|Mike Nolan rewards Niners after streak-snapping victory in Arizona|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 26 November 2007 15:06|
A day after the Niners stopped their eight-game losing streak with a 37-31 overtime victory in Arizona, coach Mike Nolan gave his players part of Monday off to reflect on their accomplishments. They even got a souvenir to remember it by: Nolan awarded game balls to every player.
In another city, such effusiveness over a midseason win might be laughable. For the 49ers (3-8), who already are guaranteed their fifth consecutive season without a winning record, any cause for celebration must be embraced these days.
``The eight-week span was a difficult one on everyone,'' Nolan said Monday after he avoided becoming the first coach in 49ers history to lose nine consecutive games. ``I'd like to see with the five weeks remaining after this, that we start a streak unlike the one we were just in.''
For the offense, a break was well deserved after the first solid performance of San Francisco's entire season. Though the final result was only possible because of a missed field goal by the Cardinals' Neil Rackers and an improbable end-zone fumble by Kurt Warner, the 49ers (3-8) moved the ball with purpose and flair for much of regulation.
San Francisco recorded season highs with 37 points, 374 total yards, 237 yards passing, 137 yards rushing and 21 first downs. Frank Gore came through with a solid game in a frustrating season, rushing for a season-high 116 yards and catching a career-high 11 passes for 98 more.
After the 49ers' highest-scoring game since 2003, Nolan resisted the temptation to place the credit on new offensive assistant Ted Tollner, hired last week to provide counsel for rookie offensive coordinator Jim Hostler.
Though Nolan emphasized Hostler's primacy in the offensive game plan, he again compared the situation to veteran assistant Bill Arnsparger's impact on Nolan when they were put together in a similar situation with the Washington Redskins in 1999.
``It was somebody who had done it - somebody that's there as a little bit of security,'' Nolan said. ``I would like to think that (Tollner) being here makes a difference. ... All I can say is it's a positive influence. I would like to think it just continues to get better.''
Nolan also gave rave reviews to Trent Dilfer, who went 25-of-39 for 256 yards and two touchdowns. Nolan raised eyebrows when said Dilfer provided the best quarterback play of Nolan's three seasons in San Francisco during last week's loss to St. Louis.
``He did even better than he did last week,'' Nolan said. ``I think everyone would agree in watching that game. Since he's been playing, he seems to get better and better each week.''
The game also included another remarkable effort by 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, who was credited with 18 tackles - the most by any 49ers player since at least 1994, though the team felt he deserved credit for more than 20.
Willis, who played with a cast on his broken hand, also made perhaps the game's biggest tackle when he ran down Arizona receiver Sean Morey in overtime. The open-field sprint held Morey to a 62-yard catch instead of a touchdown, eventually forcing the Cardinals to try Rackers' field goal attempt.
``It's impressive, but I'm not surprised because he does have outstanding speed,'' Willis said. ``He's got outstanding desire. Chasing somebody down not only has to do with your speed, it has to do with your want, and he's not short on either one of those.''
On the flight home, assistant head coach Mike Singletary leaned across the aisle to Nolan and said, ``Patrick's special.''
Though the 49ers were given a few hours to bask in their success, Nolan realizes his club has a chance for a strong finish that probably would guarantee his job security for 2008 with a few more weeks of concerted effort.
San Francisco's next three opponents have losing records, starting with Sunday's visit to the Carolina Panthers, who have lost five straight and are 0-5 in Charlotte this season.
``We've got an awful lot to play for,'' Nolan said. ``We've got five weeks, five games. That can add up to a lot of good football. I think (Sunday) was a good example of the capabilities of our football team.''