49ers vs. Eagles: Thumbs up and thumbs down

Which way does the thumb turn for certain 49ers after their 40-26 loss to Philadelphia, including TE Vernon Davis, return specialist Allen Rossum, San Francisco's fourth-quarter fade, QB J.T. O'Sullivan's penchant for late turnovers, the usual clock management issues, kicker Joe Nedney, problems on third down, QB/WR miscommunications, DE Ray McDonald, LB Takeo Spikes and much more? Check inside.

Thumbs down: Talk about fading away big-time in the fourth quarter. Any time an opponent scores 23 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes – in San Francisco's house, no less - to erase a nine-point deficit entering the final quarter, the 49ers have no business thinking they had any right to win. Which, of course, they didn't by the end of this one.

Thumbs down: It has now reached the disturbing level, quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan's penchant for turnovers when the 49ers are attempting to assemble a late rally. O'Sullivan threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the final 6:23, with one of his interceptions being returned for a game-clinching touchdown when the 49ers – despite their fourth-quarter implosion – still had a shot at forcing overtime in the final minute.

Thumbs up: It got lost in the shuffle Sunday, but Allen Rossum's returns are making a difference for the 49ers. He had a 45-yard punt return, his longest of the season, to set up San Francisco's first field goal, and also had some decent kickoff returns to give San Francisco good starting position. After using him for a touchdown run on a flanker reverse three weeks ago against Detroit, the 49ers also got Rossum involved as a wide receiver Sunday, when he caught his first pass of the season.

Thumbs down: Once again, the 49ers failed to strike for the jugular when they had a chance in the early going due to their problems in the red zone. San Francisco was just 1 of 4 scoring touchdowns after getting inside the Philadelphia 20-yard line, and settling for field goals instead of scoring touchdowns came back to haunt the 49ers at the end when they could have used some of those points they left on the field.

Thumbs down: The 49ers had their usual problems with clock management and unnecessarily burning timeouts, and it left the 49ers with no timeouts on their ill-fated final offensive possession with 70 seconds remaining. Mike Nolan lost two timeouts with replay challenges that failed after being upheld by the officials, and he had to have a pretty good idea that his challenge of David Akers' 38-yard field goal was not going to be overturned, but he went ahead and used a precious timeout anyway, leaving the 49ers with just one left for the final seven minutes, 46 seconds of the game.

Thumbs down: The last thing you want to see is kicker Joe Nedney making a tackle attempt near midfield. Only bad things can happen as a result of that, and one of them is that the opponent has made a long return. The other is Nedney could get hurt, since tackling isn't exactly his thing. And that's exactly what happened after a rookie named Quintin Demps answered San Francisco's first field goal by breaking loose for a 63-yard return of the ensuing kickoff early in the first quarter. Nedney strained his left shoulder attempting to make a tackle on Demps at the sideline, and although he was able to play the rest of the game, it could have been worse and left San Francisco without its kicker.

Thumbs up: And the 49ers need their kicker, because once again Nedney was their top scorer, nailing all four of his field-goal attempts, including a 53-yarder. Nedney also was true from 32, 37 and 39 yards and scored 14 of San Francisco's 26 points.

Thumbs up: Finally, the 49ers got tight end Vernon Davis centrally involved in their passing game, and he had a team-high six receptions for 75 yards, more than doubling his reception total for the season. Davis broke loose for big gains of 57 and 24 yards, and both led to San Francisco scores. He also had three receptions for negative yardage, which brought down his final per-catch average to 12.5.

Thumbs down: Davis couldn't handle O'Sullivan's high, hard pass on a throwback screen in the third quarter that could have given the 49ers a commanding 30-17 lead and maybe put them in command to stay. It was a tough play to make, but Davis was all alone, and since he got his hand on the pass, he could have tried to tip it to himself or at least keep the play alive. The play was brilliantly executed except for O'Sullivan's hurried pass, and Davis – with blockers in front of him – could have walked into the end zone since there was no Philadelphia defender in sight. Instead, Davis again displays meat hooks for hands when he needs to make a pivotal play. It's plays like that which make a difference in games like these. The 49ers had to settle for a field goal that gave them a 26-17 lead, and they never scored again.

Thumbs up: Arnaz Battle had a 26-yard reception and rookie Josh Morgan added a 25-yard reception in the final minute of the game, giving the 49ers three more pass plays of 25 yards or more during the game. San Francisco now has 13 pass plays of 25 yards or more in six games this season. The 49ers had only 10 such plays all of last season.

Thumbs down: What good are hot reads in the offense if there is miscommunication between the quarterback and receivers at crucial points in the game? O'Sullivan thought Arnaz Battle would be looking for a quick pass out of the slot as the 49ers attempted a last-gasp comeback at midfield in the final minute, but Battle instead streaked down the field while defensive end Juqua Parker stepped into the passing lane instead, intercepting O'Sullivan's pass and returning it 55 yards for a game-clinching touchdown with 38 seconds to play.

