Resurrection still far away
November 23, 2005 at 12:00 AM
The crowd noise at Monster Park in San Francisco was reminiscent of what was the essence of the San Francisco 49ers of old. These were the very sounds that used to be heard and adored for so very long inside this stadium, as legendary quarterback Steve Young made his appearance to receive his Hall of Fame ring among 49er legends of the past and hopefully present.
The ovation from the endless sea of red, white and gold didn't subside until 15 minutes and 42 seconds had passed by. In the ovation, the screams from fans could be heard all throughout the stadium like he had just maneuvered the 49er offense in for the kill on a fourth quarter comeback victory.
Lord knows we all wished that it could've been him throwing the two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Johnnie Morton to try and tie the score in the final moments of this heartbreaking loss to the Seattle Seahawks 27-25.
The crowd roared "Steve, Steve, Steve," just the way it did back in the past when he beat the Dallas Cowboys on the same field back in 1995 to at last put the San Francisco 49ers back inside the Super Bowl.
"This is where I was born," Young told the crowd, his voice crackling. "This is where I was raised. This is where I became a man."
After the ceremony was completed, Steve Young prepared to go home. He stepped off Candlestick Field, possibly for the very last time. With a mixture of intense emotional feelings, and his family in attendance (all but his pregnant wife who felt ill), he walked off this sacred ground.
"It closes the loop," he said. "Like the Lion King. The circle of life."
The Seattle Seahawks meanwhile felt they had the mental edge before this game with a five-game winning streak and the lead in the NFC's Western Division.
Well, they did have a distinct edge when you consider what our offense has done since the departure of quarterback Tim Rattay and the never-ending carousel of three different quarterbacks trying to make the grade while nursing various injuries.
The nostalgia of the moments (as witnessed on the big screen) with Steve Young running and sprinting, sacrificing his life and limb in plays of the past, and his late comeback heroics in game after game left the crowd wondering again of what will be. Glory is still a very far away thought as you look at this team and its struggles since 1999 to steer itself back into contention.
Still, the San Francisco 49ers came into this game and out of it much improved over the last four games. Offensive Coordinator Mike McCarthy has come under intense scrutiny from outside media sources, and of course my direct comments, as to his ability to get this offense resurrected and to play cleaner football on the pre-snap counts.
Blame is laid on those that are in charge. Mike McCarthy happens to be that man, especially after running a string of successful offenses with the New Orleans Saints prior to coming here to the Bay Area. Prior to the Seattle Seahawks game the 49ers had only scored a total of eight touchdowns all season long and only averaged 199.4-yards of offense per game.
The San Francisco 49ers hadn't even scored a touchdown at home since Sept. 25th, of this year and have failed to score an offensive touchdown in six of nine games total this season. Kicker Joe Nedney has become the most valuable player on the entire offense according to head coach Mike Nolan.
Again, there are many reasons we can point to as to why the 49ers are at the state they are in offensively. Yet most of the players hold true to Mike McCarthy's convictions that the offense is maturing and will sometime evolve out of the funk it is in and will start executing.
Besides learning a new playbook under a new staff, injuries to many of the starting offensive playmakers, the endless rotation of quarterbacks that are struggling for their own identities, and the apparent lack of a legitimate wide receiver threat to throw to, the 49ers are at the same time killing themselves.
"For me to sit here and cry, 'Woe is me,' is nothing that's going to do anybody any good," McCarthy said during an interview this week. "I believe in the process, I believe in the preparation and we've just got to get it to the performance on Sunday. That's the part we're not getting done yet."
"I know it's tough for McCarthy as an offensive coordinator to try and be successful when you have so many issues going on," said Arnaz Battle.
In nine games this season folks, and this is no joke, the 49ers have committed 19 false starts, along with 13 other pre-snap penalties. Just a few weeks ago against the Chicago Bears, delay of game and 12-men-in-the-huddle penalties killed a key goal-line opportunity to score a touchdown.
