49ers finally finishing

After taking over as 49ers interim head coach on Oct. 20, Mike Singletary unveiled a banner he calls, "49ers formula for success." It's a five-point plan in which the fifth element is "finish." It took them awhile, but the 49ers finally finished a game Sunday in their 10-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

The 49ers' defense kept the Bills out of the end zone on all four trips inside the red zone. And when the Bills took over for one last opportunity to tie the game, the 49ers' defense had all the answers.

The Bills got nowhere on four plays, and the game was over.

"We knew coming in here it was going to come down to the defense," Singletary said. "It was going to come down to trying to keep them out of the end zone, particularly red-zone defense. I'm excited about what our defense was able to do."

The 49ers improved their record to 4-8. They won for the second time in five games under Singletary. The 49ers have a two-game lead for second place in the NFC West, but they have virtually no chance of winning the division.

Any combination of a 49ers loss and an Arizona Cardinals victory in the final four games of the season would eliminate the 49ers from the playoff picture.

With their victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, the 49ers reversed a trend for themselves and West Coast teams, in general.

The 49ers had won just three of their previous 30 games that started at 10 a.m. (Pacific time). Also, the 49ers became the first team from the West Coast to get a victory in the Eastern time zone this season in 17 tries.

"I just think if you're prepared to play and you're ready to play, you can be tired another time," Singletary said. "I don't really buy that. I just think when you're prepared, you're ready to go. You're hungry, and you got to get it done."

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Cornerback Nate Clements claims to have the ability to block out everything during games. He said he does not get affected by the weather conditions and he does not hear the crowd.

So does that mean he didn't hear the boos from the Buffalo crowd when he was announced as the 49ers' deep man on a punt return in the first quarter?

"I did hear that," Clements admitted. He played his first six NFL seasons with the Bills, but he said there was a logical explanation for the crowd reaction.

"They did that by default, because I'm with the opponent," Clements said. "Deep down, they really love me."

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The 49ers' defense had a streak of allowing the opposition to score 10 or more points in 23 consecutive games before the 10-3 victory over Buffalo.

The last time the 49ers held an opponent to only three points was midway through the 2006 season when the 49ers defeated Minnesota 9-3.

It was the franchise's best defensive performance on the road since a 38-0 victory at New Orleans in the final game of the 2001 season.

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Running back Frank Gore was disappointed in his performance Sunday. He rushed for just 66 yards on 24 carries. He fumbled twice, losing one of them. His lost fumble came as the 49ers were driving to put the game away in the third quarter.

"I feel like I could've played a lot better," Gore said. "I told my offensive line that I owe them. In that situation down in the red zone, I can't be putting the ball on the ground. I'll get better next week."

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The 49ers have not given up on third-year linebacker Ahmad Brooks, who was waived from the 53-man roster over the weekend so that the team could elevate receiver Chris Hannon from the practice squad for the game at Buffalo.

With wideouts Arnaz Battle and Josh Morgan out for the game with injuries, the 49ers needed some insurance at the receiver position, where Hannon suited Sunday as the fifth wideout behind starters Isaac Bruce and Bryant Johnson, slot receiver Jason Hill and fourth receiver Dominique Zeigler.

Brooks, the inside linebacker whom the 49ers are high on developing for the future, cleared waivers and was signed back to the roster Tuesday. Brooks was inactive for San Francisco's first 11 games of the season after joining the team before the regular season began after being released by the Cincinnati Bengals.

Hannon, who did not play Sunday, was waived from the roster to make room for the return of Brooks. He likely will be signed back to the practice squad if he clears waivers.

PLAYER NOTES

WR Isaac Bruce has gone long stretches of the season without being much of a factor, but he has been productive for two games in a row. In catching five passes for 67 yards, Bruce also increased his team-leading number of touchdown receptions to six for the season.

QB Shaun Hill continues to do everything asked of him as the 49ers' starter after taking over for J.T. O'Sullivan. Hill is 2-2 as the 49ers' starting quarterback. On Sunday, he managed the game very well in helping the 49ers to a victory over the Bills. Hill completed 14 of 23 passes for 161 yards with a touchdown and a passer rating of 96.5.

RG Chilo Rachal, a rookie, made his second career start and appeared to play much better than he did in his starting debut a week earlier against the Dallas Cowboys. Rachal was promoted to the starting lineup, not because of the play of former starter Tony Wragge, but because the 49ers believe Rachal has a chance to be "special."

P Andy Lee had a strong game in conditions not conducive to punting. While Brian Moorman was struggling for the Bills, Lee came through with an outstanding game. He averaged 47.3 yards (39.2 net) on six punts to play a huge role in a game decided by field position.

S Mark Roman came up with his third takeaway in 48 games with the 49ers when he recovered a fumble that Patrick Willis forced in the second half. In his first 47 games, all starts, Roman had recorded just one interception and one fumble recovery.

REPORT CARD VS. BILLS

PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus -- All things considered, it's difficult to believe quarterback Shaun Hill could have played much better. The inclement weather made it very difficult for the passing game. Yet, Hill completed 14 of 23 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. His passer rating for the game was an efficient 96.5. One pass that would've gone for more than 20 yards was dropped by first-year receiver Dominique Zeigler. Hill has gotten good production in back-to-back games from veteran receiver Isaac Bruce, who caught five passes for 67 yards and a touchdown. Hill was sacked three times, but the offensive line did a nice job of giving him time to throw on a regular basis.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- For the second consecutive game, the 49ers got nothing going on the ground. Frank Gore was very disappointed in his play, as he gained just 66 yards on 24 carries. He also fumbled twice, losing one of them. His turnover late in the fourth quarter gave the Bills the ball at their own 18-yard line. Receiver Jason Hill's number was called on an end-around, but that play resulted in a 4-yard loss.

PASS DEFENSE: A -- The 49ers' secondary rebounded from a rough showing against the Cowboys a week earlier to put together a very solid performance. The 49ers recorded three sacks of Bills quarterback J.P. Losman, and all of them were the result of great coverage down field. The Bills wanted to get the ball deep on occasion, but the 49ers' secondary didn't let them have any room to operate. The 49ers were particularly impressive in the red zone, where they held the Bills four times without touchdowns.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The 49ers' run defense was not great, as Marshawn Lynch had a big game. He rushed for 134 yards on just 16 carries. Lynch peeled off a 50-yard run, but the big play came from linebacker Takeo Spikes who tracked Lynch down to prevent a touchdown. Oddly, the Bills used backup Fred Jackson on some short-yardage runs, and the 49ers did a much better job against him. Jackson carried five times for 8 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus -- Kicker Joe Nedney gave the 49ers a big lift before halftime when he booted a 50-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead. In a game such as this, field position was key. Punter Andy Lee had a terrific game under the conditions. Lee averaged 47.3 yards on six punts. His net average was a very strong 39.2. Contrast that with Bills punter Brian Moorman, who managed averages of 26.0 (25.0 net) on three punts.

COACHING: A-minus -- Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky put together a solid game plan against the Bills, and it paid dividends in the red zone. The 49ers' defense was prepared to play against the Bills, and it showed. The secondary made a point not to allow Bills receivers to get behind them for big plays. Coach Mike Singletary saw to it that offensive coordinator Mike Martz carried out a conservative game plan. Singletary has done a good job of keeping Martz in check, making sure he does not employ the high-risk, high-reward kind of play-calling for which Martz is known.


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