NFC West: Journey
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
SAN FRANCISCO -- Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has made the San Francisco 49ers' offense exciting again.
Too exciting for its own good, sometimes.
Martz, as creative and dynamic as any offensive coach in the game, won battles without winning the broader war during a 30-21 defeat to the New England Patriots at Candlestick Park in Week 5.
|AP Photo/Jeff Chiu|
|J.T. O'Sullivan threw three touchdown passes Sunday, but the 49ers' quarterback also tossed three costly interceptions.|
The game turned against the 49ers for good after San Francisco emptied the backfield and went with four receivers on a second-and-2 play midway through the third quarter. The high-risk gambit absolved the Patriots from worrying about their No. 1 priority on defense: stopping Frank Gore on the ground.
Safety Rodney Harrison pounced at the rare opportunity, picking off 49ers quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan at the San Francisco 24. The Patriots converted the gift into a touchdown. A tenuous three-point lead became a 10-point cushion, 24-14.
The 49ers hadn't run a play with four wide receivers on the field all game to that point, let alone a play with four receivers and nobody behind O'Sullivan to keep the defense honest.
"I probably tried to squeeze it in there, but that's still a throw I make a lot," O'Sullivan said.
The 49ers ran five offensive plays in the third quarter and none was a called running play. O'Sullivan scrambled twice, completed two passes totaling minus-5 yards, threw incomplete once and offered up the interception.
The Patriots' third-quarter offense featured eight pass attempts, 12 runs, three third-down conversions and more than 12 minutes of possession time. It wasn't pretty -- New England averaged only 2.9 yards per carry in the quarter -- but the result was all that mattered.
The Patriots played keep-away. The 49ers played giveaway.
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