ers offense never looked quite the same with Edwards out of the game (not that his impact was incredible, he did have only one catch, but he did force Cowboys defenders to pay extra attention to him), and sputtered down the stretch without that additional receiving threat.
The 49ers could get a reprieve before this week's game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Matt Maiocco of Comcast Sports Net Bay Area reports that wide receiver Michael Crabtree is slated to return from his foot injury according to head coach Jim Harbaugh. If healthy, he could immediately move back into being the #1 option for the team, complementing Josh Morgan and Ted Ginn, Jr. But Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says that Crabtree himself doesn't know how ready he'll be for Sunday's game, so his effectiveness is probably still at best a 50-50 proposition. Alex Smith is going to have to be ready to work with the personnel he has; he can't count on Crabtree being in tip-top shape.
For more on the 49ers, head to Niners Nation.
San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon at the team's headquarters in Santa Clara, and reportedly stated that wide receiver Braylon Edwards had "a little procedure" on his injured right knee that will leave him "out for a little bit" according to the Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows via twitter.
Edwards injured the knee early in their 27-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, leaving the Niners receiving core full of holes as their other top WR Michael Crabtree missed the entire game due to his nagging foot. Harbaugh did admit that he expects Crabs to be ready to go this week out in Cincinnati against the Bengals, which will undoubtedly help out with Edwards on the sideline; while give rookie Kyle Williams some extra time on the field as well.
The Niners' Scott Kegley also reported that veteran cornerback Shawntae Spencer will see some more action this week after finally getting his hamstring healthy enough to play, missing almost all of the preseason and regular season thus far. Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock undoubtedly need some assistance in the secondary, as was shown by the Cowboys game, which hopefully will come in the form of Spencer this week.
For more on the Niners, head over to Niners Nation to get in on the action.
Another week of the NFL, another round of opening lines to come out for the games all around the league. For the San Francisco 49ers, they will travel to Cincinnati to face the Bengals and their bevy of young players. The 'Niners will not be the favorites this week, though, or at least they won't be to the oddsmakers in Las Vegas. OddsShark.com has the lines and the over/under for the matchup:
Bodog.com: Bengals (-3; +110), 49ers (+3; -130)
5Dimes.com: Bengals (-1 1/2; -125), 49ers (+1 1/2; +105)
BetOnline.com: Bengals (-3; +105), 49ers (+3; -125)
As for the game itself, it's looking like it should be a closely-contested matchup that could go either way. Each team features a roster with an assortment of young playmakers and a turnover or big defensive stop late in the game could play a huge role in the outcome. This is also the first road game of the year for San Francisco, which is something to keep an eye on as well.
For more 49ers coverage, Niners Nation is the place to check out.
The San Francisco 49ers are 1-1 and are hitting the road to take on the Cincinnati Bengals. They let a game against the Cowboys slip away from them in overtime in week two, so they'll be looking to get a win on the overlooked Bengals here in week three. For more on the game and the team in general, go to Niners Nation, SB Nation's San Francisco 49ers blog.
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