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The San Francisco 49ers of 2005 have a new look this time around under Head Coach Mike Nolan and Company. The look is one of profound confidence and intense execution. A determination to excel at everything that is professional football and an attitude that soars off the charts in working as a team and is never about one individual player making a contribution here and there.
These 49ers remind of the old many years ago. A very young and opportunistic bunch of athletes that will do everything within physical and mental capacities to get the job accomplished as a team.
There are so many reasons for 49er fans to be excited from the new access to watching and being a part of the training camps to seeing the seats full again inside Monster Park with mega triton video images to boot.
We are on the right path to success folks. The organization from ownership to management finally has put all the correct pieces to the puzzle all together and we have witnessed the rebirth of a franchise so close to utter death. Looking back on the pre-season games we can see a team making enormous strides in every facet of its individual internal components.
Before the first game against the Oakland Raiders the 49er offensive line started this early season as a unit riddles with multiple injuries sustained before and during training camp this year in Santa Clara.
Left Guard Justin Smiley suffered a bruised left calf and was one of four offensive linemen that were sidelined for this game. Also starters that were left out were starting center Jeremy Newberry who has been beset with an injury to his knee since the early stages of training camp.
Right Guard David Baas suffered an injured hamstring and left tackle Jonas Jennings an injured hand. Starting this game came down to the back-ups one being Scott Peters initially signed to the 49ers practice squad after being released by the New York Giants, who did start for Justin Smiley and rookie converted tight end Patrick Estes started at left tackle for veteran big man Jonas Jennings.
Here are some highlights from our first pre-season game Oakland Raiders at San Francisco 49ers August 13th, 2005.
In the first quarter of play the Oakland Raiders led by Kerry Collins stalled at the 49er 29-yard line where it set up a kick by Sebastian Janikowski that went wide right for a failed field goal.
49er rookie first round pick Alex Smith went abruptly three and out on the next series and not only appeared rattled at times but distinctly off target in his throws as well.
Kerry Collins again at the helm drove the Raiders all the way down to the two-yard line where Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 20-yard field goal to make it 3-0 Oakland Raiders. 49er quarterback Alex Smith looking every bit a rookie in the fast paced NFL went three and out once again.
Oakland Raiders manned now by quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo stalled on their own 44-yard line and attempted to punt but encountered a bad snap. Punter Shane Lechler ran the ball for a first down but he was tripped up by 49er linebacker Saleem Rasheed, thus the initial call went to the Raiders but the first down spot was challenged and overturned giving the ball back to the 49ers.
In the second quarter 49er future quarterback Alex Smith was sacked by Oakland big man Warren Sapp, thus followed a 49er punt that set-up the Oakland Raiders on their own 13-yard line under Marques Tuiasosopo. The Raiders again drove down to the 49er 26-yard line where Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 44-yard field goal to make it 6-0 Raiders.
So the first half yielded the first outing for 49er Alex Smith as being a sort of baptism of fire. He did avoid a safety in the end zone and showed some good mobility when he needed to, but for the most part his first outing was one of shock and awe in front of this NFL crowd.
In the second half the 49ers would make a rumble with last year's starting quarterback Tim Rattay at the helm. From our own 35-yard line Tim Rattay drove the team down to the Raider 36-yard line and then connected with wide receiver Brandon Lloyd for a touchdown strike to make it 7-6 49ers.
The Oakland Raiders under Marques Tuiasosopo from their 21-yard line drove down to the 49er 15-yard line where a pass was thrown and intercepted by 49er rookie cornerback Derrick Johnson who then made a spectacular 87-yard run with it into the end zone to make it 14-6 49ers.
On the kickoff following this, 49er linebacker Max Yates forced a fumble, which was recovered by 49er wide receiver Fred Amey at the Oakland 22-yard line. Tim Rattay again at the helm hit wide receiver Arnaz Battle for a 13-yard touchdown score to make it 21-6 49ers.
Following this 49er running back Maurice Hicks made some waves with runs of 31 and 23-yards respectively but was called back due to penalties. The only other score in this game happened in the fourth quarter with Oakland Raider quarterback Andrew Walter at the controls.
At the 49er 48-yard line he drove the team on a short field down to the 49er nine-yard line where he hit wide receiver Randall Williams for a touchdown to make the score 21-13 49ers. Ken Dorsey took over for the 49ers who threw an interception but 49er safety Mike Adams returned the favor by getting an interception of his own.
