49ers replay: SF nothing like a playoff team

The 49ers return home for a crucial game against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. The 49ers are mired in a four-game losing streak, and are third in the NFC West with a 2-4 record. The club had expectations of advancing to the playoffs this season, but they have looked nothing like a playoff team through the first six games of the season.

"I never foresaw that happening," 49ers veteran defensive lineman Bryant Young said. "The only thing we can continue to do is work. We have a lot of room for improvement."

The team's expectations of winning the NFC West are not out of reach, but the club has plenty of work to do. Most - if not all - of that work must be done on offense.

The first step in rectifying their problems is simple, 49ers running back Frank Gore said. He said the offense needs to trust each other and what first-year offensive coordinator Jim Hostler is trying to accomplish.

"You got to trust," Gore said. "If you don't trust, you're not going to win. When we trust (backup quarterback Trent Dilfer), trust the coordinator and trust everybody, we'll win."

Gore said some of his teammates lack confidence in their embattled offensive coordinator. Hostler was promoted from quarterbacks coach after Norv Turner left in February to become the San Diego Chargers' head coach. Hostler's only experience calling plays prior to this season was in 1999, when he was offensive coordinator at Indiana (Pa.), an NCAA Division II school.

"I just know that we had Norv Turner," Gore said. "He's been doing it for a while. Whenever he said something we wanted to do it.

"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?' instead of just going out there and busting your behind. That's all it is right now, I feel."

The 49ers spent their bye week examining their problems on offense. They average a league-low 213.8 yards per game. The 49ers featured some different looks on offense. They used a variety of offensive formations and tried to better use their personnel, coach Mike Nolan said.

The 49ers hope to have all of their personnel available to face the Saints. Starting quarterback Alex Smith missed the past two starts after sustaining a right shoulder separation on Sept. 30. Although he is throwing passes at near full strength, Nolan said he detected that Smith was a bit tentative.

Also, Gore's status is in question after sustaining a right ankle sprain in the 49ers' 33-15 loss to the New York Giants. Gore had his best game of the season, rushing for 88 yards on just 14 carries, but his status for the game against the Saints remains in question.

In the loss to the Giants, the 49ers committed four turnovers that led to 24 points. They also had 13 penalties for 82 yards.

"We're our own worst enemy right now," Nolan said. "We've been that for a while. I know we'll keep getting better, and I don't know when it turns. It was the same thing last year, and it was the same thing the year before. But it's disappointing to me that we're like that early on. It's a disappointment because it costs us games."

--- QB Alex Smith was the No. 3 quarterback on Sunday. He warmed up prior to the game, but his shoulder was still not considered strong enough to play. Smith sustained a separated right shoulder on Sept. 30. His status for next week's game against the New Orleans Saints remains in question.
--- QB Trent Dilfer made his second consecutive start in place of injured Alex Smith. Dilfer completed 23 of 38 passes for 209 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Giants. His passer rating was 71.1. He was also sacked six times for minus-45 yards.
--- RB Frank Gore had a season-high 88 yards on 14 carries, but he sustained a right ankle sprain in the second quarter that might affect his status for the New Orleans game. For the season, Gore has 394 yards on 98 carries. He has raised his average to 4.0 yards.
--- WR Ashley Lelie saw his most extensive playing time on Sunday and caught two passes for 52 yards. His first reception, a 47-yarder from quarterback Trent Dilfer, is the 49ers' longest gain of the season.
--- RT Joe Staley had the worst game of his brief career. Staley was matched up against Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who recorded 2.5 sacks. Staley also surrendered a sack to Giants defensive end Jason Tuck.
--- LB Patrick Willis continued his impressive season with a game-high 13 tackles against the Giants. With 63 tackles through San Francisco's first six games, Willis now ranks second in the NFL to Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud, who has 66 in seven games.

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