Nancy Gay, columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, noted the stirring play by the San Francisco 49ers in December has been seen before.
Gay wrote: "If you've paid careful attention to the 49ers during the three-year Mike Nolan era, you'll notice the season-ending pattern hasn't changed. Late December brings about soul-stirring victories, figurative Band-Aids that help patch the mental wounds inflicted by too many early and midseason disappointments.
"On Sunday, the 49ers surprised the bookies and a lot of folks by knocking off the playoff-bound Buccaneers 21-19 at Candlestick. For the record, Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden yanked his offensive starters, most specifically quarterback Jeff Garcia, late in the first half. To Gruden, this was little more than an exhibition game his team had to survive while the playoffs beckon.''
49ers' Singletary still interested in Falcons position
Mike Singletary would not elaborate Friday on his interest in pursuing the Atlanta Falcons head coach position for a second straight year.
Russell will start and finish for Raiders
For the first time, he'll get all the repetitions in practice this week. Practically all season, Kiffin has said he was concerned about the damage it might do to Russell's confidence if he found himself in over his head. Consider it done. Now it's time to assess the kid's confidence.
In Sunday's 49-11 rout at the hands of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Russell threw three interceptions and would have had four if tight end Zach Miller hadn't prevented one in the second quarter. Russell also was called for intentional grounding and on the next play lost a fumble without being hit.
Vikings will inquire about McNabb, Fitzgerald
The Minnesota Vikings say they will evaluate their quarterback status at the end of the season according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
But there seems little doubt that they will inquire about the availability of Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb this winter. The problem for Minnesota is that McNabb, 31, would cost at least two first-round draft picks.
If the Vikings decide to return with 24-year-old Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, they'll need to try to trade for the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald of Minneapolis, who might also cost a couple of first-round draft picks, or sign at least two other premier wide receivers.
Garber: Anderson exceeds expectations
At the start of the season, Derek Anderson seemed destined for backup quarterback obscurity. Now he's a budding star largely responsible for the Browns' unexpected rise, writes Greg Garber.
Glenn will make debut; Phillips wants to win 14th game
Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has decisions to make this week. He needs to decide which starters will play and how long.
According to the Dallas Morning News,�Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode (sprained left MCL), Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman (multiple right leg injuries), leading special teams tackler Patrick Watkins (sprained left ankle) and starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff (sore right knee) all could miss the regular-season finale.
Receiver Terry Glenn will make his season debut Sunday after missing 15 games following two knee surgeries. If he starts and how much he plays isn't known, but Phillips said he was encouraged when Glenn ran several good routes last week in practice.
Steelers considering artificial turf at Heinz Field
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a choice to make. Do they keep real grass at Heinz Field and risk playing surface horrors�like they've had the past three games? Or do they go to artificial turf and risk injuries like the one Willie Parker suffered Thursday in St. Louis?
Steelers chairman Dan Rooney always has preferred a grass surface at Heinz Field.�The Rams play on an artificial surface at the Edward Jones Dome, and some of the Steelers are not surprised they have 11 players on the season-ending injured reserve list, including offensive tackle Orlando Pace and linebacker Leonard Little.
The Steelers, though, are considering a switch to an artificial surface at Heinz Field because of the wear and tear on the grass surface and the poor conditions that have resulted the past three games.
Kitna: "Firing Martz would be a mistake''
Quarterback Jon Kitna, who has taken beating after beating because of the lack of a running game, believes the Detroit Lions should keep Mike Martz as offensive coordinator according to a report in the Detroit News.
Kitna, the starting quarterback under Martz for all 31 games the last two seasons, said it would be a mistake for the Lions to fire Martz after this season.
Martz has been an enigmatic and controversial figure since coach Rod Marinelli hired him in 2006 to run the offense. The passing game has improved greatly but the Lions have not achieved the success Martz had in St. Louis, where he was offensive coordinator in 1999 and coach from 2000-05. They have also failed to develop a running game.
Saints hold Bush out of last-ditch shot at playoffs
Reggie Bush won't be returning to the scene of his famous end zone somersault in last season's NFC Championship Game, at least not in uniform.
All-Pro guard Andrews will not play for Philly
Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews will miss tomorrow's game in New Orleans because of a sprained knee ligament the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Andrews aggravated the injury in the first quarter against Dallas. He will be replaced by Max Jean-Gilles.