Wasting away again in Margaritaville
October 5, 2005 at 12:00 AM
The National Football League was looking to establish a name for itself in a foreign country and possibly win international and national support to have televised regular season games on an annual basis.
The San Francisco 49ers, loved and adored by many of the Mexican faithful inside Azteca Stadium, became overly excited following two defensive touchdowns that had us leading 14-0 after the first quarter of play.
But just like that, the momentum was overturned and the beginning of the end began to rear its ugly head as the second quarter revealed an offense so totally inept at everything it attempted to do.
I can't explain to you how excited I was to see veteran defensive end Bryant Young break through the line of scrimmage and sack young Arizona Cardinal quarterback Josh McCown, forcing him to fumble the ball during the very first play of the nationally televised game that Sunday evening.
Linebacker Brandon Moore was quick to scoop up the ball and sprint into the end zone only to fumble it again and have linebacker Derek Smith recover it inside the end zone for the score. The Arizona Cardinals attempted a comeback but the 49er defense again held firm, only to see their offense squander a drive of their very own.
With 12:32 remaining in just the first quarter, Arizona Cardinal quarterback Josh McCown, playing for injured starting quarterback Kurt Warner, drove his offense under an intense passing and running attack from their own 17-yard line all the way down to our 13-yard line.
Running back Marcel Shipp attempted a run up the gut of the 49er defense for the touchdown but was met by 49er defensive end Travis Hall who forced the ball from his hands and was picked up by rookie seventh round cornerback Derrick Johnson.
From here the crowd in the stands went absolutely berserk, yelling and screaming as Derrick Johnson in all our 49er pride sprinted down the sideline for 78 total yards and our second defensive touchdown to make it 14-0 49ers.
As you looked around the stadium in Mexico City you could see the old glory years of the past as thousands wore the San Francisco insignia from jerseys that represented the Super Bowl years of Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and Steve Young.
But then again, with a crowd that numbered well over 100,000 strong, many wore the jerseys of Tim Rattay, Kevan Barlow and even Alex Smith.
"Obviously up 14-0 I'm surprised we didn't win the game," Mike Nolan said.
Just one week ago after a disaster back home in San Francisco losing to the visiting Dallas Cowboys in the fourth quarter, you would think Mike Nolan would've been even more hot headed after being blown out 31-14 after leading by 14.
But that wasn't at all the case. He even went on to say that the loss last week was totally unacceptable. Yet, how is this loss any different? I would like to know that from anyone's perspective.
Our entire offensive unit was left back home in San Francisco folks. Anyone could see following the first quarter, they didn't show up at all, forcing our defense to play on the field a record 38 minutes. This offense of ours managed just 51-yards on the ground and 160-yards through the air.
Tim Rattay literally fell on his face behind a weak offensive line and to an Arizona Cardinal defense that sacked him three times for a loss of 38 total yards and picked him off at the same time.
Tim Rattay went 11-for-21, passing for 126-yards and managed a quarterback rating of 50.9%. The 49ers lost three fumbles to the Arizona Cardinals this night and rank 27th in the league on converting third downs.
I have to tell you folks, our offense is just plain offensive in every category imaginable and we need some immediate help with quarterback protection and finding a quarterback that is versatile in any given situation. This is something that Tim Rattay is unable to do.
The Arizona Cardinals converted 24 first downs to our pathetic eight and out gained us 463 to 168 in total yards, which if you analyze it, is typical for our season. Arizona Cardinal quarterback Josh McCown looked almost Montana-like as he threw for 385-yards and two touchdowns against us.
Looking back at prior contests, opposing quarterbacks have feasted and gorged themselves on our banged-up and depleted secondary as St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger threw for 362-yards and two touchdowns.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb threw for 342-yards with five touchdowns. Dallas Cowboy quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw for 363-yards and two touchdowns.
When you look at the real big picture, the San Francisco 49ers have been out performed 1.894-yards to 917. There are so many problems, where do you possibly begin?
In my opinion, injuries are an instant concern considering that two starting defensive backs are missing in action. One is out for the season and one long term towards the end of the season in Mike Rumph and Ahmed Plummer. On offense, tight end Eric Johnson, wide receiver Rashaun Woods and big free agent left tackle Jonas Jennings are all injured.
Missing key players makes an immediate impact on your game, especially in Jonas Jennings being out and wide receiver Arnaz Battle with a knee injury. Both bring something to each side of the game that just can't be replaced with any given individual on the current roster.
Starting left tackle Anthony Clement, just recently signed by the 49ers, is a joke! Look at his performance throughout the game and you can understand why the Arizona Cardinal defense not only pressured Tim Rattay all night long, but sacked him three times as well.
Granted, Tim Rattay looked hesitant and didn't get rid of the ball as he should have. When he did throw some passes, they looked almost high school style in that they fluttered and fell off target.
One thing that Mike Nolan will stress throughout this week will be winning back the game in time of possession. In this last game, like so many others, ball security is a big factor.
