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Fourth quarter blues in St. Louis

Jan 1, 2003 at 12:00 AM

The San Francisco 49ers went into the last Monday Night Game of the season with a notion of winning and sweeping the hated St. Louis Rams of both today and yesterday. What they came out with was totally different then anticipated though as the 49ers due to poor execution and blatant mistakes opened the door for the Rams to capitalize in an explosion frenzy in the fourth quarter.

Some can compare this explosion to one like Hiroshima that ended the second World War for the United States, it was that dramatic as the Rams of old in the likeliness of old Kurt Warner drove down the field at will scoring and making San Francisco miscues incredible opportunities.

Even though this loss means nothing post-season wise it still radiates a negative vapor that eludes the players as they leave the plane and prepare for the wild card weekend against the New York Giants.

Steve Mariucci better make sure that his doctrine of having very short memory of this game lives on in every one of his players, for it was a convincing lead squandered in the end by our own accord.

Coming off a loss and facing post-season is not the way we envisioned ourselves at this point, everyone from ownership to players to fans wanted this merry-go-round to go full throttle with a victory in St. Louis.

Resting the starting lineup and other key players was priority number one and should’ve been, but we had the game well under control as indicated in the first half and fell completely on our buttocks as the fourth quarter opened up.

It was like all of a sudden someone had opened the gates to Hades and everything that could go wrong actually did for us. 28 unanswered points was the result of that gate being opened and everyone on the sidelines from offense to defense stood in shock as their lead was dwindled to obscurity St. Louis style.

The parting shot by St. Louis was a sign that they still are very real in our division and that they were just injuries away themselves from being a competitor for the playoffs.

Cornerback Dre Bly was the turning point in this game for St. Louis as he managed to strip the ball completely from Garrison Hearst’s grasp and return it for a touchdown from 20 total yards out.

Hearst was appalled at what had just happened and equally so when he fumbled the ball with only 2:51 left to play at almost midfield for the Rams to score once again.

The incredible sense of confusion and frustration was paramount after watching Hearst turn not one error but two. This was so unlike our running back superstar as he has been the model of consistency for so long those mistakes especially consecutively were unheard of from a player like Garrison Hearst.

But we received a doctrine in what football really is on this evening and that was that this game is played by human beings and the velocity of the sport produces mistakes.

Back-up Ram quarterback Jamie Martin unimpressive so many times in previous starts became a superstar as the Rams rose to the occasion in defeating us 31-20 this past Monday Night. He hit tight end Brandon Manumaleuna for a six-yard touchdown on one drive and Isaac Bruce on a 26-yard touchdown on another.

This cut the San Francisco lead down to just three points and then mistakes began to flare up causing the Rams to advance and dominate every aspect of the remaining game.

It is amazing at how swiftly momentum can change in a game. It was in the first half that San Francisco employed by back-up players and third stringers for much of the game dominated every aspect of the game and then all of a sudden like a tidal wave are washed out to sea in the next half.

San Francisco has established a trend in the season for allowing teams to make incredible comebacks in the second half to steal what is theirs. It sends shivers down my spine in retrospect as I try to evaluate what could happen in the post-season.

But like all things we must rise above this loss and play for another day. We must take this loss like water off a ducks back and move on despite the inefficiency displayed to all on Monday Night.

We crumbled some will say because St. Louis still owns us and some will say because we had no intention of winning because we played our second and third stringers. We wanted this win, and if you looked at the screen following the fumbles and looked at the faces of our players that told a different story.

Looking back a few weeks ago I cannot help but comment on the Len Eshmont Award given to Safety Tony Parrish as voted by his teammates. The award is given to the most inspirational and courageous player, and believe it or not while he was in Chicago he won a similar award in the Brian Piccolo Award when he was a rookie there.

“It’s an honor to be seen as someone with those characteristics,” said Parrish, who has played the past two games with strained ligaments in his right elbow. He had a testicle removed in May after doctors discovered a non-cancerous growth on it, and just one-week prior he earned the team’s Ed Block Courage Award.

And the Pro Bowl is an opportunity of a lifetime for players and I’m so happy that third-year linebacker Julian Peterson will be making his first appearance there this year. Peterson struggled in the beginning after he was drafted No. 16 overall in the 2000 NFL Draft. He has made the transition from college to Pro and battled a number of injuries in the process.

