With a new-found .250 winning percentage, the 49ers took a step back from impending mathematical elimination. Compounded with losses by both Arizona and Seattle, the 49ers' victory on Halloween may have brought just a glimmer of hope for a division title back from the dead.
Troy Smith looked like possibly the best 49ers quarterback since Jeff Garcia. In fact, watching a squirrely, undersized quarterback eek out a victory for the 49ers using every available tool in the world reminded me a lot of "Gilroy Garcia."
This Smith showed very good foot coordination and was able to buy himself time to make deep passes that forced Denver's safeties to respect an over-the-top threat.
Through the stubborn play calling that has become a recent tradition for the 49ers under Mike Singletary, San Francisco managed to win the turnover, and time of possession battles.
Troy Smith also scored two touchdowns. The first one came on a slick one-yard bootleg to the right to tie the score at 10 points apiece. This run, which came after Denver's Tim Tebow scored on a quarterback direct draw, prompted one announcer to declare "we've now seen two one-yard runs by former Heisman Trophy winners today."
Ok, ok, where are the 49ers playoff chances now?
Smith's second touchdown of the day came on a 28-yard pass to Michael Crabtree up the sideline. Crabtree has a touchdown in both of San Francisco's victories this year.
The 49ers defense dominated Denver's offense through the first half, hardly allowing the Bronco's to even move past midfield. In the second half, however, the Bronco's offense showed up. Brandon Lloyd beat Taylor Mays on a rout, but the speedy Mays caught up with Lloyd and brought him down at the one. On the next play, though, Tim Tebow ran a play we saw roughly a billion times when he was in college.
Although the game was clinched by a Shawntae Spencer interception, the two defensive players that stood out the most were probably Justin Smith and Manny Lawson.
Justin Smith recorded two sacks, four tackles (two for losses) and a couple more quarterback pressures.
On one play late in the fourth, Smith took a double-team from two Broncos linemen and simultaneously threw them both back about three yards into the pocket. I don't even remember who that particular play ended, but the display of strength was a reminder of who the 49ers have playing right defensive end.
Manny Lawson had quieter numbers, but also made Denver's quarterback, Kyle Orton, look like a half-chewed plate of bangers and mash by the time the game was over.
Lawson, who's in a contract-year this season, recorded three tackles and a sack. Two (weak) personal-foul penalties were called on Lawson because Orton was about to cry, but Lawson continued to make his presence known (and felt) regardless.
So, which Halloween costumes did the 49ers wear?
Obviously Justin Smith was the Incredible Hulk. Manny Lawson was some kind of angsty Superman, Frank Gore was basically Optimus Prime, the offensive line was a bunch of Teletubbies, Mike Singletary was the ancient and out-dated philosopher Plato, Alex Smith was the Invisible Man, Troy Smith was Kazaam and we'll go ahead and say Michael Crabtree was a young Terrell Owens.
As for the Broncos, call Brandon Lloyd a scary ghost of 49ers past and Josh McDaniels was some kind of giant, squawking bird. Kyle Orton almost came as Superman too, but amidst the chaos of international travel, he came instead as Wonder Woman.
The reality now is that the 49ers are going into their bye week at 2-6. Luckily for them, this means they are only two-and-a-half games out of first place for the terrible NFC West crown, with five division games yet to be played. And what that means, is that the 49ers' playoff hopes have (somehow, yet again) been brought back from the dead.