Niners notebook: Stone Age football on road?
The numbers don't lie when it comes to 49ers' ineptitude, especially on defense. They rank in the bottom three in the NFL in the following categories: Yards allowed per game (367.7), passing yards per game (244.4), third-down efficiency (51-percent failure) and scoring (33.6). The 49ers have had a difficult time remaining competitive in most of their games this season. They fell behind 21-7 in the first quarter to the Cardinals; trailed the Eagles 31-3 in the third quarter; lost 41-0 to the Chiefs in Kansas City; fell 48-19 against the Chargers; and then trailed the Bears 41-0 at halftime. It never has been worse in the team's 61-year history than it was during the first two quarters in Chicago, when the 49ers played their worst half of football - ever. Chicago's 24-0 lead at the end of the first quarter represented the most points the 49ers ever have allowed in a first quarter. The 41 points at halftime are the most the team has surrendered in the first half of any game it ever has played. Chicago's 41-0 lead was the second-largest halftime advantage in NFL history, one point short of the 49-7 margin by which Green Bay led Tampa Bay during a 55-14 victory at Lambeau Field on Oct. 2, 1983. That putrid first half also gave the 49ers an ignominious NFL record for futility. Chicago's huge halftime margin was one point more than the previous NFL record for largest shutout lead at halftime. The Chicago Cardinals led the Rochester Jeffersons 40-0 during a 60-0 victory in 1923. That was Stone Age football, and that's the kind the 49ers played in Chicago. Coach Mike Nolan opted to look at the small picture when assessing the club's most recent wretched performance. He said the coaching staff emphasized ball security during practice last week, yet the 49ers turned it over five times and did not get any takeaways in return. Turnovers gave the Bears possession on the San Francisco 15-, 41-, and 13-yard lines. Another turnover gave the Bears the ball at their own 30, and a long punt return gave the Bears possession at the 49ers' 24. The Bears turned those opportunities into 35 points. Nolan did not downplay the significance of losing games now and how it applies to the direction the organization is heading. "If it's going to look right (in the future), we got to get it right today," Nolan said. "If we don't, somebody else will be talking about that." ***** ***** ***** The 49ers made a series of personnel moves on Tuesday, shuffling defensive backs on their 53-man roster and waiving two players from their practice squad. San Francisco signed fourth-year veteran cornerback Donald Strickland to the 53-man roster, making room for him by waiving second-year veteran cornerback B.J. Tucker. The 49ers also waived kicker Shaun Suisham and offensive tackle Sam Wilder from the practice squad and signed linebacker Renauld Williams to the practice squad. Strickland (5-foot-10, 187 pounds) was originally a third-round draft pick by Indianapolis in 2003 out of Colorado. A native of San Francisco, Strickland started 12 games for the Colts from 2003-04 before being waived midway through the 2005 season. He was signed by Philadelphia last November and played in three games for the Eagles. During his three NFL seasons, Strickland has started 12 of 19 games and three postseason games. He has totaled 54 tackles, two interceptions and one forced fumble. Williams spent parts of last season on the practice squad and the active roster of the 49ers, seeing action in two games. He was in training camp this past season with San Francisco but was waived prior to the start of the regular season. Suisham joined the 49ers practice squad last Tuesday when a position opened up following quarterback Gibran Hamdan's signing from the 49ers practice squad to the Seattle 53-man roster. Wilder went to training camp with the 49ers this summer and then joined the practice squad, where he remained the past seven weeks. Tucker, who played in six games with the 49ers in 2005, was inactive for each of San Francisco's first five games this season but started at nickel back in Week 6 against the San Diego Chargers, when he recorded one tackle and one pass defensed. Tucker was inactive again for last week's game at Chicago. ***** ***** ***** Running back Frank Gore switched agents, signing with Drew Rosenhaus on Saturday in Chicago. Gore ended his association with David Dunn, who is reportedly facing a two-year suspension from the NFL Players Association. Rosenhaus represents Gore's friends and former University of Miami (Fla.) running backs Edgerrin James, Willis McGahee and Clinton Portis. Rosenhaus attended Sunday's game at Soldier Field and watched Gore rush for 111 yards on 12 carries. "I'm very happy to be representing Frank," Rosenhaus said. "I'm expecting to get a contract extension for him in the near future." When asked if that meant before the end of the season, Rosenhaus said, "If it's meant to be." But 49ers vice president of player personnel Scot McCloughan said the club would likely wait until at least the end of the season to begin working on a long-term deal for Gore. Gore has a history of injuries and the 49ers would like to see him make it through a 16-game season healthy. Also, Gore is signed through 2007, so there is plenty of time to get a new deal in place before he would become a restricted free agent. ***** ***** ***** Right tackle Kwame Harris' struggles continue. The 49ers have allowed 15 sacks this season, and Harris has been partly or entirely responsible for eight of them. He was beaten for both of the 49ers' sacks, one of which resulted in a lost fumble, in the 49ers loss in Chicago. Harris was also called for a facemask penalty that knocked the 49ers out of field-goal range in the third quarter. Backup Adam Snyder played just one series in the first half, but there is a lot of discussion about moving him into the starting lineup ahead of Harris. ***** ***** ***** Tight end Vernon Davis, out since Sept. 24 with a broken right fibula, hopes to return to limited practice this week. But the rookie probably will miss his fifth consecutive game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Davis is doubtful to return to action Sunday, but he could be ready to go Nov. 12 at the Lions.Davis recently began doing cardiovascular exercises and an X-ray taken of his leg a week ago "looked good," Davis said. On the injury front, running back/kick returner Maurice Hicks suffered a concussion against the Bears and is listed as questionable to play against the Vikings. Linebacker Jeff Ulbrich was wearing a sleeve around his right wrist on Monday and said he might have suffered a small fracture against the Bears, but said he will be ready to play against the Vikings. His injury was not immediately recognized on the 49ers' injury report.
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