Top Rookies to Collide in San Fran

Linebacker Patrick Willis is strong candidate for rookie defensive players of the year. Adrian Peterson is a favorite for offensive rookie of the year. The will likely collide plenty when the Vikings travel to play the 49ers on Sunday.

Linebacker Patrick Willis figures to be seeing a lot of Adrian Peterson on Sunday. He just hopes it's close to the line of scrimmage when the two rookies meet each other.

Willis and Peterson are the favorite to be the NFL's defensive and offensive rookies of the year based on the first 12 games of the season. Willis and the San Francisco 49ers and Peterson's Minnesota Vikings meet on Sunday.

The 49ers' rush defense, coming off a rough game, will have a major challenge against Peterson, who has rushed for 1,197 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie.

"Our goal every week is to hold them to under 100 yards and stop whoever we're playing," Willis said. "That's our goal every week with everybody. We need a good week of preparation."

Willis recorded 18 tackles for the second consecutive game last week in a 31-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Those tackles felt a bit empty for Willis, who had an identical stat line the previous game in a 37-31 overtime win against the Arizona Cardinals.

"Getting 18 tackles doesn't feel like anything," Willis said. "After losing, those stats don't mean as much."

The 49ers were unable to maintain any momentum their rousing victory over the Cardinals.

The 49ers have lost nine of their past 10 games and are assured a franchise-worst fifth consecutive losing season.

The sentiment around the 49ers is that coach Mike Nolan will get a fourth season to turn things around. Despite owning a 14-31 record in three seasons, Nolan has instituted a franchise structure that appears to have the approval of owner John York.

The 49ers (3-9) have fallen out of contention in the NFC West, as they were mathematically eliminated with their loss to the Panthers. The 49ers trail the division-leading Seattle Seahawks by five games with four to play.

After jumping out to a 2-0 record and elevating their hopes for the season, the 49ers have been one of the worst teams in the NFL. That slide has come as a shock to several free agents who came to the organization expecting big things.

"This really is shocking to me," said safety Michael Lewis, who signed with the 49ers as a free agent from the Philadelphia Eagles. "I really studied this team. Then we got off to a good start but we've really faltered. I feel we have the team in place, but we just have to get better overall."

Running back Frank Gore, one week after gaining 214 total yards and two touchdowns against the Cardinals, was held to 58 yards rushing on 12 carries and 53 yards receiving on five catches.

He, like a lot of players in the locker room, is a firm believer in Nolan.

"Coach Nolan, I know he much he wants it," Gore said. "I want it for him. Coach Nolan is a hard worker. We'll get there. We just need to keep working and keep focused."

NOTES

  • QB Trent Dilfer threw four interceptions. He threw four picks in the 1996 season opener while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Dilfer completed 14 of 29 passes for 171 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. His passer rating was 50.3.

  • LB Patrick Willis recorded a game-high 18 tackles, matching his performance the previous week. Willis recorded 17 solo tackles in the game to extend his league-leading total.

  • P Andy Lee had another strong showing. Lee totaled a 48.2 average on his five punts, including a remarkable 46.2 net average. For the season, Lee has averaged 49.5 yards on his league-high 79 punts, including a 43.3 net.

  • RB Frank Gore rushed for 58 yards on 12 carries and had 53 yards on five receptions. He was scheduled to leave immediately after the game to attend the funeral of Sean Taylor, his good friend and former University of Miami teammate.

  • WR Arnaz Battle had four catches for 51 yards and a 20-yard touchdown reception. Battle was the only one of the 49ers' wideouts with more than one reception in the game.


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