49ers replay: Looking to avoid longest skid

The 49ers will be looking to avoid their longest losing streak since 1978 when they travel to face the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. A season that began with promise has fizzled over the past two months, as coach Mike Nolan has seen his team fall apart during an eight-game losing streak. Is the 49ers' longest skid since 1999, and the second-longest in franchise history.

"We were considered a playoff team before the season," 49ers receiver Darrell Jackson said. "Now, we're trying to find our way, find our identity."

The 49ers' identity through 10 games has been that of a team that has not been able to function on offense. The club ranks last in the NFL, averaging just 221.1 yards a game. At this pace, it would be the worst single-season offensive showing in franchise history.

Moreover, Nolan and quarterback Alex Smith have experienced some troubling "communication" problems. Smith struggled in his three games since returning after sustaining a separated right shoulder on Sept. 30.

Not only was the shoulder still bothering him, but his agent, Tom Condon, said Smith was overworked in the 49ers' weight room in the days after the injury. Smith has also battled tendinitis in his forearm, according to Condon.

Smith has grown noticeably weaker in his right forearm. There is a concern that he might have suffered nerve damage from the work in the weight room.

The 49ers say Smith's forearm injury is a strain. Furthermore, Nolan said he knew nothing about the work in the weight room.

Smith, and those close to him, do not believe Nolan has supported the third-year quarterback. Even though Smith's struggles were apparent, Nolan repeatedly refused to blame the problems on Smith's health. Finally, Smith said he had enough.

Veteran backup Trent Dilfer made his third start of the season in the 49ers' 13-9 loss to the St. Louis Rams on Sunday. It is unclear which quarterback will start this week against the Cardinals. The 49ers enter the game having gone 11 quarters since their last touchdown.

If nothing else, at least the 49ers managed to break a streak of 22 consecutive games with fewer than 200 net yards passing in their loss to the Rams.

Dilfer completed 20 of 42 passes for 231 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked three times for minus-19 yards, giving the 49ers 212 net yards passing. The 49ers string of futility was the longest in the NFL since the league liberalized the passing rules in 1978.

PLAYER NOTES
--- RB Frank Gore had the worst game of his career as a starter, rushing for just 32 yards on 15 carries in the 49ers' loss to the Rams. Gore does not appear to have fully recovered from an ankle sprain he sustained Oct. 21 against the New York Giants.
--- QB Alex Smith did not play Sunday as he said he is still feeling soreness and discomfort in his shoulder and forearm from the right shoulder separation he sustained Sept. 30.
--- QB Trent Dilfer completed 20 of 42 passes for 231 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. His passer rating for the game was 44.8. He was also sacked three times for minus-19 yards.
--- WR Arnaz Battle had a season-high 86 yards receiving on six receptions. Battle played every snap in the loss to the Rams.
--- WR Darrell Jackson, whose hands have been inconsistent this season, dropped a potential game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Jackson finished with just two catches for 36 yards.
--- K Joe Nedney made all three of his field goal attempts. He made kicks of 28, 38 and 46 yards. Nedney has made 14 of 15 field goal attempts this season.


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