Stick a fork in 'em
December 2, 2003 at 12:00 AM • 0 comments
No humorous "Quoth the raven" jokes. After the showing in Baltimore this past Sunday, the 49ers don't deserve anything so clever.
After a big 44-41 comeback win against the Seahawks during the previous week, the Baltimore Ravens looked pumped up and eager to prove that they are for real. The 49ers however, showed no signs of enthusiasm or urgency coming out of the tunnel on Sunday. It was a must win for the 49ers but they looked like they were expecting yet another road loss where they have not won all season.
The 49ers were given a great Thanksgiving gift with a Packers loss to the Lions. Instead of capitalizing on the opportunity, the 49ers handed the Ravens an easy 44-6 win.
Jeff Garcia returned to the starting lineup from a 3 game injury only to be kept out of the endzone and getting picked off 4 times. In fact, his first pass of the game was picked off after it was thrown too high for Terrell Owens. Two of the other interceptions were thrown behind their intended receivers. The results of those interceptions? Three touchdowns and a field goal by the Ravens.
"I'll take some of the blame. When it started going downhill, it went downhill real fast. We couldn't find a way to stop the steam," said Garcia.
While there were a number of dropped passes including an early one to Cedric Wilson that should have gone in for 6, Garcia once again looked jumpy and erratic in the backfield. What are you so scared of back there Jeff? Calm down and make your reads.
Jeff Garcia is a good NFL quarterback. But something is wrong here. He is obviously not the same Jeff Garcia that took this team to the playoffs during the past two seasons. Is his job in jeopardy? It certainly should be. The 49ers should go with the guy who gives them the best chance to win. Sadly, that is not Jeff. Tim Rattay should be the guy behind center. While this team has no chance to win out the rest of the season and make the playoffs, the 49ers are a better team with Rattay back there. Take away Garcia's interceptions and throw in a couple of touchdowns by Rattay and this game could have been a totally different story.
For all the Erickson lovers and Mariucci haters out there, you should stop reading here. Let's face it, Steve Mariucci, who is now the Lions head coach, was the 49ers' biggest loss this past offseason. Do you honestly believe that the 49ers would be 5-7 with Mariucci as head coach? This is pretty much the same team that went into the second round of the playoffs last year. There is no way they would be this bad had the front office kept Mariucci.
While there is no argument that the 49ers have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, Mariucci knew how to use that talent. Not only that, but he knew how to hide the team's faults. He knew exactly what he had on offense so he used ball controlling running game to help this team win.
While you can throw in the excuse that this is Dennis Erickson's first year with the 49ers, he is not a rookie in the NFL having coached the Seahawks before returning to the NCAA ranks. He has not shown any sign of improvement from game to game and doesn't seem to be able to adapt to different teams. Road games are like watching a train wreck over and over. They are just ugly.
Regarding the beating the 49ers took by the Ravens, Erickson commented, "It was an embarrassing game…We didn't play well in all aspects, starting with me."
So while the Lions' future looks bright with the team slowly and steadily improving, the 49ers' future looks scary if something drastic is not done.
Yes the defense gave up 44 points, but to place total blame on them would not be fair. It was the 49ers offense that gave most of that to them. Actually, for most of the first half, the defense was hanging in there keeping the score close before the Ravens scored 14 points in the last two minutes. One of those scores was off a Garcia interception intended for, but thrown behind receiver Cedric Wilson.
Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was going to get his yards and they were certainly going to get a few through the air. But if the 49ers offense can't score, there is not much that a defense can do to help a team win the game.
On a bright note, there were two players that stood out on defense for the 49ers. Defensive end John Engelberger had a key sack in the 2nd quarter forcing a Raven's punt. Strong safety Tony Parrish had an interception with the score 3-7 preventing a Ravens score. It was his fourth straight game with an interception. Parrish also saved another touchdown stopping a long Ravens kickoff return.
So the help was there. Eventually though, the defense got worn down just as they have so many times this season.
It did not help that Baltimore seemed to be piling on the points when the game was more than over. That upset a lot of the 49ers coaching staff and players including defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. Coach Erickson also showed his frustration with a few choice comments. "What the hell's the difference if it's 34 points or 51?" Erickson said regarding the margin of points in the Ravens' win. "What the hell is the difference?"
One guy who could have made a difference was cornerback Ahmed Plummer. There were two key moments, one in each half, where he could have stolen the ball from the Ravens' offense. Instead, they were both barely missed. It is indeed a game of inches.
On the offensive side of the ball, while occasionally being hit at or behind the line, the one bright spot was running back Garrison Hearst. He powered his way past the defensive line a number of times. When Garcia could not find anyone open, Hearst was there and was becoming a key option at receiver before heading to the sideline in the 3rd quarter with a sprained knee.
It was the most lopsided victory in Baltimore Ravens history and a true testament to the fall of this 49ers team. The Ravens offense has found new energy over the last couple of weeks. Too bad the 49ers can't say the same.
And for those of you who still believe the 49ers can make the playoffs, I applaud your optimism. Yes it is technically possible, but at some point, you will have to start to be realistic.
Even if the 49ers win out their final 4 games, they would need 3 teams to totally fall apart in order to make the postseason. The Rams, Eagles, and Panthers look like they will win their divisions if things keep going their way. Either the Vikings or Packers will win the NFC North. That's just a matter of which team stinks the least. The Seahawks and Cowboys lead the wildcard hunt at this point. Whichever team comes in second in the NFC North is still ahead of the 49ers. Even the Saints are a game ahead.
Yes boys and girls, it is time to start looking to next year. We know what we have in Jeff Garcia. He is a Pro Bowl quarterback but is seriously struggling this season. It's time forget about the previous weeks, finish the season strong, and see if Tim Rattay is for real.
Here's to a great offseason.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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