Rhythm is found and balance is defined

Nov 7, 2003 at 12:00 AM

No one believes that the San Francisco 49ers are over their problems. No one believes that the ownership honestly cares about where this franchise is headed and what is needed to sustain it. No one believes that Dennis Erickson is the miracle coach that can turn this team around. No one believes that our kicking questions are truly answered and No one believes that Terrell Owens will be a San Francisco 49er next year.

What are we to think and believe about this 2003 franchise? Can we get a true definition on what is happening? It is very difficult to understand with so much talent on the roster and the emphasis on increased coaching established, you’d honestly think you would see better results. But the bottom line is that the San Francisco 49ers have been racked with injuries yet again and consistency has been more of an afterthought than a reality with this team.

Coming off a spectacular victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneer Super Bowl Champions and arriving in Sun Devil Stadium to lose in overtime to a team that was (1-5) on the season is somewhat of a distinct contrast to what our season has been about. Kicking problems started with lack of consistency under Jeff Chandler who was shown the door after a St. Louis loss and renewed hopes of being stabilized rested with renegade kicker Owen Pochman.

Smashing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with 212-yards rushing on the ground was just amazing with a defense that is known to be the best in the league. Suffering at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals with only 62-yards of rushing and two missed field goals of simple nature and a kick that went out of bounds for great field position just solidifies the notion that this is a see-saw season of indecision.

With an offense under Jeff Garcia unable to find a rhythm and or balance and with an offensive line that has seen more substitutions then a high school with every teacher on strike. It is not unusual for us to be where we are at right now. Jeff Garcia has been racked with one injury after another and thus it has affected his ability to play at a high level.

Much of his injuries can be ascertained as being attributed to an offensive line that has been inconsistent in pass protection and being unable to mesh correctly because injuries have inflicted havoc on each and every player up and down the offensive line. Some of Jeff’s injuries have been a result of his own doing in breaking out of the pocket and sprinting into harms way in taking calculated risks that lead to vicious body shots by opposing defensive backs.

Some of the team’s problems also lie in coaching and play calling a whole. Many of the calls that have incurred at the beginning of the season were too conservative and misleading which resulted in the team becoming too predictable and vulnerable to the enemy as the game wore on. Opposing defenses were able to identify what the 49ers were going to apply offensively and worked aggressively to take that life out of us with great success.

Defensively we have been a lot more consistent than usual as injuries have been a non-factor for the most part in this unit, which has resulted in a high level of performance. Even with the five losses that we’ve sustained this unit has kept this team in every game almost till the end.

The end result of each loss has really been our inability as an offense to put point sup on the board, so that our defense had some margin of error to work with. The San Francisco defense did crack in the heat at Sun Devil Stadium against the Arizona Cardinals by giving up 221-yards rushing with 165-yards going to running back Marcel Shipp.

It did however shutdown their passing game to just under 100-yards passing but was unable to sustain the game due to the offenses miscues on kicking and scoring simple field goals.

Winning close games was something we had the ability to do last year. If we hadn’t we certainly would’ve never made the postseason. This season has been a distinct contrast to that losing four out of the five losses to just a few points.

Jeff Chandler and Owen Pochman have been a big part of that weakness and it took us a long time to figure out that we probably should’ve spent reasonable money on a kicker that was of high quality much like we had in Jeff Wilkins that we allowed going to our division enemy in the St. Louis Rams.

“I’ve never seen a kicker influence a game as negatively as I saw today, not in my career,” said 49ers General Manager Terry Donahue, in his teams extremely silent locker room.

“What can you say?” asked 49ers Head Coach Dennis Erickson. “We had a lot of opportunities. But the missed kicks. I mean, there were a lot of other things, but that’s what it boiled down to.”

From these statements Owen Pochman felt the wrath of the team weighing upon his shoulders, as was every 49er fan around the nation as they peered with indignation and hatred down upon him. I for one have never been so disgusted with a kicker in all my life as I watched one missed attempt after another since the Tampa Bay spectacle up until now.

“I’ve already said what I’m going to say,” Pochman replied. “I let everyone down.” And that he did as he was left absolutely alone from his locker to the plane and back to the Santa Clara headquarters where he packed his gear up for good.

If not even for all the missed field goals he could have saved his job with kicking the ball into the Cardinal end zone for a touchback or something positive. But no he kicked the ball miserably so that it went out of bounds and gave the Cardinal offense remarkable field position at their 40-yard line.

“We thought he could perform for us,” explained Donahue. “We had three kickers in last week. There are only so many places to go. There are not a lot of guys out there right now. They’re worth their weight in gold, if you get the right one.”

“We had the opportunity to get our heads above water today,” Donahue said. “Seattle lost today. We’ve got St. Louis next week. We could have been right back in there. You feel like you let another opportunity slip away.”

