49ers vs. Giants: Thumbs up and thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for coach Mike Nolan, tight end Vernon Davis, receivers Arnaz Battle and Ashley Lelie, quarterback Trent Dilfer, tackle Jonas Jennings and SF's beleaguered offensive line, linebacker Patrick Willis, punter Andy Lee, running back Frank Gore, getting more of Brandon Moore on the field and the third-down efficiency and turnover rate of the 49ers' defense? Check inside.

Thumbs down: We've held off on digging into coach Mike Nolan because there clearly are several people below him who are not performing, but if Nolan can't get his team inspired and/or prepared better than that with two full weeks to do so, what does that say about the man at the top? Nolan must be held accountable for this unraveling operation that currently is the 49ers. The bye week is supposed to be when a team rallies around itself and pulls together, but that obviously isn't happening under Nolan. During the Nolan era, the 49ers have returned from bye weeks to get crushed 52-17 at Washington, humiliated 41-10 at Chicago, and now embarrassed 33-15 at New York. Sorry, Mike, this is on you.

Thumbs down: He's one of the highest-paid tight ends in NFL history, not to mention one of the most highly-regarded prospects ever at the position, but Vernon Davis so far has exhibited the stone hands of a scrap-heap journeyman. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Davis was wide open over the middle and Trent Dilfer placed a pass on his fingertips with Davis in full stride. Davis dropped it. He seems to drop a lot of the big downfield passes. That's a catch he simply has to make - every time. Davis had only a safety to beat - or to run over - for what could have been a momentum-building 68-yard touchdown reception. Instead, Davis was left pounding his hands together in frustration as the ball bounced on the turf nearby. Davis has played in only four games this season, and that's one sight we've already seen way too often. In fact, once is too often. Davis was flagged for a false start and also had a holding penalty that negated an 11-yard run by Frank Gore that would have resulted in a first down.

Thumbs up: But at least the 49ers can count on wide receiver Arnaz Battle to make the big catch when the ball is placed on his hands. Battle had a tougher challenge to go up in the air and keep in bounds at the left pylon early in the second quarter, but he made the grab for just San Francisco's third touchdown catch this season and his second in consecutive games. Battle, who leads the 49ers with 21 receptions after reeling in a game-high six on Sunday, isn't blessed with the speed to consistently get open, but he clearly is proving to be the team's most reliable set of hands ahead of the more-accomplished veterans who were brought in this year to replace/complement him.

Thumbs down: He's probably doing the best he can at this stage of his career - and he's certainly gritty and willing to take on a challenge - but quarterback Trent Dilfer simply doesn't have the juice any longer. He had some decent passing numbers, except for those two killer interceptions that he basically threw right at New York defenders. The Giants turned those two picks into 10 short-field points. Dilfer also is target practice in the pocket for pass rushers, and he fumbled three times - losing two - with the second lost fumble going for a back-breaking 75-yard touchdown the other way. New York turned Dilfer's four turnovers into 24 points in a game the Giants won by 18.

Thumbs up: If Ashley Lelie can get open like that, it really makes you wonder why the 49ers were so stubborn in not using him earlier in the season while their offense was flat-lining. Lelie's 47-yard reception - when he blew down the right sideline past the New York defense - was San Francisco's longest offensive play of the season. It also was his first catch of the season. To be sure, something doesn't sound quite right about that last sentence.

Thumbs down: Nolan said he had planned to give Adam Snyder some playing time at tackle anyway, but gee, it sure looked like Snyder entered the game in place of left tackle Jonas Jennings on merit. As in, Jennings deserved to be replaced. Maybe some of it was blocking scheme in which somebody else deserves the blame, but Jennings stood there looking inside as Osi Umenyiora whizzed right around him on the left edge to blast Dilfer on the play that resulted in the game-swaying sack/fumble/TD return. And nobody else takes the blame for a first-down holding penalty by Jennings that doomed one San Francisco drive before it got started, not to mention other occasions when Jennings struggled to hold his own in pass protection.

Thumbs down: We're singling out Jennings here this week, but San Francisco's beleaguered offensive line deserves some more discredit as a whole. Either they're just getting dominated each week or the blocking schemes are poor - or maybe a combination of both - but the line is now the worst in the NFL at allowing sacks per play after Dilfer was dumped six more times Sunday. And Dilfer took a lot more shots than that - he officially took eight hits according to the stat sheet, but believe it when we say he absorbed several more. It also should be pointed out here that rookie right tackle Joe Staley had his worst game, getting beaten for multiple sacks by defensive ends Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck.

Thumbs up: If the 49ers were turning out to be a better team, rookie Patrick Willis by now would be getting heralded as the Second Coming at linebacker. As it is, Willis is a sideline-to-sideline defender who simply is too quick for opposing blockers and usually puts up the "STOP" sign once he engages ball-carriers. Willis added a game-high 13 tackles to his burgeoning total on Sunday, and though he has played only six games, he ranks second in the NFL with 63 tackles to the 66 of Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud, who has played seven games.

Thumbs down: Even though they're on the field more than any other defense in the NFL, getting off of it on third downs has been a strength for the 49ers. But that wasn't the case against the Giants, who had a third-down efficiency rate of 54 percent, converting on seven of 13 such opportunities, including four times on scoring drives and one third-and-goal play that went for a touchdown. On the 32 times Eli Manning dropped back to pass, he was sacked only once and hit only once by San Francisco's weak pass rush as five of the third-down conversions came on completed passes.

Thumbs up: Punter Andy Lee is turning into the proverbial weekly standout, and he has to be mentioned again here simply because it probably would have been even worse without him. Lee pounded out a 52.6 average with a 45.4 net on his five punts - placing two of them inside the 20 - which on this day looked like nothing more than an average effort from the fourth-year veteran.

Thumbs up: It's nice to see the 49ers finally incorporating linebacker Brandon Moore into their defensive plan a little bit more. Moore, who had just seven tackles in San Francisco's first five games, almost matched that total with six against the Giants. The 49ers' leader in both tackles and sacks last season, Moore also recorded his first sack of the season with a big hit on third down that stopped a New York drive deep in its own territory midway through the third quarter - San Francisco's lone sack of the day.

Thumbs down: The 49ers got a nice collaborative effort from nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (who deflected the ball) and linebacker Derek Smith (who grabbed it out of the air) to record a first-quarter interception - their only takeaway of the game - that led to San Francisco's first touchdown. But the San Francisco defense simply has to create more turnovers for the team to be successful. The 49ers paid some big money to add play-making defenders during the offseason, but San Francisco currently ranks last in the NFL in percentage of interceptions per play, and on this offensively-challenged team, that simply is not going to get it done. The 49ers are now minus-4 in the takeaway/giveaway differential for the season.

Thumbs up: Frank Gore showed some of his coltish rushing ability while picking up 88 yards on 14 carries, averaging 6.3 yards a pop, and he accounted for 105 of San Francisco's 267 offensive yards. Then, after the game, in reference to offensive coordinator Jim Hostler, Gore pronounced, "I feel like we don't have the trust. We're not trusting each other. We're not trusting the coordinator. And now I feel that a lot of people, when coach Hoss or somebody calls something, it gets in the back of their heads, 'Is he calling the right play?'" Hey, somebody had to say it.

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