Sunday, in the 49ers' 17-13 home win over the Washington Redskins, and after apologizing to defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and his teammates, Brooks was back in the team's good graces. He started his 59th straight game with the 49ers and played 37 snaps, of 55 possible, in the 49ers' outside linebacker rotation. Smith had 52 snaps and rookie Aaron Lynch got 21. Smith had two sacks and Lynch had one.
"Last week I was selfish," he said. "This week I was selfless."
He also contributed much more, with three tackles, a pass defensed and a game-clinching fumble recovery when he plucked the ball out of the air on Justin Smith's strip-sack of Robert Griffin III with less than a minute to play.
Officially, Brooks grabbed the ball at the Washington 7-yard line and was looking the opposite direction of the end zone. But rather than spin around and head for the goal line, Brooks gave himself up and hit the grass.
"I was actually trying to get a touchdown, but one of my teammates, I think it was [Ray] McDonald, told me, 'Get down, get down,'" Brooks said. "So I went down."
But not out.
Boldin suffered a sinus fracture as well as having wires inserted in his lower jaw to correct his bite and had a concussion. He only missed two games as a result.
Sunday, Boldin had a 23-yard catch down the right seam and Clark launched himself into Boldin’s head. This time, though, it was the defender who crumpled to the ground as Boldin bounced off and ran for six more yards.
"At that point, the game’s on the line," Boldin said. "There’s no way that I cannot go for the ball at that point. You’re called upon in that moment, and your teammates are expecting you to come through for them. It’s part of football."
Clark was flagged for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and, after the game, was asked just how special Boldin is after he eclipsed Derrick Mason, Hines Ward and Charlie Joiner on the day for 20th place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yardage list.
"He’s always been," special, Clark said. "He’s a guy I’ve always admired. He always plays good football everywhere he’s been. He’s made plays everywhere he’s been, and he’s made his team better. He did that today. He came in, made plays, broke tackles, made big catches. That’s the type of guy he is."
Boldin, who had nine catches for 137 yards with a 30-yard touchdown against Washington, has also had to have a short memory when it comes to that devastating hit he absorbed in 2008.
"For me, if I changed the way I play the game, then I don’t need to play this game anymore if I’m thinking about a hit that happened five, six, however long it was," he said. "If I’m thinking about that, then I really don’t need to play this game. I’d rather not be cautious, that’s not the way that I play football. I’m an all-out type of guy, and I just see that hit as just a once-in-a-lifetime incident.
"I’ve been in that situation hundreds of times, and out of those hundreds of times, it’s only happened one time. It’s no big deal to me."
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Maybe the San Francisco 49ers are onto something when it comes to keeping their players, especially on defense, fresh late in the season.
While linebacker Aldon Smith sat out the first nine games of the season serving a league-mandated suspension and defensive end Justin Smith did not practice Wednesday or Thursday, the two combined for three of the Niners’ five sacks in their 17-13 victory over Washington on Sunday (defensive end Ray McDonald and linebacker Aaron Lynch had the others).
“I don’t have as many hits on my body as the guys who have been playing,” Aldon Smith said after the game. “So hopefully that comes into play on Thursday.”
That’s when the Niners play host to the rival Seattle Seahawks and really, the only physical issue with Aldon Smith at the moment is his left middle finger, which he dislocated against Washington.
It did not keep him from doing his job, though, as he harassed Robert Griffin III regularly and made life a living hell for rookie left tackle Morgan Moses.
Aldon Smith’s first sack came on the second play of the game, a 9-yard loss, and his second sack came on Washington’s fourth play of the third quarter, a 7-yard loss.
“Justin Smith is a great player [and] Aldon Smith is a great player and they have many great players on their offense,” Griffin said. “They played well and it just so happened that they played better than we did today.”
Aldon Smith last had a two-sack game on Dec. 15, 2013, at Tampa Bay. In all, he was credited with three tackles against Washington, with four QB hurries.
“Just working, just making plays,” he said. “We do a good job of working together. I got a good push from the guy inside, so I was able to go around and make a tackle. I was able to make a move and then make another one.
