49er Power Play

     The night the lights went out at Candlestick Park. Twice. Power outages delayed the Monday Night Football game for nearly 35 minutes but could not stop the 49ers from beating the Steelers, 20-3. The victory enabled San Francisco (11-3) to keep its grip on the No. 2 seed in the NFC, ahead of the Saints. Pittsburgh (10-4) lost a chance at grabbing the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That honor now goes to New England.

     A beat-up Ben Roethlisberger played for the Steelers, but would not make excuses after an off-night in which he threw two early interceptions and one near the end of the game.

     “I played a bad football game, I turned the ball over and that one’s on me,” he said.

     The 49ers have been steady on offense this season under Alex Smith, but their revival can be credited to a shutdown defense. San Francisco has not allowed a rushing touchdown in its first 14 games. That’s an NFL record.


     Going to Texas: The Rangers’ strategy to fend off Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and the rest of the Angels next season is to load up on arms. Although most reports suggested that the Blue Jays had outbid everyone for the services of Japanese starter Yu Darvish, it was the Rangers who made the best offer.

     The posting fee has been reported to be $51.7 million. That’s just for the right to negotiate with Darvish. The American League champions have 30 days to sign the right-hander to a deal or return him to his club in Japan and be refunded the posting fee.

     Darvish is set to join a crowded starting rotation in Texas that already features Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando and former closer Neftali Feliz.


Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl

     Tony Pauline of SI.com says there are a few NFL-caliber players to keep an eye on tonight when Florida International (8-4) meets Marshall (6-6) in St. Petersburg, Fla.

     Marshall has a potential first-rounder in pass-rushing specialist Vinny Carter (No. 99), who projects as either a defensive end or as a linebacker who can come off the end in a 3-4 scheme. Guard Ryan Tillman (No. 73) could go late in the draft.

     Florida International wide receiver and return specialist T.Y. Hilton (No. 4) is a mid-round prospect who may be picked earlier if he can clear medical issues at the combine. Linebacker Winston Fraser (No. 34) is seen as a late-round pick.


     Hidden-ball trick: Tim Tebow has had success running a “college” offense in Denver. Now Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski sticks the ball in the end zone with a trick play that looks  like it came from a kids’ movie. That’s the NFL. If it works, run it again.

     On the Texans’ 7-yard line Sunday, quarterback Cam Newton took the snap and did a spin move as he rolled out to the right. The defense chased Newton, but the quarterback had already stuck the ball between Richie Brockel’s legs. The fullback, who lined up just behind the right guard, ran left and scored on a play that resembled “the annexation of Puerto Rico” from the 1994 movie Little Giants.

     “Cam’s ability to run and throw, it just adds another dimension,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said.

See the video


     Can’t speak French: The government of Quebec is not very happy with the Montreal Canadiens’ choice as coach. And it wants the situation corrected.

     The Canadiens fired Jacques Martin over the weekend and replaced him with Randy Cunneyworth as interim head coach. The problem? Cunneyworth, who was an assistant coach with Montreal, doesn’t speak French.

     The province’s culture minister says she isn’t calling for Cunneyworth’s head but she is taking the hockey club at its word that the hiring is temporary.

     Owner Geoff Molson said finding a winning coach is the main priority. Yet, “It is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach,” he said.

     The last time the Canadiens had a coach who didn’t speak French was the 1970-71 season when Al McNeil guided them to a Stanley Cup championship. He was demoted to the minors after the season.

     “I have the utmost respect for the language here and I am very aware of how important it is to try and learn the language,” Cunneyworth said. “Obviously I know a few words, and not all the good ones.”

     I’ve got the ideal Christmas gift idea for Cunneyworth: Rosetta Stone for French.


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