Game blog: Chiefs 41, 49ers 0
***** ***** ***** The worst shutout loss in the 49ers' 61-season history. And so, it's another complete unraveling by the Niners, the kind many thought would be a distant memory after the promise the team displayed throughout much of its first three games. Sunday's 41-0 blanking at Arrowhead Stadium was just the second time San Francisco has been held scoreless in its last 454 games, and just the 10th time the 49ers ever have finished a game with a big fat "0" on their side of the scoreboard. ***** ***** ***** Offense. Defense. And to make the discouraging embarrassment complete, a breakdown on special teams as a coup de grace. On a day of gloom and doom for the visitors, the 49ers had at least been getting strong play from their special teams coverage units against Kansas City's explosive return teams. But no … This game couldn't end without the Niners getting whipped in that department, too. Dante Hall sliced through San Francisco's punt coverage without barely breaking stride for a 60-yard touchdown return with 5:39 to play to put the finishing touches on the latest 49ers meltdown. ***** ***** ***** Frank Gore is officially a fumbler. This time, he didn't wait until he got near the opposing goal line. This time, he didn't wait past the 49ers' first offensive possession of the game. With the Niners facing a third-and-13 on their opening series, Gore took a delayed handoff as the field opened in front of him. But the middle hole Gore picked was quickly filled by linebacker Derrick Johnson, who put his helmet right into Gore's numbers. Unfortunately for the 49ers, that's also where the football was, and once again Gore failed to hold onto it, losing the ball as he fell backward to the ground for his fourth lost fumble of the season - one for each game San Francisco has played. Whether or not it's becoming a mental thing for Gore, it really doesn't matter. The fumble question is going to follow him around the rest of the season, and he is going to have to deal with it. Predictably - after Gore's fumble led to a field goal that gave Kansas City an early 10-0 lead - the 49ers went right back to Gore on the first play of their next possession, and he charged up the middle for a short gain. But after San Francisco picked up a first down on its next play, a pass from quarterback Alex Smith to Antonio Bryant, the next two San Francisco plays were runs by Michael Robinson, who had taken Gore's place in the backfield. That wasn't a sign of things to come, however, as Robinson carried just two more times the rest of the game and Gore recovered to finish with 65 yards rushing on 14 carries. ***** ***** ***** Tony Parrish looked old and slow as Kansas City finished off the game's opening drive with a touchdown pass from Damon Huard to the slippery Hall, who was in the game as an extra receiver. After the Chiefs had converted on third down for the third time on the drive, Parrish got isolated on the diminutive but speedy Hall in the flat. It became a mismatch the second that Parrish hesitated as Hall turned up field. That allowed Hall to get a step on the veteran safety, and Parrish couldn't catch up as Huard lofted a pass over Parrish's shoulders into the waiting hands of Hall, who made Parrish look foolish on the play. The defense saw a lot of Mark Roman in Parrish's place after that, and that's probably as it should be - and as it might be in the future as the 49ers move forward. Roman made a nice play in goal-line pass coverage when he broke up a Huard pass intended for tight end Tony Gonzalez at the back of the end zone on third down, forcing the Chiefs to settle for a short field goal after they'd reached the San Francisco 4-yard line. Roman made a few other nice plays during the day and finished with four tackles. Parrish, meanwhile, finished with one tackle. Don't be surprised if this is the week when Roman replaces Parrish as the starter and Parrish is benched at the beginning of a game by something other than an injury for the first time in his nine-season career. ***** ***** ***** So what's up with Shawntae Spencer? After signing that lucrative contract extension a few weeks ago, he has looked more like an inexperienced cornerback who can be had instead of the rising young veteran the 49ers thought they were locking up as part of their future. Spencer looked just plain poor when he panicked at the back of the end zone, running into Hall without turning his back to the ball on a pass that would have been incomplete because it couldn't have been caught in the field of play. The resulting pass interference call gave the Chiefs a first down at the 1, which is like giving Kansas City an automatic touchdown with Larry Johnson in the backfield. Sure enough, Johnson scored on the next play and the rout was on