Offense is truly offensive
January 2, 2002 at 12:00 AM
The Dallas loss not only sent the 49ers to a likely playoff game against Green Bay next week, it really magnified the sudden loss of offense that has plagued the team for the last four weeks.
Most west coast offenses, with all their sensitivity for timing and precision, go through ruts. Just look at the Raiders the last month. The 49ers, after never being held to less than 340 yards all year, have averaged 285 the last four games. They appear to be in a swoon at the worst possible time.
The running game has been effective at times, but it still doesn’t seem have the firepower to set the tone in big games. For all the big stats and the #2 NFL ranking, the running game doesn’t step up and pop you in the mouth the way Pittsburgh does. The 49ers’ ground game is far better when it sneaks up on defenses and gains momentum with every quarter. But Hearst and Barlow have not been able to come out early in games and set a tone.
The passing game has been a problem on two fronts. The first is Garcia’s health, and this is going to be a recurring problem. Garcia is a tough guy, but he is not very big. Yet he often exposes himself to big hits with his aggressive playing. He’ll tell you that his knee is much healthier, but anybody who has seen him run in the past two months knows that he has never been the same since the injury vs. Chicago. He has lost a lot of mobility. The various injuries will not be fully healed in time for the first playoff games, and the 49ers may have to think long and hard about resting him – especially against the Saints, who really like to deliver their share of hits.
The second problem on offense is the lack of weapons in the passing game to compliment Owens. As much as Owens has blossomed into a star, the rest of the 49ers cast has wilted. JJ Stokes is simply no good, and none of the young players seem to have stepped up. Defenses are really making it hard for the 49ers to get the ball to Owens – and it will be hard to rip up off big chunks of yardage against Green Bay with Stokes and Streets getting the bulk of the throws.
With the running game off to its usual slow start, and the passing game banged up, the 49ers offense may have problems scoring points the next two weeks.
Don’t Blame the D
Some people may want to lay blame on the 49ers’ defense, but I didn’t think they played badly. Quincy Carter, who hasn’t thrown 15 good passes all year, threw 15 of the most perfectly thrown passes a player is capable of. Utter perfection. I don’t think Kurt Warner was as accurate in our two meetings this year. The defense played hard and got into Carter’s face; only to have him complete 35-yard passes off his back foot to catch receivers in stride. How do you explain that? Some days just aren’t good days, and you have to shrug them off and move on.
I’m not going to say that Carter’s performance was luck – he did it too many times on Sunday for it to be luck. But if I was him, I would look at everything I did Sunday morning – what side of the bed I woke up on, what I ate for breakfast, how long I showered – and do it again before every game. Make it a ritual.
If there is any explanation for the loss, we should start with the furor Terrell Owens caused with his antics last year. Dallas was quick to deny that Owens’ star dancing last year had anything to do with their intensity and focus, but some comments leading up to the game said differently. The Cowboys were very fired up for this game – Darren Woodson went so far as to call it their 'playoff game’. The 49ers walked into a trap that one of their own players set for them. It just goes to show that classless behavior and unsportsmanlike conduct can come back to haunt you.
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