Sports

49ers given the boot

SAN FRANCISCO -- After yet another Frank Gore run on first down Sunday, one of the 49ers' full-voiced fans stood, cupped his hand to his mouth and yelled, "C'mon, Nolan, throw the ball!"

The coach must not have heard. The 49ers ran on second and third down, too. Both plays resulted in 1-yard gains that drew a chorus of throaty boos from a crowd that started growing impatient before many settled into their seats.

In fact, the 49ers didn't heed the fans until the third quarter, when a 42-yard throw to newly signed receiver Bryan Gilmore set up a 23-yard Trent Dilfer-to-Arnaz Battle touchdown strike, the 49ers' only offensive flourish of the game.

Amazingly, the touchdown brought the heretofore torpid 49ers within two points of Baltimore, and they were in position to go ahead when Joe Nedney stepped up for a 52-yard field-goal attempt with 2:44 remaining.

The kick, however, sailed wide right, and the Ravens hung on for a 9-7 victory.

The 49ers, who last week were battling for first place in the NFC West, now enter the bye week alone in third place with three consecutive losses.

"That was anticipated," coach Mike Nolan said of the two-point difference. "I thought we'd come through with the victory in the end, seeing as it is our house."

Nolan, who has signed several ex-Ravens over the past three offseasons, has been accused of building a West Coast version of his former team. Sunday, he admitted the game plan was to mimic the Ravens' attack: tough defense, no turnovers and a cautious offense.

"I was hoping to play their kind of game at our place," Nolan said. "It was a put-you-to-sleep kind of game at times, but the objective was to win."

Though the defense was impressive for a fifth consecutive game, the offense continues to regress. Through five outings, it has been one of the worst units the 49ers, a team that won just two games three years ago, has fielded.

Dilfer, who passed for 126 yards, had eight yards on six attempts in the first half. Why so few? The 49ers held the ball for only 9 minutes, 28 seconds in the half and were 1 for 6 in third-down situations.

The series that set up Nedney's field-goal attempt was symbolic. After the 49ers drove to the Baltimore 37-yard line, they played it safe -- running on first down, attempting a short dump-off to fullback Moran Norris on second down and running again on third.

The result of those plays -- 3 yards and a difficult field goal for Nedney.

"To be honest with you, I thought we'd get it from where we were," Nolan said.

Afterward, Dilfer said he had no problems with the game plan, noting the Ravens' Week 4 opponent, Cleveland, had great success running on third down.

"I don't have one complaint about anyone in this organization about how we approach things," Dilfer said. "We're not getting it done on Sundays."

Asked if he would consider removing offensive coordinator Jim Hostler, whose unit continues to be the worst in the league, Nolan said, "No. I don't believe so. But we look at everything, and we talk about everything."

The one thing that's certain is that the team's bye week will be no vacation.

"I don't know what the issues are on offense, but we have a lot of work to do," Nolan said. "We're going into a bye week. That is not an off week. We have work to do."

With quarterback Alex Smith, tight end Vernon Davis and left tackle Jonas Jennings sitting out for San Francisco, Gore had another tough game, rushing for just 52 yards.

Steve McNair was 29-of-43 for 214 yards. Derrick Mason had 11 quiet catches for 85 yards, while Willis McGahee rushed for 88 yards behind the patchwork offensive line and caught seven passes for 48 more.

Coach Brian Billick described his offense's effort as "survival. Not perfect by any stretch, but ... given the guys we had to throw in there, we grew a little bit today."

Dilfer made a point of seeking out Baltimore coach Brian Billick to apologize for some critical comments he made about his former coach earlier this year.

Dilfer spent one season in Baltimore, going 11-1 as a starter and winning the Super Bowl in January 2001. But Dilfer wasn't offered a new contract after the season when Billick decided to go with Elvis Grbac.

Dilfer felt disrespected when Billick didn't contact him personally after the Ravens dropped him, and that hurt has festered. The quarterback has lobbed several verbal shots at the coach since then, culminating in a critical interview in the Baltimore Sun in February.

"I talked to him before the game in the locker room and once again I told him after the game how sorry I was that I carried that bitterness for so long," Dilfer said.

Billick said it was a "very rewarding conversation" and looked to put the bitterness in the past.

"I really appreciate him reaching out that way," Billick said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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