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Friday, September 14, 2012
Around the NFC West: The 49ers' style

By Mike Sando

The fourth-quarter interception Green Bay's Tramon Williams made Thursday night put the Packers' offense at the Chicago 26-yard line.

This was a classic "sudden-change" situation, and we all know what was supposed to happen next. The Packers, leading 16-3, were supposed to "take a shot" at the end zone, and they did. Aaron Rodgers' 26-yard scoring pass to Donald Driver on the next play amounted to a knockout punch in the Packers' 23-10 victory.

Of course, every team has its own style. While this play typified the aggressive downfield approach Green Bay used with great success through most of last season, the San Francisco 49ers might have opted for a different approach. Case in point: how they handled a sudden-change situation against those same Packers in Week 1.

The 49ers held a 23-15 lead with 8:59 left when linebacker NaVorro Bowman picked off Rodgers, setting up San Francisco at the Green Bay 23-yard line. Instead of "taking a shot" at the end zone, the 49ers lined up with two backs and three tight ends. Two of those tight ends were actually offensive linemen (Daniel Kilgore and Leonard Davis). A power formation all the way.

Alex Smith handed off to Frank Gore, who ran around the right side for a touchdown. The 49ers were "taking a shot" in their own way. The call fit their personality.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com takes a closer look at that run and specifically Gore's role in it. Price: "Teammates certainly appreciate the diverse play-calling from the team’s second-year coordinator, but they also value everything Gore brings to the table. Exceptional vision, quick footwork, patience through running lanes and a relentless running approach make Gore one of the best backs around. Third-year running back Anthony Dixon considered Gore’s 23-yard score as one of the best he’s seen from San Francisco’s all-time leading rusher." Noted: Great run, no question, but Dixon, who was in high school when Gore was a rookie in 2005, might want to go back into the archives. There's more where that one came from.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee looks at the role backups are playing in the 49ers' success.

Also from Barrows: Alex Boone, coming off a strong debut start at right guard, prepares for Ndamukong Suh.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com shares Steve Young's thoughts on Smith's success.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team always intended to bring back Kellen Clemens as its backup quarterback once its injury situation stabilized at other positions. Good line from Clemens: "The big thing we can take away here and I think one of the main reasons I’m back when I am is because of the speed that I have so that I can simulate Robert Griffin on the scout team. I think that’s the point that could get lost."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at Rodger Saffold's quick recover from a neck injury. Saffold could play Sunday. Steven Jackson: "I'm actually quite amazed. Especially the way he was taken off the field on Sunday. For him to be with us now on Thursday, especially considering he may be playing (against Washington) -- that's big for him. If he's 100 percent, I actually believe he's going to try to go. If not, we all understand."

Dan Caesar of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says there's a role for Jim Hanifan on Rams broadcasts.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Darnell Dockett's dominant play and disciplined approach played a leading role in the Cardinals' season-opening victory. Urban: "The stats aren’t flashy, but this is what defensive coordinator Ray Horton had in mind. If he plays like that, is it any wonder linebacker Paris Lenon is getting off for a career-high two sacks? Or Daryl Washington piling up 10 tackles? And that doesn’t even include the benefits Dockett delivered after the game when he spoke in support of quarterback Kevin Kolb after the game, not only going out of his way to praise the QB but also making sure to have a dose of realism in his thoughts. Dockett told Jim Trotter he’s willing to back any quarterback the Cards use."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic shares Bill Belichick's thoughts on Larry Fitzgerald.

Art Thiel of Sportspress Northwest looks at the changing of the right guard in Seattle. Thiel: "Looking back on the opener, the Seahawks went a rookie too far. No, it wasn’t necessarily quarterback Russell Wilson. But right guard J.R. Sweezy didn’t have much business starting in an offensive line that was the most surprising disappointment in the loss at Arizona. It won’t be a problem Sunday -- John Moffitt will be starting at right guard attempting to annoy the Dallas Cowboys. Sweezy was one of the best story lines in preseason, a defensive lineman chosen by the Seahawks in the seventh round to line up at guard, a position he never played."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' offensive line must do better handling blitzes. O'Neil: "Seattle had only one play of more than 20 yards in the season opener: a 27-yard completion to tight end Zach Miller. Increasing the big-play production is going to take time. Specifically, Seattle needs to give Wilson more of it in the pocket."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Wilson is looking for improvement on third down and in the red zone.