Just enough offense won’t do in the playoffs

Dec 26, 2002 at 12:00 AM

In a mild and cloudy day in Sun Devil Stadium the San Francisco 49ers again squeaked a close victory over the Arizona Cardinals 17-14 without their offensive playmaker in Terrell Owens.

Imagine if you would at just how Arizona once a team bringing up the rear for first place in the division could succumb to an opposing offense that struggles in the red zone.

Every 49er fan alive out there knows that a fear exists in the back of their mind as to San Francisco’s ability to put multiple points on the scoreboard.

The 49ers have more than just struggled to get into the end zone, they have allowed many teams to manufacture incredible comebacks because they are unable to manufacture and add points to an already existing lead.

The concern is ringing loud and clear in Steve Mariucci’s ear as he tries to find the symptoms to the uncontrolled bleeding of the offense and to find ways to score more points on the scoreboard.

Injuries aside the 49ers will have to score much more than 17 unanswered points to advance beyond the first round of the 2002 NFL Playoffs. It has become imperative that they find ways to trim the carelessness and the inconsistencies of this offense and to improve a defensive secondary ripped apart by multiple injuries.

Even though Jeff Garcia completed 23-of-39 passes for 256 total yards with one touchdown and one interception he had a quarterback rating of just 76.4%. There were several over-thrown passes and several dropped passes that made this rating what it was.

Jeff has been accused of almost being too careful in his surveying of the field and his weapons, almost ribbing him of his creativity and aggressiveness to make plays happen.

Is Jeff losing that determined edge that has aided him in making not only comebacks but making big plays with any regularity? That is a question that only the coaching staff and himself can validate, but the questions remain very sincere that he is not playing up to his best despite making another appearance at the up and coming Pro Bowl for the third time.

Taking risks in the NFL is a necessary attribute when playing a game close to the vest. There have been accusations towards Garcia that his obsession with being careful has led to a ultra-conservative approach that benefits the other team in being able to over-take the 49ers in the scoring category.

He has also been criticized for not looking at throwing the long ball enough settling down throwing dunks and short passes to advance the ball or at the very least taking off with the ball himself.

However you want to evaluate Jeff one thing is very true of him; he will be his own person. Jeff has done a well enough job to be granted a third visit to this season’s Pro Bowl.

He has in my opinion settled a little bit into a conservative zone often not taking enough risks at time with games running so close. But turnovers are something he has worked diligently to reduce and use as a positive in getting his team into a positive light.

Jeff always seems to be more effective when the game is clicking on a fast pace and he is managing the clock to make a score. He is so dangerous when he is on the run but he showed that he could be just as deadly when he manages to stay in the pocket and connect with his receivers.

Jeff always provides improvisation during a game believing in himself that the job will get done no matter what, he uses that as a weapon inside himself and turns it on when the going gets tough.

Jeff Chandler continued to show the 49er world that he is just another Jose Cortez missing two field goal attempts of 42 total yards. Both were field goals that could have made the score less dramatic and comfortable for the 49ers as they tried to establish dominance inside the first quarter.

Chandler did manage to hit a 24-yarder just before halftime as mere compensation but the mood along the sideline was clearly mixed as he returned the second time in failure.

These misses raised the question as to whether the 49ers feel comfortable going into the playoffs with him, everyone knows that a mere field goal can make or break your chances to be successful and the playoffs are no place for you to find that out.

Chandler received his opportunity in the Arizona game on the 49ers second possession of the game after an 11-play drive had suddenly stalled on the Arizona 24-yard line because of a third down sack to Jeff Garcia.

The attempt from that 42-yard hash mark sailed wide right. The other attempt came after Tony Parrish intercepted a Jake Plummer pass on a Cardinal possession and Jeff Garcia’s pass to Cedric Wilson for 22 total yards. That attempt sailed wide left.

It was frustrating and disheartening all in one for me as I watched these failures. It reminded me of why Chandler was beat out for the position in training camp back in Stockton and in the pre-season.

Jose Cortez proved to be reliable in the first two quarters of the regular season but then like it was on automatic mode he started to falter and slump like he has been accustomed to late in the season.

