Former 49ers linebacker Keena Turner, a four-time Super Bowl Champion, understands what's going out on the turf better than most which is what he'll try to share with you in his column Turner's Turf. In this week's entry, Turner recaps Sunday's divisional win over the Arizona Cardinals.
HUGE win, gigantic win and I'll tell you what impressed me overall. There were a lot of great things but the one thing that impressed me more so than anything was the attitude of the team in all facets – they came out to play.
I really feel that this whole season we've seen a willingness to keep coming out and playing with a great attitude, so I was just happy that the team was able to benefit and reap the rewards of the hard work they've been putting in by getting the win.
There were two examples that stuck out in my mind that come to mind when you think about determination and grit and attitude.
The other play was Donald Strickland at the end of regulation in the end zone, he plays Bryant Johnson perfectly. He doesn't look back at the ball, he doesn't look back at the quarterback, he reads the receiver who makes the catch, but Strickland doesn't give up and knocks it out for an incompletion. That set up a field goal to tie instead of a touchdown for the win.
The play by Joe Staley in overtime when he ran down the wide receiver Sean Morey from behind, man Patrick Willis has some wheels. He can run, and he didn't give up on that play. If that receiver scores, game is over right there. That was an amazing second effort to chase down the receiver from behind. The defense holds and they have to kick the field goal and we know what happens. The rest is history, but those two plays really stuck out in my mind.
There were other plays that were more monumental plays – Walt Harris' two interceptions, Nate Clements strip, the biggest play of the game because it won it with the Ron Fields sack and forced fumble and fumble recovery in the end zone by Tully Banta-Cain, but those other two small plays really demonstrated the mindset and the attitude to me that this team was not going to quit.
The scary moment in the game for me aside from the whole finish was the play at the end of the first half. We've talked about Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin as probably two of the best wide receivers in the league. Kurt Warner throws that one up in the air and it was beautifully done. Larry Fitzgerald went up in the air and got the ball at the highest point and showed his strength to come down with the football intact for the touchdown at the end of the half. That was a scary moment for me because it brought back memories for me. I was part of the Billy White Shoes Hail Mary years back when we played Atlanta and unfortunately for us that was the last play of the game and Atlanta won it. Fortunately for the 49ers that was the last play of the half and they had ability and toughness to come back in the second half and gut it out and win a game.
Especially on the defensive side of the ball, hats off to the determination and the pride that they've played with all season long and showed again on Sunday. This game they were able to present more and more opportunities to their offense and the offense in turn, did something with those opportunities.
Frank Gore, man, what a guy, what a football player. He is as tough as nails and I tell you, when I watched him in the first quarter and saw him go out hurt, I thought there was no way he comes back in the game. The way he went down on an ankle that he's already been having problems with, the way he got to his feet and didn't look like he could put any pressure on it and then how he held on to Mike Nolan to get some balance on the sidelines, I said, "Man, Frank is done for the day."
But, in true Frank Gore fashion, he said the trainers put a heck of a tape job on him so he could get back out there and play. I think it had a lot more to do with Frank Gore's attitude. He goes back in the game and has almost 100 yards receiving, over 100 yards rushing, two fantastic touchdown runs. He showed his great power, his great moves once he gets in the open field, and the ability to run away from people and run over them. Those were all trademarks we saw all last year from Frank, and we saw them in this game against Arizona.
For Frank to get that kind of production, hats off to the offensive line. They were doing their job up front.
Trent Dilfer, I think he did an amazing job, and the one thing he's done every time he's been out there is show his toughness and leadership. He takes the hit and comes back and looks to give it out. You can't help but be better playing with a guy with that kind of attitude. I think for him to be an example for Alex Smith and a stabling factor for the offense is a big plus.
The line gave him some time and Trent found his options. Arnaz Battle takes the short one and goes the distance and outruns the secondary to get in the end zone. I liked seeing Vernon Davis being very active in the red zone as an option. It was apparent that Frank was used in check down situations that were really productive. Trent would look down the field and when he didn't like what he saw, he dumped it down to Frank who picked up positive yards and first downs a lot of the time with that second effort that Frank always runs with.
I just think Trent did a masterful job of taking advantage of the turnovers and putting the offense in position to score points and win the game.
I think the all-around performance and the win was big, especially given that it was a road game against a formidable opponent because Arizona is looking to still stay in the playoff hunt. Arizona had every reason to want this game and the 49ers took it away.