Sports

49ers search for answers on offense

SANTA CLARA -- What's wrong with the 49ers' offense?

Mike Nolan spent a half hour Monday answering questions about that. But by the end of the news conference, the bottom line was this:

"Our mistakes, our errors thus far, I believe are correctable," Nolan said. "But do I have them exactly identified yet? No."

Nolan said the 49ers would spend their bye week searching for answers for why the team has lost three consecutive contests and owns the league's most feeble offense.

One thing he won't do is blame Jim Hostler.

After giving the offensive coordinator what was perceived to be a lukewarm endorsement following Sunday's 9-7 loss to Baltimore, Nolan was more adamant Monday, saying Hostler would continue to run the 49ers' offense.

"As everyone has seen, there have been dropped balls. There have been missed blocks. There have been missed protection calls. And there have been some poor calls," Nolan said. "I do know, and I believe, that it's not accurate to put one person under the bus. Because all you've done then is just postpone putting the next person under the bus."

How Nolan plans to breathe life into the moribund offense remains to be seen.

He said he would meet with coaches and players all day today and that the 49ers would hold practices Wednesday and Thursday.

A number of observers have asked why receiver Ashley Lelie, a free-agent addition who was given $4.3 million over two years, has been in on only a handful of plays. Lelie entered this season with five years of experience and a 17.5 yards-per-catch average.

Nolan grew coy, answering, "Good question" to that and three other questions about the receiver.

One player who will rejoin the offense is left tackle Jonas Jennings, who returned to team headquarters after what the team called a "private matter" caused him to miss practice and Sunday's game. Jennings spoke briefly with reporters Monday and thanked the team for its understanding but didn't reveal what caused him to miss the game.

"That's personal. I'm ready to play," he said before breaking away and walking to his car.

Two other players also seem as though they might rejoin the squad for its next game against the New York Giants on Oct. 21.

Tight end Vernon Davis, who suffered a knee sprain Sept. 23, has been doing light conditioning work. Nolan said Davis' status for the game against the Giants was "at worst questionable."

Quarterback Alex Smith also has made steady progress with his separated shoulder. After throwing a football up to 15 yards Sunday, Smith said he pushed the distance to 25 yards Monday.

"I wasn't gunning them in there or anything," said Smith, who had his shoulder wrapped with an ice pack. "But it definitely felt a lot better than (Sunday)."

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