“In the beginning, I think probably more people might have thought of me as a bust,” Peterson said. “But I just went to work and worked hard in the off-season and got more in tune with what’s going on in the playbook.”

Others that were recognized were wide receiver Terrell Owens at that time of his selection he lead the National Football Conference with 100 receptions for 1,300 total yards and 13 touchdowns, this is his third consecutive appearance as a Pro Bowler.

Terrell Owens in my view epitomizes what is to be a playmaker; he has brought excellence to our passing game and assisted our rise to becoming division champions.

Jeremy Newberry was chosen again for the second straight year as he has displayed a toughness that is equal to none. Playing with broken fingers and turf toe all season long he has sent a message to all the league of what a center should be the very anchor of the offensive line. I am so proud that he is representing us at this year’s Pro Bowl.

Guard Ron Stone was also nominated, as it will be his third consecutive appearance there but his first as a 49er. Stone represents one pf the premier guards in the NFL and is always giving a 100% effort in both the running game and the passing game; he anchors the right side with Gragg and plays articulate football most of the time.

Quarterback Jeff Garcia goes without saying, as he will make his third straight appearance at the Pro Bowl for his marvelous abilities and accomplishments again this season. He will join Green Bay’s Brett Favre and Atlanta’s Michael Vick on the team this season.

Although there is some drop off from last season with Jeff he still is an incredibly instinctive player that knows how to manage a game right down to the wire. He is very agile and most inspiring when he is on his game.

Defensive tackle Bryant Young was also chosen not because of his statistics but because of his consistency and all out style of play on every snap of the ball. He is a model of professionalism and endurance in the league by far and has helped create many opportunities for other players to be recognized.

Even though it hasn’t been a great sack year for Young he has made sacks happen with his incredible pressure up the middle forcing the quarterback out of the pocket. Both Young and Stubblefield have made a significant impact since being reunited with one another from 1997.

Last but not least Fullback Fred Beasley was named as a first alternate meaning if Tampa Bay’s Mike Alstott were unable to play he would get the nod to make the trip. Clearly in my opinion and a little biased I believe Fred is the victim of a fraud as Alstott is not a true fullback but a halfback in every since of the word.

No one can block better and create running lanes better than Fred Beasley. I am clearly annoyed at the idea that Fred must play second fiddle when he is so deserving of much more.

“That means I’m second best,” Beasley said. “And I don’t see myself as the second best. If somebody gets hurt, I’d get to go. I’d rather not go.”

And who can possibly blame him? I wouldn’t and no one should, as Beasley is the ideal fullback for the West Coast Offense. Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow would be the first players to tell you that most of their running success is due to this one man, and you have to take your hat off to that because it is true. In front of any great running back there is an equal in a fullback.

Others that were overlooked like so many that are include Derrick Deese at left tackle and cornerback Ahmed Plummer. Also I am very fond of right tackle Scott Gragg and believe he should’ve warranted equal consideration.

There are always so many players that are overlooked with the way the voting is for the Pro Bowl, I wish that the rules and regulations for this process were changed to make it more accurate and binding for players and fans alike.

Much has been said of San Francisco’s offense this season from being too conservative to being very predictable. Labels from all walks of life have been applied to our beloved team but the sense of just winning games by the hair on our heads has come full circle and continue to fester away at both players and fans alike.

Just one week prior to the Monday Night Game we played the Arizona Cardinals in a hairy 17-14 victory. The fact that we again allowed a team to comeback and almost snatch victory from us was all too real.

“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. “It’s been said all year that we do just enough to win,” Garcia continued.

“We’re doing enough to create opportunities, but it hasn’t all come together. I don’t know when it’s going to come. The emphasis is there.”

Just as there were blunders in the game against the Cardinals like a 98-yard touchdown pass dropped by Tai Streets and a fourth-and-one failure by fullback Fred Beasley inside the Cardinals 20-yard line there were some in the St. Louis game as well.

Jeff Chandler remember missed tow possible field goals against Arizona and in St. Louis we had turnovers abundant in two stripped balls from Hearst, two drops by Rattay and a drop by Tai Streets. So opportunities are there to score further but we manage to shoot ourselves in the foot time and time again

The message we are sending the rest of the league is not intimidation by any means, in fact teams seem to be taking us too lightly come playoffs because of our inability to score often inside the red zone and to put away a team for good.

