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He does not have a big arm and his passes may not be as pretty as other quarterbacks, but Shaun Hill gives the San Francisco 49ers their best chance to win right now. He was not perfect on Monday night, tossing two passes into the opposition's waiting hands, but he also made the offense look better than it has all season. Hill's mobility and quick thinking resulted in zero sacks by the Arizona Cardinals defense. His command of the offense and enthusiasm was very apparent during the team's 24-29 loss. And with 1:06 left in the game on the Arizona 42-yard line, his team down by 5, Hill gave fans something that they had not had in a very long time. Hope. Instead of knowing "our quarterback is not the type of guy that can get this done for us," fans felt like the team had a legitimate chance to score.
It will be interesting to see what Hill, now 2-1 as a starter, can do for the team to finish out the season. Fans now have to wonder how many more wins the team would have had with Hill at the helm from the beginning. Considering this was his first action of the season, he did pretty well for himself in a game where no one gave the 49ers a chance. It literally came down to the final play of the game.
You have a Pro Bowl running back – Use him!
For a while, offensive coordinator Mike Martz was calling a solid game. However, the final two drives for the 49ers were very confusing. The team was in no way out of the game. They were down by 5 points with plenty of time left on the clock. It certainly was not a "pass on every play" scenario. Throw in the fact that they have a Pro Bowl running back in their backfield, you have to wonder what Martz was thinking. If anything, that was the time to use him. During the team's final 15 plays of the game, they ran the ball twice. Those two runs came during the final two plays of the game. That makes 13 straight passing plays before the 49ers felt the need to run.
This was not a big deal during the final drive because they were in a situation where they needed to get a score with about a minute left in the game. However, during the team's second to last drive, the 49ers passed nine straight times. In Martz's defense, he called a running play once, but a penalty against Arizona forced the team to replay the down. By the eighth play on that drive, I was screaming to please give the ball to Gore. On the next play, while in trouble within the pocket and performing a bad Brett Favre impression, Hill tossed an ugly shovel pass intended for Gore but caught by Arizona safety Adrian Wilson.
Add to that the baffling call during the final play of the game. If you are going to run it, you have to get the ball into the hands of your best offensive weapon, Frank Gore, and not Michael Robinson.
You have to catch that football
There were a few "You have to catch that football" moments in the game. The one that stood out the most was by tight end Vernon Davis. Yes, Davis made a spectacular catch at the end of the first half to help put the 49ers up 21-13. The problem came in the third quarter with the 49ers leading 21-20. It was an opportunity to go up by 8. Hill threw a beautiful pass to an open Davis who made little effort to haul the football in. This was a game changing missed opportunity. The ball was literally about two feet in front of his head. Had he reached out for it, the play would have resulted in a beautiful touchdown pass. Instead, the 49ers settle for a field goal three plays later. That field goal would be their final points of the game.
For a first-round draft pick selected to be an explosive offensive weapon, you have to make that catch.