Niners well on way to offensive infamy

The 49ers are dancing with offensive infamy as they steer toward the end of this season, and quarterback Alex Smith is leading the way. With every twirl and misstep he takes, Smith gets a bit closer to finishing his rookie season with record futility. The same is true for the rest of the San Francisco offense, which already is guaranteed to finish with an all-time franchise low for yards per game, with historically bad accomplishments also well within reach. Here, SFI goes down the dirty list.

The 49ers are headed toward the worst statistical season in franchise history, and there is no way they can avoid it even with two games still remaining over the next 10 days. They are last in the NFL in total offense, averaging just 210.1 yards per game, and they would have to average almost 560 yards per game against the Rams and Texans to finish above the all-time franchise low of 253.1 yards per game in 1963.

The way the 49ers have been going, they are unlikely to manage 560 yards COMBINED in their final two games. They have produced more than 280 yards in a game just twice this year.

But, while San Francisco's beleaguered unit is looking for improvement across the board these final two games to provide a springboard into 2006, coach Mike Nolan says there's one thing in particular his young offense is looking to find before the Jan. 1 season finale against the Texans is stamped into history.

"Points," Nolan said. "That's what they're looking for on offense, they really are. And as a football team, we're looking to win."

Points and wins have been difficult to come by for the 49ers in 2005. San Francisco (2-12) has won just once in 13 games since defeating St. Louis 28-25 in Nolan's first game as the team's new head coach.

The 49ers enter the season's final two weeks having scored 195 points. The franchise low for a 16-game season is 219 points in 1978.

The 49ers have scored just 22 points in their last three games since Smith returned as the starting quarterback after missing the previous five games with a knee injury.

Smith has yet to throw his first NFL touchdown pass but has 10 interceptions in his first 120 attempts. Only two quarterbacks in NFL history – Bobby Hoying (224 passes in 1998) and Marty Domres (153 in 1974) – have thrown more passes in a season without a touchdown pass.

With a 26.6 passer rating this season, Smith also is in line to have the worst rating for a rookie No. 1 draft pick with at least 50 pass attempts. Smith is a part of several other statistical milestones for failure with which San Francisco currently is flirting.

--- Smith and the other three quarterbacks who have started a game for the 49ers this year have guided a San Francisco offense that is averaging just 118 passing yards per game. Since 1989, only the 1992 Seattle Seahawks (111.1 passing yards per game) have had a lower total.

--- The 49ers have been out-gained this season by an astounding 2,644 yards – or 189 per game. The San Francisco offense has failed to gain 189 yards itself in a game six times this season and has been held below 221 yards in 11 of 14 games. The only two NFL teams to be out-gained by more than 2,000 yards in a season since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger were the 1999 and 2000 Cleveland Browns – Cleveland's first two seasons after returning to the league as an expansion team. The Browns' worst season was being out-gained by 2,100 yards in 2000.

--- The 49ers have failed to score an offensive touchdown in eight of their 14 games. They scored two defensive touchdowns in a 31-14 loss to Arizona in Week 4. According to Stats LLC, San Francisco's seven games without a touchdown this season is the third-worst total by a team since the 1970 merger. The 49ers still have two chances left to catch the 1991 Indianapolis Colts (who went nine games without a touchdown), the 1977 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8 games) and 1993 Colts (8 games).

--- The lack of touchdowns has left the prized left toe of kicker Joe Nedney as San Francisco's most lethal offensive weapon this year. Nedney has scored all of the 49ers' points in a game seven times this season, and his 83 points account for 43 percent of San Francisco's scoring total this year.

--- The 49ers have had 69 three-and-outs in their 171 offensive possessions this season. Their .404 percentage of three-and-outs would be the worst in the NFL since 1991. Next on the list is those 2000 Browns (.372 percent on 71 of 191), and the 49ers will have to have very few three-and-outs the rest of the way to pass the Browns on that list. San Francisco currently ranks 30th or lower in the NFL in 10 offensive categories.

--- The 49ers have been out-gained in net yardage through the air in 23 consecutive games, by far the longest active streak in the league. The next longest streak is the Texans, with nine.

--- The 49ers have finished with fewer than 100 net passing yards in seven of their 14 games this year, including five in a row at one point midway through the season, a stretch during which they averaged just 52.4 passing yards per game.

That's one streak the 49ers expect to end during Saturday's game at St. Louis. Now that San Francisco has some of its young offensive fixtures of the future settled into place, the Niners are determined to improve some of their unsightly numbers before the season is finished and establish momentum to build on for next year.

"This is the start of next season in some ways, so it's something we need to take advantage of," Smith said. "As a first-year offense, we're continuing to grow every week and every day. With these two games left, we can really build some momentum into the offseason. I really want to take these two games and make some strides."

To be sure, there is nowhere to stride but up.


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