Sloppy 49ers stumble to fourth straight loss

The 49ers are what they are. And that's a team that just can't get it right, a team that keeps shooting itself in the cleats, that keeps making crucial mistakes at inopportune times, that can't make plays when it really needs them. And that's a bad team, a team that was dumped 29-17 on Sunday by the New York Giants, a team that didn't play so well itself, but against the 49ers didn't have to.

With quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan fumbling four times and throwing two more killer interceptions, the 49ers played another ragged game and pretty much beat themselves as much as they were leveled by the defending Super Bowl champions.

The ugly numbers basically tell the story, and once again, they certainly don't add up for the 49ers: Six sacks of O'Sullivan, the four O'Sullivan fumbles – one of them lost – and the two O'Sullivan picks to go along with 13 penalties for a whopping 134 negative yards that aided the Giants down the field on several occasions.

And so, the 49ers are reeling with a four-game losing streak and 2-5 record, the fourth consecutive season they have held that record after seven games since Mike Nolan took over as head coach in 2005.

"The turnovers have continued in our losses, and they've been very costly," Nolan said. "They were a big deal again today. I thought there was a lot of things we didn't do well. We were penalized a lot today, we turned the ball over, we turned it over in poor field position. I thought the only really bright side out there was the defense continued to fight throughout the game and did a pretty good job against the league's No. 1 offense."

That is true, and that kept the 49ers in the game and prevented this one from becoming a blowout after New York took a 14-3 lead on the first play of the second quarter.

The Giants (5-1) had dominated to that point, causing the 49ers all kinds of problems on both sides of the ball, but the defense began putting the clamps on the vaunted New York offense, particularly quarterback Eli Manning and running back Brandon Jacobs, who had hurt the 49ers early.

In fact, the 49ers actually out-gained the Giants 186-129 in the first half and ended up limiting the New York offense – averaging a NFL-best 419.4 yards a game entering the contest – to just 273 total yards.

But turnovers were San Francisco's undoing, just as they have been all season for a team that now leads the NFL with 18 turnovers and has a minus-8 turnover differential.

The first key turnover came after the 49ers had gotten back in the game with a crisp six-play, 74-yard touchdown drive that finished with O'Sullivan hitting rookie receiver Josh Morgan in the end zone with a well-executed 30-yard touchdown strike to close the margin to 14-10.

The San Francisco defense forced punts on New York's next two possessions, but after the second, O'Sullivan made a poor read and even poorer decision deep in his own territory and threw the first of his two interceptions to New York safety Michael Johnson.

The 49ers held in a goal-to-goal situation, limiting the Giants to a field goal, and the 49ers stormed back in the final minutes of the second quarter to have a chance to cut into the New York lead or even go into the locker room tied at halftime.

But after driving the 49ers to a first down at the New York 19 with 22 seconds remaining, O'Sullivan made another poor throw, trying to force a pass into double coverage, and it was again intercepted by Johnson to end the threat.

After the San Francisco defense stoned the New York offense again to begin the second half, O'Sullivan couldn't get a handoff to running back Frank Gore on third-and-2, and the ball hit the carpet and was recovered by the Giants, who quickly turned the gaffe deep in San Francisco territory into another touchdown and commanding 24-10 lead.

O'Sullivan fumbled three other times, but the 49ers were fortunate to recover each of those, though each thwarted an offensive drive for the 49ers, who managed only 67 yards of offense after halftime.

"He's trying to make something out of nothing," Nolan said. "He's trying to create plays, no question, but that's not an excuse for not securing the ball. When you get out of the pocket, you secure the ball. So, that was disappointing that the ball came out. But, again, there's nothing that makes that OK."

The Giants, who held a nine-minute advantage in time of possession, then embarked on another long drive deep into San Francisco territory that finally stalled at the 17. John Carney came out to extend New York's lead to three scores with a 35-yard field-goal attempt.

But seconds later, the 49ers were right back in it. Manny Lawson broke through the line to block the kick, and Nate Clements picked up the carom and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown – the second consecutive week the 49ers had returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown after going 18 years without such a momentum-swinging play.

Just like that, instead of trailing by 17, the 49ers were back within 24-17 with more than a quarter still to play.

"We made a play on special teams and tried to let that motivate us to keep on going," Lawson said. "But we just came up short."

The San Francisco offense couldn't get anything going in the final period, even though the defense was shutting down the Giants. The 49ers' futility showed most after the defense had forced New York into a three-and-out with five minutes to play with the Giants leading 27-17.

O'Sullivan dropped back to pass on first down from his own 20, then had the ball swatted out of his hands by defensive end Justin Tuck, who had his way with right tackle Barry Sims much of the day.

A wild scramble for the ball ensued as it was batted back toward the San Francisco goal line. Finally, with the ball headed toward the end zone, Morgan raced in and kicked the ball through the end zone for a safety to complete the scoring.

It was that kind of day for the 49ers.

So, despite handling a lot of New York's strengths, the 49ers simply made too many mistakes to come away with a victory, something that is beginning to characterize their season.

"We came in expecting a physical game and that's what we played," Lawson said. "But I think if you ask anybody, they'd tell you we didn't play well enough. If we don't win, we didn't play well enough."


Niners Digest Top Stories