49ers vs. Cowboys Recap: Consistently Inconsistent?

Well, it's the morning after the 49ers lost a heart-breaker to the Dallas Cowboys and the sting is still there. I'll be ready and raring to go later this week, but tough losses like this are painful. I half expected a last second touchdown in regulation, but overtime doesn't make it sting any less.

The 49ers took an early 14-0 lead as the offense looked as great as it has looked in some time. The 49ers mixed in strong play-calling with excellent execution and were giving the Cowboys all they could handle. Things proceeded to fall apart, although it wasn't exactly a complete collapse as I initially felt. The Cowboys grabbed a late second quarter touchdown to cut the lead in half, but in reality the 49ers had several chances in the second half to put this game away. Even if you disagree with Coach Harbaugh's decision to take the field goal over the penalty yards (more on that coming at 9am), the 49ers had their chances and just couldn't execute when it mattered most.

Late in the game I found myself tweeting in certain situations how the 49ers needed to show a killer instinct and go for the throat. Upon further review, I find myself thinking that it really was just about consistency. Sure it'd be nice to get that game-clinching touchdown and call it a day. But as much as that is "going for the throat" it's really just a matter of executing down the stretch.

It really was a tale of two halves in terms of that consistency. The secondary had fantastic moments in the first half, but couldn't seem to pull it together late. Miles Austin is a perfect example of the inconsistency. He had a monster game, but aside from his 53-yard touchdown in the second quarter, most of his production came in the second half. Prior to the 53-yard reception, Austin had been targeted approximately eight times and caught two passes for 13 yards. The 49ers defense was playing him well until he figured something out and blew things up. I don't know what it was, but whatever it was it obviously worked for him.

How do you explain the lack of consistency (across the board, not just on noted lightning rod topics)? Is it a talent issue where a good opposing coach can adjust and the 49ers are subsequently screwed? Or is it a lack of further adjustments by the 49ers? When Miles Austin goes from locked down for much of the first half to an absolute beast in the second half, something's not right.

Head Coach Jim Harbaugh
Press Conference - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Keeping the points on the board instead of going for the first down, what was the thinking behind that at the time?

"The thinking behind it at the time was to have the two score advantage at that point. Felt that we would be able to get off the field and that would lead to a victory."

Do you feel like that was one you should have won?

"I'm proud of our guys. I thought they played their hearts out. I thought they played well enough to win, but we didn't win. It's the National Football League, it's hard. It's hard to get those wins. Take my hat off to the Cowboys, they dug themselves out of a hole and came back and won it." 

What is your reaction to the crowd? It seemed like almost half the people in there were Cowboys fans, very loud at the end when you guys were on offense even.

"I thought our crowd was into it. There was obviously some Cowboy fans there that were loud, that's my only reaction." 

A little bit more than some, though. It seemed like half the stadium was full of Cowboys. Do you have a message to the home fans or anything like that?

"No. The message is I'm proud of our team. I thought they played well enough to win. Tough loss. We'll keep our daubers up and keep preparing for next week." 

What's your assessment of QB Alex Smith today?

"Thought he, like a lot of guys on our team, played well enough to win. Wish we could have had that satisfaction right now. But it's not to be ours." 

If you played well enough to win, then why didn't you win? Can you put your finger on it?

"It's a team game. Like I said, I think our team played well enough to win. We didn't win. Tip our hat to the Cowboys and that's what I have to say about that." 

It seemed like the later the game went; the more pressure was on Smith. What happened with the offensive line that you could point out?

"We took some sacks there in some critical situations. We have got to protect. We've got to get the ball out. We've got to convert on those plays. I don't blame anybody. I'm not blaming anybody right now. I'm not into the blame game. They're a good football team; they deserve the credit for the victory." 

What did you see on the 77-yard play that set up the winning field goal?

"I was watching the rush and the guys came up and I saw the completion of the run after the catch." 

You used an awful lot of extra blockers toward the end of the game, even in overtime. Is that because WR Braylon Edwards was out or was that part of the game plan that you were trying to stack, overload certain points of the line?

"In blockers?" 

Tackles, whoever. You had a lot of guys in as extra tight ends.

"I wouldn't say a lot. I think probably maybe half a dozen times in the game that we went to the extra O-Linemen." 

You're thinking of that?

"Just strategy. Trying to run a scheme." 

When you called timeout there in overtime on WR Ted Ginn's catch, was that to get them to look at the spot? What was your thought when you were talking to the officials on Ginn's catch?

