Stock watch: Rising and falling 49ers

Taking a look at the biggest movers among the units and individuals whose stock is rising and falling for the 49ers as the team heads into Sunday night's matchup of undefeated NFC powers against the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park.


Wide receivers: We knew – with the addition of Randy Moss and Mario Manningham – that the 49ers would be better this season at wide receiver, perhaps the weakest unit on the entire team last year. But we didn't know they would be this much better this quickly. Moss made an immediate impact during his first game in a San Francisco uniform, catching all four of the passes that came his way, and he provided a much-needed red zone target while hauling in a 14-yard catch in the end zone for the Niners' first touchdown of the season. His presence alone also helped open up opportunities for others in San Francisco's offense in general and passing game in particular, especially Michael Crabtree, who with more space to work continued his emergence as San Francisco's go-to receiver with seven receptions for 76 yards. In his 49ers debut, Manningham also caught all four passes that were thrown in his direction. San Francisco wideouts caught 15 of the 17 passes that were thrown at them Sunday for 152 receiving yards, accounting for 75 percent of the team's receptions and 72 percent of its passing yards. With four first-round draft picks – two of whom didn't even play Sunday – this unit definitely is on the way up.

QB Alex Smith: Smith began gaining praise from long-time skeptics for what he accomplished last season, but on Sunday he began gaining some true believers that he can make an impact as a winning quarterback. He made plays throughout the day to keep the San Francisco offense churning towards its totals of 377 yards and 30 points, completing 20 of 26 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn't just that Smith put up those solid numbers on a big stage. It was the way he did it, playing with poise and determination and, perhaps most significantly, with consistency from start to finish – not always one of his strongest traits.

LB NaVorro Bowman: After earning first-team All-Pro honors in just his second NFL season last year, can Bowman's stock really go up much after just one game? Well, yes, if that game is the star-making performance he had against the Packers, when Bowman made plays all over the field, led the 49ers with 11 tackles, and had perhaps the key defensive play of the game with his athletic interception of Aaron Rodgers in the fourth quarter. On a big stage, Bowman asserted that he's not just one of the NFL's best linebackers – he might be one of the league's best defensive players at any position.

FB Bruce Miller: In the grand scheme of things, Miller played a supporting role in the big victory and was overshadowed by several other more prominent performers. But the second-year veteran's stock vaulted upward after he played a career-high 37 snaps and was a key cog in San Francisco's well-oiled offensive machine. Miller delivered several key blocks to spring the running backs behind him, particularly on 10- and 21-yard gains by Frank Gore. He also led the way around the corner on Gore's 23-yard TD run. In addition, Miller showed that he can also be a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield with a 15-yard reception – matching the second-longest catch of his career.

K David Akers: He's already the NFL's reigning first-team All-Pro kicker after setting a league scoring record last season. But didn't Akers' shining star just get a little brighter when the 37-year-old veteran tied another NFL record by nailing a 63-yard field goal?


Punt coverage team: The play should have been nullified by a block-in-the-back penalty on Anthony Dixon on which the officials initially threw a flag but later reversed their decision by picking it up and waving off the infraction. Still, Randall Cobb raced through this unit for a 75-yard touchdown return that immediately changed the complexion of the game in the fourth quarter and gave the Packers a chance after they'd been dominated the first three quarters. And Cobb might have scorched this unit for that long scoring return even if Dixon hadn't been illegally blocked, because Dixon might not have been able to get a hand on Cobb anyway.

TE Delanie Walker: The veteran didn't have a lot to show for his 34 snaps of action. He flat out dropped one pass that was thrown right into his chest, then could not adjust to an off-target Alex Smith throw on a third-down pass in which he was open. With several other receiving weapons now vying for playing time with Walker, he needs to take advantage of the opportunities that come his way to stay on the field.

OT Joe Staley: It's not that Staley played poorly Sunday; he actually had a good start holding the left edge. But he appeared to wear down a bit as the game progressed, and he ultimately was beaten in his individual battle with speed rusher Clay Matthews, who finished with 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hits. Since he was the NFC's starter at left tackle in the Pro Bowl last season, those numbers put a stain on Staley's reputation.

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