"We need to get out of the pre-snap stage and get to the execution stage," McCarthy said. "We're involved in way too many self-inflicted wounds."
Again, like I have been saying all along, when you're playing the enemy and yourselves too with penalty after penalty, this is the essence of a very bad football team.
Many of the offensive linemen and the ever-revolving carousel of quarterbacks have been inconsistent in executing a lot of plays that cost us forward momentum.
Here are some highlights from this game I believe are worth mentioning because they are symbolic of where the team is headed, and can be a catalyst for the remainder of the season.
I really enjoyed the one arm catch by Brandon Lloyd for 44-yards that eventually set up a Joe Nedney field goal in the beginning of the second quarter.
In the start of the third quarter, with the 49ers trailing Seattle 27-12, San Francisco began to manufacture hope through Ken Dorsey making completions and a running back named Maurice Hicks in for Kevan Barlow who sustained a concussion.
The San Francisco 49er defense had a difficult day keeping Seattle Seahawk running back Shawn Alexander off the field, as he carried the ball 24 times for 115-yards, but in the third quarter he was dropped for a 12-yard loss by linebacker and end Andre Carter. Then the green and growing 49er cornerback Bruce Thornton broke up an end zone shot that ultimately cost Seattle a successful field goal attempt.
The San Francisco 49ers found themselves starting on their own 41-yard line, with Ken Dorsey handing the ball off to Maurice Hicks who escaped a tackle and sprung free for a total of 50-yards to the Seattle nine-yard line. Still, even from here the 49ers struggled to punch it in and had to again settle for a Joe Nedney field goal.
After a fumbled kickoff return by rookie Rasheed Marshall and a Seattle field goal to cushion their lead, the 49ers began a drive with Barlow for seven-yards, followed by a 23-yard run by Maurice Hicks that moved the 49ers into Seattle territory.
Ken Dorsey went on to connect a 19-yard completion to newly acquired tight end Terry Jones that was again sharp and exceptional on his part. In to the fourth quarter, the 49ers never stopped relenting from trying to get back into this football game.
On second and 11 from the Seattle Seahawk 22-yard line, Ken Dorsey hit Brandon Lloyd in the end zone for a touchdown that ended the so-called touchdown drought. Lloyd ended the play laying on his back in the end zone and giving thanks to God above and the fans for still believing in him.
With just over six minutes left to play in the game, the 49ers under Ken Dorsey started from their own 24-yard line and set up an impressive offensive drive that culminated with an outstanding 29-yard pass from Dorsey to wide receiver Jason McAddley.
This drive continued with a series of passing and running plays that ended on the one-yard line where Maurice Hicks plowed through and reached the ball over the goal line (that initially wasn't ruled a touchdown until after review).After we received the ruling, the hope of a comeback began to sink in with all 49er fans. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed when Ken Dorsey suddenly panicked and threw the ball short of its mark to wide receiver Johnnie Morton. The panic is easy to see when you watch this play, and the expression and mannerisms of him throwing the ball.
Sports analysts calling the game agreed that Ken Dorsey "lost it mentally" there for the moment, as he threw the ball incomplete to Johnnie Morton and what was to be an exciting and furious finish ended with the same inconsistencies that have manifested themselves within the ranks of the team all season.
"It's deflating," Dorsey said. "You can't say anything more. We fought so hard to get back. The guys did such a great job fighting to get back and to fall short like that hurts."
Ken Dorsey had a very successful day; best among the anemic parade of quarterbacks that the 49ers have been showcasing us since the trade of starting quarterback Tim Rattay to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He completed 18-of-29 passes for 249-yards and one touchdown, and earned a passer rating of 101.1.
Although Ken Dorsey was sacked four times for a loss of 23-yards, he wasn't sacked because of the play of bumbling novice left tackle Anthony Clement. It was rookie Adam Snyder that started there and was in charge of holding off veteran pass rush specialist Grant Wistrom, who is 6-foot-4, 272-pounds and a former contributor to St. Louis Rams Super Bowl seasons. In fact, Wistrom didn't register any sacks on Adam Snyder who stands 6-foot-6, 325-pounds and started at left tackle on this Sunday.