"There was no timeout. They reviewed it. They did not charge us a timeout there. They went to review it." 

Was that what you were looking at yourself?

"No. We were getting prepared to punt the ball and we weren't aligned. We would have taken a delay of game." 

How big of a difference was Dallas QB Tony Romo coming back into the game once you guys got a 10-point lead?

"He made some really good plays there at the end. So did their receivers, so did their team. Made some big plays." 

Is your defense playing as well as you'd like it to play?

"We're always going to look to play better. I'm proud of our guys, there were spots where the good majority of the time we played well enough to win. We played well. But not well enough to win the game, so that's really about as much as there is to say about it." 

This team lost a lot of games, close games, last year. I know you don't look to the past, but is there some sense that you haven't broken through a certain barrier with this team to get a win in a game like this?

"We didn't win, Tim. We got to be mentally tough, we're going to keep looking each other in the eye, keep preparing, it's not going to defeat us." 

You were up by three with about 6:50 left and you were not able to run that much time off the clock, in fact you worked in some passing plays. Are you concerned that this team right now is not able to run a clock out, run the ball down a team's throat?

"I think we can be good. There's areas that we need to improve. We didn't run the ball down anybody's throat, to use your question, but yeah we need to get better." 

How did you guys change or were you forced to change after Edwards went out so early in the game?

"Next man up went in and there was no change." 

That next man up, WR Kyle Williams, stepped up and...

"Yeah, stepped in and made a big play definitely."


QB Alex Smith
Press Conference - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Alex, it's got to be tough tonight, you guys played well enough to win, did you feel that way tonight? Why didn't you win?

"Definitely executed better in the first half it felt like. I felt like in the second half, especially there at the end, just negative plays. It seemed like every series there was one negative play. Whether there would be a sack, or a loss, or a penalty, we put ourselves in second and long, third and long, and it was tough to overcome. In the first half we didn't do that; we had third and manageables, moved the chains, more production on first and second down. Just felt like they were late. It seemed like we were behind the chains too often." 

The past two games in a row now where [RB] Frank [Gore] is unable to get really going, especially when you need him to in the second half, can you account for that? Is there something that you are seeing?

"We played against a good front tonight. We knew it was going to be a challenge for us. They were a good group. You've got good players up front. They are physical. They've got a good scheme. I couldn't tell you why right now, but especially there in the second half, like I said, we got behind the chains and then all of a sudden we weren't as balanced and didn't get as much going." 

Alex, were you surprised when Harbaugh kept the field goal on the score board and didn't take the penalty?

"Not surprised either way. In hindsight you can say either way. But, he hit the field goal, we got the penalty for the kickoff, defense was playing well, made it a two-score game. So, made the decision and got to live with it." 

With this game, if you'd have won, what would it mean for the team and for you specifically?

"It would have been 2-0. That's obvious. But, it would have been a step for us. This was a good team coming in here. I think a step playing a good NFC team outside our division, that that would be the next step for us. That's what it means to me." 

When you're walking off the field and it's 4th and 1 in overtime and you're going to punt away the ball, what goes through your mind? Do you have the pit in your stomach thinking you're not going to get the ball back?

"Yes for sure. My mind goes to the sack right there. First down, we had production. Second down, you take the sack. Third and long makes it nearly impossible to move the chains. That's all I was thinking about. You replay the plays there, especially as they hit the long pass, and kicking the field goal. Yeah, what you could have done differently." 

They were bringing a lot of guys that were coming clean. Was that a protection break down? Were you responsible for some of that?

"For sure. All of us. They throw a lot of different fronts at you. A lot of unorthodox pressures. They break a lot of rules, I guess, you might say. As you learn football, you know this guy shouldn't be able to come and he comes anyway. They do a lot of different things to try to confuse the quarterback, and it got there tonight. But, I think this game more than any, protection was on all of us. Especially the guys outside on me. Being able to get the ball out and beat some of that stuff with throws. And I thought we did a good job in the first half, really mixed it up and beat the pressure. Second half didn't do as well." 

Do you think once you guys had the 14-point lead, was there a tendency to back off a little bit and play a bit more conservative, or do you feel like you guys were still...

"I don't think so. I think we were still going. We knew what team we were playing. Fourteen points that early in the game doesn't mean much. We knew they were explosive, so I don't think by any means we got away from our game plan." 

