What it means: The 49ers’ formula for success failed to materialize as the team struggled in many of the areas in which it has been strongest under coach Jim Harbaugh. Turnovers, missed field goals, questionable game management, special-teams coverage lapses and an inconsistent pass rush doomed the 49ers to their second defeat of the season. They’re 4-2 heading into their Thursday night game against the Seattle Seahawks. How will they respond to an embarrassing defeat?
What I liked: The 49ers got Randy Moss involved on downfield throws. They had some success -- not consistent success, but some success -- using Colin Kaepernick in doses. That included when Kaepernick completed a long pass to Mario Manningham as the 49ers moved into position for a field goal attempt right before halftime. The 49ers converted first downs on four of their first five third-down chances, a big improvement from their 1-of-13 showing on third down against the Giants during an overtime defeat in the NFC Championship Game.
What I didn’t like: Just about everything from a 49ers perspective. Alex Smith’s interceptions are a good starting point. He appeared to hold the ball a little long before throwing the first one on a pass intended for tight end Delanie Walker. The Giants made good plays on the ball for the other picks. The 49ers had chances to collect interceptions of their own, but they couldn’t finish plays. Carlos Rogers might have scored on one pass Eli Manning threw deep in 49ers territory, but he dropped the ball.
Smith’s streak ends: Smith had gone 26 consecutive starts without tossing more than one interception in a game. He tossed three against the Giants and also held the ball when the 49ers’ offensive line gave him ample time to find receivers. It’s possible there weren’t open receivers on some of those throws, but a quarterback still needs to unload the football to avoid field-position losses.
Key injury: The 49ers lost left tackle Joe Staley to a concussion. The injury has added significance because the 49ers have to play again Thursday night. Will Staley be cleared to play in time for kickoff? If not, the 49ers will have some shuffling to do as they prepare for Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons, a strong pass-rusher and all-around player.
Questionable decision: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh issued a first-half replay challenge even though it was clear the Giants had not lost a fumble on the play. The decision cost the 49ers one of their challenges early in the game and without any shot at prevailing, based on available replays.
What’s next: The 49ers are home against the Seattle Seahawks for a Thursday night game in Week 7. This will be their first game against a division opponent in 2012.