Reduced to role of spoiler

The 49ers were officially eliminated from playoff consideration on Sunday, so now they're trying to embrace the role of spoiler for the final two games of the regular season as they finish the year against opponents that still are part of the playoff picture San Francisco prominently belonged to last season.

The 49ers travel this weekend to face Philadelphia, a team fighting for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Niners finish the season against the Seattle Seahawks, who are battling for a wild-card berth.

There is no other team Erickson would like to knock from playoff contention than the Seahawks, the organization he coached from 1995 to 1998. The season that began with such high hopes for San Francisco now can finish no better than 8-8.

"You've got to try to win them both," Erickson answered when asked how the club will approach the final two games. "We've got competitive guys in that locker room. We've got two football games left, and we are going to try to win both."

When the Niners regrouped on Monday after their seventh consecutive road loss this season, Erickson talked with his team about its mission these final two weeks.

"We visited about the things that we have to do for the next couple of weeks," Erickson said. "We have good leadership in that room and we have a lot of veterans that have been around. There are a lot of guys that have a lot of pride. They are athletes who play hard, and I expect them to out-compete against Philly and against Seattle in these last two football games. There is no question in my mind they will.

"You're at a point now where, obviously, there are no playoffs at all - no chance. So now it's a matter of pride - playing hard, pride in themselves, the guys they play with. That's how you have to approach it. I wouldn't know any other way of doing it."

At least the 49ers can find some solace in the way the offense performed last Sunday in a 41-38 loss to the Bengals. The 49ers became the first team in the NFL this season to have 500 yards of offense and lose.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia has shown that he still has some football left in him. At 33, Garcia struggled through most of the season with injuries and inconsistent play.

He did everything well Sunday against the Bengals, passing for 344 yards and two touchdowns and running for 51 yards and a score.

"When they play two safeties deep, that's going to open up opportunities for me to get positive yardage on the ground, and that's what I was able to do when I got the ball down next to the goal line," Garcia said. "It wasn't that I was looking to run or anything like that, but when I did take off and run, they were positive situations."

Said Erickson, "The way he played against Cincinnati on Sunday was special." NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--- CB Jason Webster is doubtful to return this season after an MRI examination revealed a lung contusion. Webster, the 49ers revealed Monday, was coughing up blood after the Dec. 7 game against the Cardinals. He did not play Sunday vs. the Bengals.

--- S Zack Bronson had one of his worst days with the 49ers, as the veteran twice took horrible angles and was outrun by Bengals Rudi Johnson on long runs. Bronson whiffed on Johnson's 49-yard TD run, and he missed on a 47-yard run in the fourth quarter.

--- RB Garrison Hearst, who has missed two games after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, will not start Sunday for the third straight game. He is listed as questionable for Sunday's game vs. the Eagles.

--- RB Kevan Barlow has experienced problems holding onto the ball this season. He has fumbled five times and lost four of them on 185 touches this season. Barlow had just two fumbles, losing one, all of last season.

--- RB Jamal Robertson, who has been the backup to Barlow with Hearst out of the lineup, received some significant second-half playing time against the Bengals. Robertson dropped two passes that could've gone for significant yardage, but he also gained 33 yards on four carries.

--- WR Terrell Owens showed a little bit of everything from this season Sunday against the Bengals. Owens caught eight passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, but he also provided a glimpse of why those who watch him believe he is having a subpar season. Owens dropped two perfect passes and then pulled up on another deep pass that was catchable when he appeared to hear footsteps from Bengals linebacker Kevin Hardy.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We've been here before. It's been one of those types of seasons for us where we stump our foot almost. We have a chance to win and we don't get it done, and then we're able to bounce back, get it done the following week. We had a shot at the playoffs still, and everyone wants to get to that point. It's hard, but we know we have a job to do" -- 49ers CB Ahmed Plummer.

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