NFC West: 49ers-Cowboys

Silver linings: 49ers at Cowboys

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
5:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The facts: The 49ers fell to 3-8 following a 35-22 road defeat to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 12.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.

  • Vernon Davis made another significant contribution in the passing game with a 47-yard reception.
  • Isaac Bruce finished with eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown.
  • Shaun Hill finished strong. He had 303 yards and two touchdowns with a rating of 100.9.
  • The 49ers' highly penalized offensive line suffered no penalties. San Francisco finished with two penalties for 10 yards.
  • Manny Lawson, a force on special teams this season but not on defense, continued to become more involved. He collected the 49ers' only sack.
I'll take a closer look at the game Tuesday. Some of the 49ers' younger players -- Jason Hill and Chilo Rachal come to mind -- did not appear to make much of an impact.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

PHOENIX -- Elion245 and leesters, come on down. You're the big winners in forecasting NFC West outcomes as part of You Called It for Week 12.

Elion245 nailed the Redskins-Seahawks score exactly (20-17, Redskins). Leesters nailed the Bears-Rams score exactly (27-3, Bears). Truly impressive. As promised, both will earn spots on the Wall of Fame, scheduled for completion in 2025 or when the Rams win another game, whichever comes first.

Five entrants came within one point of hitting the Redskins-Seahawks score: TheRooster58, FTBallenthusiast, kab1961, roadto_1 and joemeekfreak. Way to go.

A tip of the cap also goes to Huffdogg05 for coming within one point of hitting the 49ers-Cowboys score (35-21 prediction, 35-22 outcome).

Top10pick came closer than anyone on the Cardinals-Giants score, missing by four points (35-27 prediction, 37-29 outcome).

Participants had to predict the winning team correctly to qualify for consideration. Sixty-one entrants forecast at least one outcome correctly.

Twelve entrants forecast all four outcomes correctly. Quite a few Cardinals and 49ers fans missed one outcome by picking their favorite teams. Better to be loyal than correct, apparently.

Of the 12 people to predict all four winners, Bigbluepete came within 9.25 points per game, on average, of hitting each final score correctly. No one fared better. Digitool (10.0) and Week 11 champion joe_cool585 (11.0) were next, followed by jherbal (12.5) and imreallygood (12.5). Bigbluepete's most prescient pick: a 34-20 Cowboys victory (35-22 actual score for a 3-point deduction). Way to go.

Joe_cool585 was cruising toward glory until he missed the Bears-Rams outcome by 24 points. He hit the other three within 5, 5 and 10 points.

Around the NFC West: 49ers no match

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
9:42
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Charean Williams of the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram says 49ers cornerback Nate Clements expressed confidence even after watching Terrell Owens top 200 yards receiving.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle puts Clements' rough day in the context of a team struggling more with results than motivation.

Also from Crumpacker: Manny Lawson's strong performance stood out as a rare positive for the 49ers. Lawson collected the 49ers' only sack.

More from Crumpacker: A report card noting how the offensive line wasn't better with rookie Chilo Rachal replacing Tony Wragge.

And this from Crumpacker: Takeo Spikes says the 49ers aren't a bad team, but they do lack confidence and the belief that they'll win no matter what.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider offers drive-by-drive coverage and commentary, plus a critique of the KNBR radio team.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat questions Mike Martz's play calling in the red zone. Martz went pass-run-pass on two first-half opportunities.

Also from Maiocco: Play-by-play coverage featuring a note calling for the 49ers to give Lawson more playing time.

More from Maiocco: A report card with a D-plus for coaching.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes in his play-by-play coverage that the 49ers came out throwing deep when the Cowboys were probably expecting Frank Gore to run.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' blown red-zone chances set an ominous tone. Meanwhile, Owens finished with the second-most receiving yards of his career. He previously had more yards for the 49ers in Jerry Rice's final game with the team.

Also from Brown: The Cowboys were pleased to hold Gore to a long run of 7 yards.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 35, 49ers 22

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
4:23
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Don't blame the 10 a.m. PT start for the 49ers' struggles against the Cowboys. Interim coach Mike Singletary had the 49ers ready to play and it showed early in the game.

The talent imbalance proved too much for the 49ers to overcome once Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens hit stride with a 75-yard touchdown reception early in the second quarter. That one play seemed to get Owens and the Cowboys interested in this game. And when the 49ers fell behind, their offense wasn't suited to handle the Cowboys' pass-rushers.

The 49ers' biggest disappointment against Dallas was the trouble they had establishing Frank Gore and the running game. But Vernon Davis' ongoing emergence as a receiving threat stands as a positive development.

Three of the 49ers' next four games are on the road. The team isn't going to suddenly start winning games. The little victories -- Davis emerging, for example -- will have to suffice.