“Things are going really good. Everybody’s playing really good ball. It’s just good being back and everybody’s just doing their thing and making plays out there.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Eleven games in and the San Francisco 49ers have yet to put together a complete game, one in which the offense, defense and special teams all show up on the same day.
There was a significant development Sunday, though, in the Niners’ 17-13 victory over Washington. One that gives the team faith for the last five games of the season and, the Niners hope, into the playoffs.
That is, the first-team offense finally, mercifully scored a fourth-quarter touchdown. And the first such score of the year proved to be the difference when rookie running back Carlos Hyde rumbled into the end zone from 4 yards out with 2:59 to play. And yes, it's understood that technically Hyde is a second-stringer, but the point remains (No. 2 QB Blaine Gabbert led the backups to a TD late in the blowout loss at Denver).
“Now is a good time to have it,” 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said. “So, we’re going to need more of those moving forward.”
Things looked bleak for the 49ers earlier in the quarter, considering their final-quarter offensive travails, after Kai Forbath's 46-yard field goal gave Washington a 13-10 lead.
And when the Niners faced fourth-and-1 at their own 34-yard line with just over five minutes to play, the game was on the line. Enter Frank Gore, who gained 3 yards to extend the drive.
Then came the key catch and run of the game.
Kaepernick found Anquan Boldin down the right seam for a 23-yard pickup, the ball arriving just before Washington safety Ryan Clark, who launched his head into Boldin’s helmet. But while Clark fell to the grass, where yellow flags littered the field, Boldin bounced off and ran for another 6 yards.
“I knew I was going to get hit ... I saw the safety cheating to that side before the play even started,” Boldin said. “So Kaep made a real nice throw, which allowed me to catch the ball and protect myself as much as possible at that point.”
Clark was called for unnecessary roughness, a 15-yard penalty, so by the time the Niners lined up for their next play, they were at Washington’s 19-yard line -- two plays after facing fourth-and-1.
“Valiant effort,” Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said. “Anquan Boldin with that catch in traffic. Great throw by Colin. Our guys did what they needed to do when they needed to do it. Good teams win those kind of games. Proud of our guys.
“By any means necessary. That’s how we’re looking for wins.”
It took the Niners only three more plays to find the end zone -- a Hyde run up the gut for 5 yards, a Kaepernick pass to Boldin on the left that picked up 10 yards and Hyde’s game-winning charge.
It was particularly satisfying for Hyde in that he lost a fumble on the first play of the second quarter.
“I fumbled and they put the ball back in my hands,” Hyde said.
“It took me a minute to get over that play.”
But he did. And the Niners' offense got over its fourth-quarter case of the yips as it extended the team’s winning streak to three games.
Was it for just one game, though, or is it the springboard this team needs to really get going?
“That’s big-time stuff,” Harbaugh said. “Good team doing what it has to do to win the football game.
“They play their hearts out. Valiant effort, individual effort and team effort. What more could you want if you’re a coach?”
Maybe more fourth-quarter touchdowns by the offense to ease the anxiety.
- After taking what appeared to be a late hit on the Washington sideline, 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin exchanged, ahem, pleasantries with Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Asked about the sniping, Boldon rolled his eyes and said he did not recall exactly what the exchange was about. “He’s irrelevant,” Boldin said of Haslett.
- The season is 11 games old, and the 49ers have three first-year players making significant contributions on defense in linebackers Chris Borland and Aaron Lynch and slot cornerback Dontae Johnson. Can so much relative inexperience be a help or a hindrance down the stretch, especially in the Thanksgiving game against blood rival Seattle? “They’re not rookies anymore -- they’re pros,” said ninth-year veteran strong safety Antoine Bethea. “Thursday is go time.”
- Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin took in 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh’s news conference, and the cross-bay baseball skipper was dripping in Niners red and gold. Sure, that might make some East Bay sports natives restless -- it’s a rare sight to witness East Bay and Peninsula sports allegiances cross-pollinated here in the Bay Area -- but to be fair, Harbaugh claims all of the Bay. Two years ago, the former Stanford coach drove San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt’s car in the team’s World Series parade, but he has also been a semi-regular at Melvin’s A’s games, rocking a green-and-gold Oakland cap in the process.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- A few thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 17-13 defeat of Washington at Levi's Stadium:
What it means: The 49ers jumped Washington early, driving for a touchdown on their first offensive series, and then got sluggish until the fourth quarter, when they converted a fourth-and-1 opportunity and then took advantage of a personal foul penalty on safety Ryan Clark on a long catch and run by Anquan Boldin. Carlos Hyde's 4-yard touchdown run with 2:59 to play was the difference.
The 49ers are now riding a three-game winning streak for the second time this season.
Three turnovers -- two lost fumbles (one each by Hyde and Frank Gore) and an interception by Colin Kaepernick -- kept Washington in the game.
Stock watch: Falling -- the Niners' run game. In victories over the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants the previous two weeks, the 49ers imposed their will early and often with a power running game. Against Washington, though, not so much. With 5:36 to play, the 49ers had just 51 yards rushing, and tailbacks Gore and Hyde each lost a fumble. They made up for it, though, with 12 yards of rushing on the Niners' game-winning drive, including Gore's 3-yard pickup on fourth-and-1, and Hyde's 4-yard TD run.
Chasing Young: Kaepernick's 30-yard touchdown pass to Boldin in the first quarter did more than give the Niners the 7-0 lead; it also tied a franchise record. It was the 18th straight game in which Kaepernick had thrown a TD, tying him with Hall of Famer Steve Young, who did it from Oct. 9, 1994, through Nov. 26, 1995.
Game ball: Aldon Smith essentially had a clean stat sheet in his season debut last week, save for two QB hurries. This time? Smith, who missed the first nine games of the season serving a league-mandated suspension, made his first start and made life rough for Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III, sacking him twice and giving him a serious case of happy feet throughout the day. The Niners rarely seemed to blitz, relying mostly on standard pressure, and Smith's mere presence definitely made an impression on Griffin, who looked skittish. Smith had two of the Niners' five sacks.
What's next: The 49ers (7-4) play host to the Seattle Seahawks (7-4), who handed the division-leading Arizona Cardinals their second loss of the season Sunday, on Thanksgiving night in what many see as a possible playoff elimination game between two second-place clubs. It will also be the first of two meetings in three weeks between the NFC West rivals. The Niners have won the past five games played between the two in the Bay Area.
Right tackle Anthony Davis (concussion) and nose tackle Glenn Dorsey (forearm) were already ruled out due to injury on Friday.
The rest of the Niners’ inactives: CB Tramaine Brock, who has been dealing with a strained hamstring; tight end Vance McDonald, who was questionable after being added to the injury report Thursday with a hip issue; WR/KR Bruce Ellington, who has not practiced since spraining an ankle at New Orleans two weeks ago; and purported healthy scratches WR Quinton Patton and third QB Josh Johnson.
Jonathan Martin will start at right tackle for the sixth time this season and Perrish Cox will start at cornerback for the 11th time.
Here are Washington's inactives: QB Kirk Cousins, WR Aldrick Robinson, CB David Amerson, T Trent Williams, WR Leonard Hankerson, TE Jordan Reed, DL Chris Baker.
If so, you're not alone.
"As far as not getting those touchdowns and those yards, I'll leave that up to the coaches."
Consider: Last year, Davis was targeted 17 times in the red zone, coming away with 11 catches and eight touchdowns.
This year, Davis has been targeted once. Yes, once. That was in the season opener at the Dallas Cowboys. The result? A 2-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter that gave the 49ers a 21-3 lead en route to a 28-17 victory at Jerry World.
"I just feel like he's ready to break out, I really do," 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said Friday of Davis. "You use the old olive jar analogy.
"The olives are packed in there real tight, and you open up the lid and you can't get any to come out. You can even dump it upside down and it doesn't come out. But if you get that one to come out, then they just want to all come out and plop out."
