NFL: Bruce’s final game? Niners receiver has short day in finale
By Daniel Brown
San Jose Mercury News
ST. LOUIS—Isaac Bruce said he wanted to be remembered in the NFL as “a man of no reputation.” So it was appropriate that he practically snuck out Sunday.
Bruce started the game, took part in one running play and then called it a day—perhaps a career.
Only later, when he was dressed in sweats and back on the sideline, did he get a proper sendoff. A shot of him on the scoreboard prompted cheers of “Bruuuuuuce” from the Rams fans and hugs from his reverential 49ers teammates.
“I can control my emotions. If I was going to cry—it nearly came—but it didn’t come all the way out,” Bruce said. “I was touched, truly touched, by the gesture.”
Bruce continued to hold back on a retirement decision. Earlier in the week, he said the odds of walking away from the game were 75 percent. Asked if anything had changed, he said, “Now it’s 76 percent.”
If he steps away, Bruce, 37, retires as the NFL’s second all-time leading receiver. His 15,208 yards trail only Jerry Rice (22,895).
Bruce’s production this year was minimal, just 21 catches for 264 yards, but he is beloved as a mentor to the 49ers young receivers.
“His character far exceeds the type of player that he is,” coach Mike Singletary said.
—Based on this season’s finish, the 49ers’ opponents for 2010 are set.
At home, they will face the Raiders, Broncos, Buccaneers, Saints, Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis and Philadelphia.
On the road, they will face Green Bay, San Diego, Kansas City, Carolina, Atlanta, Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis.
Several news outlets raised the possibility that one of the 49ers’ “home” games would be an NFL showcase game in London. The Sacramento Bee, citing anonymous sources, reported that the 49ers might face the Eagles overseas in October.
— Running back Frank Gore scored on a pair of short runs, giving him 10 rushing touchdowns for the season.
That ties the 49ers record for rushing touchdowns previously shared by Derek Loville (1995), Ricky Watters (1993), Billy Kilmer (1961), J.D. Smith (1959) and Joe Perry (1953).
Gore also rushed for 107 yards Sunday, his 20th 100-yard game. That ties Perry for the most in franchise history.
“It’s great,” Gore said. “It’s been an up-and-down year for me.”
He came close to the end zone one other time against the Rams. He took a screen pass 22 yards to the cusp of the goal line. That set up Moran Norris, the fullback and close friend of Gore, who scored his first career touchdown.
“That’s why I got tackled at the 1-yard line,” Gore joked.
—Alex Smith’s final stat line: 225 of 372 (60.5 percent), 2,350 yards, 18 touchdowns, 12 interception and an 81.5 quarterback rating.
—The 49ers finished 5-1 in the NFC West. Their only division loss was a 20-16 flop at Seattle on Dec. 16.
—Shane Andrus, signed because kickers Joe Nedney (hamstring) and Ricky Schmitt (groin) were injured, was 4 for 4 on extra points and did not attempt a field goal.
—The 49ers allowed 97.0 rushing yards a game this season. That’s their best since 1997, when they allowed 85.4 rushing yards.
—The last time the 49ers finished at .500 was in 1967, when they were 7-7.