Was there something the Dallas defense did more effectively in the second half?

"Like I said, I think they were ahead of the chains. We were behind them. I think that was kind of the story. And they got the turnover in the second half. That whole series was bad. I missed [TE] Delanie [Walker] down the left side. Get that throw, you're not even in third and long. Then all of a sudden third and long, and the guy jumps [WR] Vernon [Davis], and forced the ball. It's a bad decision, and all of a sudden they score seven points off that. Those types of things in the second half changed it." 

Alex, is this a step back or a step forward for the 49ers?

"I certainly don't think it's a step backwards at all. Absolutely not. There's certainly no satisfaction in coming close, but I thought we did a lot of good things tonight. Played against a very good team that had their backs against the wall. We're in a must-win situation. I think a few plays didn't go differently and all of a sudden it's a different game." 

Did you want to take that penalty rather than get the first down on the field goal?

"Those aren't my calls. I'm not thinking like that. I'm getting ready to go if that decision is made. I'm not thinking we should or we shouldn't. That's not really my mindset."

 

CB Tramaine Brock
Post-Game Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys

The game didn't go your way but the defense forced some turnovers and got some pressure in the second half. Just tell me about the confidence you get when you're able to get turnovers and stay in the game and give the ball back to your offense?

"As you can see we still have a lot to work on. We're just going to try and learn from that and our mistakes that happened." 

What was the mood in the locker room? How determined are you guys to get back and watch the film and learn from this game and move on for this next game?

"Right now we're kind of down because we lost. We fought hard and we really wanted that win. Tuesday we're going to get after it and take it to the next game."

TE Vernon Davis
Postgame Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Did you feel that you guys were limited when [WR] Braylon [Edwards] went down? You had three receivers at that point.

"I don't think we were limited because when one man goes down, the next man should be able to step up and get the job done. That's how it should be. We have enough playmakers to do that."

They lined you up against [LB DeMarcus] Ware a lot. Did you know that was going to happen?

"I didn't think that was going to happen. I thought I'd be running a lot of routes, especially because their secondary was banged up and I thought we could take advantage of them in that aspect. But, like I said, it's up to the coaches each week to decide what they want to do. But no, I didn't think I'd be up against Ware like that."

Vernon, was it weird to hear so many Cowboys fans in your own stadium?

"It was weird. But everywhere I go, it's been like that all my life. Everybody's a Cowboys fan. But at this point, I'm more focused on everybody being a 49ers fan. It's going to start with us winning. I'm excited about getting back to practice and getting ready for the next game. I'm definitely excited about that. I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight thinking about it. That's all I can look forward to at the moment."

 

RB Frank Gore
Post-Game Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

It seemed like you were making guys miss a little bit more than last week, did it feel that way to you?

"It got better. We've just got to continue and when it gets down to that time when we've got to make it count, we've got to do it. I felt good out there. I try my best to do everything I can. It's tough but I try to do, if it's a one-yard gain I try to get two, if it's two I try to get three. I feel good and it'll happen. It'll happen." 

Frank you've been through, obviously, a new regime but it gets so close when you want to win these games:

"We've got to win. We aren't the old 49ers where we're hoping to win. We're going out knowing that we can win. We just can't let any more get away like this. Everybody, coaches, players, we've got to finish. When the time comes to get those first downs, we have to get them.

Was there a different mentality when you guys went up 14-0 and you guys were in complete control?

"We went out there knowing that we could beat those boys. Like I said there's no more hoping. There's none of that anymore."

 

WR Joshua Morgan
Post-Game Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys

A little diassapointing to have the Cowboys at home right where you wanted them and then let it slip away?

"We've just got to watch the film and capitalize. We've got to make big plays when they call our number. A football game is already hard enough to win so we've just got to get better." 

And that seemed to be the difference was the big plays. They just made one when they really needed to and you guys didn't:

"Yes, they made a couple of big plays and as you see they got the W because of it."

What about the way the wide receivers played?

"We all could start and we have a great group and we all could play all different positions and just go out there and perform. That's what we do. That's why we're here." 

What follows this? How does this team prepare and where do you go from here?

"We take a step up. We've got to watch the film, see what we did wrong, see what we did to give the game away and just get better and learn from it. There's no moral victories but at the same time we know that we have to do whatever we didn't do right. We just have to go in and capitalize and keep the W while we've got it."

 

CB Carlos Rogers
Post-Game Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

What does this defense take from this loss?

