No Gold in California: Jets Fall to Niners, 24-14

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2008 Week 14 - Jets at 49ers Photos

The New York Jets couldn't shake the California quakes today in San Francisco. They lost a 24-14 contest to the San Francisco 49ers, dropping to 8-5 on the season and 0-3 in the Golden State.

It was an outcome that created a logjam atop the AFC East. Both the Dolphins and Patriots won in Week 14 and share identical marks with the Green & White. The road defeat overshadowed Thomas Jones' continued assault on the franchise's history books.

San Francisco, playing an inspired brand of football under interim head coach Mike Singletary, improved to 5-8 on the season. The 49ers got a solid performance out of QB Shaun Hill (28 of 39 for 275 yards with a couple of scoring passes), outgained the Jets 375 to 182 and held the ball for 39:49. 

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

There a number of twists and turns in the second half, but the Jets never were able to get the lead.

With the visitors down by a touchdown in the third quarter, the 49ers were driving again. And just when you wondered if the New Yorkers were headed for Alcatraz, veteran linebacker David Bowens stepped in front of a  Hill pass and returned an interception 24 yards into enemy territory.

Four plays later, Jones cut back and scored from 17 yards out. It was a beautiful run and tied TJ with future Hall of Famer Curtis Martin for a pair of franchise seasonal records — total TDs (14) and rush TDs (12).

"We didn't win. It doesn't matter how many touchdowns or how many yards you have. If you don't win the game — it's a week loss," said a disappointed Jones. "You put in a whole week of practice and whole week of meetings for nothing. That's how I feel and that's how my teammates feel."

But the 49ers, who lost star running back Frank Gore in the third quarter with an ankle injury, were a determined bunch and seized momentum right back. Joe Nedney hooked a 32-yard boot through the uprights to give the hosts a 17-14 advantage just seconds into the final quarter.

On the ensuing kickoff, Leon Washington gave the Jets what appeared to be their first lead with another return run to glory. Unfortunately, an official called holding on reserve safety James Ihedigbo and sent special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff off on the visiting sideline.

The deflated Jets actually moved backward on their next possession and punted the ball away. Ten plays later, Hill threw a perfect ball to wideout Bryant Johnson in the left corner of the end zone and it was 24-14. Johnson faked cutting across and came back to retrieve the ball.

"They hit us with a lot of crossing routes and kept us off-balance a little bit," said DE Shaun Ellis. "The quarterback did a great job managing the game."

After the teams traded a pair of unconventional touchdowns, Hill connected with Gore on a 4-yard scoring pass with 50 seconds remaining in the second quarter to give Singletary's club a 14-7 advantage at intermission. Gore got freed up as a pair of 49ers screened off Jets defenders and nobody could get over in time to stop the talented back from reaching the end zone.

Hill was sharp throughout the first half, completing 15 of 20 passes for 169 yards. San Francisco drove the ball consistently in the first 30 minutes, holding a 2-to-1 edge in total yards (210 to 105).

When the Jets prepared for today's contest, they probably didn't view Joe Staley as much of a scoring threat. After all, the 6'5", 315-pound offensive tackle had never scored a point in his first 28 NFL pro games. But Staley struck first for the underdog Niners when he won an end zone scrum following Jason Hill's fumble. 

In foggy conditions, Shaun Hill got off to a precise start. He completed nine of his first 10 passes for the home club. The first-quarter score could have been worse than 7-0, but a Jets fumble recovery in their red zone prevented a double-digit deficit.

The Jets evened things up in the second stanza on Brett Favre's 14th career rushing TD. After completing all four of his passes on the first eight plays of the drive, Favre didn't have anyone open on a roll right and the 39-year-old signalcaller took advantage of some room with a 3-yard scoring dive. Favre, who completed 20 of 31, threw for just 131 yards and was intercepted late in the game.

"We're still in decent shape," Favre said. "Now if we continue to play the way we're playing, we won't be."

"If guys don't have a sense of urgency right now, I don't know what's going to make them have a sense of urgency. We still have everything in front of us. That's the reality of the situation, losing two games in a row we still control our own destiny as far as winning the division is concerned," added RT Damien Woody. "We just have to lay it all on the line for three weeks and once we do that, we'll see what happens."

In rebound mode again next week, the Jets return home to face the Buffalo Bills. After starting the season 5-1, the last place Bills have lost six of seven. 

"The answers are in the room, the answers are within each person. We have do what we've always done, which is come back and work that much more efficiently and effectively and be ready to come out and play our best football," Mangini said. "That's what we need to do week-in and week-out in the month of December because there aren't that many chances left."

Third-Down Discrepancy

While the 49ers converted eight of their 15 third downs, the Jets went just 1-for-10.  Despite 49ers star corner Nate Clements being out, the Frisco secondary was able to hold Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles to a catch apiece.

"When you make mistakes and you wind up in 1st and 20 and 2nd and long and all those downs and distances, then the defenses are able to do what they want to do," Cotchery said. "They can take away whatever they want to take away and that's what happened all day long today."

Hit Man Returns

Inside linebacker David Harris returned to the starting lineup for the Green & White. Harris, who suffered a groin injury against the Chiefs on Oct. 26, still was the Jets' third-leading tackler (52 stops) entering today's contest. Harris was solid, pacing Bob Sutton's defense with 13 tackles and adding half a sack.

No Fooling Smith

The 49ers won the coin toss and elected to defer to the Jets. Then on the opening kickoff, interim head coach Mike Singletary immediately attempted to catch the Jets off guard with an onside kick. Joe Nedney booted the ball off the grass but Brad Smith made a tremendous play, grabbing the ball at the top of his jump at the San Fran 49. 

Big Jenks Out for Redemption

Not pleased with his play last week against the Broncos, nose tackle Kris Jenkins forced a points-saving takeaway on the 49ers' opening possession. Jenkins stripped RB Michael Robinson at the Jets' 25 and outside linebacker Calvin Pace recovered for the Jets at their 17 to keep things scoreless early.

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