SAN FRANCISCO Despite a first-time starter at quarterback and a penalty-prone offensive line, wide receiver Johnnie Morton had no interest in putting the 49ers’ offensive struggles in perspective.

“It’s really embarrassing,” Morton said after the 49ers failed to score an offensive touchdown for the second consecutive week and the fifth time this season in Sunday’s 24-6 loss to the New York Giants. “This is professional football, not high school football. We should be scoring a lot of touchdowns. We need to find a way to get in the end zone.”

The 49ers (2-6) had their chances but were undone by a season-high 12 penalties. Nine of them were called on offensive linemen, including one that negated a spectacular one-handed catch near the goal line by Brandon Lloyd. There was also a costly dropped pass and a running game that produced just 52 yards.

It was too much for Cody Pickett to overcome in his first career start and too much for the 49ers, who were playing with their fourth quarterback in five games.

“It somewhat limits our play calling, because we have a different quarterback in there and they aren’t getting all the reps from the week before,” Morton said. “But we’ve all played football before. Cody is a great quarterback and we should be scoring a lot of points.”

Added Kevan Barlow, who was limited to 4 yards in 10 carries, “I’m not going to blame any of this on Cody. He went out there calm, composed and took control.”

But the only scoring drives by Pickett, starting because of injuries to Alex Smith and Ken Dorsey, ended in field goals of 52 and 48 yards by Joe Nedney. He finished 12 of 21 for 102 yards with an interception.

“We will not dismiss this loss,” Coach Mike Nolan said. “We will take into account all the things that happened and learn from them and get better because of it. We’re not where we wanted to be at this point at 2-6, but we feel there’s an awful lot of things going in the right direction.”

But not on Sunday, when the 49ers missed an opportunity to string together successive wins for the first time since beating St. Louis and Pittsburgh midway through the 2003 season.

“We hurt ourselves today,” Pickett said. “It’s easy to cover up things and make excuses. We didn’t win. We have to get better.”

They would have been better if they had taken better advantage of their opportunities Sunday.

Defensively, safety Tony Parrish, one of the team’s most sure-handed players, dropped what would have been a sure interception in the fourth quarter, and the Giants later finished the drive with a touchdown.

Tight end Trent Smith blew a potential first-quarter scoring chance when Pickett’s deep pass down the middle slipped off his hands. And the 49ers’ best drive in the first half went up in smoke because of three penalties, including the holding call on left tackle Anthony Clement that wiped out Lloyd’s 31-yard catch to the Giants’ 2.

“I was just pushing him over the top,” said Clement, who didn’t think he was holding defensive end Osi Umenyiora. “I wasn’t grabbing him or holding him. That’s a tough call. Without that call, it’s a touch.”

Matters only got worse from there. After an incompletion, Clement and tackle Kwame Harris were flagged for false starts and Pickett, on third-and-33 from the 49ers’ 47-yard line, tried to force a pass to a well-covered Arnaz Battle.

Safety Brent Alexander was there to make the interception and lateraled the ball to teammate Will Allen, who returned it 17 yards to the 49ers’ 41-yard line.

The Giants got to the 32, where on fourth-and-one, Eli Manning lofted a pass downfield to tight end Jeremy Shockey. He got behind Parrish and made a diving catch near the goal line before rolling into the end zone to put the Giants up 10-0 moments before halftime.

Clement said the penalty calls caused a “lack of concentration.” Nolan blamed a lack of focus and described the penalties as “inexcusable.”

The 49ers closed to 10-6 on Nedney’s third-quarter field goals, but the Giants answered with a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs by Brandon Jacobs in the fourth quarter.

Plaxico Burress set up Jacobs’ first score with a 50-yard catch, grabbing Manning’s pass off his shoulder pad before cornerback Bruce Thornton could knock it away. Later, Amani Toomer got behind Derrick Johnson for a 23-yard reception to the 1 to put Jacobs in position for his second touchdown.

“Mainly we wanted to stop Eli Manning, Jeremy Shockey and Tiki Barber,” linebacker Andre Carter said. “To a certain degree, we were successful, but at the end we didn’t defend as well as we wanted to. We just have to bounce back.”

(c) 2005, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).

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