Adversity in abundance
November 22, 2006 at 6:52 AM
The glory that was the San Francisco 49ers appeared last Sunday inside Monster Park more commonly known back then as Candlestick Park. Everything that was the very fabric of this once proud and feared dynasty inside the NFL was represented by the farewell ceremony conducted in honor of former legendary wide receiver Jerry Rice.
Jerry Rice threw away the typed speech he had prepared for this very final day and spoke to the over crowded legions of 49er faithful. He wanted to speak from his heart with his eyes looking straight out and on to the very people that adore him.
From former teammates to the very likes of Bill Walsh and George Seifert who were there to show their support, Jerry Rice was humbled by the collection of humanity he recognized as home. No one can take that memory from him and no one can legitimately say he wasn’t the greatest wide receiver of all time to ever play the game.
The references he made towards Bill Walsh were electric for me. I actually had chills that ran up and down my back as I listened to his speech to the faithful. I reveled in the fact that here Jerry Rice was standing on familiar ground for the very last time probably in my lifetime.
Jerry Rice was a legendary icon to many of us. He epitomizes greatness and always was about being a part of a family that had the same vision and goal he always had. The San Francisco 49ers were that family and we were all too honored to have him back where he ultimately belongs.
Bill Walsh revealed not too long ago that he had been battling leukemia. He appeared to be in good spirits and health this past Sunday, but the reality of what is his life right now deserves all our prayers. Jerry Rice thanked him for giving him the chance where no one else would to come to San Francisco and inexplicably develop into the most lethal offensive weapon the NFL has ever seen.
George Seifert was also recognized for carrying the torch of this newly established dynasty to even greater heights with two more Super Bowl victories. But more importantly Jerry Rice made the best reference to his success because of his former teammates that stood around him on the field.
Nothing is accomplished without doing it as a team. No single athlete or player should ever elevate himself or herself over another or divert from the centerpiece we all know as being the common goal and destiny of a well coached football team. Together we can accomplish anything; individually we accept the outcome of our results.
He made reference to owners John and Denise York for having him there and making the moment possible. Many of the faithful booed them as he then proclaimed former owner Eddie DeBartolo “the best owner in San Francisco.”
Of Jerry Rice’s many accomplishments his love for his family tops all others. He was humbled to have them by his side and grateful for the undying support he received from his wife. The festivities mesmerized me as I watched it all unveil itself this past Sunday because as a 49er faithful you relish in the limelight of what that moment made you remember.
At the end of it all he asked former Hall of Fame teammate and quarterback Steve Young to throw him one final pass on the field. He happily and willingly complied and that has gone down in the history books as being one of the most prolific connections in NFL history.
Just the presence of both of them orchestrating a pass play was thrilling to watch and to see Jerry Rice as a San Francisco 49er for the very last time broke my heart in more ways then one.
It was these festivities I believe that assisted the mindset of the current 2006 San Francisco 49ers under Mike Nolan to overcome all adversities thrown in their line of traffic to defeat the division leading Seattle Seahawks 20-14 this past Sunday.
Everyone that is part of the 49er faithful can take something positive from this victory. We finally have arrived inside this league as a legitimate contender and knocking off the National Football Conference’s Champion of last year was just the way to get recognized.
The Seattle Seahawks have dominated our very division for the better part of three straight seasons. Obtaining a victory at home against all of the odds that materialized was mind blowing to say the least.
Now we are back at .500 and sit one game back behind the still division leading Seattle Seahawks for the first time since 2003. In fact it was San Francisco’s first victory over the Seattle bullies since 2002, snapping a six-game losing streak against them. Just when you thought we were on life support and barely breathing after two blowout losses against the San Diego Chargers and Chicago Bears, Mike Nolan’s 49ers are back in the saddle again.
Offensively in this game the line played with compelling execution and dominated the line of scrimmage all day long for running back Frank Gore to have a career-high day and a franchise-record day of 212 yards on 22 carries. He was literally a beast unleashed in this game, having instant success from the lanes of traffic that appeared before him because of well-defined blocks from all his offensive teammates.
Gore had a 51-yard burst in the second quarter, and then broke off a 50-yarder in the third quarter as he dominated the Seattle Seahawk backfield from the very first time he touched the ball. I was screaming to the top of my lungs in awe of his athletic ability and success as he rumbled down the field.
Frank Gore as told by so many that know him is the complete football player any team would embrace and fight for. This is a guy that just wants to play the game and have success while doing it. He is all about being the ideal teammate making references to all his success on the field to the offensive line that works hard for him to the fullback in Moran Norris that makes first contact for him.
