Playoff run no longer distant dream for 49ers

With six games remaining in the season, the 49ers find themselves in a position to make a run at the NFC playoffs. While coach Mike Nolan has not spoken directly to his team about postseason possibilities, he has made it his goal since the first day he met with his team to focus on the NFC West. Outside the team's locker room is a banner that reads, "Win the West."

With their 20-14 victory over two-time defending division champion Seattle on Sunday, that goal does not appear laughable any longer. The 49ers trail the Seahawks by one game in the standings, with the teams scheduled to meet again Dec. 14 in Seattle.

"I really don't talk about it right now because we haven't proven ourselves to be there," Nolan said about the playoffs. "What we're talking about is the division and where we stack up in the division. When you're talking about games you're going to play, it's a better visualization of an opponent instead of using that 'playoff' word.

"We can see St. Louis, they're in our division, and they're one game behind us. WE can see Seattle, they're a game ahead of us, and we just played them. We play both of those teams, and even Arizona. Anyhow, that gives our team a better visual."

That is the approach the 49ers will take this week as they prepare to face the Rams, a team the 49ers defeated 20-13 in the second week of the season. The 49ers (5-5) are in second place all alone, one game ahead of the Rams and one game behind the Seahawks in the NFC West standings.

Quarterback Alex Smith said Sunday's game against the Seahawks was the first game with any true implications that he has played in his career. He said he began getting excited six days earlier in anticipation of facing the reigning NFC champs.

"It's a good thing to want that - to want to make that happen, to play in big games," Smith said. "When you play games that mean something, you gain from that."

The 49ers currently stand No. 8 in the pecking order for the NFC's six playoff berths. Only six teams in the conference have a better record than the 49ers, and five of them stand just one game better than San Francisco at 6-4.

"It does not help our football team to be jumping ahead," Nolan said. "Right now, I'm all for the dreaming and doing that. But we've got teams to play that, basically, you could say are in our ay. We've got things to accomplish that are real to make that happen."

***** ***** *****

Wide receiver Antonio Bryant was arrested on charges of reckless driving and driving under the influence after being pulled over in San Mateo several hours after Sunday's victory over the Seahawks.

Bryant allegedly was seen speeding in his 2005 Lamborghini in speeds in excess of 100 mph on U.S. Highway 101, the freeway that overlooks Monster Park.

< According to police officials, Bryant was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor charges of reckless driving, driving under the influence and resisting arrest. Bryant was uncooperative with police and allegedly was combative and verbally abusive.

He was booked into the San Mateo County jail early Monday morning and released a few hours later on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to appear in court Dec. 28.

***** ***** *****

Running back Frank Gore has found a place in the 49ers record book.

Gore, a second-year player, rushed for a franchise record 212 yards against the Seahawks, leading the way in the upset victory.

"It felt good," Gore said. "The (offensive) line, fullback, wide receivers, they all did a heck of a job blocking up front and downfield. (FB) Moran Norris told me it would be a good day when we left the hotel."

Gore averaged 8.8 yards on his 24 carries. His performance eclipsed Charlie Garner's 201-yard performance against the Cowboys in 2000 as the best rushing day in club history.

Gore is second in the NFL with 1,043 yards rushing and is just two yards behind league leader Larry Johnson of Kansas City. Gore's total already is the most yards allowed by a San Francisco back since Garrison Hearst gained 1,206 yards rushing in 2001.

Gore must average 88 yards a game in the final six games of the season to break Hearst's team mark of 1,570, which he set in 1998. Gore currently is on a pace to finish the season with 1,669 yards rushing.

***** ***** *****

Defensive lineman Marques Douglas made some very impressive plays when the 49ers needed them most against the Seahawks. He got great penetration to trip up running bakc Shaun Alexander on a critical fourth-and-1 just inside the two-minute warning. Douglas got his mitts on Alexander, then cornerback Walt Harris finished him off.

"We knew they were going to test the right side (of the 49ers defense)," Douglas said. "(Coach Mike) Holmgren is a great coach, but he has some tendencies. We knew they were going to go behind (LT) Walter Jones."

Douglas and nickel pass rusher Roderick Green both recorded sacks against the Seahawks' best offensive lineman late in the game. Douglas worked a stunt with defensive end Melvin Oliver, then bounced off Jones for a big sack late in the game that forced that fourth-down play. Then, on a later Seahawks possession, Green beat Jones for a sack.

"Walter and I were going at it, and that one time, I came off the ball really quick," Green said. "I felt like I knew the snap count. It was a great thing to get out there and do what I do, which is rush the passer."

Niners Digest Top Stories