Niners could have used Davis on final play

Niners tight end Vernon Davis caught five passes on Sunday, and he gained another 11 yards on a rushing attempt. Yet, Davis was not on the field for the 49ers' final play. He believes he could have helped the 49ers on a fourth-and-10 play from the Miami Dolphins' 21-yard line.

Davis did not envision he'd be used as a pass target. He felt he should've remained in the game to block Dolphins outside linebacker Joey Porter, the AFC's sack leader. Last week, 49ers coach Mike Singletary said Davis is the best blocking tight end he has ever seen.

"It was frustrating," Davis said, "because I thought I should have been in on it. My thing is, you have to keep me on him. Don't take me out. Keep me on him."

With Davis standing on the sideline, Porter recorded sack No. 17.5 for the season when he beat right tackle Barry Sims to the outside to throw quarterback Shaun Hill for a 7-yard loss.

Porter tried to provoke Davis before the game. And he continued trying to get under his skin during the game. But Davis clearly got the best of Porter on the approximately 10 times he was assigned to block him - both on run plays and pass protection.

"I don't know if you guys caught it or not, but we were out there trying to warm up and he's (Porter) on our side trying to start something," 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill said. "What do you do if you're Vernon in that situation? You're really getting disrespected at the time and, obviously, I thought that Vernon handled that well.

"He just kind of stood his ground and didn't go any further, nothing to cause a penalty, nothing to hurt the team, and nothing to cause a fine for himself."

Said Singletary, "I was very proud of the way Vernon handled the whole thing. You know he's a player. He's got an attitude. And I thought he did an excellent job."

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Singletary defended offensive coordinator Mike Martz's decision to abandon the run game and attempt 22 consecutive passes to end Sunday's game.

Running back DeShaun Foster had 76 yards rushing on 18 carries through three quarters. He never attempted another run play.

"I think we were doing what we had to do to win," Singletary said. "I mean, obviously, I'd run the ball every down if I could. But that wasn't going to happen today, particularly when you're behind.

"I just think it was one of those situations where what we ran, well, that's what we needed to do. I was trying to go with whatever worked."

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Half the 49ers' defense was doing one thing, and the other half was doing something else. That is why unheralded Dolphins third-string tight end Joey Haynos was wide open in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown pass for his first career reception.

"What happened is, you have one group calling one defense, and another group calling something else," Singletary said. "We were trying to get everybody on the same page."

Said cornerback Walt Harris, "The call did not get relayed to everybody. That was just a communication breakdown."

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First-year receiver Dominique Zeigler did not return a punt in his four-year career at Baylor. He does not specifically remember returning a punt in high school, either.

But Zeigler was back to handle that chore because of issues with the 49ers top three punt returners. Allen Rossum missed his third game with an ankle sprain. Nate Clements has a cast on his broken right thumb, and Arnaz Battle was placed on injured reserve with a foot sprain.

Zeigler did not help the 49ers in the field-position battle. On the first three punts, the 49ers took over at the 11-, 4- and 13-yard lines after Zeigler made fair catches.

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PLAYER NOTES

--- RB Frank Gore missed his first game of the season with an ankle sprain Sunday. His status for the 49ers' upcoming game against the St. Louis Rams is in question, too. Gore is just 22 yards shy of becoming the first player in 49ers history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

--- QB Shaun Hill has now attempted four more passes than J.T. O'Sullivan, who started the first eight games of the season. Hill has thrown 224 passes, while O'Sullivan has 220 attempts. Hill is fewer than 100 yards behind O'Sullivan, while throwing two more touchdowns and seven fewer interceptions. Hill has been sacked 14 fewer times and has lost four fewer fumbles.

--- WR Bryant Johnson caught five passes for 41 yards, as he continues to start at split end. Johnson is the team's third-leading receiver with 39 catches for 443 yards and three touchdowns.

--- NT Aubrayo Franklin is playing a lot better in recent games. On Sunday, he even recorded his first sack of the season. Franklin was also a force on the interior of the 49ers' defense with three tackles.

--- RT Adam Snyder is unlikely to be available for this week's game with an ankle sprain. Snyder left Sunday's game in the first quarter and was replaced by backup Barry Sims.

REPORT CARD VS. DOLPHINS

PASSING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Shaun Hill was able to move the 49ers down the field with the passing game. But the 49ers stalled repeatedly when they got into scoring position. Hill completed 30 of 46 passes for 233 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Isaac Bruce caught seven passes, four of which came for third-down conversions. But the 49ers failed repeatedly to get the ball in the end zone. On their final play, right tackle Barry Sims was beaten for a sack. Hill was sacked five times.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- DeShaun Foster, filling in for starter Frank Gore, rushed for 76 yards on 18 carries. Foster did not carry the ball in the fourth quarter as the 49ers went entirely to their passing game. Tight end Vernon Davis lined up in the backfield for one play, and gained 11 yards around left end.

PASS DEFENSE: D-plus -- The 49ers held Chad Pennington to just 156 yards passing, but that was more a result of the 49ers' ball-control offense. Safety Mark Roman was beaten for a 61-yard scoring pass to tight end David Martin. Roman got turned around on the play. The 49ers also had a defensive mix-up that resulted in a 19-yard scoring pass in the first half.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-minus -- The 49ers surrendered 4.5 yards per Dolphins rushing attempt, but they generally did a good job against Miami's ground game. Ronnie Brown had 67 yards on 10 rushing attempts but did not get a whole lot going other than an 18-yard run. Ricky Williams was held to just 23 yards on seven carries. Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin did a good job in the middle of the 49ers' defense.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- Kicker Joe Nedney made all three of his field-goal attempts, but the 49ers lost the field-position battle. Dominique Zeigler returned punts for the first time in his career. He gave the 49ers bad field position when he made a fair catch at the 4-yard line. Punter Andy Lee averaged 48.4 yards on five punts, but the Dolphins got good yardage on returns, as Lee's net average was just 30.0.

COACHING: C -- The 49ers did a lot of good things throughout the course of the game to remain in the contest. However, Mike Martz went totally away from the run game in the fourth quarter with 22 consecutive pass plays. The 49ers' decision to spike the ball from the Dolphins' 21-yard line with 1:18 remaining was also questionable because at that point the 49ers needed the downs more than they needed to save time.



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