Therefore there is real skepticism around the league that the 49ers will bow out of the playoffs early because of this annoying trend we cannot seem to get a handle on.

Game #17 (Loss) St. Louis Rams over the San Francisco 49ers 31-20

“We’ve talked about having short-term memory all season,” said Steve Mariucci. “This has to be shaken off quickly. Nobody enjoys losing and there will be some disappointed guys in the locker room. But we’ve got to get our minds right quickly. We can’t dwell on this game and we won’t.”

“For me personally, I have a huge challenge ahead of me Sunday so getting over tonight will be easy,” said Scott Gragg. “Losing to the Rams is hard, but it’s over and we’ve got to move on.”

“I thought Tim played extremely well in the first half,” said Mariucci. “The second half was a little different. We had some guys on the offensive line playing out of position and Cedric Wilson was limping around out there. His supporting cast made it a little more difficult to move the ball.”

San Francisco won the toss and elected to receive, Jeff Wilkins for St. Louis kicks the ball 67 total yards to Cedric Wilson who returns it 15 total yards to the 49er 18-yard line where Jeff Garcia begins the next series.

Garrison Hearst begins the drive with three consecutive runs for 11 total yards and a first down. Jeff then finds Hearst for six total yards and Hearst runs on the next two consecutive plays for five more yards.

With a new first down the 49ers go to Fred Beasley with a run of three total yards and a pass for 10 more yards and another first down. Kevan Barlow enters the drive with two consecutive runs for two total yards and Garcia running for nine more yards with yet another first down.

With this incredible drive still alive Garrison Hearst ran the next three consecutive plays for 16 total yards and Jeff ran for seven more yards. Barlow then came in and ran for eight total yards and a penalty fell on St. Louis for a facemask violation. With yet another first down Barlow ran the next two consecutive plays for a gain of just one total yard and missed a pass from Jeff Garcia.

With a fourth-and-one on the Ram’s one-yard line they attempted a 19-yard field goal in which they did after 20 total plays and 81 total yards and one penalty Jeff Chandler put them ahead 3-0 49ers.

San Francisco on this opening drive had the longest drive of the season marching down the field for 81 total yards in 20-plays and holding on to the ball for an incredible 12:07 seconds. Unfortunately they only came away with a field goal after all of that hard work and Jeff was pulled from the game to rest the body.

This was a piece of work by the 49ers, Jeff looked like the Jeff of yesterday as he kept the drive going and the offensive line showed continuity in their efforts to win superiority.

Jeff Chandler then kicked the ball 50 total yards to Brandon Manumaleuna who returned it 11 total yards to the St. Louis 31-yard line. Here fourth string quarterback Scott Covington began his first drive with Marshall Faulk getting the first two carries for 11 total yards and Covington hitting Isaac Bruce for three total yards.

On the next play Scott couldn’t find Tory Holt and a penalty came down on St. Louis for a false start and then Dana Stubblefield sacked Covington for seven total yards for a loss. Mitch Berger then punted 40 total yards to Wilson who was pushed out of bounds after gaining 10 more yards.

Already it was the start of the second quarter and the San Francisco 49ers were showing no signs of relinquishing this game even though it meant nothing as far as post-season ramifications were concerned.

Back-up quarterback Tim Rattay came out to start the second quarter hitting Justin Swift for six total yards and Barlow broke a big run of 35 more yards and a first down. With a first down after Barlow’s incredible run Rattay hit Beasley for nine total yards and Hearst hit the middle for 10 more yards and a false start.

However a penalty came down on San Francisco’s Matt Willig for a false start, soon after Rattay hit Tai Streets for four total yards and Barlow hit the middle for two more yards. With a third-and-two from the St. Louis two-yard line Rattay dropped back and found Tai Streets open for a two-yard touchdown.

Jeff Chandler’s extra point was good after seven total plays and 63 total yards the San Francisco 49ers extended their lead 10-0 49ers. Jeff Chandler then kicked the ball 64 total yards to T. Edwards who returned it 15 total yards to the St. Louis 21-yard line. Marshall Faulk began the drive with a run to the right for no gain and 49er linebacker Derek Smith for a loss of nine total yard suddenly sacked Covington.