Again, every time you see a running back carry the ball through traffic, the thought that he could fumble the ball comes to mind. Something both our running backs in Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore did in this game.
"We couldn't get it going on offense," Coach Mike Nolan said. "We gave the opposition too many opportunities to get back in it. It's a little discouraging but not a surprise. We've got a lot to work on."
The Arizona Cardinals took their first lead in the game, 15-14 on Neil Rackers 48-yard field goal midway through the third quarter. It was a lead that the Arizona Cardinals would add to as Rackers would have a total of six field goals, including a 23-yarder that followed an interception on Tim Rattay that was caught by Arizona Cardinal Robert Tate.
The San Francisco 49ers committed four turnovers in this game, which highlighted their inability to be a disciplined football team. The intercepted pass by Tim Rattay may have been a result of wide receiver Brandon Lloyd running the wrong route as ESPN broadcaster Joe Theismann discussed on air that night.
Brandon Lloyd appeared to have a mixed bag kind of night as he lost a fumble and seemed to run a route that was the very opposite of what Tim Rattay expected as he threw an interception where he believed Lloyd would be. However, Brandon Lloyd had another 100-yard game with seven completed passes for 102-yards and averaged 14.6-yards a reception.
Kevan Barlow had 10 carries for 45-yards and averaged 4.5-yards a carry, which when you look at it, is decent. However, the real crunch that has been talked about for sometime is "Who is the best fullback?" Mike Nolan has favored Chris Hetherington and continues to do so at Fred Beasley's expense.
Like many 49er fans that know Fred Beasley and his Pro Bowl type credentials, it leaves me wondering and trying to understand the context as to why? Fred Beasley stands by the coach and supports his decisions but at the same time he is grasping at trying to understand why his status has changed so drastically after being successful for so long.
Penalties were killers in this game, which combined with an anemic offense spelled doom for this team. Flags were thrown eight times against us for a total of 52-yards. One being against cornerback Shawntae Spencer for unnecessary roughness that was out of line to begin with.
Others included offensive holding, false starts and illegal formations. Stupid penalties that lend credence to the fact that we are not disciplined enough and that we aren't paying attention to details. Yes we are a young and inexperienced, but we have to be sharp in order to sustain offensive drives and to win games.
With 8:29 remaining in the game, San Francisco 49er quarterback Tim Rattay was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of rookie first round pick Alex Smith. Tim Rattay pleaded with offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy to keep him in the game believing he could bring the team back.
However Mike Nolan had already made up his mind and chose to see what Alex Smith had to offer for a spark that had been nonexistent all throughout the game under Tim Rattay. He completed six passes for 34-yards and the game was very much over by the time he saw action.
The Arizona Cardinals had held the football 15.5 minutes longer than the San Francisco 49ers. The 49er defense was exposed to height elevations of 7,400 feet above sea level, which is worse than being up against the Denver Broncos. This game turned into an Arizona Cardinal hacienda, in which young quarterback Josh McCown and kicker Neil Rackers ruled the evening.
"You never want to come out of a game, and I still thought we had a chance to win," Rattay said. "I was very upset."
Meanwhile, after studying game film on this loss, Mike Nolan has named Alex Smith the starting quarterback to face the high powered offense of the Indianapolis Colts quarterbacked by veteran Peyton Manning.
"We made a decision to go with Alex at quarterback," announced head coach Mike Nolan. "I feel like Alex gives us the best chance to win, and I believe he's ready. Tim has handled everything from the pre-season to the regular season extremely well, but I believe Alex has also handled his role very well also. He's prepared each week real well. He's been here late at night. He's done a great job. He's been in here on Tuesdays on his day off, which all the quarterbacks are. I think it's time to get Alex in the game. If we were 3-1 it would probably be different."
But we are 1-3. That is the reality. If you start Alex Smith, Lord knows you better protect him better than you did Tim Rattay. The left tackle position is pathetic at best and Anthony Clement is not the answer.
I can understand this move and support it, but at the same time we need to solidify the line and make it pass protect better. I know that Alex Smith is more mobile and can make plays happen in adverse situations. He'll have to against an Indianapolis Colts defense that is playing better than ever before.
My hat goes off to defensive players Bryant Young, Derek Smith and Tony Parrish. Each played their hearts out in this game and never surrendered. They all took another hit in the mouth for the team. I am overwhelmed at how professional and caring these individuals are as players and as teammates.
Facing Indianapolis and Peyton Manning at home will not be an easy task. We have lost three straight games and facing an offense like this means every point counts heavily. If we can't score offensively against mediocre teams in this league, how can we do it against elite teams like this one?
We have some real issues 49er fans. Many of these issues won't get answered until late in the season. I know I must look at all the positives in every game and that is what we all must do. Don't give up on this team because we are struggling once again. Believe in the coaches and players out on the field. Have faith that we will play hard and we'll compete again.
I know it sounds easy and it really isn't, especially when you are getting heckled by the anti-49er crowd. We will be back and prevail again. I am excited for the debut of Alex Smith...God Bless him.
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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