Thus the move to elevate Chandler and create a change of pace to jump start our special teams, but it has done little to jump start it in fact it is starting to resemble a unit that is sinking in a quagmire.

The failures proved to be so daunting that late in the fourth quarter when the 49ers were facing a fourth-and-one on the Cardinals 17-yard line that Mariucci opted to go for the first down instead of giving Chandler the nod for a field goal. But a fumble exchange between Jeff and Fred Beasley ended even that scoring opportunity.

With Terrell Owens out of the game and resting the passing game went to J.J. Stokes, Tai Streets and Cedric Wilson. It provided these receivers an opportunity to work with Jeff and all of them took advantage of that.

Tai Streets had an exceptional day catching eight passes for 90 total yards and Cedric Wilson with four catches for 56 total yards. Wilson in my view has proven to be a very reliable receiver and a special team’s standout as he is starting to make waves on kick returns.

J.J. Stokes caught four passes for 48 total yards and even made a critical first down when we needed one. He did however miss some passes that were on the mark and caused legitimate concerns as to his credibility again.

Since returning from sprained ligaments in his right knee on November 3rd of this year he has had only 13 receptions in seven games. He was even shut out in the last home game against Green Bay.

He had only two receptions for three total yards the week before the Dallas game and has recorded only 26 receptions for 255 total yards so far this season with Tai Streets elevated to his original position after injuring his right knee.

The question I still ask myself as I watch Stokes is the heart he puts into the game, so many times I observe him not giving his all and looking nonchalant on the field.

From a production standpoint statistics don’t lie the evidence is on paper that he simply is not breaking and creating separation and making plays.

“I really thought it would be different this year, because I did my preparation differently than I’ve ever done it before,” Stokes said. “I felt better than ever before. I was looking forward to a great year. The injury took me out of that. Unfortunately, we’re close to the end of the season, and it hasn’t really happened.”

Stokes just before the season took a huge pay cut in order to stay on with the team and avoid being cut. He is in the fourth year of a seven-year contract he signed back in 1999, but the final two years are voided should he opt to do that or the team as well. The team just may use Stokes as rumored as trade bait next season should he not step up his anemic production.

The likelihood of his release looms large with the exceptional play of Cedric Wilson who has exploded onto the scene as a real threat anywhere on the field when given the opportunity.

I have to believe that they will should Stokes not make immediate progress in the next game and the playoffs. He has not been the playmaker we envisioned he would be back in 1995 and the time and energy that we have invested in him has not paid enough dividends.

One of the brightest compliments to this game was the play of our defense, if not for a stingy 49er defense the outcome of this contest would have been very different. The entire plan centered on containing agile Jake Plummer and they managed to take him out of the game as a viable threat.

“The key to this game was to keep Jake bottled up and for the most part we did just that” said Steve Mariucci. “He played a great game against us for the first time and he almost beat the Rams by himself last week. He snuck out on us a few times, but overall we got after him.”

The San Francisco defense dropped Jake Plummer five times and applied pressure to his face constantly throughout the game. The secondary still smarting and hurting from injuries managed to hold Plummer to 109 total yards through the air. The defense spearheaded by talented defensive end Andre Carter with two sacks was joined in company by Chike Okeafor, Josh Shaw, Jeff Ulbrich and Bryant Young.

It was one of the most impressive starts of the front four that I have ever seen as the defense kept applying constant pressure on Plummer throughout the game. It was a nice feeling to have the defense step up and force the opposition to abandon the field and allow our offense ample opportunity to score. The defense was responsible for holding the Arizona Cardinals as a team to a 184 total net yards.

“I knew if I kept working the sacks would come,” said Carter who leads the team with 11 on the season. “The past few weeks’ teams have been using three step drops and it’s tough to get sacks that way. But we found a way today.”

Overall this team gave an honest day’s effort defensively and proved to be the equalizer without starting wide receiver Terrell Owens on the other side. They complimented the offense because they really had to as the offense struggled to get points on the board from the red zone. If not for the defense in this game we could have been sent packing with another loss.

“Its not like we went out there and played lightly,” 49ers defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield said. “We went out there and played hard and did what we had to do.” Added defensive tackle Bryant Young, “We want to have some momentum going into the playoffs, and definitely today was a step forward.”

