This and that from today in Santa Clara:
• RB Anthony Dixon says coach Mike Singletary asks him to get four yards.
On Sunday, the 233-pound rookie got him 34.
In the first quarter of Sunday’s 40-21 win against Seattle, Dixon swept right and cut back left on the longest run of his career. It was type of play Dixon often made en route to leading the NFL in rushing during the preseason.
But Dixon, who is averaging 3.5 yards on 47 carries against first-stringers, has been trying to find the right balance between being the power back the Niners want while still utilizing his quick feet and moves. Dixon indicated he’s getting more comfortable in the latter stages of his rookie season.
“Coach and them, I know they kind of get frustrated with my style sometimes,” Dixon said. “But like I tell coach — I’m going to get his four yards and I’m going to do what he asks me to do. That’s all I’m focused on. I’m not going to stress out over it. I’m just going to go out there and make plays and you’ve to be comfortable to do that.”
Dixon said Singletary hasn’t expressed his gratitude for those 30 extra yards.
“I’m still waiting for him to say something to me about it,” he said with a laugh. “All he keeps saying to me is ‘downhill.'”
• Dixon, not surprisingly, didn’t expect to see his quarterback sprinting nearly 40 yards downfield to throw a block on his 34-yard run. Alex Smith attempted what would have been a touchdown-springing block, but whiffed on rookie safety Earl Thomas.
“I didn’t see him,” Dixon said. “Someone had to tell me — ‘Alex was right behind, you should have just stopped.’ I was like ‘For real?’ But that’s great. We’re all out there fighting for each other and it’s great to see that.”
• Chargers Pro Bowl TE Antonio Gates has missed three of the past five games, including last week’s 31-0 win over Kansas City, due to a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.
Gates, who has 50 catches for 782 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games, is expected to be a game-time decision Thursday. If Gates doesn’t play, he would have 21 days of rest prior to San Diego’s game against the Bengals on Dec. 26.
On Sunday, Gates said he might consider not playing again this season, but backtracked a day later. Gates did not practice today.
“I really don’t know,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said when asked about Gates’ status. “I think that he’s getting better, he’s closer, and hopefully he can make some progress and be able to help us (Thursday).”
• From the who-would-have-guessed department: Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, a former assistant coach with the Chargers, used to play pick-up basketball against Gates. The 44-year-old ex-linebacker said he had problems matching up against the 6-4, 260-pound tight end, who played basketball at Kent State.
“I remember playing basketball with him and (Saints QB Drew) Brees and he was kicking my butt,” Manusky said. “He kept on posting me up down below. I said, ‘There’s no more posting up.'”
• Chargers QB Philip Rivers termed Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes two of the best inside linebackers in the NFL. Willis and Spikes both have casts on their right arms after suffering hand injuries against Seattle. Willis did not practice today and Spikes was limited.
“They get probably grouped into the downhill linebackers — just inside run-game pluggers and all that, but they both run really well,” Rivers said. “They can play sideline to sideline. They both do a great job defending the pass. They’re complete players. I think that’s where it starts.”
• Rivers ranks third in the NFL with a 103.1 quarterback rating, which spells trouble for the Niners secondary if recent history is any guide.
This season, the 49ers have faced three QBs currently ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in passer rating — New Orleans’ Drew Brees, Kansas City’s Matt Cassel and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers — and the results haven’t been pretty.
The trio has combined to complete 65 of 95 passes (68 percent) for 802 yards (267.3) with eight touchdowns and one interception. Quarterback rating: 118.0.
Signal-callers ranked outside the top 10 have completed 216 of 340 passes (64 percent) for 2,097 yards (209.7) with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions against the Niners. Quarterback rating: 76.6.
• In addition to Willis, LB NaVorro Bowman (hamstring) and RB Brian Westbrook did not practice. Westbrook did not practice to get rest.
Spikes, TE Nate Byham (shoulder), RB DeShawn Wynn (ankle) and G Mike Iupati (shoulder) were limited.
Iupati suffered a stinger against the Seahawks, but offensive coordinator Mike Johnson sounded optimistic when asked about the rookie’s chances of playing against San Diego.
“I think he’s still trying to get his strength back from what happened to him last week,” Johnson said. “But from what I understand I think he may be ready to go.”