"We know how to play, we know how to get turnovers, we know how to pressure the quarterback and we know how to cover wide receivers. I think our biggest thing is no matter what the offense does, we have to close out games. We didn't get that done." 

I think the biggest thing when you talk about closing out games, still giving up the big plays more than 20 yards in completions. I think it accounted for at least half a dozen of those, a 53-yarder to WR Miles Austin in the end zone. How do you prevent those? Why were they able to take advantage of the 49ers secondary in that situation?

"Just knowing what they're doing and that comes from missed tackles. Use your eyes and we just got beat. Just tackling, that's the main thing. They got some open holes on us, but if we can tackle they wouldn't get those seven points." 

Seemed like you were able to control Austin and TE Jason Witten later in the game, than it was a second-year, WR Jesse Holley with a 76-yard completion. What happened on that final play?

"I missed the coverage. It was a combination of both of us, the safety ran the play action route. I need to stay deeper than him. When you get a play action run, he's supposed to be the guy that comes up and I need to be staying deep no matter if he goes in at the safety no matter what. Unfortunately, both of our eyes were wrong and my eyes were bad."

T Joe Staley
Post-Game Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys

Coach said he was proud of the way you guys and the entire team played today. Obviously the Cowboys made plays when they had to. Is that the way you saw the game shape up today?

"It was a hard fought game. It was a full 60 minute game, and then it went to overtime. Obviously we're very disappointed we couldn't come up with a win today. felt like we got up the whole way, but we didn't come out on top. It's the second week and we're 1-1 and we're going to go back to practice, work hard, and get ready for Cincinnati." 

Everyone talks about the Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers rivalry. Did it feel like that out there today?

"There were a lot of Cowboys fans in the stands today. It felt like kind of an away game. It was a good rivalry, I think. It was just a hard fought game, a lot of energy. Like I said, just kind of disappointed that we didn't come out on top today."

 

TE Delanie Walker
Post-Game Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

Coach [Jim Harbaugh] said he was really proud of the way that you guys played and just said the Cowboys made plays when they had to, is that kind of the way you look at it to?

"That's how we look at it. They made plays when they had to make plays. They're a great team, it's the NFL, stuff happens in this league. We aren't going to have any opponents that just come in and let us smack them in their mouth. They played a good game, it's the Dallas Cowboys. We're going to keep our heads up because we played an excellent game too." 

After last week's game, one of the things you guys said is you want to be better on third downs and score touchdowns when you're in the red zones. Do you feel like obviously you guys preformed better in those two areas today?

"We made all of our goals that we wanted to meet today. We played great and did what we wanted to do early in the game. Once again, it's about finishing and that's what we're going to have to work on now. That's going to probably be our biggest goal this week, is finishing." 

Can you talk about your touchdown catch and that swing of momentum after you were matched up on the linebackers? Was that something you guys were looking for?

"A touchdown doesn't matter, it's nothing to praise when you lose. To me it doesn't even seem like it happened. If we came away with the ‘W', I can explain it better, but we didn't so it doesn't even matter." 


S Donte Whitner
Post-Game Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

What was the feel in the locker room and how did the guys take this loss?

"It's a hard loss. We prepared so hard. We circled it on our calendar, on our schedule. We let it slip through our hands and we gave up too many big plays. We gave up entirely too many big plays and that has to be corrected." 

Can you talk about the pass rush? It seems like you guys gave [QB Tony] Romo a lot of pressure but it felt like at times you guys were just a split-second behind him.

"He's really good. Once he recognized that there's five or six guys coming he, [TE Jason] Witten and a lot of those guys are really his hot route. They break their routers off so, he has one of the quickest releases in the National Football League and he did a good job of getting it out of his hands." 

How about the end, the 77-yard reception, what happened on that?

"We were in quarters. We were in quarters to that side and there was a miscommunication with the corner and myself and the guy took off for that deep post. I'll let coach Harbaugh and the rest of the coaching staff really go in depth into that, but it was just a mistake." 

Do you guys feel like you played good enough to win this game?

"We felt like we played good enough but still, we had an ample amount of opportunities out there to end the game, to win the game. We let it slip through our hands. We're not going to hold our heads down. It's one football game out of 15, we have 14 games left to go, but if we want to get to where we want to go we can't allow big plays." 

Is there something you guys can build on?