at 17-0. ***** ***** ***** Make that, the blowout was on the next time Kansas City was on offense, with Spencer again the culprit. After Smith's interception-less string finally ended at 139 passes late in the second quarter when he was picked off by Sammy Knight, the Chiefs were set up again at the San Francisco 34 after Knight's 27-yard return. And on the next play, Spencer just plain looked bad, biting on a stop-and-go move by Eddie Kennison and allowing the Kansas City receiver to slip behind him down the right sideline. Huard put the pass on the money, and just like that, the 49ers were in a 24-0 hole at halftime. ***** ***** ***** Spencer better get used to it, because opponents are starting to pick on him as a result of the fine play of 11th-year veteran Walt Harris on the other side. And to think, that's just the kind of thing the 49ers would have hoped for when the season began. But at the quarter pole of the season, Spencer no longer is San Francisco's best cornerback. It's Harris, and opponents are making the 49ers pay for it with Spencer's shaky play on the left side. Spencer had a horrible day, even though he finished with a team-high eight tackles, with several of those coming on a player who had just beaten him for a reception. ***** ***** ***** But the 49ers are a second-half team, right? And they were to begin the second half, with Maurice Hicks bursting down the left side, breaking into the clear and pushing past midfield to set up the 49ers to begin their second-half rally. But .. Oops!! Hicks got stripped of the ball as he was dragged down and the Chiefs recovered, making a 53-yard return all for naught. The San Francisco defense stiffened after allowing one first down, but kicker Lawrence Tynes stepped in and split the uprights with a 49-yard field goal that made the score 27-0, a margin bolstered by Kansas City's 13-0 total in scoring after San Francisco turnovers. ***** ***** ***** Though he finished with a fine 28.5 average on his six kickoff returns, it wasn't a good day for the usually sure-handed Hicks on returns. Besides his costly fumble, Hicks also muffed a return, letting a Tynes kickoff slip through his hands at the San Francisco 13, then kicking it forward to the 25, where the live ball dangled tantalizingly before Moran Norris fortunately fell on it for the 49ers. The 49ers picked up the first of their measly 10 first downs two plays later on a 22-yard pass from Smith to Bryant, which turned out being one of their few offensive highlights, not to mention their longest gain of the day. ***** ***** ***** The 49ers had 113 yards of offense at halftime, but they went nowhere in the second half, finishing with just 165 yards - a far cry from the 381.7 yards they were averaging entering the game, which placed them fourth in the NFL. It also was a step back for Smith, whose quarterback rating for the game finished at 27.4 after he went 13 of 25 for just 92 yards with two interceptions. ***** ***** ***** While Tynes made it look routine making a lengthy field goal, San Francisco's Joe Nedney continued his inconsistent play that has to be a bit disconcerting to the Niners after they rewarded the 10th-year veteran in the offseason with four-year, $6.1 million deal. Nedney earned that money with his fine 2005 season during which Nedney was nearly automatic while walking away with offensive team MVP honors. Nedney hardly has been automatic this season. After making 26 of 28 field goals last season and showing a big leg in the process, Nedney missed badly on a 51-yard attempt at the end of the first half that ultimately turned out to be San Francisco's best scoring opportunity of the afternoon. That was his third miss of the season - already one more than last year - and that includes misses from 34 and 46 yards. ***** ***** ***** Down 24-0 at halftime, the 49ers had at least done one thing right during two quarters where most everything went wrong. They stuffed Johnson repeatedly, limiting him to 24 yards rushing on 14 carries at the break. But premier backs get stronger as a game progresses, and Johnson certainly is no exception. Enjoying their big lead, the Chiefs kept pounding with Johnson, and he eventually tacked on a couple of tackle-breaking bursts that allowed him to finish with 101 yards on 30 carries with two touchdowns. But the run defense wasn't bad, and the Chiefs averaged only 3.1 yards on their 40 attempts. It's what was going on behind that run defense that was the real problem. ***** ***** ***** Of course, there were real problems everywhere for the 49ers on Sunday. Perhaps they are good enough this season to recover, but this performance just looked too much like the past two years for anyone to easily shrug it off as one bad afternoon.
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