Some 350 miles away from Sunday’s matchup between the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals in Glendale, Arizona, a large group of 49ers fans gathered to cheer on their favorite NFL team. It was at the San Francisco Saloon in Los Angeles where Webzone fans and a large number of the Los Angeles based 49ers fans came out in force. While the loss was somewhat familiar to what fans witnessed during the 2005 season, what took place at the end of the game was something new.

Last year, 49ers fans would hang their heads in disgust or dismay after watching yet another futile attempt to earn a win. Fans would watch and hope for some signs of life from their beloved Bay Area team. This team, so rich in history, had hit an all-time low last season ranking last in both offense and defense. This past Sunday was different. This team was different. No longer was the offense the butt of jokes around the office cooler the next morning. No longer did our #1 pick in the 2005 NFL Draft appear lost and confused. Yes, something was very different.

While they made their share of mistakes, the 49ers fought hard for 4 quarters and made a furious comeback at the end, recovering an onside kick and coming within a Hail Mary of sending the game into overtime. At the end, as the 49ers watched the clock in the Cardinals’ brand new stadium hit double zeros being on the losing end of a 27-34 score, the fans at the San Francisco Saloon did not hang their heads in shame. They did not punch walls in frustration. The fans at the San Francisco Saloon stood up and gave a round of applause for the team’s valiant effort. Yes, their team had fallen. However, they showed them something that they had not seen for what must seem like an eternity. They saw signs of life. They showed them progress. Yes, the San Francisco 49ers were fun to watch again.

Some game observations

At last, Alex Smith looked like a pro quarterback. He has already equaled his touchdown total from the 2005 season and has thrown 11 less interceptions. He threw for a career high 288 yards and looked like the team’s leader. More so than he ever has. Just imagine what he could do with a little more talent surrounding him.

Antonio Bryant, the 49ers’ big receiving acquisition from the offseason, was MIA for the entire first half of the game. He did not catch one pass and his frustration toward his young quarterback and the lack of passes thrown his way was obvious. However, by the end of the game he had 4 receptions for 114 yards.

If he can stay healthy, Frank Gore is the future. He carried the ball 16 times for 87 yards. An average of over 5.4 yards a carry. Not only that, but he added 83 more yards on 6 receptions. However, his lost fumble with 7 minutes left in the first quarter was costly. It resulted in a Cardinals touchdown.

Vernon Davis got his first NFL touchdown on a 31 yard pass reception from Alex Smith during the team’s first drive of the game. It was a beautifully planned fake bootleg to Smith's left. However, Davis had multiple dropped balls throughout the rest of the game and, like Gore, a fumble in the first quarter. That too resulted in a Cardinals touchdown.

Yes, that missed field goal in the fourth quarter by Joe Nedney was painful to watch. Nedney was the team’s most consistent player in 2005.

Our pass defense is just horrible. Sure, the Cardinals have a lot of talent at wide receiver, but that does not make fans feel any better. Every time you see Sammy Davis out there, you just have to roll your eyes. If Larry Fitzgerald were to take the day off the next time we meet, we may be ok.

The defense held Edgerrin James to 73 yards on 26 carries. Impressive.

That was amazing pass protection when Larry Allen and Jonas Jennings were in there. When they were not, it was still better than last year. That sack by linebacker Gerald Hayes in the third quarter was the only one of the game.

Even after Allen and Jennings were both out, Gore was still able to run the ball effectively. A much better sight than Barlow’s “one yard and hitting a brick wall” performances that we are used to.

Ok Kwame Harris, that holding call nullifying a 52 yard touchdown pass from Smith to Bryant was not your fault. Instant replay showed us that. But bad call or not, why is it that every time there is a penalty that hurts us big time, you are somehow involved?!

Derek Smith, I love your 100+ tackles every year. But you were out of position way too much in this game. But hey, you still got your 8 tackles and 1 assist. You are well on your way to over 100 again, but where do you think you are going on some of these plays?

The defense has to get some kudos for finally putting some pressure on Kurt Warner. They started out slow but eventually started to rattle him. How many times did we see him readjust his ridiculously oversized jersey?

It was good to see Arnaz Battle actually playing in a real game. While he did not have a great day receiving passes, his 60 yard return in the forth quarter was very exciting.

Adding some inspiration for the next time these two teams meet (which will be on Christmas Eve in San Francisco), cornerback Antrel Rolle had this to say after the game: "Coming down to a Hail Mary at the end, there’s no way it should have been that close. It should have been a 40-to-nothing game. … Misdirection, a lot of trick plays, a lot of throwbacks. We knew they were going to go out and do that, because they couldn’t beat us just playing straight-up football."