49ers vs. Jets: Thumbs up and thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for certain 49ers after their 24-14 win over the Jets, including coach Mike Singletary, QB Shaun Hill, WR Isaac Bruce, San Francisco's fumbling problems, OT Joe Staley's TD celebration, taking risks on fourth down, offensive coordinator Mike Martz, RB Frank Gore's injured ankle, the 49ers in third-down situations, the 49ers' offensive line and much more? Check inside.

Thumbs up: First and foremost, let's give it to Mike Singletary for turning around the 49ers' season. San Francisco won't be going to the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, but suddenly anything seems possible for the Niners as they play out the season. This is a different team through and through than the outfit that struggled to a 2-7 start just a month ago, and Singletary gets the credit for that – and for pushing the right buttons to bring out the best in his team. The 49ers just assembled back-to-back victories against winning teams for the first time since 2002, and they did it against two good teams who both are fighting for the playoffs and have everything to play for. You think anybody in the NFL right now wants to play the 49ers?

Thumbs up: Brett Favre has owned the 49ers throughout his career, but San Francisco laid a heavy dose of payback on Favre this time. The 49ers hit him and harassed him throughout the game and beat Favre for just the second time in 13 games facing the future Hall of Fame quarterback. And they're now 1-0 against Favre when he's wearing the green and white of the New York Jets.

Thumbs up: How many 49ers quarterbacks have ever out-played Favre? Well, you can say with certainty that Shaun Hill outplayed Favre on Sunday. Except for one miscommunication interception that temporarily changed the momentum of the game, Hill was magnificent, completing 28 of 39 passes for 285 yards and a quarterback rating of 98.8. That's 148 more passing yards and 38 more rating points than Favre produced Sunday. Hill's feathered touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson in the corner of the end zone to complete the scoring in the fourth quarter was a thing of beauty.

Thumbs down: For a while there, it looked like the 49ers were trying hard to screw up a good thing with five fumbles. Why do the 49ers have so much trouble holding onto the football? Fortunately for them, they recovered four of those fumbles themselves, including one in the end zone by offensive tackle Joe Staley for a touchdown. Still, at least three of the fumbles were simply careless ball protection, and the 49ers have to do better because – as we've seen often over the past half decade – the ball isn't always going to bounce their way.

Thumbs up: You've got to love an offensive tackle that knows what to do with the ball in his hands in the end zone. Staley's touchdown celebration – a resounding, jump-in-the-air spike followed by a little flexing – fired up everybody and came after he'd given the 49ers a 7-0 lead with the first touchdown of his two-year career. He might never score another, but the picture of his first won't soon fade from memory.

Thumbs up: A big round of applause to Singletary for taking some risks, going for it twice on fourth down in his own territory. Sure, the 49ers needed less than a yard to make the first down both times, but those were moves that could have easily backfired on the 49ers had they been stuffed. But they weren't, and San Francisco converted on both opportunities, with one of those drives finishing in the end zone, and that just added to the 49ers' growing confidence. The surprising move for a game-opening onside kick after winning the opening coin toss and deferring the option to New York also was a gamble that didn't hurt the 49ers and ended up spiking the team's confidence.

Thumbs up: Have you ever seen a quarterback execute a hard count much better than Hill did on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter? With the 49ers facing fourth down at their own 43, Hill's hard count had nose tackle Kris Jenkins ploughing into center Eric Heitmann before the snap and giving the 49ers a gift first down at a time when getting it on their own certainly would have been more challenging.

Thumbs up: As the weeks pass, the ageless Isaac Bruce looks more and more like a No. 1 receiver as he glides across the field and gets open for important throws. Bruce had game-high totals of six receptions for 70 yards Sunday, and several of them came at opportune times for the 49ers. He was as important as anyone in keeping San Francisco's offense moving to its impressive total of 375 yards.

Thumbs up: This may have been Mike Martz's finest performance this season as San Francisco's offensive coordinator. Martz mixed up his play-calling brilliantly throughout the afternoon to keep the Jets off balance and the 49ers moving up and down the field. Twenty-five first downs and 375 total yards are a fine day's work for any offensive coordinator. And the 49ers would have had more points on the board if not for their two turnovers.

Thumbs down: You had to cringe when running back Frank Gore went down in a heap and was slow to get up after a running play, then had to be helped off the field to the sidelines, never to return to action the rest of the game. At the time of his injury, Gore was only 22 rushing yards shy of becoming the first back in San Francisco history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

Thumbs up: Fortunately for both Gore and the 49ers, Gore's X-rays were negative and he only has a sprained ankle. The way Gore was looking and talking in the locker room, it will take more than that sprained ankle to keep him off the field when he goes home to Miami for the first time as a pro to play the Dolphins next week.

Thumbs up: For a team that has had its third-down struggles on both sides of the ball this year, the 49ers were superb in third-down situations throughout this day. Offensively, they converted 8 of 15 times on third downs, and defensively they were fantastic, allowing the Jets to convert just once in 10 third-down tries on the afternoon.

Thumbs up: It never gets old seeing the old timers honored at Candlestick Park, and that certainly holds true for former 49er Fred Dean, the great defensive end who was honored at halftime with his Hall of Fame ring ceremony. Dean certainly has his prominent place in the 49ers dynasty, and nobody should ever forget it.

Thumbs up: Second-year receiver Jason Hill continues to become a force in the passing game. Hill had several big receptions Sunday, and the move he put on cornerback Darrelle Revis to pick up a first down on a third-and-6 pass deep in New York territory was to die for – not to mention that it set up San Francisco's game-clinching touchdown.

Thumbs down: For a good pro who works as hard as Nate Clements, it was disappointing to see his streak of 116 consecutive starts come to an end because of his broken right thumb that required surgery earlier this week. Clements had played in 124 consecutive games to begin his career before sitting out Sunday's game with his injury.

Thumbs up: But on this day, Clements was hardly missed because of the outstanding play of cornerbacks Donald Strickland and Tarell Brown, who spent most of the day in Clements' spot on the left corner. Strickland started and also went inside when the 49ers went to secondary packages that used extra defensive backs. Brown stayed step for step with his receiver on a deep ball in the early going that could have sparked the Jets, and both he and Strickland made commendable contributions to the Niners' shutdown of the New York offense.

Thumbs down: It seems like we've been down on this guy all season, but DeShaun Foster simply has to do better when his number is called. For the first time this season, the 49ers really needed Foster in a key role after Gore went down in the third quarter. He responded by gaining just 35 yards on 16 carries and fumbling once. His longest gain was six yards. He gained 17 fewer yards than Gore despite the benefit of two more carries.

Thumbs up: This rates up there with the finest performances of the season for San Francisco's offensive line. And it came against one of the best defensive lines in football. The play of tackle Joe Staley, center Eric Heitmann and guard David Baas was particularly notable. Baas is really starting to come into his own and is showing some nice athleticism for a 330-pound man while pulling on run plays.

Thumbs up: Can you believe it? We actually saw a reception by fourth-year tight end Billy Bajema. Why is that so notable, you ask? Bajema has not had a reception since he caught five passes as a rookie in 2005. His five-yard reception Sunday ended a streak of 47 games and almost three full seasons without a catch. The number Bajema wears on his back? That's also 47. We're assuming that's just a coincidence.

Thumbs up: As we go down the list, it's notable to point out that Shaun Hill completed passes to 10 different receivers, a season-high for the 49ers and perhaps the first time that has happened in several seasons. Notable among the list is young Dominique Zeigler, who continues to come on and contributed two more receptions for 44 yards, including a 31-yard catch-and-run in which he displayed some nice burst.

Thumbs down: They were bailed out by a holding call behind the play, but the 49ers' coverage teams once again were burned by a big play, this one the ultimate burn – a 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Leon Washington in which San Francisco's kickoff coverage team whiffed on him several times. Fortunately, it didn't count. If it had, it would have given the Jets a 21-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Thumbs up: Considering the opponent, that has to rank as one of the best performances of the year by the San Francisco defense, if not the very best. The 49ers were on top of the New York offense all day long. The Jets assembled touchdown drives of 61 yards and 45 yards with a short field, but they had no other drive that produced more than 22 yards and seven other drives that produced nine yards or fewer. Patrick Willis (six tackles), Michael Lewis (seven tackles), Parys Haralson (five tackles, 1.5 sacks, two QB hits), Aubrayo Franklin (four tackles) and Justin Smith (one sack, two QB hits) were notable in this outstanding effort.



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