Niners’ red-zone failures doom them in loss to Cowboys

The 49ers led 6-0 at the end of one quarter. But — at that point — when the 49ers settled for two field goals, it was over. There was no way the Cowboys were going to lose this one.

The 49ers’ red-zone offense failed them.


Through three quarters, the 49ers ran nine players from the red zone, including six plays from the 4- or 5-yard lines. The 49ers gained zero yards on those nine plays with one interception. Shaun Hill completed just 1 of 7 passes for 1 yard (and one pick), while Frank Gore had minus-1 yard on two rushes.


Twice the 49ers had first-and-goals from the 4-yard line, and Mike Martz called pass-run-pass. The 49ers settled for two field goals. Even though the 49ers led 6-0, the Cowboys were in total control.


The Cowboys cruised to a 35-22 victory.


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Early in the second quarter, Terrell Owens beat Nate Clements with a double-move (a corner and up). The 49ers had a blitz on the play, but did not get to Cowboys QB Tony Romo in time. The play resulted in a 75-yard TD.


Clements said he should have just made the tackle instead of trying to knock the ball loose from Owens at around the 15-yard line.


The 49ers showed a lot of confidence in Clements to have him match up one-on-one versus Owens for most of the game. The result: Owens caught seven passes for 213 yards and a touchdown.


Niners coach Singletary does not second-guess that decision at all. He said Nate is better than what he played today.


As for Clements, he is a stand-up guy. He stood there and answered every question.


“I gave up a couple big plays,” he said. “But when something like that happens, my mentality is to keep pressing on. He made a couple big plays today. My mindset was I wanted to make one for my team and put us right back in this thing.


“He got off today. I’m not taking anything away from him. I have confidence in what I can do against anybody. I’m going to make the corrections, and I’m going to be back at it. . . . My mindset is I’m down overall, how the season’s gone. I’m frustrated. But I’m confident in my abilities and in myself and my teammates.”


Said Owens: “They unleashed me today. It was good to get my hands on the ball today.


“I’ve told you guys that I’ve been successful everywhere I’ve been, and I’ve been consistently involved in the offense. When I get my hands on the ball, things happen. It’s not a mystery. I feel like I’m getting better and better each week.”


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INJURY REPORT: Return man Allen Rossum (right ankle) did not return. He was hobbled out of the locker room after the game. CB Walt Harris (right hamstring) and S Michael Lewis (abdominal strain) played the entire game.


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This is what Shaun Hill had to say: “Everybody kept fighting. That’s the kind of guys we have in the locker room. It’s our genetic makeup as a team. Everybody’s going to keep fighting until the end, but that’s what we’re supposed to do. Our job is to make plays, and we need to play better than we did (today).”


Hill’s stats by quarter

First quarter: 8 of 13 for 144 yards (rating 99.5).

Second quarter: 3 of 4 for 14 yards (rating 79.2)

Third quarter: 3 of 6 for 33 yards, 1 interception (rating 27.1)

Fourth quarter: 7 of 10 for 112 yards, two TDs (rating 146.7)


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Here are my quickie grades from today’s game:



B-minus: Shaun Hill’s numbers might have been a little better than his actual performance. He padded his stats with 112 yards and two TDs in the fourth quarter. His third-quarter interception in the end zone was a poorly thrown ball. That was the 49ers’ last chance to make a game of it. Still, Hill gets credit for a career-high 303 yards passing with a 100.9 passer rating – some pretty impressive stats.


Running back

C-minus: Frank Gore did not get a while lot going with just 32 yards from scrimmage. He gained 26 yards on 14 carries. DeShaun Foster got into the end zone for the first time with the 49ers on a 9-yard scoring pass.


Receiver/tight end

B-plus: Isaac Bruce was a presence in the game with eight catches for 125 yards and a touchdown. Vernon Davis made a 47-yard reception. Bryant Johnson and Dominique Zeigler also made some plays.


Offensive line

C-minus: The line performed capably in the passing game. Adam Snyder surrendered a sack, but some of the other pressure applied to Hill was not a result of the line play. However, the line did have troubles moving bodies to create room for Gore.


Defensive line

B-minus: The 49ers have trouble getting pass rush from its three-man line, which provided no help to the secondary. The line, however, did a nice job against powerful Marion Barber and the Cowboys’ running attack. So it’s a mixed back for this unit.



B-minus: Manny Lawson had a sack and a fumble recover when he caught a Tony Romo lateral. Lawson also batted down a pass. It begs the question, why isn’t he an every-down player? Takeo Spikes and Patrick Willis were strong in the run game.



D-minus: Nate Clements struggled in his one-on-one matchup against Terrell Owens, yielding 213 receiving yards. Walt Harris did a strong job on the other side, but his work on Roy Williams had little impact on the game.


Special teams

D: The Cowboys got through to block an Andy Lee punt in the second quarter for a safety, giving Dallas a 9-6 lead in the second quarter. The rest of the game, special teams was a wash for both sides.



D-plus: The game was lost when the 49ers got inside the 5-yard line twice early in the game and could not score TDs. Mike Martz’s play-calling was questionable. Both times, he called pass-run-pass. It was very predictable. At halftime, it was 29-6, and the game was over.


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