Covington then failed to find Faulk and then a controversial penalty fell on Dana Stubblefield for unnecessary roughness and an automatic first down. On the first play Covington couldn’t find Tory Holt and then St. Louis called a timeout.

With a second down T. Edwards was stuffed for minus eight total yards and then Covington found Bruce for four more yards. Faced with fourth and long Berger punted 38 total yards to Wilson who was squashed for minus four total yards.

San Francisco resumed control at their 36-yard line with Hearst up the middle for two total yards and Rattay failing to connect with Tai Streets on two consecutive plays. Due to this a fourth down called for Billy LaFleur to punt 29 total yards where it went out of bounds at the St. Louis 33-yard line.

On their first play of their drive St. Louis was called for a false start and they now had a new quarterback in Jamie Martin at the helm. Marshall Faulk caught and ran in the next two consecutive plays for eight total yards and out of the shotgun Martin found Edwards for three more yards but short of a first down.

Berger punted 52 total yards to Wilson who returned it nine total yards but a penalty fell on St. Louis for offensive holding forcing them to punt again for 41 total yards to a fair catch by Wilson at the 49er 30-yard line.

Here Tim Rattay finally found J.J. Stokes for 10 total yards and Barlow broke another big run of 33 more yards and a first down. Now at the St. Louis 27-yard line Rattay dropped back and found Tai Streets for an incredible 27-yard touchdown pass. A penalty came down on St. Louis for defensive pass interference but it was declined.

Jeff Chandler’s extra point was good so after three plays and 70 total yards San Francisco extended their lead to 17-0. Jeff Chandler then kicked the ball 66 total yards to Edwards who returned it 17 total yards to the Ram 21-yard line.

Jamie Martin went to work with Marshall Faulk getting the first two plays for five total yards and then the two-minute warning sounded. On third down following Martin failed to connect with Edwards and Berger had to punt 51 total yards to Wilson who returned it 10 total yards to the 49er 33-yard line.

Garrison Hearst led the charge with a run up the middle for four total yards and then a timeout called by St. Louis. Tim Rattay then tried to connect with Tai Streets but failed but on third down found him for nine total yards but he fumbled. Streets managed to recover the fumble but it resulted in no forward gain making the 49ers punt.

Billy LaFleur punted 38 total yards to Dre Bly who ran out of bounds at the St. Louis 22-yard line with just over a minute to play in the first half. Martin failed to find Ricky Proehl but connected with Tory Holt for 11 total yards and a first down. Martin in the shotgun found Holt again for 12 total yards and then spiked the ball to kill the clock.

Martin then dropped back to pass to Issac Bruce but his pass was intercepted by Ronnie Heard and returned 13 total yards to the San Francisco 32-yard line.

This was a nice interception and a nice indication that Ronnie Heard is back at almost full strength, his absence has been missed and his presence here today was really felt. With just 10 seconds left to play in the half Rattay went up the middle and the half was over.

In the first half it was clear domination by San Francisco, everything seemed to go our way from the opening drive. Tim Rattay had performed very well in driving the team down the field for two touchdown passes and the 49er defense was stout against the run and pass. The 49ers had a third down efficiency of 63% and had 224 total yards to St. Louis’s 33 total yards.

Kevan Barlow had really made some waves having already run for 81 total yards on eight carries and Tai Streets had made his name well known with two touchdown receptions as well.

Tim Rattay had a quarterback rating of 125.4% after replacing Jeff Garcia in the second quarter; you can’t get much better than that. There was no indication after leaving the field 17-0 why we couldn’t add to that and maintain our victory, but we were in for a big surprise.

With the start of the third quarter St. Louis elected to receive and Jeff Chandler kicked 65 total yards to Trung Candidate who returned it 12 total yards then tried to lateral the ball to Edwards who was hit for minus two total yards.

On the St. Louis 15-yard line Marshall Faulk was stuffed for no gain on the right side and Martin hit James Hodgins for three total yards. On third down Martin failed to find Conwell forcing Berger to punt 64 total yards to Wilson who returned it four total yards to the San Francisco 22-yard line.