Overall it was the play of the offense that forced decision making plays upon the 49er defense from an interception and a fumble by the offense to some overthrown passes and dropped passes that could have been potential scores the defense stepped up and made plays happen.

It proved to be a splendid day for the 49er defense to hang their hats on going into the playoffs, they will need to play even harder come Monday Night against the St. Louis Rams on their home turf.

Looking back on the defense the 49ers made a roster move by adding a four-year veteran cornerback in Duane Hawthorne released by the Dallas Cowboys after signing with them as a rookie in 1999.

In his 50 games played in his career, he has recorded 105 tackles, 24 passes defended and has six interceptions. His best individual season was in 2001 when he played in all 16 games for Dallas, and recorded 63 tackles, and had 10 passes defended and two interceptions.

Much has also been said of Steve Mariucci as the head coach this season in taking blame for being too conservative from both his players and fans alike. But as the Green Bay Packers came to visit San Francisco so did comments from an old friend of Mariucci in Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre.

Favre even went to great lengths back in the 90’s to keep Mariucci his quarterback’s coach when he was offered the job to coach the University of California. The two have had a long-standing friendship and they stay in constant communication on a regular basis.

“He called me one night at home, and he said, “I’d pay you whatever they’re going to pay you to stay here,” Mariucci recalled one day. “I found that a little unusual.”

When Brett Favre speaks about Steve Mariucci there is nothing but strong reverence when he is asked about him. The relationship has been strong ever since and a bond exists there between the two, there was even some audacious comments made before the game that Mariucci would throw the game in favor of keeping Favre happy.

As everyone knows football coaches and players make relationships that last a lifetime and bonds are made, as they grow older and wiser. In the NFL where there is so much parity in the league and faces come and go the bond between players and coaches must happen at a more rapid pace.

When Favre was asked about the controversy regarding Mariucci and being too conservative as labeled sometimes through the media via Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens he reacted bitterly.

The pre-game comments created an air of tension as both Garcia and Owens reacted to his comments as being off the cuff and without merit. Both Garcia and Owens have come full circle with their coach and a relationship now exists.

“You can’t complain when you win,” Favre said. “Actually, it upsets me when I see some of the guys do that. I love to throw the football as much as anyone and I love to put up numbers and all of that stuff. It’s great.”

“For me to ever step up to the plate and criticize my coaches or coach would be ridiculous. Whether I believe it is right or it is wrong. I never felt that criticizing publicly has ever done any good for anyone. I think it is very unfair to Mooch. If you have a beef with him, go to his office. Be a man and go face to face with him and tell him you have a problem with what is going on. Don’t do it in the paper. That is cowardly.”

For a friend to react like he in Brett Favre is one thing, for him to make comments about another organization and it’s players is yet another. I was amazed that he made these comments knowing that Jeff Garcia always uses the checks and balances in place within the franchise. Terrell Owens is another story but he has mended his ways and Mariucci and Owens have a better understanding of each other.

Jeff reacted to Favre’s comments by saying: “I think when you guys ask questions, and you’re asking us to search for answers, sometimes things become hypothetical, and we’re trying to search for an answer to your question. It comes out as bashing the coach, and in no way do I ever want to bash the coach or put the coach in a corner in the sense of criticizing him.”

“I think more so than anything we try to search for answers as to how to make the offense better. It’s never a sense of demeaning anybody or wanting to criticize anybody.”

This I have to agree fully with Jeff’s comments, if there is anyone responsible for slanting the real truth or twisting actual information as it was presented in real form it is the media looking to create a controversy.

So many times I have witnessed the media distort and sidestep the real truth as it was presented and manufacture a juicy story for the public to feed on and digest it in a manner that creates unneeded tension and disharmony.

Game #16 (Win) San Francisco 49ers over the Arizona Cardinals 17-14

“That was a big win for us, and it was a good win,” Coach Steve Mariucci said. “It was an unusual sort of game, a different kind of game because we had to decide how to play, whom to use and for how long.”

“We need to be sharper. We need to be more explosive,” said J.J. Stokes, who finished with four catches. “Because the kind of performance we had today won’t get it done in the playoffs, and that’s what you measure everything by.”

