Penalties raining down on 49ers

Nov 4, 2000 at 12:00 AM


The San Francisco 49er’s more than any other team in The National Football League have suffered at the tossing of yellow penalty markers and been moved back in constant loss of yardage that has cost this team many close potential victories on the playing field.

It has been a long time as an enthusiast and an avid observer of all 49er games that I have witnessed so many penalties that have negated everything we are trying to do on the field as a professional football franchise.

We have serious issue’s here, ones that can only be answered, diagnosed and solved by the coaching staff and most of all the players themselves. Is there a lack of discipline and resolve with these players?

I hope not to think so due to my confidence and respect for the entire 49er franchise from the top brass down to the coaching staff as a whole. They have done a remarkable job in keeping this team even within a rebuilding phase very competitive and improving in every situation.

We have had our share of bad calls and hotly contested play calling by NFL officials on the field in crucial close games. These calls have haunted me every time I care to remember them when I reflect on our current record at 2-7 putting us in the very bottom of the cellar in the division.

Center Jeremy Newberry’s holding call that wiped out a late touchdown run by Charlie Garner on Sunday burns ever so bright in my mind when I look back on the St. Louis game.

This is a tragic ending to a possible offensive break-through that could have put this game away for us, and us coming out of this with a victory finally over the Super Bowl Champion Rams.

Penalties have very negative consequences to offensive drives, they in all senses are the leading cause to killing potential victories in games, simple individual personnel discipline including concentration to reads and calls and following guidelines and instructions are simple corrections to these game killers.

We know we have a large pool of rookies and second-year players struggling to make the transition from college to the professional aspect of the game, and in many ways that will have a factor in your penalty ranking.

However we still must expect higher standards and modes of accountability for their actions, when it involves the very goal of this franchise is to win games and improve one’s ranking in their division.

No team has been flagged more often this season than the 49er’s. In nine games, they have drawn 75 penalties, including eight for 80 yards Sunday in a 34-24 loss to the Rams.

And again none were more costly than the flag on Newberry for hooking his arm around defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina, canceling out a 75-yard run by Garner in the fourth quarter.

It is always disheartening when you observe a fantastic play like the one Charlie Garner was able to perform, to suddenly realize it was all for absolutely nothing, this is what eats away at your insides like a cancer.

“We’re a team that can’t afford to make the mistakes that are going to make it more difficult for us to have success on the field and part of that are the penalties,” 49er’s quarterback Jeff Garcia said. “We need to be better as a team and especially as an offensive team in avoiding these types of situations. We realize penalties are not going to be eliminated completely, but they can be limited.”

Certainly in this stage of the season the time for marketed change is now, penalties must be a topic that is at the top of the coaching reviews and analysis. Every penalty play is an open wound to an offensive drive down the field; it eats the very fiber of positive production.

Head Coach Steve Mariucci is very aware of the big picture and what needs to be done to correct it, however will it be in time to salvage any legitimate part of this season? We can only hope that players are learning something from these altercations and working hard to correct them as time wears on.

“That’s something that slows us down, that negates some yardage at times,” Mariucci said. “When it takes away points, that’s something you are going to remember.”

“We care about it, because when you’re a real good football team, you can overcome them and they don’t keep you from winning games. But when you’re a young team or an injured team, the penalties can be a factor to a point where you are not good enough to overcome them.”

Certainly I know I can speak for all 49er faithful out there that we want resolution to these constant penalties. I do understand that we must be patient as to the youth on this team learning on the field is really the only clear cut way to downgrading these legalities called penalties.

Stumbling in the final fourth quarter also seems to be an un-welcomed trend for us as we are losing the majority of our games in the crucial fourth quarter, due to lack of production and sustained first downs.

We have been at our very worst as the game wines down to the final quarter and last minutes of the game, In both the last two games the 49er’s have failed to score in the fourth quarter, allowing the opposition to pull away with a comfortable lead.

This is definitely a real concern for all of us, as we know that our best play should still come late in the final quarter to ensure that our opponents are without question unable to make a real difference maker in their score against us.

“I do think when you are playing with some injured guy’s that you don’t have a lot of depth, you can’t substitute players like you hoped to,” said Mariucci. “Sooner or later, you may not have as much zip as the opponent, who can alternate fresh players may. Hopefully, we’re in good enough shape physically to be able to play a full 60 minutes.”

