Niner of the Week

Linebacker Brandon Moore is SFI's Niner of the Week for his performance in the 49ers' 9-3 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, an easy selection since Moore also was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Wednesday for his exploits in that game.

Sunday standout: The fifth-year linebacker, making his first start of the season at inside linebacker, was all over the field while producing the best game of his career and one of the best individual games by a San Francisco defender this season. Moore finished with a career-high 15 tackles - eight of them solo - and had two stops behind the line of scrimmage. He also created havoc when Minnesota attempted to pass, taking part in two of San Francisco's three sacks, producing three other quarterback hurries and forcing a fumble that was recovered by the 49ers. Each of Moore's 15 tackles stopped the Vikings short of a first down, and he stuffed Minnesota ball carriers for gains of two yards or fewer on 10 of his stops. Moore set the tone with his first tackle, when he and tackle Ronnie Fields stoned running back Chester Taylor for a 1-yard gain on Minnesota's second offensive play of the game. Moore also stopped Taylor for a 1-yard gain six plays later, and he twice had solo stops of Taylor for one-yard losses and another solo stop of Taylor for no gain in the third quarter. Moore combined with tackle Anthony Adams to dump quarterback Brad Johnson for a 10-yard loss on third down to halt a Minnesota drive later in the quarter, then combined with Bryant Young to deck Johnson for a three-yard loss on third down early in the fourth quarter, producing a fumble that was recovered by Manny Lawson and setting up San Francisco's final scoring drive that led to Joe Nedney's 51-yard field goal. With the game swaying in the balance midway through the fourth quarter, Moore took over on the ensuing Minnesota drive after Nedney's final field goal. He stopped Taylor for a five-yard gain with a solo tackle after Taylor caught a short pass on first down, then stuffed Taylor for a two-yard gain on second down. On third down, Moore provided pressure on Johnson and hit him as he released the football, forcing an incompletion on third-and-3 and forcing the Vikings to punt the ball back to the 49ers with six minutes remaining. Moore also hit Johnson, forcing an incomplete pass, after the Vikings had reached midfield late in second quarter, and he was the defender that got in the way between Chester Taylor and receiver Travis Taylor - and was hit by the latter - when Travis Taylor was flagged for an illegal block above the waist that nullified Chester Taylor's 65-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown, which could have been the difference in the game had the play been allowed to stand.

Season to date: After his big game against the Vikings, Moore moved from ninth on the team in tackles to sixth with 39, passing Walt Harris (33), Marques Douglas (33) and Mark Roman (27) along the way. Moore also moved back into a tie with Bryant Young for the team lead with three sacks for 25.5 yards in losses, and he ranks second on the team behind Young with eight quarterback pressures and second behind Harris with two forced fumbles. He also has made strides in pass coverage and has broken up one pass. Moore started at left outside linebacker in Week 3 and Week 4, producing three tackles and a sack against the Eagles in Week 3 and six tackles at Kansas City the next week. His best effort of the season before last week was an eight-tackle effort against St. Louis in Week 2, and he had two quarterback pressures and a forced fumble against Arizona in the season opener.

Need to note: The NFC Defensive Player of the Week accolade is the first time Moore has been honored by the league in his career, and he received a game ball from coach Mike Nolan after the victory. Moore is the first San Francisco player to be recognized as Defensive Player of the Week since Bryant Young in Week 1 of the 2005 season. Moore began training camp this summer as a starting outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 scheme, but he was moved into a situational role when the 49ers began tinkering with a 4-3 scheme that was better suited to their personnel. Moore, who signed a five-year, $8 million deal with the 49ers as an unrestricted free agent in March, entered this season with 14 career starts, including 10 last season. After seeing spot duty on defense and starring on special teams (52 combined tackles) in his first three NFL seasons, Moore had a breakout season last year when he ranked second on the team with 93 tackles and led the 49ers with five sacks, which ranked him sixth in 2005 among all NFL linebackers.

Moore says: "(The NFC award) is a great honor, and I'm just happy I can share it with the rest of my teammates. I feel a little bit more comfortable playing inside, but in this business, it's the more you can do and whatever you can do. Wherever I can contribute is where I'm comfortable. I got into a bit of a rhythm throughout the game (against the Vikings) and I felt pretty comfortable. Really, (that game)'s something to build on for me. As a player, whenever you're given the opportunity, you want to take advantage of it. Once you're given an opportunity, you either sink or you swim, so I just went out and tried to do the best job I could. Whenever you can go out and contribute to a win and be a significant part of the team chemistry and what the team is doing, that says (you belong)."

Coach Mike Nolan says: "He did an outstanding job in the game. It just goes to show that somebody who through the season has been in a backup role, when the opportunity came for him to be the starter, he did an outstanding job. We felt Brandon had been playing well lately and he deserved the opportunity to start there, so we made the decision to give him that opportunity. (Brandon)'s an aggressive player. He did a good job tackling in the game. He wasn't 100 percent, but he did a nice job. When he missed the tackle, he stirred it up enough for somebody else to get him. The ball carrier had to stop-start, as opposed to just avoiding him and going on for more yardage. Brandon did a nice job and played well."

Looking forward: Moore may have quickly entrenched himself in San Francisco's starting lineup, and his big game against the Vikings could be the beginning of a long run as a starter as the 49ers move forward on defense. "Brandon's a starter now and is in there more frequently," Nolan said. Moore will continue to play inside linebacker on first and second downs and move to the edge to rush the quarterback as a defensive end on some passing downs. After the spark he injected into the San Francisco defense against Minnesota, the 49ers appear certain to make frequent and optimum use of Moore and his skills throughout the second half of the season.

ALSO CONSIDERED: K Joe Nedney (scored all of 49ers' points on field goals of 25, 30 and 51 yards, put down another beauty of an onside kick that was recovered by 49ers, sent kickoffs to the Minnesota 1- and 2-yard lines); P Andy Lee (Averaged 48.5 yards on six punts with outstanding net of 42.2, consistently got 49ers out of holes and helped team in the struggle for field position in a tight game); DE Marques Douglas (strong interior play, four tackles, one sack for 20-yard loss, forced fumble on that play that was recovered by 49ers and led to field goal that gave San Francisco a lead it never relinquished).

2006 NOTW LIST: Week 1: RB Frank Gore. Week 2: WR Antonio Bryant. Week 3: QB Alex Smith. Week 4: DE Marques Douglas. Week 5: CB Walt Harris. Week 6: QB Alex Smith. Week 7: No selection (49ers bye week). Week 8: RB Frank Gore. Week 9: LB Brandon Moore.


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