“We just ran it right at them,” said Gore, who now has 1.043 yards rushing this season and is closing in on the NFL lead and Garrison Hearst’s team record of 1,570 rushing yards in 1998. “We out-physicaled them. We ran downhill. O-line, fullback, wide receivers, they did a hell of a job blocking up front and down the field. I’m just happy, man.”
Of the 262 rushing yards that the San Francisco 49ers recorded, Frank Gore had 212 of them for 8.8 yards per carry. He even had four receptions for an additional 26 yards all on top of that and defined himself as being one of the most versatile offensive weapons on our team.
Scoring only three points in the first quarter, Alex Smith made two impressive touchdown drives in the second quarter, one that started on the Seattle 40-yard line following a Walt Harris interception. This set up a touchdown pass to Arnaz Battle in the end zone from nine-yards out, making the score 10-0 49ers.
On the second drive in the second quarter from our own 26-yard line, Alex Smith directed an offensive drive that involved him sprinting into the end zone from one-yard out for yet another touchdown to make it 17-0 49ers.
In all Alex Smith completed 19-of-25 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown. He was sacked just once for a loss of nine yards and posted a quarterback rating of 105.9. So once again not really impressive numbers but numbers of a well-managed offense that helped win the game.
The San Francisco 49er defense once maligned as being the worst of the worst inside the NFL made major contributions to this victory and ultimately sealed the deal with less than two minutes to go in this game. The cohesive chemistry that has exploded on our defense cannot go unnoticed by anyone anymore.
We have adapted and changed our mindset in more ways than one and the players admit that it had to come about collectively. Five total turnovers were registered by our defense in this game.
“It’s all about playing with a quarterback’s head and that’s what we did today,” said safety Chad Williams, who played for Nolan in Baltimore when Nolan was the coordinator.
Better self-esteem and most of all confidence from winning is what has contributed to the defensive turnaround of what were the worst performances someone could look at. The blowouts against Kansas City, San Diego and Chicago are catalysts for change and that is what actually had to happen for this young defense to awaken.
“It’s amazing when you are able to win, the confidence that can build,” defensive team captain Bryant Young said.
Free safety Keith Lewis had one interception and a fumble recovery, while cornerback Walt Harris recorded two interceptions of which one of them sealed the deal in the end. Cornerback Marcus Hudson ended the game by recovering the ball on an onside kick that ended the game as well.
Seattle Seahawk quarterback Seneca Wallace was sacked twice, once by Marques Douglass and another key one by Roderick Green following a Frank Gore mishap (fumble) and recovered at the Seattle 35-yard line.
It was a time of realizing I was turning into a senior citizen as the white hairs on my head increased two-fold following one adverse moment after another. But yet again Mike Nolan put an interesting twist on things by acknowledging that the adversity we faced late in the fourth quarter was a welcomed situation that made us tougher in the long term.
I have to agree with that philosophy based upon what we’ve already seen thus far into the season. It does put the degree of pressure squarely on one unit’s shoulders to pick up and rectify what the other inexplicably caused to happen.
“That’s what this defense looks like when everybody is doing their job,” Williams said. “It’s a pretty thing. It looks like one of those pictures on the wall in a gallery.”
Of all the positives I saw in this game, especially with the defense forcing five turnovers that ultimately kept the Seattle Seahawks offense off balance, the one negative was when cornerback Shawntae Spencer left the game due to injury. Sammy Davis came in from his back-up role and played miserably as a Seattle offense took full advantage of his inability to close the gap between himself and the receiver.
In fact he looked utterly lost in the midst of this game and it disturbed me to see his performance on the field. It was so traumatic that I have to believe it is in our best interests for Shawntae Spencer to remain healthy for as long as he can.
With the return of Julian Peterson to Monster Park he was effectively nullified most of the day by the left side of the offensive line in Jonas Jennings and Larry Allen to boot. I took great satisfaction from that in that his mega-block million-dollar deal didn’t pay off for the Seattle Seahawks in our house now did it?
I am so proud to be one of the 49ers faithful. I can see where some of us may be looking too far ahead and Mike Nolan has warned us to take it one game at a time. I have to believe he’s correct with this mindset. Anything following a victory will take care of itself.
Playoffs shouldn’t even be mentioned at this time except for maybe a few media bums who do nothing but speculate as to how things may look like a month from now. We have to be satisfied with what we witnessed this past Sunday and the last three weeks of the season.
Momentum is on our side. We just have to tap into it and keep the engine turning no matter what the conditions may be like. So far an abundance of adversity has been just what the doctor ordered for us to get our heads on straight. I say to the doctor order me my prescription refill please.
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