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In San Francisco's first baptism of fire in 2004 at 3COM Park in San Francisco, California on August 14, 2004, we can feel well ensured that this season will be one of both endearment towards progress and painful revelations of how young and raw we really have become. The Battle of the Bay took place and the 49ers as chopped and diced as they were from the salary cap cutting board managed to provide a game that stayed interesting and compelling right up till the very end.
The Oakland Raiders along with legendary Jerry Rice came to town and had perceptions that all would be easy against a team that was ridding itself of the "old regime look" and moving on with younger talent more so then it ever did before.
It would pit old veteran quarterback Rich Gannon against fresh off the press out of the University of Miami quarterback Ken Dorsey, only because 49er starting quarterback Tim Rattay was still not up to speed with his groin recovery and had experienced some soreness in his right forearm.
Tim Rattay suffered swelling in his right (throwing) forearm after a practice that left him on the sidelines again after battling to rehabilitate from a torn groin muscle back in May. The eyes and ears of every 49er fan had been anxious and eager to witness the miracle recovery and entrance of Tim Rattay this season, but were subjected to more bad news that his throwing arm was too tender for him to play.
From training camp up until this game back-up quarterback Ken Dorsey became the man in charge so to speak of the first team 49er offense and from all indications through training camp he never disappointed the coaching staff or management. His willingness and enthusiasm to play the game set him up for success, and he entered the pre-season debut with hopes of achieving past glory from his debut last pre-season against the Raiders.
"It's about time we play. It's been two or three weeks now and 22 practices I believe. So it's about time for us to hit somebody else. Like I mentioned yesterday, you get in the habit of getting ready for football games," Dennis Erickson said.
"We've got to start tomorrow in our identifying of what our team is going to be, as far as the make up of our football team. That will obviously go on for a long period of time. But, yeah it is time to go out and play. I know they are excited to do that."
Expectations were high and all 49er fans despite it being just pre-season looked at this game as a faceplate of what it might actually look like this coming regular season. It is always easy for us to try and picture the team in our minds as it will look like come opening day. But the truth is told by the actions of what happens out on the playing field, and that decides who stays and who is dismissed.
Big time competitions would take place in this contest with coaches and management alike watching from above and along the sidelines. Quarterbacks fighting to establish the third stringer assignment were Brandon Doman and Cody Pickett.
Offensive linemen Kyle Kosier and rookie Justin Smiley would be battling for the right guard position. Safeties Dwaine Carpenter and Ronnie Heard would be battling for the starting free safety position. Cornerbacks Jimmy Williams and rookie Shawntae Spencer would be battling for the third cornerback position and the punting game would heat up between Andy Groom and rookie Andy Lee.
Pre-Season Game #1 Oakland Raiders at the San Francisco 49ers (Loss) 33-30
Winners: Justin Smiley played well in this exhibition game by creating a gaping hold for running back Terry Jackson to run through. Wide Receiver Arnaz Battle came back after a tough rookie season after breaking his toe and being out to deliver a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown.
Punter Andy Groom barely outdid Andy Lee with the winds at 3-COM Park being a huge factor in that Groom had a net average of just 31.5-yards and Lee had 27.3-yards. Cornerback Mike Rumph succeeded in not getting thrown at because of the inexperience on the other side with Ahmed Plummer out due to injury.
Quarterback Cody Pickett who outperformed Brandon Doman going 5 of 7 for 89-yards and a passer rating of 153.3% was crisp, and tight end Gabe Crecion who led the 49ers with three catches for 76-yards and a touchdown.
Losers: The 49ers in losing fullback Fred Beasley to a high ankle sprain that he sustained on the teams third offensive play. Safety Dwaine Carpenter who was burnt far too often in coverage and punter Andy Lee who struggled against the Bay winds.
Linebacker Saleem Rasheed who suffered a (right hip flexor) and continues to be a liability health wise. In all Fred Beasley was the most disappointing loss as he is being counted on heavily to provide a wallop before Kevan Barlow enters his hole. Wide Receiver Derrick Hamilton who had opportunities to get the ball but fell far too short.
"Him missing some preseason games isn't really going to hurt," Erickson said after a 33-30 loss to the Raiders. "I assume Fred will be ready." "Oh, man, Fred is such a good player and such a good person," quarterback Ken Dorsey said. "He's a staple for our offense."
Ken Dorsey ridiculed his own performance blaming his tendencies in the pocket to get too nervous and not waiting on plays to appear. He took blame for the ball not getting to wide receiver Brandon Lloyd in the end zone as well.
"I'm disappointed by that throw to the end zone," Dorsey said. "I didn't give Brandon a chance to get that ball, and as a quarterback I have to give my guys a chance to make a play on the ball."
