The Start of the 2002 Season

Sep 21, 2002 at 12:00 AM


The 49ers started the season playing in the first ever Thursday night opener against the New York Giants in New York, where the largest pre-game party ever was taking place with a Bon Jovi concert.

In a game that was supposed to be the start of a Super Bowl run for the 49ers, they played just well enough to escape with a victory. There were both, many positives and negatives coming out of this game. Most importantly, the 49ers started with a win.

Credit should be given to the Giants for forming a defensive game plan designed to take Terrell Owens out of the game and contain Jeff Garcia, which worked remarkably well.

At halftime the 49ers trailed 6-3 and were being outplayed and out-gained 210 to 134 in total yardage. Despite that, the 49ers should have been in the lead had they converted on two botched field goals by Jose Cortez.

“There was all the potential in the world to have a real frustrated locker room at halftime because we just couldn’t seem to get it going. It was hard to make first downs, but I didn’t see any frustration. I saw poise. I saw composure. I saw good discussion at halftime. I saw some confidence. I saw some real poise and we had been in that situation before.” – Steve Mariucci

The second half was not spectacular, but when the 49ers needed plays to win the game their stars stepped up and made the plays they needed to in order to win the game. When you can play poorly and still win when playing on the road in your season opener you are definitely taking a step in the right direction.

Jeff Garcia was on the money when he needed to be and both Terrell Owens and JJ Stokes both made key catches on the game winning drive. Jose Cortez, after a horrible start made 3 field goals including a 36-yarder to win the game. The defense gave up a lot of passing yards but no touchdown receptions and gave up just 43 yards rushing while recording 3 interceptions as well as 3 sacks.

Jeff Garcia – 16 of 26 for 166 yards with one touchdown and one interception
Garrison Hearst and Keavon Barlow combined to average 4.5 yards per carry.
Terrell Owens – 4 catches for 41 yards
JJ Stokes – 3 catches for 37 yards
Eric Johnson – 3 catches for 44 yards
Jamie Winborn – 16 tackles including a sack earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week Honors
Sacks by Jamie Winborn, Dana Stubblefield and Chike Okeafor
Interceptions by Zack Bronson, Tony Parrish and Julian Peterson


In week 2 against the Denver Broncos the 49ers were beaten by a better team. The Broncos took notes from the Giants on how to contain the 49er offense and did a great job of it. The 49ers never got it going on offense and hurt themselves with mistakes, penalties and turnovers. The pass defense played very well holding Denver to just 98 yards passing and added 3 sacks, but the run defense was terrible allowing over 200 yards on the ground. The 49ers were only down 10-7 at halftime but in the second half the Broncos took over the game.

Jeff Garcia – 27 of 36 for 205 yards with one touchdown and one interception and one touchdown rushing
Keavon Barlow – 7 carries for 47 yards
Terrell Owens – 5 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown
Eric Johnson – 7 catches for 69 yards
JJ Stokes – 4 catches for 28 yards
Garrison Hearst – 6 catches for 30 yards
Julian Peterson – 8 tackles and a sack
Andre Carter and Chike Okeafor also added sacks

“We have some great talent on this team, and we had a great game plan, but every time we got something going we just made a lot of mistakes and we’d shoot ourselves in the foot, stalling drives.” – Terrell Owens

“The Broncos had a perfect plan for the 49ers, a defensive scheme that had two safeties rolling deep and splitting the field and cornerbacks hugging the edges and funneling receivers to the middle, where Denver’s quick, agile and aggressive linebackers could read and react.” – Craig Massei – Editor of SF Illustrated

“I’m not especially concerned…I’m just more so at a point where we will continue to work hard and fight through the struggles that we’re experiencing right now. We realize that there’s a lot of talent on this offense. This is a solid team with solid players that can execute as a team. We just need to do a better job of executing. Our attitude as an offense needs to be committed to getting better. There’s a solid team there, it’s just a matter of pulling it out and doing it.” – Jeff Garcia

As you can see for a team some were predicting to go to the Super Bowl the 49ers have a few issues to sort out. Most important, remember they are 1-1 with 14 more games to play. It is not time to panic, but we all know the 49ers need to re-establish their running game in order to open up their offense and start winning some games.

I personally feel the 49ers are in the same position they were at this time last season, which is a team playing tough defense with the potential to go on a long winning streak and make the playoffs. Let’s climb on for the ride and give our favorite team all the support they need.
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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