Thumbs up: Got to love a little wrinkle in the offense when running back Michael Robinson takes a handoff and turns into an option quarterback, which gave him the option of pitching out to Frank Gore, who turned the corner for a 10-yard gain.

Thumbs down:To more false start penalties by the offensive line. The 49ers had back-to-back false start penalties by tackle Barry Sims and Davis within the two-minute warning before halftime, ultimately forcing them to settle for another Nedney field goal instead of taking a strike at the end zone. The 49ers had another false start by Tony Wragge that pushed them back after Davis' 57-yard catch in the third quarter.

Thumbs up: Give credit to the quick first step of defensive lineman Ray McDonald and what he's able to do with it. McDonald crashed through the line to block a field goal that was returned for a touchdown at the end of the first half, and he also broke through for a key stop of running back Correll Buckhalter for a yard loss on a third-and-1 play in the third quarter that forced Philly to punt the ball away after the Eagles had driven into San Francisco territory on their first possession of the second half.

Thumbs up: To the heads up play of Donald Strickland who followed the bouncing ball and scooped it up on the run after McDonald's blocked field goal, leading to a 41-yard touchdown return that radically turned around the game – for a while at least – and suddenly cut Philadelphia's lead to one point on the final play of the first half. It was the fourth time in team history and first time since 1989 that a 49er returned a block field goal for a touchdown.

Thumbs down: The San Francisco defense continues to struggle mightily getting off the field on third down. The Eagles were 5 of 7 converting third downs in the first half, and that's just horrible. That's a big reason Philly was able to move the ball at will in the first half, when the Eagles had 224 offensive yards. The 49ers were better in this area in the second half, but the Eagles still finished with a 50 percent conversion rate on third downs.

Thumbs down: The San Francisco offense is even worse on third downs than the San Francisco defense, which is hard to do. But on Sunday, the offense converted on only 2 of 12 third-down attempts. A 17 percent conversion rate by an offense on third downs isn't going to get it done anytime, anywhere against anyone.

Thumbs down: The 49ers just haven't been able to count on All-Pro punter Andy Lee like they used to. Lee finished with a respectable 42.7 average on his three punts Sunday, but had a horrible 31.3 net, and the Eagles ended up with good field position after each of his kicks. Needing Lee to boom one of his dandies out of his own end zone early in the fourth quarter, Lee instead sent a low liner that was returned to the San Francisco 38, setting up a short field for the touchdown that began Philadelphia's comeback.

Thumbs up: Linebacker Takeo Spikes continued to make an impact with his third interception in three games, this one halting a Philadelphia drive and leaving the Eagles with no points to show for a possession that reached the San Francisco 15. Spikes also had seven tackles.

Thumbs down: Another day, another game without any sacks by the San Francisco defense. Donovan McNabb is just too good a quarterback to give the kind of time he had in the pocket to pick apart the 49ers. McNabb was without two of his top playmakers in running back Brian Westbrook and receiver Reggie Brown, but it still didn't matter as he completed 23 of 36 passes for 280 yards without being sacked and being pressured on only a few rare occasions.

Thumbs down: San Francisco's run defense again left plenty to be desired. The Eagles averaged 4.9 yards a carry while rushing for 103 yards, and Buckhalter – Westbrook's backup – rumbled for 93 yards on 18 carries.

Thumbs down: The San Francisco secondary continues to earn its share of the blame with suspect pass coverage. McNabb put his passes on the money often, but Philly's receivers just had too much open space throughout the day against a veteran San Francisco secondary. Rookie DeSean Jackson burned the 49ers for 98 yards receiving on six catches, and receivers named Hank Baskett and Greg Lewis added another seven catches combined for 76 yards. If the 49ers can't stop those no-names, who can they stop?

Thumbs up: Another tough, determined full-of-heart effort by running back Frank Gore, who ran hard throughout the game and did everything within his power to give San Francisco a chance at victory. Gore had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season and 14th of his career with 101 yards on 19 carries, including a 6-yard burst into the end zone that gave the 49ers a 23-17 lead in the third quarter.

Thumbs down: Once again, even with a sizeable lead, the game saw the 49ers going away from Gore with their offensive game plan in the decisive fourth quarter. What's up with that? Gore didn't touch the ball in the fourth quarter until after the 49ers had seen their nine-point lead entering the period swallowed whole by the Eagles. He had two carries for three yards in the entire quarter, and by the time he was getting the ball, it was too late.

Thumbs down:The 49ers entered the fourth quarter with 308 yards of total offense. The ended the game with 306 yards. Finishing with minus-2 yards of net offense to show for the fourth quarter is as good a thumbs down as any to illustrate why this game got away from the Niners and ended up the way it did with a humiliating come from ahead 14-point loss.



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