First Quarter Highlights: Oakland Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon looks sharp directing a drive to the 49er nine-yard line that results in a Sebastion Janikowski field goal to make it 3-0 Raiders. 49er quarterback Ken Dorsey makes an interesting drive that goes to the Raider eight-yard line that results in a Todd Peterson 26-yard field goal to tie the game 3-3. Running back Kevan Barlow is called for un-sportsmanlike conduct on this drive that literally stalls it in its tracks.
Second Quarter Highlights: 49ers quarterback Ken Dorsey and running back Jamal Robertson drive from their own 13-yard line down to the seven-yard line of the Oakland Raiders where Todd Peterson makes it 6-3 49ers. Ex-Giant quarterback Kerry Collins starts a drive that results in a 34-yard touchdown pass to make it 10-6 Raiders, the Raiders strike again with good field position on the 49er 28-yard line with a Janikowski 46-yard field goal to make it 13-6 Raiders at halftime.
Third Quarter Highlights: Brandon Doman enters the game at this point from the 49er 24-yard line and with the help of defensive pass interference penalty drives the 49ers to the Oakland seven-yard line where running back Terry Jackson runs in a touchdown to make it 13-13.
Both teams go in and out on their next selected drives and Oakland with just 7:38 left in the game drives from their 39-yard line down to the 49er 36-yard line where Raider quarterback M. Tuiasosopo hits C. Francis for a touchdown to make it 20-13 Oakland.
Fourth Quarter Highlights: On the second series of this quarter on a Shane Lechler punt that goes bad when 49er Arnaz Battle goes 61 total yards into the end zone to make the score 20-20. But this is short lived when the Raiders special teams answer back with a play by Raider C. Francis that goes for 67 total yards for a touchdown to make it 27-20 Raiders.
Enter the game is 49er rookie quarterback Cody Pickett who starts from the 25-yard line to drive down to the Raider 21-yard line where Pickett hits tight end Gabe Crecion for a 21-yard touchdown to make it 27-27. Oakland answers back under Tuiasosopo as he drives down to the 49er three-yard line where a field goal makes it 30-27. The 49ers under Pickett come to life with help from running back Michael Hicks, driving all the way to the Oakland 20-yard line where a field goal is made to make it 30-30.
Oakland on its own 35-yard line with 1:53 remaining make it to the San Francisco 22-yard line where Janikowski hits a 40-yard field goal to win the game. The game is labeled a moral victory for the 49ers as they kept pace with the Raiders, but the passing attack of the Raiders was very successful racking up 348 total yards.
Statistics: The San Francisco 49ers led in first downs with 23 to 19 but less in third down conversions with the Raiders converting 7 out of 14 and the 49ers 2 out of 10. In total net yards the Raiders won with 451 to 307 but not in rushing with the 49ers leading with 109-yards. In passing the experience paid off as the Raiders had time to throw the ball and exploit our secondary with 348 total yards.
Penalties as usual hurt the Raiders with 21 for 246-yards but not enough to subdue them. The 49ers even had a slight edge in time of possession with 30:25 to 29:35, but the game was lost due to frequent scoring and an Oakland passing attack that simulated the St. Louis Rams. Overall it was a good game that still added flavor to the 49er cause as being hopeful at this juncture, with eyes upon Chicago.
Most of all Cody Pickett's 75-yard scoring drive was very impressive and instilled a sense of dominance in his bid to unseat Brandon Doman as the third string quarterback, with a 21-yard touchdown pass to tight end Gabe Crecion.
Following this very close game that left our appetite watering for more was a trip to the brand new Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears now new and improved. Instead of the cold chills and frostbite that usually occur there, the preseason brought them to a stadium still basking in the sun of a late August early evening that had fans packed to the rafters.
Game #2 The San Francisco 49ers at the Chicago Bears (Loss 20-13)
Winners: Quarterback Ken Dorsey had an up and down performance but still came out of this game with some positives and proving that he is the future. Dorsey completed 15 of 24 passes for 129-yards and one touchdown. Ken Dorsey started out rough on the very first drive throwing an interception that was intended for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd that ultimately ended in a field goal for the Bears.
Wide Receiver Brandon Lloyd again had an acrobatic catch by leaping around a defensive back and tipping the ball from one hand to another, and then he planted his feet in on the right side of the end zone. Wide Receiver Cedrick Wilson made some outstanding moves on the field with three receptions for 55 total yards as well, helping solidify his grip as a starter on the offense. The best play by Wilson was he beating former first-round draft pick cornerback R.W. McQuarters for a 30-yard reception.
Tight End Eric Johnson was the recipient of three receptions for 34 total yards averaging 11.3-yards a reception. Wide Receiver Derrick Hamilton also burst out of the abnormal by having four receptions for 51 total yards.
Running Back Jamal Robertson had seven carries for 36 total yards averaging 5.1-yards a carry. Wide Receiver P. J. Fleck made a crafty leaping catch between three Bear defenders for an 18-yard gain in the third quarter.