With just less than two minutes left to play the Raiders at their own 20-yard line drove to their own 48-yard line where Walter threw a pass that was intercepted again by 49er rookie cornerback Derrick Johnson to end the game.
"It was my expectation that we would compete the entire game, and it was very evident that's what we did. As much adversity as we faced, the football team continued to compete and that's pleasing. Those were my demands on players this week and I saw that tonight."
"It was just good to get out there, and it is always fun to play again," said Rattay who finished 6-of-8 for 103-yards and two touchdowns. "The team played well. We had some good opportunities and we scored twice. The offensive line did a great job up front protecting me. I was happy with how I played today."
Alex Smith encountered growing pains and he finished the night 3-of-9 for 25-yards and was sacked. "It was good to be out there, get my first hit," Smith said.
"It has been awhile since I have been hit and it felt good. Obviously I made some mistakes, especially early there were some balls that I would like to have back, but that is why it is pre-season, and that is why I am out here."
Here are some highlights from our second pre-season game, San Francisco 49ers at the Denver Broncos August 20th, 2005.
This was a successful game despite the fact we lost it in Denver 26-21. It was also the game that would determine the starting quarterback for this franchise as well. On top of all that it would conclude with the death of a fellow offensive lineman in Thomas Herrion who was signed by the 49ers as a free agent on (1-3-05) and allocated to the Hamburg Sea Devils, serving there as a rock in the trenches during the 2005 NFL Europe season.
Thomas Herrion collapsed after the game inside the locker room of the 49ers. Herrion a 23-year old native of Fort Worth, Texas was on the 49ers practice squad late last season. He was in fact a college teammate of rookie quarterback Alex Smith at Utah.
This freak incident has had all the players and coaching staff looking at life in a whole different manner. Shortly after Mike Nolan addressed the team following the game in the locker room Thomas Herrion collapsed to his death. Players immediately started yelling for medical attention and received it from the 49er training staff.
In college, He was nicknamed "Big T," "Train" and "The Meal Ticket." Even though these types of incidents are rare in the NFL, it still loomed large over the entire organization that had witnessed and dealt with it first hand.
In the first quarter the 49ers again under Alex Smith go a quick three and out. From the Denver 32-yard line Jake Plummer drives the Broncos to the 49er two-yard line and hits running back Mike Anderson for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Broncos. On the 49ers next series they go quickly again under Alex Smith to the sidelines.
Denver at their 29-yard line piece together a drive to the 49er 13-yard line where the 49er defense held firm after the Broncos orchestrated a nice passing attack. From here they looked at Jason Elam whop kicked a 31-yard field goal to make it 10-0 Broncos.
After a blocked punt by 49er safety Keith Lewis, the 49ers took over at the Bronco 44-yard line where Tim Rattay and Kevan Barlow took charge down at the Denver 16-yard line. From here Kevan Barlow ran it in for a touchdown to make it 10-7 Broncos.
Starting the third quarter at the 49er 42-yard line Tim Rattay connected with Arnaz Battle for a 58-yard touchdown strike, to make it 14-10 49ers.
From the Denver 20-yard line Alex Van Pelt directed the Broncos down to the 49er two-yard line where Tatum Bell ran it in for a touchdown to make it 17-14 Broncos.
From the 49er 27-yard line Van Pelt directed another offensive drive for the Broncos that ran into the fourth quarter all the way to the four-yard line where Kicker Jason Elam kicked a 23-yard field goal to make it 20-14 Denver. Of course the defensive holding penalty on rookie cornerback Derrick Holly contributed to this very score.
In the fourth quarter 49er quarterback Ken Dorsey struggled to get the offensive rhythm going. Cody Pickett came in to replace him with 5:36 left in the quarter and went three and out right out of the gate.
The Denver Broncos however under Matt Mauck and running back Ron Dayne starting from the 49er 35-yard line because of a nice return drove all the way to the 49er 16-yard line where Mauck went up the middle for a touchdown himself to make it 26-14 Denver.
With just 2:23 left in the game Cody Pickett of the 49ers started out at the 49er nine-yard line and drove the team all the way to the Denver 23-yard line where Cody answered the call of Mauck by running up the gut for a touchdown as well, thus making the final score 26-21 Denver Broncos.
