Offensive awakening gets 49ers oh so close

The 49ers almost found their offense just in time Sunday to catch the team that leads the NFL in that department. But needing one more big play to force an improbable overtime period against the front-running Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco had no final bang left in its eruption of late-game fireworks.

Trailing by 15 points entering the fourth quarter, and pretty much given up for dead considering the way their offense has moved the football and produced points the past month, the 49ers rallied dramatically in the final minutes to find themselves on the doorstep of overtime in the final minute.

They scored a touchdown on the second play of the final period, ending their touchdown drought at 47 consecutive series over the past four games. Then they scored another with 30 seconds remaining, leaving them within a two-point conversion of getting even with the Seahawks.

Alas, Ken Dorsey's hurried pass found the ground instead of receiver Johnnie Morton in the back of the end zone, and all the 49ers had to show for their best comeback of the season was a near-miss 27-25 loss to the Seahawks, who continue to run away with the NFC West with a NFC-best 8-2 record.

"To come up short like this, that hurts," Dorsey said. "Guys did such a great job fighting to get us back in that position. I needed to do something a little better to give us a chance. It's a tough way to end the game."

The 49ers are getting used to tough endings. They find themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum at 2-8 and were officially eliminated from any hope of catching the Seahawks with six games still to play.

But they almost caught them Sunday.

The 49ers were following their standard play-tough-on-defense-and-rely-on-Joe-Nedney-for-offense routine most of the game, and that was good enough to keep them within 17-12 after Nedney drilled his fourth field goal with 6:24 remaining in the third period.

The Seahawks took advantage of some poor tackling by the 49ers on their next drive to scoot 73 yards on six plays for a touchdown, then appeared to put the game away by adding a quick field goal 78 seconds later after rookie Rasheed Marshall fumbled away the ensuing kickoff.

But then it got interesting.

First, the 49ers sliced through Seattle for a 73-yard touchdown drive on six plays, making look easy what had been so painstakingly difficult for San Francisco over its previous 15 quarters of action. When Brandon Lloyd skied in the air and reached back to catch Dorsey's 22-yard pass as he fell into the end zone, it ended the 49ers' dismal stretch of 47 consecutive offensive series without a touchdown.

"Brandon's a player. That's the type of guy he is," said Dorsey, who also connected with Lloyd on a 44-yard bomb in the second quarter that led to Nedney's second field goal.

That was another of Lloyd's acrobatic one-handed catches, and he made another in the corner of the end zone midway through the third period. After running back Maurice Hicks took his first carry of the season 50 yards to set up the 49ers in prime scoring position at the Seattle 9, and Dorsey scrambled for six yards on first down, Dorsey lofted a pass that Lloyd went high and grabbed with one hand. But it was ruled no catch because one of Lloyd's feet was out of bounds when he landed. The 49ers had to settle for a field goal.

Missing out on those kind of opportunities and settling instead for field goals came back to haunt the 49ers after their offense suddenly came alive and their defense held the top-ranked Seattle offense to three three-and-out possessions in the fourth quarter.

But there San Francisco was, trailing just 17-9 as the offense took over at its own 24 with six minutes remaining to play. Dorsey, completing five consecutive passes, moved the 49ers smartly down the field before Hicks ploughed over the goal line from the 1 to make it a two-point game. Hicks was ruled down at the 1, but an official's review overturned the call and correctly gave him the touchdown.

"I thought I was in, and it came out to be true that I was," said Hicks, who finished with a team-high 83 yards rushing on 11 carries, handling every carry by the 49ers after starter Kevan Barlow (12 carries, 21 yards) went down with a concussion late in the third period. "At the time, I thought it was a bad call and I was going to have to live with that and get ready to score on the next play."

As it was, after the play was ruled a touchdown, the 49ers found themselves getting ready to score on the next play anyway – this time to send the game into an extra period against the reeling Seahawks.

The play was a pass designed to go to Lloyd on the left side, "but obviously once the ball is snapped, you have to read the coverage and (Dorsey) had to go to the secondary receivers so he came back to the right side," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said.

Dorsey had a wide-open Terry Jackson lingering in the right flat, but he fired instead into the end zone, where his underthrown pass skipped in front of Morton.

"I just didn't have my feet right and I missed the throw," Dorsey said. "I just couldn't make it happen. It was deflating; you can't really say anything more."

That said, the 49ers still will mark this game as progress. Dorsey had a fine afternoon, completing 18 of 29 passes for 249 yards. Lloyd tied his career high with seven catches and finished with 119 yards receiving. Hicks came off the bench to add some explosive spark. And rookie Adam Snyder had a strong game in his first start at left tackle, helping take the sting out of some occasional poor play by his line mates.

"We grew up a lot today and made some plays, but now it's time to put them together and get a victory," Lloyd said.

Which is to say, there were no moral victories coming for the 49ers after getting close but not close enough.

"This loss sucks!" center Jeremy Newberry exclaimed. "It's almost tougher than a blowout. We should've won. We had plenty of opportunities to win this game."

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