Losers: Back-up center Brock Gutierrez was lost to injury in the first quarter after sustaining a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his right knee. As he tried to jog to the other end of the field, he felt his leg buckle and was then removed from the game.
"I'm not really concerned," Gutierrez said after the 49ers 20-13 loss to the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. "I'll be out a couple weeks. I'm a fast healer."
Offensive lineman Dwayne Ledford who came into replace Gutierrez had some positive moments but presented Brandon Doman with a snap of the ball that sailed over his head out of the shotgun in the third quarter, that made Doman scramble for the ball and threw it out of bounds, resulting in a 24-yard loss for intentional grounding.
Rookie draft pick punter Andy Lee had another rough night with punts of 32 and 33-yards. His second punt even led to a Bears touchdown, giving them a 17-10 lead in the third quarter.
"He'd been punting pretty darn good, but he didn't punt it very well in Candlestick (last week)," Erickson said. "He's in the tank right now."
Safety Tony Parrish came away with some disturbing news not directly related to this game in that he had been bothered by a sore calf muscle for some time, and then found out through an MRI that it was torn resulting in him being out till the regular season opener.
First Quarter Highlights: From the 49er 32-yard line Ken Dorsey throws an interception intended for Brandon Lloyd. The Chicago Bears under quarterback Rex Grossman drive down to the 49er 16-yard line to kick a field goal making it 3-0 Bears. 49ers come back afterwards with a mixture of running and passing till they end up at the Chicago 12-yard line and stall, kicking a field goal to make it 3-3, where it remains till second quarter.
Second Quarter Highlights: Second 49er offensive drive is stalled by a penalty on right guard Justin Smiley and a fumble by Terry Jackson that is recovered by the Bears. Bears stall on the next drive and punt but kick return specialist Jimmy Williams muffs the catch and it is again recovered by the Bears, which reach the 49er 3-yard line and score a touchdown making it 10-3 Chicago.
On San Francisco's last drive of the half they start out at their own 48-yard line and drive down to the Bear 5-yard line where quarterback Ken Dorsey connects with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for the touchdown, to make the score 10-10.
Third Quarter Highlights: On San Francisco's first possession under quarterback Brandon Doman they lose back-up center Brock Gutierrez to an injury and offensive lineman Dwayne Ledford has replaced him. Right guard Justin Smiley is again called for offensive holding and afterwards out of the shotgun Ledford snaps the ball over Doman's head, which is fumbled, but he recovers.
This sets up Chicago at the 49er 44-yard line to begin their drive, which they do all the way to the 2-yard line where they achieve a touchdown to make it 17-10 Bears. Fourth Quarter Highlights: The 49ers on their first drive under Brandon Doman start out at the Chicago 37-yard line where they drive to the 18-yard line and stall and kick a field goal to make the score 17-13 Bears.
On the second 49er drive under quarterback Cody Pickett the 49ers start out at their 23-yard line and mix it up effectively all the way down to their 43 when Pickett fumbles the ball and recovers it, but on the very next play throws an interception that sets up a Bear field goal to make it 20-13 Bears.
On the next 49er drive Cody Pickett again throws an interception intended for K. Hill but the 49er defense manages to shutdown the Bears offense from scoring. From here on out the 49ers are unsuccessful under Pickett and they even fumble the ball again on the waning seconds of the game. In all this was a very ugly game compared to the one back at 3COM Park in the first exhibition game.
Statistics: The 49ers had 24 first downs compared to the Bears 13, but we also had five fumbles in this game that put us in comparison to our Bay Area rivals the Oakland Raiders. We were efficient on third down though managing to recover 65% of the time compared to 33% by the Bears. In total offense we had far better a total in 412 to 241 for the Bears but turnovers killed us.
The 49ers had 101 rushing yards compared to 136 for the Bears and 311 passing yards compared to 105 for the Bears. We had eight penalties thrown at us for 84 total yards compared to 10 for the Bears costing them 65 total yards. We even had time of possession won at 32:13 compared to the Bears at 27:47.
There were some glimmers of positives in this game for the 49ers especially where our quarterbacks had some game time experience. But the turnovers far outweighed the net gains we had in this game. Injuries have started to be commonplace as the preseason has progressed raising doubts about the future of some players and concern for starters that are expected to begin the regular season.
I will continue my review of preseason weeks three and four in my next series as we prepare to entertain the Atlanta Falcons on opening day of the regular season. From there I will continue to offer you another personal review and continue my coverage of the regular season.
I want to apologize for my absence the last couple of weeks as I have just comeback from vacation. I am also immersed deeply in overhead work and trying to catch-up to my daily routine. I will continue to provide you with honest commentary and coverage of this adventurous 2004 NFL season.