“There should be more expected out of this offense than we showed,” said quarterback Jeff Garcia, who led the 49ers on touchdown drives to start both halves, but none in the final 25 minutes of each half.

Arizona elects to receive the ball to start the first quarter and 49er kicker Jeff Chandler kicked 48 total yards to Arizona’s Steve Bush who returned the kick 13 total yards to the Arizona 35-yard line. Here Cardinal quarterback Jake Plummer on the first play fumbled the ball on the snap and Bush managed to recover it at the Arizona 34-yard line.

On second down Plummer tried to connect with Jason McAddley but the pass fell incomplete and then out of the shotgun Jake Plummer was sacked by a charging Andre Carter for a loss of 10 total yards. This forced Arizona punter Scott Player to punt the ball 39 total yards to the San Francisco 37-yard line where it was downed.

On the first play of the game under Jeff Garcia he failed to connect with wide receiver Tai Streets and then hit tight end Eric Johnson for six total yards. On third down and short Jeff found Tai Streets for eight total yards and a first down. With the first down Garrison Hearst ran up the middle but was stuffed for no gain.

On the Arizona 49-yard line Jeff handed the ball to Fred Beasley who hit the left end for four total yards and Jeff then connected with Cedric Wilson for 11 more yards. With a new first down Jeff hit Hearst for nine total yards and from the Arizona 34-yard line Jeff found Fred Beasley on a well designed play for a 25-yard touchdown. Jeff Chandler’s extra point was good so on eight plays and 63 total yards the 49ers assumed the lead 7-0 in the first quarter on their opening possession.

Jeff then kicked the ball 65 total yards to Kevin Kasper who returned it 39 total yards in a surprising return to the Arizona 39-yard line with excellent field position. On the first play running back Marcel Shipp ran to the left for 40 total yards before Derek Smith pushed him out of bounds and then Kasper caught a pass for one total yard from Plummer.

On second down Plummer took an incredible sack from Bryant Young and Jeff Ulbrich for minus seven total yards and then from the shotgun he hit Shipp for five more yards. Faced with a fourth and long the Cardinals attempted a field goal of 40 total yards but it sailed wide right.

The 49er defense up until now had impressed me with not only the sacks but the secondary coverage as well, so far everything was smooth sailing except for our special teams coverage units.

San Francisco took over at their 30-yard line and Jeff Garcia on the first play failed to connect with Tai Streets and then a penalty fell on Arizona for defensive pass interference creating a new first down for us. On this first down Kevan Barlow ran up the middle for four total yards and then Jeff threw an incomplete pass to Tai Streets again.

On third-and-six out of the shotgun Jeff finally hit Tai Streets for seven total yards and Barlow ran to the right for six more yards. With a new first down Hearst hit the left side for two total yards and Jeff threw an incomplete pass to Cedric Wilson.

With a fourth-and-two the 49ers went for it on the Arizona 36-yard line connecting with Tai Streets for a big 15-yard gain and then failed to connect with J.J. Stokes on the next play.

On second down Hearst ran to the left for one total yard and then from the shotgun Jeff was suddenly sacked for minus four total yards forcing the 49ers to attempt a field goal. Jeff Chandler lined up for the 42-yard attempt and kicked the ball and the entire 49er world watched it go wide right.

Arizona took over the ball at their own 32-yard line where Jake Plummer took over and connected with Steve Bush for eight total yards.

And then on the next play in a pass intended for Josh McAddley was intercepted by Tony Parrish who returned it 28 total yards to the 49er 47-yard line. This was a spectacular play from an exceptional athlete that again was playing under physical adversity with a damaged elbow and torn ligaments.

San Francisco took control at their 47-yard line with Hearst running for 10 total yards on the right side and Jeff hitting Cedric Wilson for 22 total yards in a stunning reception that took my breath away. With a first down Hearst ran to the right but was stuffed for minus three total yards and then Jeff failed to connect with Beasley and Johnson out of the shotgun.

The 49ers were forced to seek a field goal attempt from Jeff Chandler from 42 total yards, which he tried and again failed sailing wide left. All the emotions that I felt like so many others was rage and disdain for Chandler as he missed a total of two consecutive trips to the uprights.

