Given his big chance, Hill has huge impact

The Baltimore Sun

San Francisco-- --Maybe coach Mike Nolan isn't the only one in the San Francisco 49ers' team picture auditioning for a job next season.

Maybe Shaun Hill falls somewhere between the real deal and the second coming. Maybe the former Maryland quarterback is good enough to save Nolan from his recurring strategic brain cramps. Maybe it's not too late for the 49ers to jump back into the playoff picture.

Sloooow down. Breathe into the paper bag.

The 49ers won a game Saturday night, 20-13, over the backsliding Cincinnati Bengals. But they've won other games against backsliding teams this season.

The novelty Saturday came at quarterback. The 49ers had one.

Hill made the first start of his six-year NFL career, and the best start by a San Francisco quarterback since ... shall we start the bidding with the 39-38 playoff win over the New York Giants five years ago?

Hill was efficient, completing 21 of 28 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. He was careful, throwing no interceptions and recovering his only fumble in time to hand it off to Frank Gore for a 6-yard gain.

He was athletic, scoring on a 3-yard naked bootleg in the second quarter and bolting up the middle to convert a third-and-eight in the fourth quarter.

He was unflappable, stunningly so for a guy who had waited longer than the average NFL career for his chance to shine.

Nolan said he plans to start Hill in the season's final two games. Hill doesn't want to consider the winds of fate that have delivered him to this long-awaited opportunity, nor the long-term ramifications of his play.

"None of that has entered my mind," he said. "Whatever happens after that, happens after that."

Gary Peterson writes for the Contra Costa Times.

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