Dixon ducks his head and the Sluggo Seam

A few observations after taking a second look (Geez, this has really been a tough temp job):

• After Mike Singletary urged him to do less dancing in the backfield, rookie running back Anthony Dixon (21 carries, 69 yards) appeared to get the message. At least on one third-quarter play.

On third-and-6 from the Niners 24, Dixon took a handoff from David Carr in the shotgun and, really, had nothing in front of him. Instead of juking, though, Dixon plowed ahead, through two would-be tacklers and into the next level for a nine-yard gain.

(And, yes, that was a draw play on third-and-6).

The 6-foot-1, 233-pound Dixon is clearly capable of busting through humanity. But he doesn’t need to stay in Christian-Okoye mode.

In open space, his dancing is actually quite effective.

On the game-winning drive, Dixon snagged a screen in the right flat and appeared to be destined for a five-yard loss. But with linebacker Quentin Groves and cornerback Joe Porter closing in, Dixon juked left and broke back toward the sideline in one seamless motion, leaving his pursuers behind.

Six-yard gain.

Two broken ankles.

• Linebacker play typically inspires more talk of brutality than artistry, but one play from Patrick Willis was the football equivalent of a Rembrandt.

Moments before a second-and-8 snap on the Raiders’ second series, Willis called out to Takeo Spikes, who, like Willis, then moved a few steps to the right.

Willis clearly recognized something. Or maybe he just guessed right. Whatever the case, he sprinted to the line at the snap and flattened Darren McFadden for a one-yard loss with a textbook helmet-to-sternum tackle.

Brutally beautiful.

• Singletary said running back Brian Westbrook “tweaked” his hamstring. A 49ers spokesman said he suffered a “hamstring cramp.” (Is that the same thing?) Regardless, it’s apparently minor (he’s day-to-day), but not the best omen for a 30-year-old NFL back with a substantial medical history.

By the way, it was hard to tell when Westbrook got hurt/suffered a cramp. I figured it was after his 17-yard burst up the middle (yes, another third-and-6 draw that netted a first down), but he was in the next play and sprinted out of the backfield on a pass route. That was his last play.

• According to the Raiders announcers, Bruce Gradkowski hit Zach Miller on a 27-yard touchdown on a Sluggo Seam. Gradkowski pumped left on a fake slant and turned back right to find Miller over the middle.

The play was more and less perfected by ex-Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon, who burned countless secondaries with it until he faced his old coach, Jon Gruden, in Super Bowl XXXVII. In a great clip from NFL Films, you can hear Buccaneers safety John Lynch screaming “Sluggo Seam!” just before Gannon takes the snap, fakes a slant to Jerry Rice (there’s your 49ers connection) and throws a pick to Dexter Jackson, one of Gannon’s five interceptions in the Raiders’ 48-21 loss.

— Eric Branch

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