The mood on the San Francisco sidelines was one of shock and disbelief that he actually missed on another attempt. Arizona took over the ball on their 32-yard line.

On the first play Marcel Shipp hit the left side for a total of two yards and then again to the right for seven total yards. With a third-and-one Arizona looked to convert and handed it to Shipp who hit the middle for one total yard and a first down, Plummer tried to connect with Joel Makovicka but failed. With a second down Plummer threw to McAddley but it fell incomplete and out of the shotgun he again threw an incompletion to tight end Freddie Jones.

However a defensive pass interference penalty fell on San Francisco and gave the Cardinals new life with a first down, Marcel Shipp went back to work with a run to the left end but was stuffed for minus one total yard. On second down Plummer hit McAddley for three total yards and from the shotgun hit Kasper for a big gain of 15 total yards and a new first down on the 49er 31-yard line.

Shipp went back to work with a run at the left end for two total yards and Plummer hit Bush for five more yards. Out of the shotgun on third down Jake Plummer hit Kasper for four total yards and then a penalty fell on Ahmed Plummer for illegal use of hands allowing Arizona a fresh set of downs at the 49er 19-yard line.

This lengthy drive right into the second quarter chewed clock time as the drive was kept alive due to San Francisco penalties and the defense was frustrated with mistakes in trying to curb the onslaught. Shipp hit the right tackle for one total yard and Plummer failed to connect with Kasper on the next play.

Facing a third-and-nine Plummer went to the shotgun from the 49er 18-yard line and seeing no one open took off to the left end for a sprint of 14 total yards before getting pushing out of bounds.

Poised at the 49er four-yard line Shipp was stuffed at left guard for no gain and on the next play Plummer found Kasper in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown reception. Bill Gramatica’s extra point was good and after 15-plays and 68 total yards with the assistance of two 49er penalties the Cardinals tied the score at 7-7.

Gramatica then kicked the ball 57 total yards to Cedric Wilson who made a nice return of 21 total yards to the San Francisco 34-yard line. Jeff Garcia started the drive with a pass to Tai Streets for six total yards and an incompletion to Eric Johnson. On third down Jeff found savvy wide receiver Cedric Wilson for nine total yards and a first down and Kevan Barlow hit the right guard for nine more yards.

The drive continued under Barlow with another shot at the right guard but for no gain and Fred Beasley the third down eliminator made the first down with a run at the right guard for four total yards. Jeff then tried to connect with Tai Streets but failed and then called a timeout on the Arizona 38-yard line.

Barlow resumed the drive with a run at the right end but was stuffed for minus one total yard and a penalty fell on 49er Scott Gragg for offensive holding sending us back 10 more yards.

Looking at 20 total yards to get a first down Jeff connected with J.J. Stokes for 10 total yards and Cedric Wilson for a big gain of 14 total yards. With a new first down Barlow ran at the right guard for two total yards and Jeff hit Justin Swift for seven more yards.

The two-minute warning sounded as San Francisco stood on Arizona’s 15-yard line. On third-and-one Barlow hit the right guard for five total yards and Jeff hit Swift for two more yards. Barlow then hit the left guard for two total yards and a San Francisco timeout was called with 53 seconds remaining.

Jeff and the 49er offense stood at the Arizona six-yard line and on third down failed to connect with Eric Johnson, with a fourth down the 49ers were inclined to go for the field goal.

The key to any game is to score touchdowns versus field goals, as indicated here this drive should have yielded a touchdown and so should’ve the drives in the first quarter when two failed field goals were attempted.

The struggles of the 49er offense seemed to be growing almost as if there was no agenda for seeking improvement. Jeff Chandler attempted the 24-yard field goal and made it after 16-plays and 60 total yards all of the hard work only yielded three points.

The San Francisco 49ers took a 10-7 lead as Jeff Chandler kicked the ball 60 total yards to K. Kasper who returned it 21 total yards to the Arizona 35-yard line. Out of the shotgun with just 39 seconds left in the half Marcel Shipp ran to the left tackle for a total of four yards and then Jake Plummer incurred a sack for minus six total yards by Andre Carter.