Garrison Hearst began the drive with the first two consecutive plays for 13 total yards and Rattay hit Tai Streets for 17 more yards. On first down Hearst was called for a false start and then hit the middle for no gain at all. On second down Tim Rattay threw to Hearst on two consecutive plays for nine total yards but not enough to make a first down.

LaFleur punted 26 total yards to Dre Bly with a fair catch at the St. Louis 18-yard line. Here Jamie Martin attempted to hit Holt twice and received eight total yards and then failed to connect with Bruce resulting in Berger punting. Berger’s punt went 56 total yards to Cedric Wilson who returned it 13 total yards to the 49er 31-yard line.

Tim Rattay started the drive by hitting Wilson for 13 total yards and then failed to find Barlow. On second down Hearst hit the right side for two total yards and then Rattay was suddenly sacked for a loss of eight total yards and fumbled the ball but Matt Willig recovered the ball. LaFleur then punted 32 total yards to Dre Bly who returned it 16 total yards to the St. Louis 47-yard line with great field position.

Jamie Martin began his next drive with passes to Faulk and Conwell that resulted in nine total yards and the Faulk was stuffed for minus two total yards on the left end. On fourth-and-three Martin hit Proehl for 15 total yards and on the next play on the snap the ball is fumbled but is recovered by St. Louis and advanced eight more yards.

On second down Martin misses Holt and a penalty comes down on St. Louis for offensive holding, Martin then finds Holt for nine more yards. A penalty then comes down on San Francisco for roughing the passer giving St. Louis an automatic first down.

Martin then fails to find Bruce and then Andre Carter for minus eight total yards sacks him. Martin again tries to find Holt but fails forcing the Rams to try a field goal. Jeff Wilkins hit a field goal from 39 total yards out and out the Rams on the board 17-3 49ers. So after 10-plays and 32 total yards the Rams had finally found some life beating within them.

Jeff Wilkins then kicked the ball in a sudden on-side kick that went 10 total yards and was batted back for St. Louis to recover on their own 38-yard line. Suddenly and dramatically Mike Martz had struck with Martin’s first pass to Isaac Bruce for 20 total yards and then in a pass intended for Edwards was intercepted by none other than Tony Parrish who returned it 60 total yards to the St. Louis eight-yard line. Offsetting penalties were called and Hearst hit the middle for no gain and a penalty fell on Eric Heitmann for a false start.

On second down Tim Rattay was sacked for minus six total yards and sacked again on third down for minus four total yards fumbling the ball and recovering it. What would have been a sure drive for a touchdown score via the Parrish interception turned into a quagmire, forcing Chandler to kick a field goal of 44 total yards.

So after four plays and minus 18 total yards the 49ers extended their lead 20-3 over the Rams. Jeff Chandler then kicked the ball 64 total yards to Candidate who returned it 22 total yards to their 28-yard line.

Jamie Martin came out firing missing Conwell but hitting Proehl for 13 total yards and a first down. Martin then hit Tory Holt for 33 total yards and Marshall Faulk for 20 more yards.

On the San Francisco six-yard line he missed Bruce but found tight end Manumaleuna in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown. Wilkins extra point was good so after six plays and 72 total yards the Rams were on the board 20-10 in the fourth quarter.

It was a drive that totally mystified our secondary as huge gains via the passing game moved the Ram offense down the field. Wilkins kicked the ball 68 total yards to Wilson who returned it 17 total yards to the 49er 19-yard line.

Tim Rattay failed to find Swift and Hearst hit the middle for five total yards. Rattay then on third down tried to connect with Eric Johnson but failed, thus sending LaFleur to punt 32 total yards to Bly who returned it three total yards to the St. Louis 47-yard line giving them great field position.

Jamie Martin picked up right where he left off hitting Conwell for nine total yards and then Hodgins was stuffed at the line of scrimmage. On third down Faulk made the first with a run to the left for three total yards and then Holt caught a pass for four more yards.

With a second down Martin failed to find Holt again but found Faulk for 11 total yards. On the San Francisco 26-yard line Martin dropped back and found Isaac Bruce for a 26-yard touchdown pass.

With Wilkins extra point after seven plays and 53 total yards the Rams pulled up more making it 20-17 49ers. Wilkins then kicked the ball 65 total yards to Paul Smith who returned it 14 total yards to the San Francisco 19-yard line.

