49ers replay: Offense is in a sorry state

The 49ers' offense is in a sorry state as it enters this week's game against the Baltimore Ravens. San Francisco owns the NFL's worst offense at the quarter pole of the 2007 season as the 49ers have failed to record at least 200 yards of total offense in three of the team's first four games. Moreover, the Niners will be without their starting quarterback at least until the end of this month.

Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 draft, is out for Sunday's key intra-conference game against the Baltimore Ravens that will take the 49ers up to their October bye week.

His replacement is Trent Dilfer, 35, who did not take a snap last season as Smith's backup. Dilfer came to the 49ers in a trade last year to serve as Smith's mentor. His first start will come against the team that dumped him he was the Super Bowl-winning quarterback for the Ravens in 2000.

"It's hard because it's like seeing your little brother go down," Dilfer said of Smith's injury. "I feel badly for him, but at the same time there is no time for sympathy in this league."

Coach Mike Nolan announced Monday afternoon that Smith will miss at least one game with a grade 3 (out of 6) right shoulder separation. Smith will not require surgery and, in a best-case scenario, could return after the by week for the team's Oct. 21 game against the Giants in New York.

Smith said there are tears to the AC and CC ligaments in his right shoulder and both will heal on their own without surgery.

Nolan said the 49ers will know more about Smith's prognosis on Thursday after the swelling goes down in his shoulder. Smith indicated Monday that the injury is likely to keep him out of action a month or longer.

Dilfer's relief stint did not go smoothly when he came off the sideline in the first quarter of the 49ers' 23-3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday. Dilfer completed just 12 of 33 passing attempts for 128 yards with two interceptions. Dilfer made several other ill-advised throws that could have been intercepted.

The biggest problem was up front, as the offensive line struggled to get obvious pass rushers blocked. On several occasions, Seahawks defenders had a direct route to the quarterback. The 49ers surrendered six sacks, including the first one by tackle Rocky Bernard that knocked out Smith on the game's third play from scrimmage.

"Our coaching staff had us well-prepared," 49ers guard Justin Smiley said. "Did we execute? Obviously not."

First-year offensive coordinator Jim Hostler has gotten his share of criticism the first four weeks of the season. The 49ers ranked 26th in total offense last season and figured to make a significant improvement.

Hostler, however, has the support of Nolan and the 49ers' players.

"I don't question the game plan," Nolan said. "We just got to execute better."

Said Dilfer, "I feel badly for Jim Hostler because he has done a fabulous job. It's probably the cleanest offense I've ever been in, in terms of organization. The play-calling is fine. I've been around bad play-calling. This is not bad play-calling. This is bad execution."

Even running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 1,695 yards last season, has struggled. He fumbled on two of his first four carries against the Seahawks. One fumble was a turnover; he recovered the other.

Gore has gained just 254 yards on 68 carries (3.7-yard average) through the first four games. Nothing is going right for the 49ers' offense, which will also be playing without tight end Vernon Davis this week due to ligament damage in his right knee.

"In 14 years in this league, I've seen very little carry over from one game to the next," Dilfer said. "Just because we were bad last week doesn't mean will be bad this week."

--- QB Alex Smith is out until at least the team's Oct. 21 game against the Giants in New York with a right shoulder separation. Last season, he was the first quarterback in 49ers history to take every snap from scrimmage. Before the injury, he was off to a slow start, completing just 51.2 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception. Smith's passer rating is 66.6.
--- RB Frank Gore has rushed for 254 yards on 68 carries. He fumbled twice on Sunday. One was a turnover and he recovered the other. Gore admitted that he has been pressing, as his frustration has gotten the better of him. He rushed for 1,695 yards last season, and set a goal of rushing for more than 2,000 yards. Gore caught three passes for 42 yards against the Seahawks.
--- WR Darrell Jackson had a quiet game against his former team. Jackson had three catches for 38 yards. Jackson has a team-leading 14 receptions for 204 yards.
--- PR Michael Lewis had six punt returns for 63 yards, a 10.5-yard average, in his first game with the 49ers. The 49ers signed Lewis as a free agent to take the place of unproductive Brandon Williams.
--- WR Arnaz Battle caught three passes for 19 yards, as he continues to struggle to produce. The usually sure-handed Battle dropped a pass early in the game.

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