The Cowboys' Dan Bailey kicks a field goal to send the game into overtime at Candlestick Park. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
In Week 1, the 49ers won a game but gained little attention.
In Week 2, the Niners lost but may have opened a few eyes.
San Francisco opened leads of 14-0 and 24-14 over the Dallas Cowboys at Candlestick Park Sunday, but couldn’t get a stop late in the fourth quarter or in overtime, losing 27-24.
After executing an ultra-conservative offensive game plan in the Game 1 victory over Seattle last week, rookie head coach Jim Harbaugh complained his team was shut out of the national spotlight. He said he couldn’t find a single 49ers highlight on the national TV shows that evening.
That won’t be the case after the loss to the Cowboys. After putting a scare into America’s Team and its national following, many more folks are bound to sit up and take notice of the guys in the red and gold unis.
Maybe, they’ll say, this team is making strides after going 6-10 a year ago.
However, the highlight that’s going to get the most airtime will feature Cowboys receiver Jesse Holley catching a pass from Tony Romo on Dallas’ first possession of OT – after the Niners had to punt -- and streaking 77 yards to the S.F. 1-yard line, setting up the eventual winning field goal of 19 yards by Dan Bailey.
That play, and the 49ers’ failure to stop Dallas from putting together a long drive at the end of regulation, culminating in Bailey’s 48-yard field goal with four seconds left to tie the game at 24-all, spoiled San Francisco’s bid to start the season 2-0 – after starting out 0-5 in 2010. Romo, who had been sidelined earlier in the game with a fractured rib, returned to complete 4-of-5 passes on the game-tying drive.
Also figuring prominently was a conservative decision by Harbaugh.
The head coach set himself up for some second-guessing when, in the fourth quarter, the Niners’ David Akers kicked a 55-yard field goal to put San Francisco up 24-14. There was a Dallas penalty on the play for leverage, however, which would have given the 49ers 15 yards and a first down. Harbaugh chose not to keep driving for a TD, and to keep the points on the board. A touchdown, rather than a field goal at that time, could have proven to be huge later.
Early in the game, the 49ers offense was much more effective than it was against Seattle a week earlier. Alex Smith had TD throws to Kyle Williams and Delanie Walker as the Niners opened up a lead.
Overall, Smith was 16-of-24 for 179 yards and two TDs, with one interception, and rushed three more times for 21 yards, despite the team’s top receivers being sidelined. Michael Crabtree didn’t play, and his wideout mate, Braylon Edwards, was knocked out of the game.
Ten times, Smith completed passes for first downs, and San Francisco was 8-of-16 on third-down conversions.
But the running game, stymied against Seattle, remained ineffective. Frank Gore carried 20 times, but gained just 47 yards, and the team averaged just 3.1 yards on 24 total attempts.
And of the 10 points the 49ers scored in the second half, all 10 were set up by defensive takeaways.
San Francisco's next challenge comes on the road, Sunday in Cincinnati.