With just six seconds left to play Plummer hit Shipp for six total yards before the half expired and they both left for their locker rooms. The first half represented some interesting statistics as San Francisco won time of possession with 17:21 to Arizona’s 12:39.

Third down efficiency was also in our favor with 64% success compared to Arizona with 50%. The difference that really stood out was total net yards in which San Francisco had 193 to Arizona’s 94 total yards.

Jeff Garcia put up some very good numbers in comparison to Jake Plummer and the 49er defense was very successful in registering three sacks and turning an interception. The one main area Arizona did have success was with their running game that averaged 5.9-yards a carry under Marcel Shipp.

With the start of the third quarter San Francisco elected to receive and Bill Gramatica kicked the ball 54 total yards to Cedric Wilson who returned it for a whopping 37 total yards before being forced out of bounds at the Arizona 47-yard line. Here the 49ers had great field position and Jeff hit Tai Streets for a big gain of 33 total yards and then Garrison Hearst ran at the right end for six more yards.

On second down from the Arizona eight-yard line Hearst ran at the right tackle and plowed through for a touchdown, after three plays and 47 total yards and Chandler’s extra point the 49ers went up 17-7 in the third quarter.

On Jeff Chandler’s kick to Steve Bush for 46 total yards the ball was returned 11 total yards but was fumbled and recovered by 49er Ronnie Heard at the Arizona 35-yard line. But the play was challenged by Arizona and reversed making Chandler kick again for 46 total yards to Bush who returned it 11 total yards to the Arizona 35-yard line.

Jake Plummer started with a pass to McAddley for nine total yards and Shipp was stuffed for no gain at left tackle. On third and short Shipp was again stuffed for no gain forcing Scott Player to punt 55 total yards where it was successfully downed by Cardinals special teams at the 49er one-yard line.

Stuck deep in their own territory Fred Beasley ran at the left guard for one total yard and Jeff failed to connect with Tai Streets. On third down Jeff was forced to throw the ball away and punt out of the end zone for 39 total yards where it was downed at the San Francisco 45-yard line. Plummer had golden field position to make something happen and started out by firing two incomplete passes to McAddley.

With a third down Plummer went to the shotgun and found Shipp for a big 15 total yard gain and a first down and a penalty was called on Mike Rumph for a facemask. With a new first down Shipp ran at the left tackle for four total yards and Plummer failed to find Kasper on the next play.

On third-and-six Plummer hit Kasper for eight total yards and then Shipp ran up the middle and smacked for minus six yards after a 15 total yard gain and a fumble. The fumble was created by excellent 49er coverage and Julian Peterson fell on it and the 49ers resumed control at the 49er 20-yard line.

San Francisco began their next opportune drive with Garcia hitting Stokes for five total yards and Hearst running at the left guard for four more yards. With a third-and-one Hearst ran at the right guard for a gain of five total yards and a new first down.

Jeff then connected with Tai Streets for 17 total yards and Hearst ran to the right tackle for two more yards. The drive now in Arizona territory seemed to be progressing well and eating up the clock.

On second down Jeff ran up the middle for seven total yards and Fred Beasley did the same for four more yards. With a new first down Jeff failed to connect with Stokes and Jeff then hit Johnson for seven more yards. On third-and-three Jeff hit Tai Streets at the hash marks for a first down and Hearst ran at the right guard for three more yards.

Jeff Garcia then failed to connect with Johnson and then out of the shotgun hit Johnson for six more yards. Achieving a fourth-and-one on the Arizona 17-yard line the 49ers opted to go for it rather than test the leg of Jeff Chandler.

On the fourth down drive Beasley took the ball but it was fumbled and recovered by Arizona at the Arizona 17-yard line.

This was a very frustrating ending result as we had driven all the way down deep in Arizona territory only to give it up to a turnover. What was even more compelling is that we lacked confidence in Chandler’s leg in accomplishing a field goal thereby going for it on fourth down.

Arizona now took command on their 17-yard line with Marcel Shipp running to the left for three total yards and Plummer hitting Shipp again for five more yards. On third and short Kasper ran end around for nine total yards and then Plummer failed to connect with him on the next down.

