Not many people predicted the Niners to win vs. the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football. They were coming off a heartbreaking, playoff killing loss to the Seattle Seahawks, and really missed out on any chance they had to sneak into the playoffs.
However, they showed up at Candlestick Park ready to play on Monday night, and the whole defense was the star of the show. The Niners defensive unit forced 7 turnovers and was in the face of Kurt Warner all night long. Ahmad Brooks, who recently was promoted into the Niners nickel defense as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, showed why the Niners promoted him by collecting 3 sacks of Kurt Warner and making him fumble the ball twice. Brooks has really started coming into his own since the Niners moved him into the mix on pass-rushing downs last week vs. Seattle. Brooks has 5 sacks on the year, good for second on the team behind Manny Lawson, and he really didn't start playing consistently before last week. Another guy on defense who really showed up on Monday night and played possibly his best game in the NFL, forcing two fumlbes and picking off a pass was safety Dashon Goldson. The first-year starter out of Washington was all over the field last night and he's showing exactly why Coach Singleterry and the defensive coaches are all so high on him. He's quietly put together one of the better seasons of any starting safety in the league, and should probably get some consideration for a trip to the Pro Bowl. The hard-hitting safety has 84 tackles on the year with 2 sacks, 3 picks, 2 PD's and 3 forced fumbles... Outside of Goldson and Brooks, Patrick Willis (9 tackles, 1 sack) and Mark Roman (1 forced fumble, 2 fum. recovery's) also stood out on defense.
On the offensive side of things, Frank Gore got back in the mix and received 20+ carries for the first time since week 10's win vs. the Bears. All Gored did was respond by rushing for 167 yards and a score, and breaking off a few big runs in the process. Alex Smith also looked pretty good, outside of a few ill-advised throws. He ended the night with just 144 yards through the air, with a 2 TD's and 2 Int's. It wasn't Smith's best game of the year, but he did move the chains when they had to be moved, and did throw a few exceptional passes, one which resulted in a 35-yard TD strike to Michael Crabtree. Speaking of Crabtree, his catch and run after on that play really showed Niners fans and the whole nation watching at home why he was so highly touted entering last Aprils draft. He finished the game with 5 catches and 67 yards, and has been amazingly consistent and productive after missing the first 6 weeks of the season. Tight-End Vernon Davis also added to his NFL TD reception lead by reeling in his 11th touchdown pass of the season. All in all, I think it was the most complete game, from special teams to offense, defense and coaching, that the 49ers have put together all season long, but unfortunately it came a week to late. Still though, the Niners have a chance to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2002, and if for some reason the Cardinals don't get right and lose out, while the Niners win out, then they just may sneak on into the playoffs... And check out Docs for Bodog bonus information.