Breakdown after the bye

Can it get any worse? That's a question you don't want to keep asking about the 49ers, because it can and it does and it did again during a horrendous 33-15 loss to the New York Giants on Sunday, when the reeling Niners hardly looked like a team that did much - or any - recovering or improving during their bye week.

Instead, the 49ers for most of the day looked like the same stumbling, bumbling team on offense, committing four turnovers that led directly to 24 New York points that allowed the Giants to run away in a rout.

San Francisco also committed a season-high 13 penalties, several of them holding calls on an offensive line that was pretty much dominated by its New York counterparts. The Giants sacked quarterback Trent Dilfer six times, one of which resulted in a fumble early in the third quarter that quickly extinguished San Francisco's ideas of making any kind of comeback.

"Anytime you shoot yourself in the foot like we did, you don't give yourself an opportunity to win," 49ers defensive lineman Bryant Young said. "It's very frustrating. Nobody laid down, but we continued to make those mistakes in crucial situations."

On their way to a fourth consecutive loss, the 49ers (2-4) actually took a first-quarter lead before they fell apart.

After the Giants took the opening kickoff and went right down field for a 13-play, 83-yard touchdown drive - kicker Lawrence Tynes missed the PAT kick - the 49ers answered early in the second quarter with an 11-play, 81-yard scoring march to take their first lead since the opening quarter of their Week 3 game in Pittsburgh on Sept. 23, the day their losing streak began.

When the San Francisco defense got the ball right back for its offense, it appeared things could be different for the 49ers on this day.

But then the mistakes and comedy of errors began, sending San Francisco on its way to another afternoon of disturbing futility.

On the 49ers' next offensive play, running back Frank Gore couldn't get a handle on a simple handoff from Dilfer, fumbling the ball away to the Giants deep in San Francisco territory, a gaffe New York quickly turned into a touchdown and 13-7 lead.

On the very next play after the ensuing kickoff, Dilfer threw into dense coverage and was intercepted by cornerback Sam Madison, a turnover the Giants quickly turned into a Tynes field goal and 16-7 lead.

Two plays by the San Francisco offense, two turnovers, and 10 easy points for the Giants.

"We seemed to make a play, and then we get into turnover problems," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "When you turn the ball over, it's going to hurt you."

The 49ers know that all too well, and the fact was crammed into their helmets once again just when it seemed they actually were getting back in the game.

The 49ers took the second-half kickoff, and with Dilfer hitting Ashley Lelie for a 47-yard gain - Lelie's first reception of the season - San Francisco was sitting on the New York 15-yard line with a first down just two minutes into the third quarter, in prime position to cut into New York's 19-7 halftime lead.

Then, as quickly as you can say "Osi Umenyiora," the football was headed the opposite direction and the 49ers were finished.

Umenyiora, the NFL leader in sacks, came charging in from the blind side virtually untouched as Dilfer dropped back to pass on first down. He blasted Dilfer in the back, forcing a fumble that took a fortuitous bounce right into his hands. All Umenyiora had to do was get up and race 75 yards the other way for a back-breaking touchdown and sudden 26-7 New York lead.

Game over. And there still was 12:53 remaining in the third quarter.

"It kind of tells you how fine a line there is between success and disaster," Nolan said.

The 49ers' first touchdown came after Derek Smith's interception deep in San Francisco territory stopped another potential scoring drive by the Giants. But that was the only turnover forced by a San Francisco defense that is being asked to do way too much to keep the 49ers in games.

"Our focus is to get turnovers, and it's frustrating to sit out there and watch their defense get turnovers," 49ers safety Michael Lewis said. "We wanted to come out in this game and make some things happen, but we weren't able to do that."

The 49ers weren't able to do a lot of things, though their 53-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes added some cosmetic touches to the final score and allowed the 49ers to finish with 267 yards of offense, which this season almost seems to be a breakout performance. It broke a string of two sub-200-yard games by San Francisco, which has produced more than 194 yards of offense just twice in its first six games.

The San Francisco defense, after doing a lot of bending in the first half when the Giants rolled up 230 yards, allowed just 49 total yards in the second half - not that New York needed anything else from its offense after Umenyiora's touchdown. The Giants had to drive just five yards for their final touchdown after Dilfer's second interception in the fourth quarter.

All in all, it was another shoddy effort by the 49ers, who now have been hammered 52-17 (by Washington in 2005), 41-10 (by Chicago last season) and now this meager effort in their three games coming off bye weeks during the Nolan era.

"I thought we had an outstanding week during the bye week; I thought we practiced and prepared well," Nolan said. "So I'm very disappointed in the loss, mainly because we're our own worst enemy right now. We've been that for a while."

And if it doesn't stop … Well, the 49ers will just keep looking and playing like they did Sunday, which looked a lot like they'd been playing practically every week of the season before that.


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