Are you picking up what Harbaugh's putting down as the Niners prepare for Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins at Levi's Stadium?
"So, I think that's the case, and I think it's going to happen soon," he added. "Hopefully this weekend. Get that one big one and then they start coming out."
Granted, Davis has dealt with ankle, knee and back issues, and he has missed two games, his most since missing two in 2007. And many critics charge that it looks as though Davis is not going all out for passes not thrown directly at him.
But Davis said he has been healthy since the bye week, four weeks ago. And he has not talked to the coaches about his diminished role and productivity in the red zone this season.
"They're aware," Davis said. "So I let them continue to do their job, and I'll do mine.
"Everything always works itself out. Especially if you're working hard and you're doing the right things, it will come. It will come. It's just a matter of time. I know that I have to be optimistic. I keep my faith and just keep working hard."
So surely he’d have a take on Hall of Fame QB and ESPN analyst Steve Young’s recent take that his own skill set as a running quarterback stunted his growth as a pocket passer, the inference being that Colin Kaepernick ’s running ability could be slowing his arm’s development.
Harbaugh did not hesitate.
“He’s growing and growing and growing as a pocket passer,” Harbaugh said of Kaepernick. “I think he’s one of the most dynamic pocket passers in the game of football today. And he’s one of the most dynamic runners.”
Kaepernick’s 322 rushing yards this season rank second to Seattle’s Russell Wilson and his 571 yards, but Kaepernick’s Total QB Rating of 54.9 is his lowest since he became the Niners’ starting quarterback in 2012.
Young, meanwhile, is No. 3 all-time for a QB with 4,239 rushing yards, behind Michael Vick (6,006 yards and counting) and Randall Cunningham (4,928).
The rest of the top nine: Fran Tarkenton (3,674), Steve McNair (3,590), Donovan McNabb (3,459), John Elway (3,407), Tobin Rote (3,128) and Kordell Stewart (2,874).
How, then, would Harbaugh describe his own playing experience, which included one Pro Bowl selection?
“Pretty mediocre,” he said.
“Yeah, I was mediocre. I was a mediocre player. Kap’s a great player. That’s a big difference.”
Rather, Bowman, who tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 19, continued to work on individual and agility drills and was scheduled to meet with a certain noted orthopedic surgeon.
"The latest [news] is Dr. [James] Andrews is flying into town today to meet with him," Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said.
The result of said meeting presumably will dictate Bowman's practice schedule next week.
"I think that's a good way to state it," Harbaugh said. "Don't think we're going too far on a limb to state that that would be the case."
Bowman had been observed earlier in the month working on change-of-direction drills.
"I saw him doing the same," Harbaugh said. "He's done the same routine."
All of which begs the question: Has Bowman suffered a setback?
"Not that I know of," Harbaugh said.
Niners defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was a tad more expansive on Bowman a day earlier.
"He's certainly working his butt off to try and get back," Fangio said. "It'll take a couple weeks of practice before we would throw him out there in a game. He's in a totally different situation than Aldon [Smith] was.
"[Bowman is] coming back from inactivity and an injury. That will be play-it-by-ear as we go."
Fangio was also asked if Bowman was feeling soreness in his surgically repaired knee.
"I don't think so," Fangio said. "And again, he hadn't told me that. I haven't specifically asked him that. But he is only 10 months, I believe, or less than that, exactly from the date of the operation."
With Davis out, Jonathan Martin will start at right tackle for the sixth time this season.
“Yes, feel good about Jonathan Martin,” said coach Jim Harbaugh.
Also ruled out was nose tackle Glenn Dorsey, who was just added to the 53-man roster from the short-term IR on Monday. Dorsey suffered a torn left biceps tendon in training camp but is listed as having a forearm issue now.
With Dorsey out and Ian Williams on injured reserve, Quinton Dial figures to start at nose tackle for the second straight week.
And while both cornerback Tramaine Brock and receiver/kick returner Bruce Ellington were listed as questionable to play, neither practiced this week.
Following is the 49ers’ status report for Sunday’s game against Washington: