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You know things have gone from bad to worse when you are sitting there at the newly named Monster Park in the fourth quarter not hoping for the 49ers to win, but hoping for them to simply score. Doesn't it seem a bit wrong that the most entertaining thing at the stadium Sunday night was our new class of Goldrush cheerleaders? Fans typically head to the parking lots early to try and beat the usual candlestick traffic jam. The fans were leaving quite a bit earlier than usual this week. I even saw a beach ball floating around the stands during the third quarter. Given all of this, one has to wonder if this could be the worst team since the 2-14 49ers of 1979.
Bay area sports fans had a rough weekend as they saw the Giants and A's get knocked out of the playoffs, the Raiders lose to the lowly Texans (not that most Niner fans would shed a tear for that one), and to top things off, they had to watch their beloved 49ers turn in a frightening display at The Monster. Halloween is still another three and a half weeks away and 49ers fans are already scared out of their minds.
This monstrosity of a loss occurred the weekend after the 49ers record 420 game scoring streak came to an end. It was a streak older than I am (barely). Almost 60% of the current 49ers roster was not alive when the streak started. And to prove that things have gone bad to worse, yet another streak came to an end on Sunday. Marshall Faulk, who is certainly a good running back but not the player he once was, rushed for 121 yards. The 49ers had not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 20 home games. Who was the last player to do this? The Miami Dolphins' Ricky Williams who rushed for 121 yards on November 11, 2001.
"We thought they'd throw a little more, but where they beat us was running and with some nickel and dime stuff," said the 49ers' Julian Peterson. "We're definitely a better team than that. The last few times we played them we dominated them on defense."
To add insult to injury, the Arizona Cardinals beat up on the New Orleans Saints which dropped the 49ers to dead last in the NFC West.
Can it get any worse? You better hope not. The 49ers play the Cardinals next week and should they lose, you can bet that bay area fans will be very unforgiving and that the post game radio shows' phones will be ringing off the hook. Verbal attacks about the Yorks and how they have destroyed this once proud franchise have been hitting the local airwaves all week. Losing to the Atlanta Falcons? It's only one game. Lose in the final seconds to the New Orleans Saints? Things could be worse. Get blown out by a Super Bowl contender in Seattle? No surprises there. Embarrassed on national TV by the St. Louis Rams? That one hurts but we've already accepted mediocrity. But lose to the Arizona Cardinals at home and this team and its fans may never be able to regain their confidence.
The 49ers are not getting off to good starts this season. The team has been outscored 48-3 in the first quarter this year.
Now I wasn't expecting a playoff run out of this team. However, looking at their schedule during the offseason, I saw some very winnable games. The Cardinals, Jets, Bears, Buccaneers, Dolphins, Redskins, and Bills games looked very winnable. Now it looks as though any of these teams could give the 49ers a run for their money. The Jets are currently undefeated while the 49ers, Buccaneers, Dolphins, and Bills remain as the NFL's only winless teams. After looking very competitive and showing a lot of heart during the first two weeks of the season, the 49ers have certainly managed to underachieve during the last two.
Watching the 49ers lose week after week, one has to wonder if this is really a team cleaning up its salary cap dilemmas or if it's simply a team falling apart. The "Super Bowl or bust" attitude is gone and has been for years. The 49ers look like they are in a dogfight for the first overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft...a pick they will likely be unable to afford.
On a good note, Tim Rattay, considered to be strictly a pocket passer, looked somewhat Montana-esque in the fourth quarter when he was forced out of the pocket and improvised his way to pass completions. Rookie Rashaun Woods benefited from this as he finally caught his first career touchdown pass.
"Every time Tim gets out of the pocket in practice, we're taught to find the open spots. That's what I did," said Woods when asked about that particular play.
This is the 49ers' first 0-4 start since 1979.
Injuries playing their part
At full strength, this team was not going to turn any heads. As of Monday morning, the team had 18 players on their injury list. That is a third of the team's roster. While I am not searching for excuses for this team's poor season, these injuries certainly are not helping.
The team lost two valuable defensive starters in cornerback Mike Rumph and linebacker Derek Smith.
Rumph went out of the game on Sunday night with a broken right forearm after trying to make a tackle on Rams running back Steven Jackson. Rumph is likely out for the season. Second round draft choice Shawntae Spencer will take over for him.
Smith tore ligaments in his right ankle and will miss two or three weeks. Smith is the team's leading tackler. Outside linebacker Jeff Ulbrich will move inside to take over for Smith. Jamie Winborn will see more action as he fills in for Ulbrich.
Other key injuries include defensive end Andre Carter who is expected to miss another three to five weeks with a bulging disk in his back. Otis Leverette, who was filling in for Carter, suffered an ankle sprain and is listed as doubtful for this weekend.
"We can move Tony Brown out there," Erickson said. "There are some things that we can do. We can move Bryant Young out there if we had to. We can play some (3-4). There are some different things we are looking at right now just to handle that."
John Engelberger could miss Sunday's game with an abdominal strain. Brandon Whiting may start in his place. Interestingly enough, Whiting, who missed all of training camp and half of the preseason after having shoulder surgery, is now the team's healthiest defensive end even though he is not at 100%.
The 49ers may be getting some help back this weekend. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd and offensive tackle Kwame Harris could return for Sunday's game against Arizona. Pro Bowl center Jeremy Newberry, who had surgery two weeks ago to stabilize his right kneecap, said he plans to return to the lineup in about a month. Newberry was originally expected to miss most of the season.
Former 49ers around the league
Terrell Owens and the Philadelphia Eagles are now a perfect 4-0. Owens has 6 touchdown receptions this season. The entire 49ers team has 7 touchdowns.
Jeff Garcia has the Cleveland Browns at 2-2. Jeff Garcia went 14 of 21 for 195 yards and a touchdown this past weekend as the Browns beat the Redskins 17-13.
Jim Mora, the former 49ers defensive coordinator, has his Atlanta Falcons flying high at 4-0. Mora was being considered for the position of 49ers head coach two offseasons ago before the team ultimately decided on Dennis Erickson.