Hill Shines as 49ers Knock Off Favre and the Jets

Team improves to 3-3 under Singletary

California has been a land of lost opportunities for Brett Favre and the New York Jets this season.

Favre was badly outplayed by the unheralded Shaun Hill and the Jets fell into a three-way tie for first place in the AFC East following their third loss this season in the Golden State, a 24-14 defeat to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

"It doesn't matter where we play," coach Eric Mangini said. "We have to play well. It just doesn't matter what the conditions are, we have to play well."

New York hasn't done that in three trips to California, losing to San Diego in September, Oakland in October and now San Francisco (5-8) in December. With the Jets locked in a tight race with New England and Miami in the division, those defeats to teams with losing records could come back to haunt them for a long time.

The latest loss was particularly ugly, as the Jets managed a season-low 182 yards against a defense missing star cornerback Nate Clements, held the ball for just over 20 minutes and were unable to bounce back from last week's 34-17 home loss to Denver.

The consecutive losses follow a five-game winning streak that was capped by victories in New England and Tennessee and had some in the Big Apple talking about an all-New York Super Bowl.

"We let two games get away that we should have rightfully won," cornerback Ty Law said. "We're just not playing Jets football. Time's running out. We have to go out and play to our potential. This is as talented a team as I've been around, but talent only takes you so far."

The Niners are on a roll under interim coach Mike Singletary, winning three of four games. Still, they were eliminated from playoff contention when Arizona clinched the NFC West on Sunday.

Hill passed for 285 yards and two touchdowns, offensive lineman Joe Staley alertly fell on Jason Hill's fumble in the end zone for a first-quarter TD and the defense shut down Favre in San Francisco's most complete performance of the season.

"It was a big step for myself and this team," said Hill, who went 28-for-39 to improve to 4-0 as the starter at Candlestick Park. "This win is huge, to beat an opponent like this and to go back-to-back and get victories against two good opponents. This is really big for our program."

Joe Nedney kicked a 32-yard tiebreaking field goal early in the fourth quarter and Bryant Johnson made a diving 3-yard TD catch with 6:05 left.

Frank Gore caught a short TD pass and rushed for 52 yards before injuring his left ankle early in the second half for the Niners, who improved to 3-3 under Singletary. The coach is making a compelling case for the permanent job, sparking a franchise still headed to its sixth straight non-winning season.

"I won't say that it's my team, because I'm really trying to help it become the players' team," Singletary said. "Yes, I want the job, but I'm going to work as hard as I can, as honestly as I can. ... I'm not trying to impress anybody. I'm not trying to prove anything. I'm just being me, and hopefully when it's said and done, that's enough."

Favre went 20-of-31 for 137 yards and ran for a score, but didn't throw a TD pass for the second straight week. He also failed to throw a touchdown pass in the 16-13 overtime loss at Oakland in October, which was the low point of the season before these latest losses.

"I don't know if we've lost confidence. We've lost two games, games we felt like we should have won. But there's a lot of reasons why we didn't," Favre said. "I don't sense desperation. We're still in decent shape ... but if we continue to play the way we have, we won't be."

Thomas Jones rushed for 56 yards on 10 carries for the Jets. He tied two franchise records with a 17-yard scoring run for his 12th touchdown rushing and 14th TD overall this season.  Notes:@ Staley became the first offensive lineman to score a TD for the Niners since Kwame Harris in 2003 when Hill fumbled at the 1 after a catch and Staley dove on the loose ball in the end zone. ... David Harris led the Jets with 13 tackles in his first game back from a five-game absence with a groin injury. ... The Niners had the ball for 39:49, their best mark in a regulation game since controlling it for 40:43 in a 26-7 win over Atlanta on Dec. 12, 1999.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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