Also very damaging was the fact the 49er’s lost Running Back and Kickoff-Returner Travis Jervey for the season after he suffered a broken left clavicle after returning the opening game kickoff for 68 yards against the Rams in Week Nine.

Sprung by key blocks from Cedric Killings and Ben Lynch, Jervey sprinted past kicker Pete Stoyanovich at midfield and raced down the left sideline until Todd Lyght tackled him at the Ram 20-yard line.

It was his play that allowed Charlie Garner to score thereafter for a touchdown, the ever-increasing list of season-ending injuries has plagued the 49er’s all season long as they have struggled to sustain consistent position status.

Defensive End Junior Bryant to a (neck injury) and Safety John Keith to a (broken arm). Another serious injury was Linebacker First-Round Draft Pick Julian Peterson out with (a sprained knee) he has been out three straight weeks with a probable return against the Saints this Sunday.

Linebacker Winfred Tubbs also continues to nurse (a strained hamstring) and he has been out for two weeks with a probable return against the Saints. Still others continue to play hurt as the 49er Bye week does not help them until November 26th following Week 12.

If with any solace we can take pride in the fact that regardless of all the negative penalties we have gone 3-0 in coach’s challenges to officiating on the field.

A first-quarter interception by the Rams Mike Jones was overturned on a successful challenge by the 49er’s. Jones made a diving catch at midfield on a Jeff Garcia pass that was tipped by linebacker Leonard Little.

The Rams also lost a replay challenge 9:45 before halftime. Torry Holt attempted to make a sliding catch at the 49er’s 20, but officials ruled Trent Green’s 40-yard pass attempt hit the ground.

One final replay challenge again went our way when officials reviewed on their own to confirm the Rams Chris Thomas indeed failed to catch a 15-yard pass by Green with 1:27 left in the first half.

So in all there is a glimmer of light here, the bigger part of the light though would shine if we were able to execute effectively on the field and flawlessly, certainly any form of renewed improvement would be a benefit.

In regards to the St. Louis game we really missed some evident opportunities and above all committed far too many penalties as a professional football franchise; the Ram defense was out to prove something this time after their debacle in Kansas City; Jeff Garcia was their intended target.

“Offensively, we made too many mistakes. Offensively, we stunk it up,” said Terrell Owens who had two touchdown catches. “We had a lot of opportunities to really get something going and get some points.”

Rams Running Back and league-MVP candidate Marshall Faulk was the hero for St. Louis as he scored all four Ram touchdowns; he is just as lethal as a receiver out of the backfield as he is rushing the ball with moves that dazzle the imagination.

“He’s a great player;” 49er’s Coach Steve Mariucci said of Faulk. “They use him very wisely.”

Some 49er personnel even complained that they thought the 49er offense was becoming too conservative and needed to really take more chances, as they suffered their fourth consecutive loss of the season.

“I’m trying to stress to Jeff (Garcia) to make good decisions. Be smart. Chuck it down when you have to. And he’s been doing that,” Mariucci said." He hasn’t taken a lot of chances this year. That’s why his interception percentage is way down, because he’s not forcing the ball into coverage.”

I know I am all for taking risks especially when you’re down a considerable amount of points in a game and need to make a big play to change the tempo of the game. But I am also proud of the fact that Garcia is being careful on his throws just hope not so careful it turns into him being hurried or sacked far too often.

Added Garcia: “It’s difficult when you shoot yourselves in the foot consistently. One way or some way, this team is going to have to find a way to work through this difficult time.”

San Francisco Elite Wide Receiver Terrell Owens had eight catches for 115 yards, including touchdown receptions of 53 and 17 yards. It was his fourth multiple touchdown game this season, as well as his third 100-yard receiving game. He has caught at least one pass in 64 consecutive games.

Owens is without question a huge playmaker for us on offense and a very vocal leader in the locker room, he continues to strive in making this team accountable especially the individuals that make up every unit.

He has displayed incredible desire to bring this team into the limelight and give it a fighting chance at winning in every game, Owens in my eyes has come full circle and we need to keep this athlete for a long time to come.

In order for us to turn the swelling tide of penalties and mental errors aside and focus on fundamental techniques, calls, reads and identifying opposing game schemes, every player must look inside themselves and comprehend the solution to this very controllable expense.

Correcting these errors and doing so consistently will enable this team to push forward and improve and mature much more rapidly than we realize, pointing fingers and lashing out accusations as to whom is at fault will do nothing but keep the wounds fresh and highlighted in clarity as to the state we have been in so far.

The opinions 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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