SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers runs against the Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick Park on September 18, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
As we continue with our season recap here at Niners Nation, we take a look at Week 2 where the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Dallas Cowboys. On Tuesday, I broke down the 49ers Week 1 contest against the Seahawks. Entering the second week, the 49ers were without wide receiver Michael Crabtree. Chilo Rachal, Moran Norris and Madieu Williams were still starting at the time as well.
In the following piece, we will breakdown the game and player performance quarter-by-quarter.
The Dallas Cowboys came out trying to expose what they thought was a weak 49ers secondary. And for most of this game, it did look like the Cowboys got the best of the 49ers in that aspect. To start the game, Jason Witten came up with a big third-and-nine reception to keep the drive alive.
Dallas converted consecutive third downs on their first drive and frequently fielded an offense with multiple receiver sets.
Early on, Dallas running back Felix Jones hurt his shoulder after being brought down by the 49ers fierce front seven. Dallas moved the ball well on their first drive against San Francisco, though they looked foolish trying to run a double-reverse on the 49ers that went for a loss.
Tony Romo did deliver multiple clutch throws to Witten though where San Francisco looked silly. But ultimately Dallas' first drive into the 49ers red zone resulted in missed 21-yard DAL field goal after their offense chewed up nearly 9 minutes of clock to open the game.
The 49ers only showed glimpses of what they could be on offense in game 2. Smith delivered a strike on third down to Braylon Edwards in the middle of the field; a play that was soon followed by a creative tight end screen to Delanie Walker. But eventually it stalled and the 49ers wound up punting on their first drive.
The 49ers defense came out and started hitting harder, and Dallas went three-and-out on their second drive after engineering a big one early. But a conservative attack by San Francisco would get them nowhere as they went heavy with Frank Gore early on. And their passing plays were non-aggressive to say the least.
The highlight to start the 2nd quarter was a 3rd and 10 conversion by Alex Smith. The quarterback threw a rope on an outside ten yard dig to Ted Ginn Jr. for a first down. The drive got real interesting when a botched snap from Jonathan Goodwin happened. Smith reacted, recovered, rolled out to his right, stepped up and delivered a throw downfield to the end zone.
The play drew a pass interference call to give the 49ers a fresh set of downs at the DAL 1-yard line. Smith's athleticism and ability to react and keep the play alive eventually led to a Frank Gore rushing touchdown to put the Niners up 7-0.
When Dallas got possession back, Carlos Rogers blindsided Romo off a corner blitz, which shook up the Cowboys' quarterback.
In the middle of the second quarter, it was revealed that wide receiver Braylon Edwards was out and had his right knee x-rayed. The 49ers were suddenly without their two starting receivers (Crabtree and Edwards).
Joshua Morgan was ready to step up though and did so with a big third and long catch to keep the drive alive. Not long after, Morgan made another first down catch on a third down situation off a sprint right option.
The play signaled the 49ers converting their last 5 consecutive third downs.
On third and six, Kyle Williams was lined up to the left and ran a fade into the end zone. The play resulted in a toe-tapping touchdown. It was Williams' second career catch and first career touchdown. The score put the 49ers up 14-0.
Dallas continued to struggle against the 49ers physical defense. When the Niners got the ball back, Smith was sacked by Jason Hatcher who went completely unblocked. Dallas got the ball and on a third and four with just under two minutes left, Romo connected with Miles Austin. Austin made a 53-yard touchdown catch after cornerback Tremaine Brock fell coming out of his break.
Dallas edged the game closer at 14-7 going into the half.
To start the third quarter, it looked like San Francisco wanted to take advantage of a weak Dallas cornerback situation. They came out passing, but it didn't last long. The Niners offense continued getting themselves in third and longs with conservative play calling.
Dallas took advantage and with a heavy blitz Smith was sacked for a second time on third down by Jason Hatcher. But luckily the special teams coverage was already hot as CJ Spillman and Blake Costanzo were flying around giving the 49ers great field position.
Jon Kitna started the second half for the Cowboys after it was a revealed that Tony Romo had a rib fracture on that early hit from Rogers. Kitna fared pretty well though, delivering a big throw to receiver Kevin Ogletree to get things going. Tarell Brown had his hips already committed the opposite way and he simply got burnt on the break.
