Niner of the Week

Defensive back Mike Adams is SFI's final NOTW of the 2005 season for his performance during the 49ers' season-ending 20-17 overtime victory against the Houston Texans.

Sunday standout: The second-year cornerback/free safety made his first start at cornerback this season and turned it into the best game of his career. With the 49ers struggling on offense and trailing 17-10 in the third quarter, Adams stepped in front of Houston quarterback Tony Banks' pass near the right sideline and returned the interception 40 yards for a game-swaying touchdown that got the 49ers even on the scoreboard and into overtime, where another big pick by Adams was the pivotal play that decided the outcome. With 5:31 remaining in the extra period and Houston at its own 16-yard line, Banks dropped back to pass on first down and lofted a deep pass down the left sideline intended for speedster Corey Bradford. Adams, running stride for stride with Bradford, adjusted to the ball and made his second pick of the game. With Bradford wrapped around his legs at the 44-yard line, Adams had the presence to lateral the football back to safety Ben Emanuel, who returned it 35 yards to the Houston 21. Three plays later, after two Frank Gore runs positioned the 49ers at the Houston 15, Joe Nedney kicked a 33-yard field goal to end the game and give the 49ers a two-game winning streak to finish the season. Adams also led the team with three passes defensed and finished the game fourth on the team with six tackles behind Emanuel, Shawntae Spencer and Derek Smith, who each finished with seven tackles.

2005 season: Adams was one of the surprise success stories of San Francisco's season, winning the job as the 49ers' nickel back during the summer, then taking over as the team's starting free safety in late September after Mike Rumph failed in his early three-game trial at the position. Adams started nine games at safety and developed into one of San Francisco's top defenders before spraining knee ligaments in Week 13 against Arizona and missing the next two games. Adams finished the Arizona game despite the injury and had an interception. For the season, he finished tied with Spencer for the team lead with four interceptions and had five passes defensed – each of them coming in his final three games. Adams also finished the season fifth on the team with 68 tackles and also had one sack and a fumble recovery.

Need to note: Adams, who made the team last year as an undrafted free agent, also had a game-winning interception in the season opener against St. Louis. He had eight games this season with five or more tackles. Adams had his first career interception last year after he was elevated from San Francisco's practice squad at midseason. Adams also has been a top special teams player, but he was taken off most of those squads when he became a defensive starter early in the season.

Looking ahead: Adams appears to have earned his niche in San Francisco's secondary of the future, whether it be a starting position at safety, cornerback or nickel back. The 49ers are high on his potential and versatility and are almost certain to tender Adams an offer as an exclusive rights free agent during the offseason, if not offer him a multi-year extension to lock him up for seasons to come.

ALSO CONSIDERED: RB Frank Gore (108 yards rushing on 25 carries, two receptions); K Joe Nedney (two field goals, including game winner in overtime, good placement on kickoffs); CB Shawntae Spencer (seven tackles, one pass defensed); LB Derek Smith (seven tackles, around football all afternoon).

COMPLETE 2005 NOTW LIST: Week 1: DE Bryant Young. Week 2: P Andy Lee. Week 3: WR Brandon Lloyd. Week 4: DE Bryant Young. Week 5: LB Jeff Ulbrich. Week 6: No selection (49ers bye week). Week 7: RB Frank Gore. Week 8: K Joe Nedney. Week 9: LB Julian Peterson. Week 10: K Joe Nedney. Week 11: WR Brandon Lloyd. Week 12: CB Shawntae Spencer. Week 13: S Keith Lewis. Week 14: LB Julian Peterson. Week 15: RB Frank Gore. Week 16 LB Derek Smith. Week 17: DB Mike Adams.

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