Game rewind: Titans 33, 49ers 22
THE HERO Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair, who didn't practice earlier in the week and was questionable to play Sunday because of back problems, responded with his best game in more than two seasons to snap Tennessee's five-game losing streak. McNair shredded the San Francisco defense, completing 23 passes in 41 attempts for a season-high 343 yards and throwing three touchdown passes in a 10-minute span of the third quarter to turn a 14-9 halftime deficit into an insurmountable 30-14 Tennessee advantage. McNair avoided pressure all afternoon and wasn't sacked while compiling a quarterback rating of 97.9. THE GOAT Was it kicker-for-a-day Jose Cortez, who was wide left on a routine 34-yard field goal when the 49ers had an opportunity to draw first blood in the first quarter? Was it Otis Amey, who stepped into a short, bouncing punt for a muff that sent Seattle on its way to a 21-point third-quarter explosion? Was it any number of defenders who consistently missed key tackles and got beat downfield in pass coverage? There were plenty of goats for the 49ers in this game, but a slight edge for top goat goes to beleaguered offensive tackle Kwame Harris, whose takedown of a Tennessee defender well behind the play resulted in the nullification of a spectacular 75-yard touchdown run by Kevan Barlow that would have given the Niners a 14-6 lead late in the second quarter. Instead, Tennessee recorded an interception on the next play, which led to a field goal and a 9-7 lead moments later. That holding calls stands out, but Harris also had his usual struggles in pass protection, and he seems to save his mistakes for when they hurt the 49ers most. KEY STAT The 49ers had eight consecutive offensive possessions between the second and fourth quarters during which they either went three-and-out or had the possession end on a first-play interception. In those eight possessions, the 49ers produced 23 net yards of offense. They had eight three-and-outs during the game, raising their NFL-leading total to 56. THE TURNING POINT Cornerback Shawntae Spencer had just put the 49ers ahead 14-9 at halftime with a momentum-swaying 61-yard interception return with 27 remaining in the second quarter. The 49ers carried that momentum into the third quarter, forcing a three-and-out by the Tennessee offense after the second-half kickoff. Craig Hentrich then bounced a short 32-yard punt near the San Francisco 40-yard line. But returner Otis Amey, instead of getting away from the short punt, instead ran into it for a muff that was recovered by the Titans. "It was right there in front of me," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said of the play. "It looked like (Amey) was trying to get the guys away from the ball because it was a short punt and, at the same time, he was trying to field it so he could save field position. In the course of doing both things, he missed the ball." And, instead of having the ball near midfield with a five-point lead, the Niners allowed the Tennessee offense back on the field for the beginning of a 21-point explosion over the next nine minutes. THE BIG PLAY On the next play after Amey's gaffe, the 49ers sent blitzing linebackers after McNair, who was able to elude the grasp of Andre Carter and release the ball as he was being hit by oncoming Derek Smith. McNair floated a pass into the left flat to halfback Chris Brown, who stepped away from a missed tackle attempt by linebacker Julian Peterson near the 30-yard line and romped into the end zone to complete a 41-yard touchdown play. The sudden turnaround gave Tennessee a 16-14 lead and sparked the Titans to another touchdown 80 seconds later and another seven minutes after that. STANDOUT PERFORMER While McNair was leading the Tennessee offense, linebacker Keith Bulluck was getting it done on the other side of the ball. Bulluck was all over the field with a game-high 12 tackles, had an interception that set up a field goal and also knocked away another pass. His play was instrumental in Tennessee's complete shutdown of the San Francisco offense throughout most of the second half. BY THE NUMBERS 0: Net rushing yards by 49ers in first quarter 1: Missed field goals by Jose Cortez in as many attempts 1.7: Average gain on three punt returns by the Niners' rookie Otis Amey 2: Rushing touchdowns by the Titans in the first quarter nullified by penalties 2.9: Average gain on 14 rushing attempts by Niners tailback Kevan Barlow, who had a 75-yard touchdown run nullified by penalty 3.9 Average gain by 49ers on their 67 offensive plays 4: Turnovers by the 49ers 5: Consecutive three-and-out offensive possessions by 49ers in middle of game 6.8: Average gain by Titans on their 68 offensive plays 7: Offensive drives by Titans in which they produced 41 or more yards 8:30: Time elapsed in third quarter between Tennessee's first touchdown and its third 9: Number of different Titans with at least one reception 10: Offensive possessions in which the 49ers were limited to nine yards or fewer 11: Passes by 49ers knocked down by Titans' defense 15: Total first downs by each team 16: Net rushing yards by Titans at halftime 17.7: Average gain on six kickoff returns by Niners' rookie Rasheed Marshall 19: Seconds elapsed on back-to-back one-play Tennessee touchdown drives in the third quarter 20: Percentage of third downs converted by the 49ers, who were 3 of 15 on third-down plays 24: Yard-line of 49ers' average start on their 14 offensive drives 25: Red-zone efficiency percentage by Titans, who scored one touchdown in four trips inside the 49ers' 20-yard line 26: Total yards of offense by 49ers in second half before San Francisco 90 yards on their final two possessions in the final 3:35 of the game 38: Yard-line of Titans' average start on their 16 offensive drives 35: Average yards gained per reception by Titans' halfback Chris Brown, who had three catches for 105 yards 53.6: Passer rating by 49ers' quarterback Ken Dorsey 88: Yards gained rushing by Titans' backup halfback Travis Henry in second half 154: Career touchdown passes by Titans quarterback Steve McNair 461: Total yards of offense by the Titans, a season-high for Tennessee and the most allowed by the 49ers in their last seven games FAST FACTS --- The Titans snapped San Francisco's two-game winning streak against the Tennessee franchise, but the 49ers still hold a 7-4 lead in the all-time series between the two teams. The teams are 1-1 against each other since the Titans moved to Tennessee from Houston. --- The Titans are now 21-4 against all NFL opponents in their first visit to The Coliseum in Nashville. --- The 49ers have now lost 24 of their last 28 road games and have not won a regulation game away from home since a 17-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in 2002. --- Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher now holds a 19-7 record against head coaches in their first year with their teams. He lost earlier this season to Cleveland's Romeo Crennel. --- Steve McNair had his best passing game since throwing for 421 yards against Houston in 2003, when he shared NFL MVP honors with Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning. It was the 10th 300-yard passing game of his career and the fifth allowed by the 49ers this season. --- The 49ers had another successful onside kickoff recovery Sunday, giving them three of the four successful onside kickoffs recorded in the NFL this season.
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