"There are some things that we can build but we don't want to just take the positive out of this game, we wanted to come away with a W. But we have to go back and watch the film. We have to be hard on ourselves, we have to allow the coaching staff to be hard on us. We have to come out and correct the mistakes that we made because we felt like we had an opportunity to win this football game. We expected to win this football game and we didn't."

 

WR Kyle Williams
Postgame Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

Can you talk about the way you guys played without [WR] Braylon [Edwards] and [WR Michael] Crabtree?

"We take pride as a receiving corps. When someone goes down, somebody else can get in there without any drop off. We take pride in that. We're good enough to get in there anytime. When your number is called, you've got to get in there and make plays. That's the bottom line." 

Can you describe the atmosphere in the locker room after the game?

"Guys are pissed off. That's a game we felt we should've won. We had it and we should've finished it. Nobody's holding their heads down in here. Nobody's pointing fingers. We're fine. We're going to get our mistakes cleared up, we're going to go next week and go after our opponent." 

Coach [Harbaugh] said he was really proud about the way you guys played today. It was just a case of the Cowboys making plays when they had to. Is that the way you saw the game shape up?

"When we had that last drive, we should've capitalized because they did. Again, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. We're going to get back in there. Don't think for a second that guys are hanging their heads down and pointing fingers and blaming guys. That's not how we roll in here. Everybody's going to go after it, clean up what they messed up and we'll be fine."

 

S Madieu Williams
Postgame Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

When [QB Tony] Romo came back into the game, how did that change the game?

"It didn't change the game at all. They made plays and we didn't." 

On the touchdown that [WR Miles] Austin caught, and there were three of them, what happened?

"The one with me in particular? I just overran the ball. I had a good break and was close to the sidelines. The ball hung in the air longer than I expected and he made a good play." 

Stopping the big plays is something you guys have been emphasizing on defense. Why were you not able to do that today?

"They out-executed us. Plain and simple. We did a good job in the first half and they came out in the second half and did a better job of executing." 

Even going into overtime in the game, and even though they had made up the difference, how confident was the team and did it still feel that it was still your game at that point?

"We still had a chance. We were still in the game. We had a chance to get a stop. We failed to do that." 

Madieu, where were you on the 77-yard play that set up the winning field goal? Were you playing back or playing up on the line? Did you think it was going to be a run as well?

"I think I was on the other side of the field on that one. I was in the midsts of my assignment. I really didn't know. I knew what I had to do on that play and was focused on executing it. I forgot what we were in, but Tarell [Brown] and I were on the other side. We had a good play called. We failed to execute again."

Was there any miscommunication on the other side?

"I don't know. I felt like we were in position and didn't execute."

 

LB Patrick Willis
Postgame Quotes - September 18, 2011
San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys 

Did you feel like you lost an opportunity to make a statement against a pretty good team?

"I felt like we did. I felt we had an opportunity for us as a team. We fell short. Even falling short, we certainly played well. We did some very good things, but we did more bad than we did good. We can't have that if we want to be the kind of team that we want to be." 

What happened on that big play in overtime?

"I'm not sure. I don't want to say it was one guy's fault or this guy's fault. We have to go back in and watch film and see what happened. Whatever happened, it wasn't a good one by no means. It's a long season. We still have a lot of football left. We're not going to let this loss define us as a football team. We're going to continue to fight and get better and get ready for next week." 

This team is considered a playoff team. Do you guys think you're way up there?

"By no means. We don't measure ourselves by the teams we play. We measure ourselves by wins and losses. Today, we lost. With that said, we have to win more than we lose. We need to win a lot more than we lose in order to get to where we want to be when the season is over. That's our mindset. We have 14 games left. We're not going to let this game take anything from what we have in this locker room." 

Stopping those big plays is something you guys have been trying to emphasize. The Cowboys were able to pull off a lot of those today. Why do you think that is?

"That's one of those things where we have to go back in and watch film and see what happened. I can't say it was this or it was that. We play as a defense and win as a defense and lose as a defense. We certainly have some things we have to fix and we will. What's done today is done. After we watch the film, we'll put our focus on the next team." 

One thing that went right for you all day was the run defense.  That's a couple of weeks in a row. Does that give you hope that they figure out some other things and that's going to be there for you still?

"We want to be a complete defense. We pride ourselves on stopping the run. But when we stop a team and make them one-dimensional, we have to be able to stop what they do well as well. Today, we played short of that. Like I said, it's not the end of the world. It's not the end of our defense. It's just a little bump in the road that we have to crossover."

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