"He did a pretty darn good job," Wistrom said. "He works hard and tries to finish plays. I didn't have much film on him, but you can tell he's no quitter."
These key comments caused the rookie left tackle Adam Snyder to beam and become even more enthusiastic about his future role with the San Francisco 49er offensive line. In fact, I had been calling for Adam Snyder to start at left tackle after witnessing the fiasco of Anthony Clement at left tackle.
"I knew going into the game that he was going to be a guy who would play 60 minutes," said Snyder, an AllPacific10 choice as a senior left tackle. "So, to hear something like that from a guy like him means something."
I believe Adam Snyder could be the cheaper alternative at left tackle in place of higher-priced, less durable recently signed free agent Jonas Jennings. Should Jennings finally shake the injury bug after this year and play left end next year, this could make Snyder a legitimate contender as a swing tackle on either side.
"I'm willing to play anywhere they want to help them win games," Snyder said. "But as far as a comfort issue, for me, it's at tackle."
I would also like to recognize running back Maurice Hicks for his outstanding play following the concussion to Kevan Barlow and Frank Gore being out with an injured hip flexor. He had 11 carries for 83-yards, one of them being a long sprint of 50 total yards for 7.5-yards a carry.
Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd is the top receiving threat in our arsenal without a doubt, with seven receptions for 119-yards and an average of 17-yards per reception. His acrobatic antics and far out-stretched arms for completions simply are jaw-dropping experiences I could use a lot more of.
Linebacker Julian Peterson continues to prove his worth of being designated the teams top franchise player with his exceptional abilities to even cover wide receivers down the field, by breaking up a pass intended for Seattle Seahawk wide receiver D.J. Hackett 40-yards downfield in the fourth quarter on top of all that.
In fact Julian, who constantly pumps up the crowd in Monster Park for exceptional noise and support, hasn't played that position since the Jim Mora days of 2002-2003 when he was used then in the secondary.
"Coach lets me back there once in a while, but I like being in the trenches," Peterson said. "It gives me flashbacks of when I played a little corner and safety."
The most devastating loss in this game, though, was in the second quarter when defensive tackle/end Bryant Young went down because he twisted his knee and ankle under a pile of linemen. Later results showed he had a MCL sprain that will keep him out 3-6 weeks or probably the entire rest of the season.
What was so amazing to me was the crowd ovation at Bryant Young finally getting up and walking off the field basically on his own power. Here is a guy that is the last remaining dinosaur of our Super Bowl era and is always out on the field showing the younger players what it is to wear a 49er uniform and what is expected from you.
He is an athlete I idolize and I am grateful for having on this roster day in and day out. I feel he should be a fixture for the rest of his career here in San Francisco and continue to work with the youth that is on this team. Bryant Young leads the team with eight sacks and is on his way to becoming nominated to another potential Pro Bowl.
He even came back into the game for one play, believing he had to be out there with his teammates in battle, but his knee, not his ankle like he thought, couldn't hold out with a tear in it and he never came back in after that one play.
"I was determined not to get carted off the field again," he said. "It was important that I was able to get up on my own and be able to walk off the field."
"No matter what the score is, no matter the outcome of the game, you always see him on film playing hard," linebacker Andre Carter said. "We as a defense try to feed off that. We just learn so much from him."
And with that I'll agree as Bryant Young symbolizes all that is great with this organization. When you look at the star that was Steve Young and the star that just keeps on playing like the energizer bunny on television commercials, Bryant Young continues to break records and imaginations that youth is better.
The San Francisco 49ers scored an emotional and psychological victory in this game, but still came away being defeated by a better team of course. We aren't that far away in a sense of improving, but a long way from resurrecting another Super Bowl run.
I'll settle for improvement nonetheless, and I will stay optimistic as these young players learn and grow. I am with you all in this journey towards atonement for our mistakes of the past and present, let's hope that will be seen consistently the remainder of this season.
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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