49ers replay: Critical stage for Nolan?

Things are starting to hit the critical stage for the 49ers and head coach Mike Nolan. San Francisco heads into Sunday's pivotal NFC matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles at 2-3 with a two-game losing streak. And not only have they lost two straight, but the 49ers have played poorly on both sides of the ball.

And things do not figure to get a whole lot easier against an Eagles team that is also smarting with two consecutive losses.

The 49ers finish off the first half of their season with games at the New York Giants and back home against the Seattle Seahawks. There are indications that if the 49ers do not turn it around, team ownership might have to consider making a midseason coaching change.

Nolan was asked Monday in the aftermath of the team's 30-21 loss to the New England Patriots whether he thought he might be coaching for his job over the next month leading up to San Francisco's Nov. 2 bye week.

"As far as performing for my job, I've never looked at it that way," Nolan responded. "I'm always, every day I'm doing that. I was doing that last year. Nobody asked me that question last year in the season. But, that's what you're doing. You're doing that at all times. I'm doing that. This week I'll do it again. If we're 5-0, you're coaching for your job. So, that doesn't change. That's just the nature of the beast so to speak."

This is a point in which receiver Isaac Bruce said it is important for the team to stick together.

"Unity is important," Bruce said. "We have to make sure that the purpose of everybody on the team is the same, and that we play with a winning attitude."

"Right now is the time for the leaders to step up and make sure we keep a one-game-at-a-time attitude," 49ers linebacker Tully Banta-Cain said. "We have to stay together as a team."

After a fine 2-1 start that had both the team's offense and defense among the top 11 units in the NFL rankings, the 49ers have fallen apart on the field the past two weeks.

The secondary got burned in the first quarter against the New England Patriots on Randy Moss' 66-yard touchdown catch behind cornerbacks Nate Clements and Walt Harris. New England, which trailed 14-7 in the second quarter, scored 20 unanswered points and went on to record a convincing victory.

The 49ers surrendered four pass plays of more than 30 yards in a 31-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 28.

"(We) gave them another big pass -- uncharacteristic of our secondary," Nolan said. "But two weeks in a row. I'm not going to say it's becoming characteristic, but we got the quarterback on a blitz and he just unloads it deep and beats us."

The 49ers held the ball for nearly 20 minutes fewer than the Patriots. The 49ers need to be more of a ball-control team behind the running of Frank Gore. However, the 49ers have held the ball on average just 27:40 this season – characteristic of their poor showing in that area last season.

It is imperative that the 49ers jump back with a strong showing against the Eagles.

"We just have to out there and stick together and play hard," Gore said. "We can't give up. We just have to keep playing hard."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Defensively, we've got to get off the field better, obviously. We didn't do a good job there. And, offensively, we definitely have to stay on the field. We've got to convert on third downs." – Nolan on the problems that have plagued the 49ers through five games.

TRENDING: Tight end Vernon Davis, the No. 6 overall pick of the 2006 draft, has become a non-factor in the 49ers' passing game. Davis has been used primarily as a blocker. In five games this season, Davis has just five receptions for 87 yards. He dropped the only pass thrown his way against the Patriots.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES
--- LB Patrick Willis recorded a season-high 18 tackles against the Patriots. He also recorded one sack. Willis has easily been the 49ers' most consistent player this season.
--- QB J.T. O'Sullivan threw three touchdown passes and three interceptions. For the second consecutive game, O'Sullivan's passer rating was under 60. He completed 14 of 29 passes for 130 yards against the Patriots.
--- TE Vernon Davis was held without a reception for the second time this season. Davis has turned primarily into a blocker in Mike Martz's offense. Davis dropped one pass in Sunday's game.
--- LB Takeo Spikes made his second consecutive start with the 49ers and recorded an interception for the second game in a row. Spikes was one of the defense's bright spots as he recorded 14 tackles.
--- WR Isaac Bruce leads the 49ers with four touchdown catches after getting into the end zone twice Sunday against the Patriots. Bruce caught touchdown passes of six and five yards from J.T. O'Sullivan in the 49ers' 30-21 loss.


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