49ers stuck on unlucky 17

The 49ers' offense is stuck on 17. That's how many points San Francisco has scored in each of its past three games. And, as the past two games have vividly displayed, 17 points isn't going to get it done. The Niners averaged 438 yards in those two games, but lost both times because that big yardage didn't translate into points on the scoreboard. "It's all well and good to control the clock and control the ball, but darn it, we need to score more points," Niners coach Steve Mariucci said.

The Niners had been averaging 31 points in their previous five games before running into their current rut where they have scored 17 against the Chiefs, Chargers and Eagles. That total was enough to slip past the Chiefs, but it wasn't enough to hold on to victory against the Chargers and wasn't nearly enough to even keep the Niners in the game in their three-touchdown loss to the Eagles.

Consequently, the Niners have slipped from eighth in the league in scoring three weeks ago to 13th this week and have their first two-game losing streak since the 2000 season.

"We've got a lot of yards, but not as many points to show for it," Mariucci said. "We need to score more points and help the defense out that way, as well as time of possession."

The Niners have climbed to seventh in the NFL in total offense - their highest ranking of the season - but that is not indicative of what they've been getting in bottom-line production which, of course, is the number they put on the scoreboard.

"Yards? Where does that get you sometimes?" Mariucci said. "Half the time yards are inflated because you're in a catch-up mode. Points per game and first downs and clock time and red-zone efficiency and those sort of things are so important. We're very good at some things. But we're trying to score more points, especially in the red zone. We need to be in the red zone more often. We need to create more chances in the red zone."

The 49ers have been inside their opponents' 20-yard line 42 times this season, which ranks second in the NFC and third in the NFL. But they've scored just 20 touchdowns and kicked 16 field goals in those opportunities. Once one of the league's most efficient teams scoring touchdowns inside the red zone, the Niners now rank a dismal 27th in the league in that department with a 47.6 touchdown percentage in such situations.

The key is consistency, quarterback Jeff Garcia said. It's something the Niners really have to start getting better at now that they're entering the December stretch run in which each of their five remaining games will have playoff implications.

"If you look back at our best offensive performance, it was probably the (Nov. 3) Oakland game," Garcia said of the last game in which the Niners scored more than 17 points. "Kansas City, we played a good first half, then didn't play well in the second. San Diego, we were sporadic, and then against Philadelphia, we found ourselves playing in a catch-up situation and it just wasn't our offense. You could tell that we were out of sync, not on the same page.

"We've had situations during games where we've played well offensively. But I don't think we've necessarily put together a full game. We just need to focus on getting ourselves better. I have no doubt that we're going to be a better football team this week and do the necessary things on the offensive side of the ball to allow us to compete at the highest level."

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