49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

November 29, 2009
Air Raye is the difference in Niners win

Jimmy Raye has been public enemy No. 1 for 49ers fans as their team has dropped five out of their last six contests in recent weeks. His game plans had been stodgy and predictable, and he had been reluctant to open them up until the 49ers were trailing by three scores. But today, Raye ceased to be Jimmy Raye, curmudgeonly assistant. He was Air Raye, ambitious innovator.

Raye called 29 passes in the first half - the most Alex Smith ever had attempted in one half of play - and all but eight of them were out of the shotgun position. He mostly ignored the fullback, who to this point has been a harbinger of one-yard losses, for a second tight end. And it worked. The 49ers were aggressive, ambitious and creative, and for all intents and purposes they put the game out of reach by halftime. You have to credit Raye for his best game plan on the season.

What happens when one of the league's most porous offensive lines face the NFL's most anemic pass rush? On Sunday, the offensive line won handily as the 49ers line didn't allow a sack for the first time this season. In fact, the 49ers didn't go backward often against the Jaguars. They incurred only one penalty - for a five-yard loss - and didn't commit any turnovers.

Meanwhile, the 49ers defense took advantage of a Jacksonville team trying to pass itself back into the game by sacking quarterback David Garrard six times, all of them coming in the second half. Parys Haralson and Justin Smith led them team with 1 ½ sacks apiece. One of the most critical was delivered by outside linebacker Manny Lawson, who stopped what had been a promising Jaguars drive early in the third quarter when he sacked and stripped Garrard of the football. Justin Smith recovered it at the San Francisco 27. Lawson also dropped what would have been an easy interception earlier in the game.

"Manny stepped up," Mike Singletary said. "I hate that he missed the one (interception opportunity). He had it. He was running before he had it, obviously. But we have a few guys on defense that are playing well." One of those players is fellow outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who played ahead of Lawson in the team's nickel alignments Sunday. "I think it'll go back and forth," Singletary said. "They'll both play a lot at that position."

Ten minutes after the 49ers were in the locker room, an explosion of noise could be heard from within. The cause? The Tennessee Titans had just beaten the Arizona Cardinals on a last-second touchdown pass. The 49ers' win coupled with the Cardinals' loss means that San Francisco is two games back in the race for a division title. The teams meet at Candlestick Park on Dec. 14.

"One of the things I don't want our team doing is looking at what Arizona is doing, but you can't help but ..." Singletary said. "If a situation works out like that, that's fantastic. We just have to be sure that we earn the right to look at what they're doing."

Vernon Davis's three-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave him nine for the season, tying a franchise record for most touchdown catches in a season for a tight end. Ted Kwalick (1976) and Brent Jones (1994) also had nine in a season.

Safety Curtis Taylor suffered the 49ers' most serious injury when he strained his hip on a kickoff return. Meanwhile, defensive end Kentwan Balmer suffered a sprained shoulder while Haralson had a thumb bruise.

Singletary almost drew a 12-men-on-the-field penalty when he called a timeout early in the fourth quarter. The coach got 15 yards onto the field before officials noticed him. Said Singletary: "I was going to go all the way to the huddle. ... Whatever I have to do to do that, I'll do it every time."

-- Matt Barrows

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Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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