It was after this game that consensus was made about rookie first round pick Alex Smith becoming the starting quarterback of the 49ers. He had another rough go of it by completing only two of seven passes for 18-yards and on top of that he was sacked three times for 22-yards.
In just two games, Alex Smith has been the quarterback on just nine possessions, six of them ending in three plays and a punt. He has completed five of 16 passes for 43-yards, has been sacked four times for 27-yards, and has a passer rating of 40.6%.
In comparison, Tim Rattay has compiled a passer rating of 141.2%, approximately 100 points higher than Smith. A perfect NFL passer rating is 158.3%.
Shortly after this game the San Francisco 49ers under Mike Nolan broke training camp with astounding success and a new willingness to include its fan base in on the training experience, one that I am proud to see them come to terms with finally.
"I thought we had a very successful training camp," said head coach Mike Nolan. "We got a lot of work done. We got a lot accomplished. We certainly have a ways to go, bit that's to be expected. That's where we are. That's where a lot of teams are at this time, and I 'm looking forward to the work we have to do as well."
Here are some highlights from our third pre-season game the Tennessee Titans at the San Francisco 49ers August 26th, 2005.
This was a very impressive game for the San Francisco 49ers, especially since all of the players on this team came into this game with heavy hearts over the loss of their own teammate in offensive lineman Thomas Herrion.
In fact there was a special tribute made at Monster Park in Thomas Herrion's honor on video before the crowd that gathered. There was also a moment of silence observed by all that were in the Park in his absence.
"It was intense," said starting right tackle Kwame Harris. "We wanted to make sure the events of last week were not forgotten and that we were playing for Thomas Herrion tonight."
Tim Rattay would start this offense and went quickly three and out in the beginning of the first quarter. However on the next series Tennessee Titan quarterback Steve McNair fumbled the ball on their 39-yard line and it was recovered by 49er defensive end Marques Douglas on a fumbled snap exchange.
In fact what was to be was a smothering 49er defense that held the Tennessee Titans to just three first-half points. On our second series in the game Tim Rattay started our offense on the Titan 39-yard line following their costly fumble. We drove down to the 10-yard line where Kevan Barlow ran up the middle for a touchdown to make it 7-0 49ers.
Inside the second quarter starting at mid-field Steve McNair of the Tennessee Titan drove the team to the 49er 26-yard lien where they kicked a field goal. But with just .48 seconds left in the half after the Titans muffed a catch on a punt kick and was recovered by ourselves, we penetrated to the Titan 21-yard line where we kicked a field goal to make it 10-3 49ers.
We ended up finishing this game with four turnovers, a remarkable feat for a young and inspiring defense on the rise. Mike Rumph had an interception, a forced fumble by defensive tackle Bryant Young that was again recovered by rookie cornerback Derrick Johnson, and the recovery of a muffed Pacman Jones punt by Dwaine Carpenter that yielded a 39-yard field goal to give us the edge at halftime.
Inside the third quarter of play with 11:13 to play Tim Rattay remained in the game starting at the Tennessee Titan 44-yard line after getting a nice offensive holding penalty call on the punt that provide good field position. Reaching the five-yard line we kick a field goal to make it 13-3 49ers.
With 2:07 left to play in the quarter Alex Smith comes in at quarterback and at the Tennessee 49-yard line is sacked and fumbles the ball allowing it to fall into the Titans grasp. On the very next series under Titan quarterback Billy Volek from the 49er 45-yard line connects for a touchdown to make it 13-10 49ers.
The fourth quarter came with Alex Smith of the 49ers failing to get beyond the Titan 41-yard line. The Tennessee Titans from their six-yard line begin a lengthy 10-minute long drive that yields them a tying field goal to make it 13-13 with the assistance from the 49ers in the form of three penalties.
Overtime is called after neither side is able to generate a successful series after this. With 8:11 left in overtime the 49ers under rookie quarterback Alex Smith and with running back Maurice Hicks penetrate all the way down to the Titan six-yard line where former Titan kicker Joe Nedney now a 49er kicks the winning field goal to make it 16-13 49ers.
