EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- They went for it on fourth down. They used three and four-receiver formations. Seldom-used Ashley Lelie played almost the entire second half.
The San Francisco 49ers finally unveiled a more ambitious offense in the Meadowlands of New Jersey on Sunday. Unfortunately, they came away with the same lousy results in a sack- and penalty-filled 33-15 loss to the New York Giants.
"I'm disappointed mostly because I thought we had an outstanding week during this bye week," said coach Mike Nolan whose team has dropped four straight.
"I thought we practiced well. I thought we prepared well."
Indeed, the 49ers spent their week off thinking up ways to jump-start an offense that sputtered badly over the first five weeks of the season.
Against the Giants, the 49ers' tried a reverse on the first kickoff they received and went for it on fourth down on their first scoring drive. They used three- and four-receiver sets, substituted David Baas and Adam Snyder along the offensive line, and threw downfield more than they had at any point this year.
The aggressive approach had a marginal effect.
With multiple receivers on the field, Frank Gore had his best game of the season, running for 88 yards and 6.3 yards-per-carry average.
Quarterback Trent Dilfer threw for two touchdowns and the offense finished with 267 total yards, its second best output of the season.
But the 49ers' gains were more than offset by their mistakes.
On San Francisco's second offensive play, 15-year defensive end Michael Strahan blew by rookie tackle Joe Staley for a nine-yard sack.
On the third play, an avalanche of defenders, including Strahan and fellow end Osi Umenyiora, hit Dilfer as he was releasing the ball.
Dilfer was sacked six times on the afternoon, 2½ of them coming from Strahan, who gave Staley a hard lesson on playing tackle in the NFL. Staley later said he allowed Strahan to be the aggressor in the first half and only began playing well when he became more physical with the savvy veteran.
"That's one of the things I'm going to take away from this game," Staley said. "I feel terrible. I feel like I let my teammates down."
There were plenty of rotten feelings to go around.
Nine of the 49ers' 13 penalties were committed by the offense, which also allowed the Giants to deliver the crushing blow early in the third quarter.
Down 12 points, Dilfer connected with Lelie on a 47-yard pass down the right sideline -- Lelie's first catch of the season -- putting the 49ers in a position to crawl back into the game.
On first down from the New York 15, Dilfer was supposed to thwart the Giants' blitz by taking a quick, three-step drop and hitting the open receiver.
He never came close to getting the pass off. The blocking scheme was designed for left tackle Jonas Jennings to pick up an inside rusher. As a result, Umenyiora came free from the right side of the Giants line and crashed into Dilfer from behind. The defensive end snapped up the loose football and wasn't touched until he was mobbed by teammates 75 yards downfield in the opposite end zone.
The play was reminiscent of a defensive touchdown the 49ers allowed last year in a loss to Philadelphia, and Nolan noted that his team has yet to outgrow its tendency for catastrophic blunders.
"We're our own worst enemy right now," he said, "and we've been that for a while."