With a second down Plummer was suddenly sacked by rookie defensive tackle Josh Shaw, with a third down Plummer went to the shotgun and failed to connect with Shipp after losing five total yards.

Arizona was forced to punt and did so for 42 total yards where it was downed at the 49er 29-yard line. Thanks to a stellar defense by San Francisco the Cardinals were unable to mount a score off from the fumble from Beasley. Jeff Garcia took over and hit J.J. Stokes for 12 total yards and Barlow ran to the right for four more yards.

On second down Barlow attempted to get yardage from the middle but was stuffed for no gain and then Jeff failed to connect with Stokes causing the 49ers to punt 47 total yards where J. Rhinehart returned it 18 total yards to the Arizona 26-yard line. Jake Plummer hit N. Poole for six total yards and Shipp broke through on the right side for 12 more yards.

With a new first down Shipp ran to the right again but was stopped cold by Julian Peterson and Plummer managed to hit Poole for four more yards. With a third-and-six Plummer went to the shotgun but he was suddenly sacked by defensive end Chike Okeafor for a loss of seven total yards causing Plummer to fumble the ball but it was recovered.

Scott Player was forced to punt 42 total yards to Wilson who returned it six total yards to the San Francisco 21-yard line. With just over eight minutes left in regulation Jeff failed to connect with Tai Streets and managed to hit him on the next play for just one total yard.

On third-and-nine Jeff Garcia dropped back to pass to Tai Streets but the ball was intercepted by cornerback Renaldo Hill and returned one total yard to the San Francisco 33-yard line. This provided Arizona with another golden opportunity to capitalize upon the score and advance in the fourth quarter.

On the first play of the drive Plummer hit Steve Bush for three total yards and Shipp ran to the left for nine more yards. With a new first down on the 49er 21-yard line Shipp ran up the middle for a total of one yard and Plummer hit Bush for seven more yards.

Now on the 49er 13-yard line Shipp hit the left side for two total yards and the right for five more yards. With a second down from the San Francisco six-yard line Plummer hit Kasper for a touchdown in the end zone.

So after seven plays and 33 total yards and the interception Arizona with the extra point good closed the lead to 17-14 49ers. Gramatica then kicked the ball 62 total yards to Wilson who returned it 21 total yards to the 49er 29-yard line. Here is where the critical drive would lie because of the time and the score. San Francisco had just over four minutes remaining in the game and assumed control.

On first down Barlow ran to the right but was stuffed for no gain and Arizona used a timeout. On second down Jeff hit J.J. Stokes for a big gain of 21 total yards and Arizona called another timeout.

On first down Barlow hit the right tackle for five more yards and Arizona used up their last timeout. Barlow then carried the ball on two consecutive plays for a combined 13 total yards.

The two-minute warning sounded and it signaled the end of Arizona as Jeff Garcia used the last two minutes by dropping to one knee and running the clock out. The game was ours after a near catastrophe in the making with Arizona resurgence in the last quarter.

Great credit goes to the defense of San Francisco for all their hard contributions to this game for without them we certainly would’ve had a different outcome to this contest. The offense again struggled in the red zone and had costly turnovers that put the team in jeopardy on more than just one occasion.

We had a third down efficiency of 55% and 358 total net yards with 106 in rushing and 252 in passing, with these types of numbers you’d expect the scoreboard to reflect more than what we had.

Jeff Chandler continued to raise questions as to his competency for the playoffs and the receivers all had great opportunities to refine their skills with Terrell Owens off the field due to nagging injuries.

The San Francisco offense under Jeff Garcia must adapt and find a way to become more productive in the red zone; mediocre scoring will not suffice in the NFL during playoffs.

This team has struggled to reach a point scale of 30 or more points and have allowed teams to comeback after obscurity earlier in games that were thought to be all wrapped up.

We show incredible will to survive and a stoutness to be reckoned with when our backs are against the wall. But we have been down this road too many times this season and we need to be the dominating and smothering offense of old once again in order to advance into these playoffs.

We cannot accept the offense the way that it is, I hope and pray that adjustments are made and more calculated risks are taken to offset this gender that we have established.

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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