CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers is sacked for a loss in the second quarter by Jonathan Fanene #68 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 25, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
It's always hard handing out most valuable player awards to a team that lost. In truth it shouldn't happen. Why honor anyone on a losing team, even though they performed admirably? It's not like they were valuable enough to help the team win, right?
That being said, we have to do it and honestly, it's not a bad thing to be aware of players that performed well, even during a loss. There were quality nominations. Mike Nugent scored two field goals, giving the Bengals six of their eight total points Sunday. Reggie Nelson posted a team-high nine tackles. Rey Maualuga posted eight tackles and forced a fumble. Domata Peko also posted eight tackles, one for loss and forced a fumble and a big reason why San Francisco's rushing offense was ineffective (only 50 yards rushing).
That being said, our Samsung Game Ball of the Week goes to Bengals defensive end Jonathan Fanene, who posted two quarterback sacks, three tackles, an additional two quarterback hits and a fumble recovery that led to three points. Here's how he played Sunday.
+ Getting off to a good start defensively is a trend in the NFL and it's growing. Many teams today, including the Bengals, are often deferring the coin toss, putting their defense on the field to set the tone. And that pass rush started it.
After picking up a first down on their first play of the game, Alex Smith drops back from center and looks to his right. In the meantime Jonathan Fanene fired out from his three-point stance at the left defensive end position against right guard Chilo Rachal. Fanene drove into Rachal before ripping an uppercut with his left arm to penetrate the block and wrap quarterback Alex Smith around the ankles for the quarterback sack. Bengals safety Chris Crocker was also in on the sack, easily beating right tackle Anthony Davis with a sudden cut inside that Davis was completely unprepared for.
The sack forced the 49ers into second-and-15, which resulted in a punt after consecutive incomplete passes. That's a great way to start a football game.
+ With 7:41 remaining in the second quarter, the San Francisco 49ers were at their own 21-yard line with third-and-14. Jonathan Fanene lined up at the right defensive tackle position with the 49ers offense in shotgun and Alex Smith flanked by Frank Gore (on his left) and Bruce Miller. Michael Johnson, to Fanene's left, caused a big enough disturbance by cutting inside left tackle Joe Staley. Though the 49ers offensive tackle held Johnson in check, the fact Johnson held stationary on the pass rush created an opportunity for Fanene.
Fanene fired out of his stance, colliding with left guard Mike Iupati with an assist from center Adam Snyder. When Fanene cut around Johnson, who held stationary, it blocked Iupati and Snyder from sliding down to pick up Fanene. Additionally Frank Gore's delayed route collided with San Francisco's linemen, knocking them off-stride and generating the perfect pick for Fanene's open shot on Smith. Eight-yard loss on third down and the 49ers are forced to punt.
+ Over ten minutes remained in the football game with the game tied at three. Kevin Huber's punt and an offensive holding on the San Francisco pushed the 49ers offense to their own 10-yard line. This time Fanene lined up at the left defensive end spot with the 49ers in standard-I formation with tight end Vernon Davis on the right. San Francisco called a draw with right tackle Anthony Davis blocking Fanene. Once Frank Gore ran past the line of scrimmage, linebacker Rey Maualuga popped the football out, which showed itself momentarily for Fanene, ever the motor to pursue, to pounce and recover.
The fumble recovery gave Cincinnati the football on San Francisco's 16-yard line. Even though they couldn't punch it into the endzone, Mike Nugent converted a 23-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 6-3 lead.