Numbers state obvious: Hill a big improvement

Since 49ers coach Mike Singletary made the decision to go with backup quarterback Shaun Hill, the team has not been so generous to the opposition.

The 49ers, who still are tied for the NFL lead with 30 turnovers, made fewer mistakes than the opposition in recent victories at Buffalo and against the New York Jets. They also didn't commit a turnover in last week's 14-9 loss at Miami.

With Hill at the controls, the 49ers envision using the same approach Sunday against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome.

The 49ers played well enough to win on offense in the loss to the Dolphins. The Niners had the ball in striking range in the final minutes of the game, but could not cash in with the winning score.

Hill now has enough passing attempts to qualify among the NFL leaders in passing. He ranks eighth in the league with a passer rating of 91.8. Singletary likes what Hill is doing. He stopped short of saying Hill is a great quarterback, but he believes teams can without possessing one of the elite quarterbacks in the game.

"I think it depends on how good the guys are around him," Singletary said. "I don't think it's just the quarterback. You can have a great quarterback, but if you don't have the right people around him, it doesn't matter because you are never going to know.

"And I do believe there are some great quarterbacks that have come through this league and you never knew they were a great quarterback because they got the crap beaten out of them for awhile and by that time they lost confidence in everything else."

J.T. O'Sullivan started the first eight games of the season for the 49ers, committing a league-high 17 turnovers, which at the time was more than the entire total of many NFL teams.

Hill has started San Francisco's past six games. The 49ers were 2-6 in games O'Sullivan started. They're 3-3 with Hill under center.

Here is how some of the other statistics compare between the two quarterbacks:

Hill has thrown 224 passes on the season, while O'Sullivan attempted 220. Hill has completed 63.4 percent, compared to O'Sullivan's 58.2 percent, O'Sullivan averaged 7.6 yards per attempt, while Hill's average is 7.1.

Hill has thrown 10 touchdowns, compared to O'Sullivan's 8.

Where Hill has distinguished himself is in the area of avoiding negative plays.

Hill has thrown four interceptions, lost two fumbles and been sacked 18 times. O'Sullivan lost his starting job after throwing 11 interceptions, losing six fumbles (not including another fumble that resulted in a safety) and getting sacked 32 times.

With Hill at quarterback, the 49ers are vastly improved in the area of third-down conversions, too.

The team converted just 27.6 percent of their third downs with O'Sullivan, while they're hitting on 45.5 of third downs with Hill at the controls.

"I think the quarterback is good enough," Singletary said. "How good? I don't know. He's good enough for what we need right now and I think the offensive line is good enough. We are a work in progress."

Hill feels the same way about his development as a starting quarterback.

"There's been some good," Hill said. "There's been some things that I would like to have done different. But I think that's with anything. There's certainly a couple of wins in there that I kind of feel like we should have gotten and I would've like to have gotten."

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