This was a game that could very well come back to haunt us despite our victory over the St. Louis Rams 30-10 last week. It is a game that would’ve made the possibility of reaching the .500 mark attainable. Players reacted to this loss like never before feeding off a frustration that ultimately came down to kicking field goals for points.

“It’s bull. Frankly bull. That’s all there is to say about it,” Newberry said. “There are three phases of this game, and you can’t let one phase let this team down week after week. That’s inexcusable. There is nothing else to say about it.”

It was not enough that Owen Pochman kicked his way out of a job after this game was over but at the same time quarterback Jeff Garcia sustained yet another injury to a body wrecked with pain. He sustained a high ankle sprain that would eliminate him from the next game against the St. Louis Rams back at home.

His left ankle experienced excruciating pain after hen was sacked by rookie defensive end Calvin Pace late in the second quarter. Jeff came back into the game after taking pain killing injections and Tim Rattay playing for one series while he was being attended to. Garcia came around and led the 49ers down the field in that game to tie the score 13-13.

However it would never be enough to win the game as his mobility was completely eliminated and Owen Pochman put the team in a hole almost every time he took to the field for any reason at all. One has to admire Jeff Garcia’s heart and incredible ability to want to compete and be there for the team. He leads the team by example and even though there is critics out there that feel he’s over I for one am sticking by him like so many others are.

“He goes out of the game with a high ankle sprain, comes back in, runs a no-huddle and gets us into the end zone,” Harris said. “If that’s not the definition of a warrior, I don’t know what is. Tim is a great quarterback. And he’ll win games for us. And in no way am I saying Tim didn’t get it done while he was in there. But when Jeff comes out there, you can tell you’re with one of the greatest.”

Todd Peterson is now the new San Francisco 49er kicker, one that had come in and worked out at the Santa Clara facility twice with imminent rejections of Jeff Chandler and Owen Pochman. He has been in the NFL for nine years and is best known for his tenure as a Seattle Seahawk for five years where he played for Dennis Erickson. During his time at Seattle, he connected on 81% of his kicks (126-of-154) and had a career-long effort of 54 yards.

He spent the 2002 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he did play in 10 games and connected on 12-of-21 field goal attempts. He becomes the 49ers 10th kicker since 1993. He was placed on injured reserve by the Steelers last season, and was cut due to his production and injury in February in favor of second-year pro Josh Reed.

As with most 49er fans I was happy to see Owen Pochman go. I am also skeptical on what 49er ownership is doing in going out and getting cheap talent that obviously could’ve been avoided all together in obtaining a veteran that probably would’ve won several games for us already.

Investing money into special teams is always a smart move in my opinion as it makes the team so versatile and unpredictable. It is an edge that a team like the Kansas City Chiefs has exploited in their favor and won several games with. Just having a competent and accurate kicker is enough sometimes to win the close ones for you. Ones that we have let go because of this very glaring weakness, that has gone unattended to for far too long in this franchise.

“Todd has had very successful years in the NFL,” 49ers General Manager Terry Donahue said. “Last year was not a good year, but he’s had good years. All we want him to do is come in and just perform adequately. He doesn’t have to come in and kick in the Pro Bowl. We’ve just wanted our kickers to come in and be up to NFL standards.”

Todd made his first contribution to the San Francisco 49ers by helping them defeat the St. Louis Rams 30-10 last Sunday at 3-Com Park. In a routine extra-point conversion the crowd of 67, 812 let out a very evident cheer that radiated throughout the stadium. Being just happy about converting an extra point has been a long awaited prayer that every 49er fan has made from afar. “It certainly beats the alternative,” Peterson said. “You certainly don’t want them booing.”

Todd Peterson hit his first field goal of 44-yards, before coming up a few yards short on a 53-yard attempt during the final seconds of the first half. The Rams also blocked an extra-point attempt in the third quarter, with the 49ers leading 30-3.

Peterson admitted both the hold and snap were fine and that he would have to look at the film to see what went wrong. Although he wasn’t perfect he was an upgrade over Pochman and there is hope that he’ll become better as the season wears on.

Overall Game Statistics

Back-up quarterback Tim Rattay was a shining star in this game against the St. Louis Rams. He had an exceptional day as he began this game composed and confident and played the game with the swagger of a true starting quarterback. He went 19-of-29 for 236-yards with three touchdowns and one interception and was sacked just once for a loss of 12-yards. He posted a remarkable quarterback rating of 110.7% and threw a long pass of 27-yards.

Rhythm and balance on the offensive line was clicking right from the start under Tim Rattay’s guidance. The line blocked well and pulled for rushing yardage of 165-yards and sprang Garrison Hearst for 17 carries for 80-yards and a long run of 14-yards with a 4.7-yards per carry on each attempt. Kevan Barlow had 14 carries for 76-yards with an amazing 5.4-yards per carry and a long run of 11-yards.