Tim Rattay on the first play of the drive hit Garrison Hearst who advanced one total yard before all of a sudden Rams cornerback Dre Bly began stripping the ball from Hearst’s grasp.

Causing him to fumble and Bly returning it 20 total yards for a huge touchdown that was the turning point in the game. Jeff Wilkins extra point was good so after zero plays and 20 total yards and the fumble by Hearst, the Rams took the lead 24-20 with just over six minutes left to play.

It was a shock to see Hearst lose the ball on such a typical play, clearly the Ram defense demonstrated cunning and savvy for manufacturing a turnover when they needed to. Wilkins then kicked the ball 70 total yards to Paul Smith who returned it 13 total yards to the 49er 13-yard line.

Barlow began the drive with a run to the left for one total yard and then a penalty on Eric Heitmann for a false start. On second down Hearst hit the middle for no gain and Rattay found Wilson for 18 total yards and a first down. Rattay then found J.J. Stokes for 19 total yards and Barlow then ran to the left for five total yards.

On the next series Rattay failed to find Stokes again and then Hearst ran up the middle for minus one total yard with Hearst getting hit and fumbling the ball and St. Louis jumping on it at their 49-yard line.

The Rams had another golden opportunity and Faulk hit the left side for 10 total yards while San Francisco called a timeout. Faulk started again gaining five more yards and the 49ers called another timeout. On second down Faulk ran to the right but was stuffed and the 49ers used their final timeout.

Martin then hit Faulk for four more yards and the two-minute warning sounded. Martin dropped back from the 49er 32-yard line and hit Conwell for a touchdown of 32 total yards.

Jeff Wilkins extra point was good so after five plays and 51 total yards the Rams sealed the deal on this night by going up 31-20. Wilkins then kicked the ball 69 total yards to Smith who returned it 15 total yards to the San Francisco 16-yard line.

San Francisco suddenly accepted their fate with 1:48 left to play with running Paul Smith up the middle and to the right for 21 total yards before regulation ran out and the Rams won. I was upset with this conservative approach, I felt that taking some shots downfield would’ve been the ideal thing to do and score a touchdown possibly.

There would have even been a remote possibility for an on-side kick once you scored, but I believe Mariucci wanted to pack it up rather than risk further injuries to a game that had no real merit playoff wise anyway. The second half of this game proved to be a solemn turnaround for San Francisco, it really bothered me to see Hearst so dejected on the sidelines.

The image on his face told the real story of this game, he had 19 carries for 67 total yards but fumbled twice and Kevan Barlow had 10 carries for 87 total yards. The running game was effective when it was used right we averaged 5.4-yards per carry a very good statistic, but it was turnovers that sealed the deal for us in this game. Tai Streets had an impressive game and continued to prove that he is the only secondary receiver opposite Terrell Owens.

J.J. Stokes again was disappointing, as he was smothered and unable to break free from defensive backs. Stokes had two receptions for 29 total yards all game. Tai Streets had five receptions for 53 total yards and two touchdowns. Jeff Garcia played just one drive and Tim Rattay was 14-of-21 for 138 total yards and two touchdowns, he posted a 116.8% quarterback rating and played very well with the talent at his disposal.

The San Francisco defense was impressive with Heard and Parrish registering two interceptions and sacks being registered by Derek Smith, Andre Carter and Dana Stubblefield.

The breakdown in the fourth quarter is hard to swallow; it can be laid to blame on many aspects of the game. We were playing against the front line of their offense with back-ups in place and we did have two turnovers that dramatically assisted their cause. It is enough to make you sick when you think back at other losses that look similar to this scenario.

What is most important though is that many players were rested and made healthier staying out of this game. A win would have been ideal and nice to have but not absolutely necessary.

We must take the bigger picture down and look intently at it, we are in the playoffs everyone and it’s the start of a whole new season. We will face the New York Giants and it will be a daunting task, but I am confident in our coaches and players and believe that chemistry will begin to work again.

God be with our San Francisco 49ers as they prepare to do battle with the Giants, I want us to advance beyond the first round and beyond. I want us to be the underdog and to wipe the grin off so many faces that is the greatest thrill of them all.
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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