Kitna looked fresh, which made sense considering he had played 10 games in 2010, so it was no surprise he was connecting with his targets. Eventually he slipped up and on a miscommunication, Kitna misfired and got picked off by Donte Whitner in the end zone. This play stalled a big drive by Dallas and showed the 49ers bend but don't break defense taking shape.
At this point, Alex Smith was still in question by fans; he wasn't looking terribly sharp, having missed a few open receivers and had trouble throwing off balance.
As soon as this became clear, Smith threw a terrible pass that was intercepted by cornerback Alan Ball. It was a bad pass to Vernon Davis, where Smith didn't lead him or may have thought Davis was going to sit on the route but didn't.
Dallas got down into 49ers territory and Miles Austin made a clutch third down reception in the red zone to keep their touchdown hopes alive. Following the clutch reception, Austin made his second touchdown of the game; a 5-yard grab to tie it at 14.
After 14 unanswered points, Kendall Hunter returned the following kick off past the 50 yard line to give the 49ers excellent field position. But on first down, big DeMarcus Ware came off the edge to sack Smith; the offensive line just wasn't protecting him well or picking up blitzes.
Even though they started with great field position, the 49er went three-and-out. It was their own fault as they kept getting themselves into third and longs because of a conservative attack.
San Francisco defense was seeing a lot of time and the 49ers continued to give up big third conversions. On a third and very long, Kitna threw a rope downfield to Witten that hit him right in the numbers for a Dallas first down.
The 49ers front seven and special teams were the only elements that showed flashes of greatness this early in the season. The 49ers' secondary was still gelling and not quite right. In addition to that, the passing game was pretty out of sync and the run game was less creative.
San Francisco's defense caught a break when a tipped pass by Carlos Rogers was intercepted by Tremaine Brock -- Kitna's second of the day.
On the 1st and 10 immediately following the interception, Smith responded with a beautiful over-the-shoulder throw to Delanie Walker up the right side line. It was the 49ers first real attempted pass downfield, taking advantage of Anthony Spencer in coverage. It was a score that gave the Niners back the lead at 21-14.
But before we could enter the fourth quarter, Romo returned at the very end of the third quarter.
49ers rookie Aldon Smith started to heat up, getting pressure and hits on Romo. Between the defense and special teams, the 49ers had good field position set up for them for most of the game but they were unsuccessful running.
Kicker David Akers nails a 55-yarder but there was a penalty on Dallas to give SF a first down. Harbaugh had to make a coaching decision and stuck with the points and kicked back to Dallas. At 24-14, it was a two possession game.
Ray McDonald bull rushed the guard and sacked Romo on first down. Romo continued to take hits but also continued to connect on long passes to Ogletree and Miles Austin. On a 4th and 5, Romo linked up with Witten. Had the 49ers stopped them that might've been the game.
The very next play, Romo made a huge throw to Austin who fell in for his third touchdown of the game to make it 24-21. Austin had 7 catches for 129 yards and 3 touchdowns in regulation. The missed coverage by Rogers and Madieu Williams led to the score.
San Francisco got the ball back but an unblocked DeMarcus Ware led to the second sack on Alex Smith, and a subsequent delay of game put SF in a third and very long situation. Andy Lee booted a 64-yard punt to push Dallas back. Romo began playing pitch and catch with Jesse Holley after Witten and Austin chalked up big plays all day, earning the attention of the 49ers defense.
Then Romo connected with Austin two consecutive times, moving Dallas close enough where Dan Bailey could hit a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 24 to force OT.
The 49ers won the toss and elected to receive. On 1st down, Smith had a connection to Ginn on a dig route to move the chains. Gore helped move the ball with an 8-yard rush but a untimely sack by defensive tackle Jay Ratliff had the 49ers now looking at long yardage on third down again.
Andy Lee punted Dallas down to their own 23-yard line.
On 1st and 10, Jesse Holley gashed 49ers defense on a seam route for 77-yards, putting Dallas in scoring position at the 1-yard line. Bailey connected on a 19-yard field goal to win the game after being down 10 points in the fourth quarter.
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