"We talked about getting turnovers this week," said Rumph who made the switch from cornerback to safety this training camp. "Steve McNair threw a nice deep ball and we put a lot of push on him, and I just made the catch. It felt really good, getting my first one at safety. We've really been focusing in on our jobs, and what we've got to do. We're just trying to prove that we're not the same defense from last year."
"I don't have too many doubts that our offense is just going to continue to get better and better," Nolan said. "We've got a lot of young guys. We've got some good players in that group. I'm very optimistic with where we're going."
Here are some highlights from the fourth and final pre-season game San Francisco 49ers at the San Diego Chargers September 1st, 2005.
Here was a game in which Mike Nolan and Scott McCloughan would have to make some tough decisions. Anyone they thought were on the bubble would have to turn in a stellar performance to prevent themselves from getting the axe as the roster mandates it needs to be. Rookie quarterback Alex Smith would also see a lot more snaps in this game to adjust and get a feel better on where he is.
Right off the back in the first series in the first quarter with Tim Rattay at the controls from the San Diego 43-yard line throws an interception that sets them up on their own 46-yard line on the next drive. The throw was intended for wide receiver Arnaz Battle so this gave the Chargers excellent field position.
Under Drew Brees the San Diego Chargers took command of the situation and drove to the 49er 13-yard line where he connected for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Chargers. However Tim Rattay would answer that mistake with a drive starting at our own 24-yard line.
With receptions from Arnaz Battle and rushes from Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore the 49ers reached the San Diego five-yard line where Frank Gore ran it in for a touchdown to make it 7-7 tie.
In the first quarter the Chargers failed on a field goal attempt from our 29-yard line and the score remained a tie. The San Diego Chargers came back however in the second quarter under their heir apparent quarterback in Philip Rivers. From their 33-yard line they drove down to our 24-yard line where he hooked up for a touchdown to make it 14-7 Chargers.
With 3:45 remaining the 49ers inserted first round pick Alex Smith in at quarterback and the 49ers started from their own 29-yard line. From here he took the offense all the way down to the San Diego 23-yard line where out of the shotgun he connected with wide receiver Fred Amey for a touchdown to tie the game again 14-14.
The San Diego Chargers played a hurry-up role and passed their way into an interception on the next series. The game ended in the first half tied 14-14. As the third quarter opened with Philip Rivers at the controls on their first series he threw an interception that was caught by 49er cornerback William Middlebrooks.
This set us up at our own 44-yard line with Ken Dorsey at the controls. From here he drove the offense to the San Diego one-yard line where Maurice Hicks ran it in for a touchdown to make it 21-14 49ers. The score remained that way for the rest of the quarter due to numerous in and out series.
The San Diego Chargers under quarterback Cleo Lemon answered in the fourth quarter with 10:30 left to play from their 14-yard line and driving all the way to our 30-yard line where he connected on a 30-yard touchdown pass, to make it 21-21.
With 4:05 left in the fourth quarter 49er quarterback Cody Pickett would get the call to make a difference from our own 20-yard line. He drove the offense to the San Diego Charger nine-yard line where we were forced to try a field goal and connected to make it 24-21 49ers.
This left just 1:11 left to play in the game, but it was enough for Charger quarterback Cleo Lemon to work with starting from the 49er 46-yard line after a nice punt return by the San Diego Chargers. Cleo drove the Chargers to the 49er 13-yard line where he connected on a touchdown pass that sealed the game 28-24 San Diego Chargers.
Ending the pre-season at (2-2) to me is a triumph of epic proportions. I am proud of where the organization is at and what it is producing out on the field. I see quality players out there with better execution and a swing in their step. I see sound fundamental coaching a key to this very product being so adaptive out on the field.
I honestly believe that Mike Nolan and Scott McCloughan have the franchise headed in the very direction we have yearned for so many years. We have fight and tenacity inside us again. We have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to hold our heads up about.
"I was proud of the team in the way it fought to the end," Coach Mike Nolan said. "There's going to be some tough decisions to make, but that's what you want."
This is what I mean folks in describing what it we have today. We have a team that is in tremendous transition. A transition from mediocrity to performing at an excellent level, in terms of a real analytical performance review that is in any organization.
I am so excited for this 2005 NFL season and I look forward to spending it with my eyes glued to every aspect of play that the 49ers execute. There will still be bumps in the road but we will fight till the end in every game. You can see it in training camp and you can see it throughout pre-season. God Bless the San Francisco 49ers.