Alex Smith

Expensive 49ers worth every penny today

I have to say, I’m exhausted. This statement might be colored (literally) by the fact that this weekend marked the first time I’ve watched college or pro football on a modern TV in my own apartment, but this was the best sports-on-television weekend I can ever remember.

Michigan/Notre Dame. UCLA/Tennessee (I’m starting to think Lane Kiffin is as bad at coaching offense as his daddy is good at coaching defense). USC/Ohio State. The US Open, featuring the strangest tennis moment I’ve ever seen last night when Serena Williams was disqualified for supposedly threatening the life of a line judge. Tiger Woods reminding us all that he’s still Tiger Woods. Brad Penny asserting himself as the best Giants starter in September (and if you’d like an explanation as to why the Giants are now 4.5 games behind the Rockies, look no further).

But the 49ers still run this town, even if they’d like nothing more than to move 45 miles away, and today is going to excite a lot of people — two of them reside in my apartment. And the reason why the Niners were able to defeat the defending NFC Champions on their own home FieldTurf was because their highest-priced players all stepped forward and earned their money.

Nate Clements was all over the place. Justin Smith made the play of the game when he sacked Warner on 4th-and-5 on the Cardinals’ final drive. Vernon Davis did drop a ball, but he also made the two most important first downs of the game on the Niners’ winning drive, and didn’t celebrate either time. Michael Crabtree was a force all game, constantly … OK, at least they aren’t paying Crabtree anything yet.

Who’d have thought the 49ers would turn to the passing game at the end of a comeback situation on the road out of necessity? Shaun Hill could probably feel the lukewarm breath of Alex Smith on his neck going into the winning drive, after a pretty nondescript game against the Cardinals’ ferocious front seven, but he too was money down the stretch.

But really, I’m exhausted. Here’s some game notes before I cap my sports weekend with a little Bears/Packers, followed by some True Blood. Hell, after this outstanding (and unexpected after how the third quarter went) win against the Cardinals, I might even enjoy Hung tonight. Wait, that came out wrong. I know, that’swhatshesaid that’swhatshesaid that’swhatshesaid…

— Mike Singletary just said, “It was an ugly game, but it was beautiful — for us.” I’m telling you, the Mike Singletary lovetrain has only just left the station. Remember how often ABC would focus on Singletary’s eyes whenever the Bears were on Monday Night Football during his playing days? Oh yes, the world is more than ready for some Singletary. Sort of like how the world is past due for another Shaggy renaissance (as my buddy Mac says, the world renews its fascination with Shaggy every five years or so).

— When I think of football experts, the first names that come to my mind are Gary Radnich and Willie Brown.

— Radnich’s biggest contribution thus far on Comcast’s postgame show was yet again making fun of Parys Haralson’s lasik eye surgery commercial on KNBR. Willie won’t rest until he’s spit at least 20 cliches this afternoon. Eric Davis looks almost as high as Sam Perkins. And yes, I’m watching every minute, so maybe Comcast knows what they’re doing.

— As Sports Girl Liz said during the fourth quarter, “God must have told the 49ers to sack Kurt Warner” today.

— There was some pretty bad run blocking today, and I know it’s sacrilege to rip on the team’s best offensive player on a day where he scored twice, but Frank Gore seemed to miss a lot of running lanes to the outside today.

— Jerheme Urban (who could definitely fill up a spot in Bill Simmons’ “Reggie Cleveland All-Stars” team) was given a TON of looks today. Anquan Boldin can’t be even close to healthy right now.

— Example No. 7,937 why preseason football is totally overblown: Glen Coffee.

— Before we get too excited, realize that the 49ers gained 203 net yards today.

— Anybody who took Kurt Warner early in fantasy football has to be really, really worried. He clearly hurt his hand (probably his thumb, knowing Warner), and the 49ers were able to rattle him with pressure for perhaps the first time in his career today.

— Two reasons why Niner fans should give thanks that Jed York finally decided to replace Mike Nolan with Singletary: the play where the 49ers were flagged for twelve men on the field and successfully challenged the call (with Nolan, the Niners WOULD have had 12 men on the field, Nolan would have heard that from the coaches upstairs and challenged the play anyway), and a newfangled defensive strategy — actually playing aggressively from time to time.

— Jimmy Raye’s offense was underwhelming as all hell today, but the play he called on the winning touchdown pass to Gore was absolutely perfect with the Cardinals sending the house against Hill.

— OK, Willie Brown just called Takeo Spikes a “model.” Now I know why Willie’s there, to pick apart the 49ers’ postgame interview outfits.

— Josh Morgan had a decent first half, then was completely ignored by Hill after Isaac Bruce caught that 51-yard bomb in the second quarter, often with Hill forcing the ball to Bruce through double- and triple-coverage.

— Finally, the 49ers had a great win today. They’re clearly in the conversation with the other non-Rams teams in the NFC West. Their three most expensive players did a great job today, as did several not-quite-as-expensive players (nice to see Manny Lawson making some noise, and Patrick Willis looks well on his way to an All-Pro season and perhaps a defensive MVP). Still, this offense is stale. Gore isn’t a mediocre back by any means, it’s just that the Niners’ passing game is barely passable, even though it was enough to win today. Still, you’d think the 49ers would be less tempted to capitulate to Michael Crabtree’s desires after a win like this on opening day, and now it seems like the team needs him more than ever. This team is easily good enough to be 8-8 this season; with an offensive weapon like Crabtree around to pull defenders away from Gore, Davis, Bruce and Morgan it would stand to reason that 10-6 would at least be slightly more likely with the former Red Raider around.

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