Quick thoughts on 49ers-Cowboys

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
2:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The 49ers have to be mostly happy with their performance through the first quarter of their game against the Cowboys. A few observations:

  • The Cowboys still resemble a front-running team. The 49ers hit 'em in the mouth early and the Cowboys didn't seem into the game.
  • Vernon Davis continues to emerge in a positive way for San Francisco. The 49ers found him deep for a 47-yard reception. This is a hugely positive development for the 49ers. Davis entered this game having caught scoring passes in consecutive games. He is now relevant as a receiver.
  • Referee Mike Carey and crew appeared to miss a routine pass-interference call near the goal line, forcing the 49ers to settle for a field goal when a touchdown would have meant so much more. This wasn't one of those tough calls officials might miss from time to time. Unless the ball was tipped and I missed it, this was about as blatant as pass interference can get.
  • Tony Romo gives the Cowboys a chance to overcome a rough start. The way he bought time before finding Terrell Owens for the long touchdown reception showed what Romo offers the offense. Having Romo in the game for Dallas reduces the 49ers' margin for error. Owens did run into Nate Clements partway through the route, a key to getting open, but the contact seemed incidental.

The 49ers are still hanging tough in this game but the Cowboys have regained their balance. I don't see San Francisco's pass protection holding up if the 49ers have to play from behind.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals have found a friend in Keyshawn Johnson. He's the only "Sunday NFL Countdown" panelist picking Arizona to beat the Giants in Week 12. Every ESPN.com forecaster is taking the Giants to win this game.

Should the Cardinals win, they'll have an easier time mouthing the line about how no one gave them a chance. Except for the fact that we have already given them a chance, and possibly a very good chance, the way Trent Dilfer sees things.

How do you see this game turning out? What about the other NFC West games? Every official forecaster on this site is picking the Redskins to beat the Seahawks and the Cowboys to beat the 49ers. Seth Wickersham, who was watching the Rams closely back in March, was the only forecaster to take St. Louis against Chicago in the other game involving an NFC West team.

joe_cool585, who won the "You called it" competition in Week 11, has graced us with his predictions for Week 12:

  • Giants 34, Cardinals 27
  • Redskins 24, Seahawks 16
  • Cowboys 33, 49ers 30
  • Bears 40, Rams 14

Everyone else has until kickoff Sunday to submit score predictions in the comments section of this entry. I'll go through the predictions and calculate the total number of points separating each prediction from the actual score. Winners get special mention in the "You called it" for Week 13 and the universal admiration of their peers.

The fine print: Those submitting predictions must pick the winner correctly for their scores to be considered. Scoring is easily to calculate. The difference between a 20-17 prediction and a 31-14 outcome would be 14 points. We would calculate this by adding the difference between 20 and 31 to the difference between 17 and 14. Anyone hitting a score exactly earns a spot on the Wall of Fame, which is under construction.

Audibles: NFC West Week 12 preview

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

New York Giants (9-1) at Arizona Cardinals (7-3), 4:15 p.m. ET

No game involving an NFC West team has generated more buzz on the blog. We're pushing 900 comments on the Wednesday preview item, which picked up where the Hot Topic item left off. Kickoff can't get here quickly enough.

X-Philer might have put it best: "Can anyone believe we are talking about the AZ Cardinals possibly winning their division in week 12. I was in U of P stadium on Monday night when the Cards played the 49ers and let me tell ya the place was rock'n, even when all seemed lost the crowd stayed in it. These guys are tough to beat at home."

The Cardinals are seeking their fifth consecutive home victory this season. The team hasn't won five consecutive home games in one season since 1976, the longest drought of any team in existence that long. A victory over the Giants would end the streak and establish Arizona as more than just a good team in a bad division.

Washington Redskins (6-4) at Seattle Seahawks (2-8), 4:15 p.m. ET

The Redskins have been at their best running the ball with Clinton Portis and relying less on the arm of quarterback Jason Campbell. But with Seahawks icon Jim Zorn returning to Seattle for the first time as Redskins coach, he'll be tempted to beat his old team through the air.

Zorn's familiarity with the Seahawks on both sides of the ball could work to his advantage. I'm interested in seeing how both head coaches manage their passing games.

Seattle's third-down offense is one of three in the NFL averaging fewer yards per play passing (3.59) than rushing (3.92), not a good sign. The Redskins' ability to drop into coverage and match up with opposing receivers has the potential to frustrate Matt Hasselbeck.

San Francisco 49ers (3-7) at Dallas Cowboys (6-4), 1 p.m. ET

The 49ers enter a brutal stretch with four of their next five games on the road and all four scheduled to start at 10 a.m. PT.

Interim coach Mike Singletary will have to earn the job for 2009. The schedule certainly isn't going to give it to him. A victory over the Cowboys -- in his home state, no less -- would dramatically upgrade Singletary's profile.

This is also a time for the 49ers to evaluate their recent drafts. Second-year receiver Jason Hill is getting an extended look. Rookie Chilo Rachal figures to play and possibly start at right guard. Third-year tight end Vernon Davis is showing signs of becoming more effective in the end zone. Second-year left tackle Joe Staley faces a tough matchup against Demarcus Ware.

Chicago Bears (5-5) at St. Louis Rams (2-8), 1 p.m. ET

The Rams have scored more points against their own fans than against opposing defenses lately. Guard Richie Incognito's untimely barbs at allegedly unfaithful and clueless supporters might distract from the product on the field, but only briefly.

While Incognito ripped fans this week, interim coach Jim Haslett targeted his underachieving players in a desperate attempt to reverse a four-game streak of Sunday surrenders.

No matter. This team appears on the fast track to a second consecutive 3-13 season. After Chicago, the Rams face the Dolphins, Cardinals (road), Seahawks, 49ers and Falcons (road).

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