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Notebook: Rush D Stays Strong

Posted Sep 18, 2011

The 49ers rush defense continued its trend of shutting down opposing running backs, albeit in a 27-24 overtime loss to the visiting Dallas Cowboys.

The unit hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher dating back 24 games. And through two games this season, the 49ers defense leads the NFL allowing 54.5 rushing yards per game.

On Sunday, the 49ers looked impenetrable up front, holding Dallas to 45 rushing yards on 22 carries. A three-headed Cowboys rushing attack was held in check as Felix Jones (nine carries for 25 yards), DeMarco Murray (six carries for 21 yards) and Tashard Choice (five carries for five yards) were each held to less than 3.5 yards per carry.

Murray had the longest Dallas run of the game. It went for eight yards.

But despite the dominant rush defense and two interceptions recorded by safety Donte Whitner and cornerback Tramaine Brock, respectively, the 49ers defense will have to go back to the drawing board for a complete performance.

They know they can limit opposing running backs. Now it’s a matter of stoping production elsewhere.

“It’s a hard loss,” said Whitner, who intercepted backup Cowboys quarterback Jon Kitna in the third quarter. “We let it slip through our hands and gave up way entirely too many big plays. That has to be corrected.”

The 49ers defense gave up the biggest play of the game, as unheralded wideout Jesse Holley caught a 77-yard pass in overtime to set up a 19-yard game-winning field goal Dan Bailey.

“I don’t want to say it was one guy’s fault or this guy’s fault,” defensive captain Patrick Willis said of Holley’s catch and run. “We have to go in and watch the film and see what happened.”

The 49ers allowed big plays in the air, despite dominating the ground game. In the first half alone, the 49ers held Dallas to seven rushing yards, which tied a team record for fewest rushing yards allowed in the first half by a 49ers defense since they held the Minnesota Vikings to seven yards on eight rushing attempts in Dec. 1995.

And still, Dallas got back into the game, just as Tony Romo shook off an injury that caused him to miss the start of the second half.

Romo’s return appeared to be well-timed.

When the 49ers needed to make a stop to slow down a Cowboys comeback, they got exactly what they were looking for when Brock recorded his second interception in as many games. A slant pass from Kitna was originally tipped by cornerback Carlos Rogers and, somehow, it found its way into Brock’s arms.

“I was playing my coverage and I saw the ball tipped. I took my opportunity and picked it off,” the second-year cornerback later explained.

Though the 49ers have forced multiple turnovers in each contest so far, there’s more work ahead.

Overtime defeats certainly reinforce that point.

“Forcing turnovers brings your confidence up,” added Brock, “but as you can see, we’re still have a lot to work on. We’re trying to learn from the mistakes that happened.”

Notes and Quotes

Defensive tackle Ray McDonald recorded the 49ers only sack after the game after successfully bull-rushing through a pair of Cowboys linemen to get his hands on Romo. McDonald now has 2.0sacks on the season and 7.0 for his career.

Willis and defensive tackle Justin Smith both recorded forced fumbles against Dallas.

David Akers’ 55-yard field goal was the longest in Candlestick Park history and the third-longest in 49ers history. It was also the second-longest made kick of his career, Akers previously made a 57-yard field goal on Sept. 14, 2003 against the New England Patriots.

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