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Was Giants’ game bad omen for Bowman?

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The Sports Xchange

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — One week after some were calling for the benching of the club’s highest profile player, the San Francisco 49ers suddenly have a bigger problem.

It’s their second-highest profile player.

Former Pro Bowl inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman endured one of the most frustrating games of his career Sunday in the 49ers’ 30-27 loss to the New York Giants.

It was so bad, it made the previous whipping boy, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, look like a superstar in comparison.

Bowman will be remembered as the guy who was beaten by Giants tight end Larry Donnell for the game-winning touchdown with 21 seconds remaining.

But photographic evidence splashed on major websites across the country at least proves he was in the picture that time.

Earlier in the game, he was beaten badly by Giants running back Shane Vereen for a two-yard touchdown catch.

And time and again, Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw hook routes to wideouts behind Bowman and multiple move-the-chains completions in front of him.

In the end, Bowman was credited with a team-high 16 tackles — almost all of which following passes he could not defend.

It was so embarrassing, 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula afterward was asked point-blank if Bowman, who missed all of last season with a serious knee injury, was no longer his old self.

“No, I’m not going to say that,” he insisted.

Pressed to explain Bowman’s poor pass coverage, the coach refused to point a finger at anyone, much as he wouldn’t blame Kaepernick when he struggled big-time in previous weeks.

“Our underneath coverage all the way, we have to tighten up,” he said. “So, I wouldn’t say NaVorro Bowman. None of us played well enough.”

For what it’s worth, Bowman took the blame for the loss. But he was referring to his role in Donnell’s game-winning catch.

“I thought I played it well enough. They got one in,” he said. “I’ll take that. I’ll put that on me.”

REPORT CARD VS. GIANTS

–PASSING OFFENSE: B. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick couldn’t produce a win over the New York Giants on Sunday, but he sure came close. Kaepernick led the 49ers’ most impressive drive of the season, a seven-play, 80-yarder late in the game that produced a four-point lead with 1:45 remaining. It pushed his game passer rating to 107.1, a season best.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: B-plus. The Giants were supposed to be tough against the run. Their 69.8-yard per-game average was testimony to that. But the 49ers were able to grind out 124 yards, keeping the New York defense honest enough to allow quarterback Colin Kaepernick to have his best throwing game of the season. When they needed it most, Carlos Hyde came through with a two-yard touchdown run that put the 49ers in front with 1:45 to go.

–PASS DEFENSE: D-minus. The good news is the 49ers kept Odell Beckham Jr. from adding to his highlight reel. But surely the same can’t be said of tight end Larry Donnell, who made a spectacular game-winning touchdown catch over 49ers inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman with 21 seconds left. Giants quarterback Eli Manning threw 54 passes, completed 41 and was never sacked.

–RUN DEFENSE: B. The 49ers outrushed the Giants 124-84, which was an upset in and of itself. Then again, the Giants don’t have much of a running game, so the 49ers’ success was not unexpected. Even a mediocre running game helped the Giants gain key advantages in time of possession (32-28) and in first downs (30-22).

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus. The club’s most consistent unit was good once again. Phil Dawson made both his field-goal attempts, Bradley Pinion punted for a 46.0-yard average and the 49ers contained the Giants’ return men. If there’s one thing that’s keeping the 49ers from the “A” level on special teams, it’s their own return men. Once again, they made no mistakes, but neither did they go anything special.

–COACHING: B-plus. Head coach Jim Tomsula began playing head games with quarterback Colin Kaepernick pretty much immediately after the 49ers had scored only three points in the previous week’s loss to Green Bay. It worked. Tomsula wanted Kaepernick to play on Sunday like he regularly does in practice, and he finally did in the narrow loss to the New York Giants. Coming 21 seconds from beating the NFC East leader probably ranks as the 49ers’ best effort of the young season.


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