Niners show toughness in overcoming elements, Bills

My game story from the 49ers’ 10-3 victory over the Bills is already up on the PD site. the notebook leads off with Nate Clements’ good day against his former ‘mates. And here are my quickie grades from the game.


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The conditions were extreme today in Orchard Park, N.Y. In the second half, it was downright miserable.

A sloppy game was expected in those kinds of conditions.


“Obviously, it does make things a little tougher,” Shaun Hill said. “It’s hard to catch the ball and sometimes when you’re getting the ball out quick, it’s hard to grip the ball well. It’s part of the game, though. Both teams have to deal with the same elements. We handled them better today.”


And that’s why it might have been an ugly victory for the 49ers, but it was also impressive to come away with a road victory against a team that entered the day in the AFC playoff hunt.


This was not a game for the meek. The 49ers’ defense showed a killer instinct in finishing off the Buffalo Bills.


And a lot of different people on that defense contributed. The 49ers got some big plays from the likes of Justin Smith, Ray McDonald, Isaac Sopoaga, Aubrayo Franklin along the defensive line. The secondary played well, including reserve cornerback Donald Strickland, who made a couple very important plays.


“We’re going with the motto, ‘They can get the ball down the field a little, but don’t let them get it in,'” Strickland said.


The 49ers rank fifth in the NFL in red-zone defense. The opposition has scored touchdowns just 42.2 percent of the time in the red zone (19 of 45).


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There are a lot of kudos to go around. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky called a winning game. And offensive coordinator Mike Martz did what was needed from him to win the game. The only head-scratcher was that reverse to Jason Hill that had disaster written all over it from the moment it was snapped.


And how ’bout the performance of Joe Fonzi?


You had to feel badly for Joe Starkey, the 49ers’ radio play-by-play who said he never missed a game in his 36-year broadcast career for health reasons. He had a nasty case of laryngitis, forcing KTVU-TV’s Fonzi to fill in. Starkey was very disappointed his voice did not hold up. He called the 49ers’ game-opening touchdown drive and then stepped aside for Fonzi.


Fonzi said he had not done play-by-play since his college days at Chico State. I listened to the broadcast on the Internet, and I thought he did a fantastic job under the circumstances. Analyst Gary Plummer also came through in his increased role.


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It was a good bounce-back game from the entire secondary, and especially Nate Clements. He wanted to have good game against his former team, and he did.


Clements was the deep man on punts, too. The first time he took his position — and was announced to the crowd — he was booed.


Clements says he does not pay attention to the weather or crowd because he is so focused on his job. However, he admitted to hearing the boos.


He quipped that the Buffalo crowd booed him “by default because I’m with the opponent. Deep down, they really love me.”


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Linebacker Patrick Willis (ribs) was the only player who showed up on the 49ers’ preliminary injury report. He returned to the game. He underwent X-rays after the game, but the results were unavailable.


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