Niners must get it right at end

The close ones keep getting away. The 49ers are as frustrated and baffled by it as anyone. But they also know it can't happen many more times. They easily could be 5-1, but the reality is they're a struggling 2-4 team. "We're sitting here at 2-4, and time is running out for us because we still want to go to the playoffs," coach Dennis Erickson said. "We're running out of time. Let's face it." But the Niners aren't running out of hope, say several of their top players.

Erickson expressed that he has "veterans that are real leaders" on this team, and that will make a difference now that the Niners are going through their toughest time of the past three seasons.

"This is where you've got to rely on the older guys to get out front and lead the way," said four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Bryant Young, one of the Niners' senior statesmen in his 10th season with the team. "I think we can still get this turned around."

The Niners are high statistically in several categories of the NFL rankings, but they are closer to last place than first place in the NFC West because of their inability to get it done in the clutch.

Three of their losses are by a combined five points. They have two one-point losses and another by three points in overtime. All of this games could have been - and perhaps should have been - victories.

"We haven't been getting breaks," quarterback Jeff Garcia said. "I'm trying to stay as positive as possible, because we're a few points away from being a 5-1 team. But would that make us any better of a team? I don't know."

It's a good question. The Niners, despite their winning ways and playoff experience of the past two years, haven't been pulling out the late-game heroics that typically lead to victory for good teams.

While going 22-10 the past two seasons with largely the same cast of characters, the Niners won 10 games by four points or fewer, and won another game on a touchdown in overtime.

That is the missing element that has prevented the Niners from having success this season. They need to find it as soon as possible. As in yesterday.

"We've always found a way to win those ballgames over the years, ever since I've been here. Always," Pro Bowl linebacker Julian Peterson said. "Now, it's almost like the roles are reversed. But we want to show we can overcome all this adversity. I think if we can weather this storm, there's going to be brighter days real soon."

Niners Digest Top Stories