49ers replay: Frustration onto national stage

The 49ers' take a six-game losing streak, and mounting frustration, onto the national stage. As a sign that big things were expected from the 49ers this season, the club was selected to play two Monday night games. The 49ers won their season opener on a Monday night against the Arizona Cardinals. And now the nation will get a chance to see a team that is playing horrendous offensive football.

The 49ers are 2-6 as they enter next Monday's game against the NFC West-leading Seattle Seahawks, who at 4-4 are only two games ahead of the 49ers in the division chase, with San Francisco getting an opportunity on the Seahawks' home field to cut that gap in half.

"Next week is a must-win," 49ers running back Michael Robinson said following the 49ers' dismal 20-16 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. "We got to have it. There is no tomorrow."

Said coach Mike Nolan, "We find ourselves in a unique position at 2-6, playing the division leader just two games out."

The 49ers, however, have to focus on getting one win before they start thinking about where they stand in a division some prognosticators had them favored to win before the season began. San Francisco currently is riding its second six-game losing streak in three years.

Prior to the 49ers' trip to Atlanta, outside linebacker Tully Banta-Cain promised a victory over the Falcons. He said, "We're not coming back without a win."

However, the 49ers did return to growing dissatisfaction from the team's fan base. Nolan has compiled a 13-27 record in his two-plus seasons as head coach. He has started to field questions about his job security, as the team goes through its unexpected struggles. Nolan said he is not motivated by job security.

But after six consecutive defeats, Nolan realizes his message is sounding repetitive.

"It is hard to keep coming in each week and (saying) the same thing," Nolan said. "We do have an incredibly hard-working group that will continue until we pull out of this thing. I don't believe the season is lost, and I don't think it will be a loss until people quit, and that is not going to happen.

"We will continue to fight 'till the end."

The 49ers' problems are mostly on the offensive side. Quarterback Alex Smith has played poorly in the two games since he returned from a separated throwing shoulder. He completed 17 of 38 passes for 149 yards with no touchdowns and three interceptions against the Falcons and also lost a fumble.

But he refuses to blame his problems on an injured shoulder.

"The shoulder felt healthy," Smith said. "It'll get better and better every week. It's only been five weeks since I tore it. It definitely gets better each day, which is a good thing."

The 49ers lost to the Seahawks 23-3 earlier this season in a game during which Smith sustained his shoulder injury. On the third play of the game, Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard came through to sack Smith. He landed on top of Smith, causing the shoulder injury.

The 49ers expect to get running back Frank Gore back in the lineup. Gore missed last week's game with a right ankle sprain. Gore is a key to the 49ers' offense. He had particular success against the Seahawks last season, as he rushed for 356 yards in two games.

"Part of the decision (to hold Gore out against the Falcons) was to get him back this week," Nolan said.

--- RB Michael Robinson played 36 of the 49ers' 64 offensive snaps in place of injured Frank Gore. Robinson carried 17 times for 67 yards and he caught two passes for two yards. He had runs of 7, 9, 9, 12 and 20 yards.
--- TE Vernon Davis caught a career-high seven passes for 77 yards as he continues to build a nice rapport with quarterback Alex Smith.
--- LB Patrick Willis played most of Sunday's game with a small fracture in his right hand. He still managed a team-high 10 tackles and one sack. Willis now leads the NFL with 83 official tackles in eight games. Tampa Bay's Barrett Ruud is second in the league behind Willis with 79 tackles in nine games. The Buccaneers have their bye this week, which will give Willis an opportunity to increase his lead.
--- RG Justin Smiley sustained a right shoulder dislocation in the first quarter and did not return to action. He said it took approximately 20 minutes for the team's medical staff to pop the shoulder back into its socket. His status will be evaluated Monday after a scheduled MRI examination.
--- OT Jonas Jennings was placed on injured reserve Monday, ending his season. Jennings sustained a high ankle sprain in the second quarter of the 49ers' loss to New York on Oct. 21 and missed the next two games with the injury. He will require surgery to remove loose bodies in the ankle.

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