Tim Rattay was simply on fire in this contest and he redefined himself as the unquestioned back-up quarterback behind Jeff Garcia. Some have even called for him to be the quarterback starting for the remainder of the season with such an electrifying performance and have pushed the button for a controversy so to speak at this position.

Tim Rattay gunned passes into tight spots and lobbed pinpoint strikes into swan-diving wide receivers. He was able to change plays at the line of scrimmage, plays that inevitably wound up going for touchdowns.

He showed great patience and resiliency, waiting for opportunities to present themselves as plays got underway. What was even more amazing about Tim Rattay was his ability to spread the ball around to an array of 49er receivers, nine different ones in fact.

“He’s a student of the game,” Garcia said. “He understands the concepts.” The natural reaction for all fans and for the media after a back-up quarterback performs well with the injured starter on the sideline is that a controversy is fired up. One that tries and depicts one’s performance against another, which results in heated debate and explanations.

“It’s just something that’s going to be a natural conversation piece,” he said. “If that’s what sells papers, you do what you have to do.” “But I feel when I’m healthy, I’m going to be the guy. I feel I’ve earned that right. I’ve proven myself over time. Just like when any other starter is injured, when they come back they’ve gone back in the game.”

The passing game was formidable and phenomenal all in one with Fred Beasley catching three passes for 46-yards with a long reception of 23-yards and averaging 15.5-yards a reception. Kevan Barlow had three receptions for 31-yards with a long reception pf 18-yards averaging 10.3-yards per reception. Tai Streets had three receptions for 26-yards with a long of 18-yards and averaged 8.7-yards per reception and a touchdown.

Brandon Lloyd had two receptions for 35-yards averaging 17.5-yards per catch and a spectacular touchdown. Terrell Owens had just two receptions all day for 17-yards and one touchdown, but it was Cedrick Wilson that had the best impact of the game right from the get go in a kickoff return of 95 total yards that gave the 49ers a 7-0 lead to start the game.

In all we manufactured 236-yards in passing and 24 first downs. We also had a third down efficiency rating of 69% converting 9-of-13 attempts, which is truly amazing, holding the Rams to just 33%.

Defensively we stacked up exceptionally holding the St. Louis running game to nine total yards! Can you believe that statistic? The Rams did go on a tear on passing by racking up 378-yards but it was in the red zone where the 49er defense made a distinct difference and put on a show that made all 49er fans extremely proud to be a part of this game.

St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger was under harassment all day long in this contest as he was sacked five times and we turned a fumble into a turnover. We also converted two interceptions with Tony Parrish and Mike Rumph getting the credit.

The San Francisco 49er defense is ferocious and not letting up soon on anybody as Ahmed Plummer had seven total tackles and Mike Rumph had five tackles and one sack. Linebacker Jeff Ulbrich had five tackles and one sack, and sacks came in the form of Jamie Winborn, Bryant Young and Julian Peterson.

Penalties were a non-factor in this game as the 49ers had just two for 16-yards and the red zone efficiency of the 49ers was at 67% converting 2-of-3 attempts while in there. Time of possession was also favorable for the 49ers as we out distanced the Rams with 34:19 to 24:41.

The San Francisco defense nullified almost anything that the Rams attempted to do and contained the passing game from scoring in the end zone with a tremendous goal line stand that uplifted every 49er fan on this season.

First Quarter Highlights

St. Louis Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins kicks from his 30-yard line off to Cedrick Wilson standing on the five-yard line where Wilson weaves and bobs to complete a 95-yard touchdown return that puts the 49ers on top 7-0. A penalty flag is thrown almost negating the touchdown but it is waved off after referee discussion.

On the St. Louis Rams opening possession under Marc Bulger they start at their 26-yard line and drive all the way down to the 49er 21-yard line, where the 49er defense tightens and 49er linebacker Julian Peterson for a loss of nine-yards sacks Marc. However the Rams continue their drive and Jeff Wilkins kicks a 39-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 49ers.

The San Francisco 49er take to the field under Tim Rattay and drive from their 28-yard line down to the St. Louis five-yard line where Tim finds Terrell Owens in the end zone for a touchdown making the score 14-3 49ers.

On the next Rams possession they are stopped at their own 42-yard line in part by Marc Bulger getting sacked by 49er cornerback Mike Rumph for a loss of 12-yards. The 49ers go three and out in part because of a false start penalty on Derrick Deese.

Second Quarter Highlights

On San Francisco’s opening possession on this drive from their eight-yard line Tim Rattay drives all the way down to the St. Louis 26-yard line with some help from a penalty on St. Louis for roughing the passer. From here first time kicker Todd Peterson hits a 44-yard field goal to make the score 17-3 49ers.

On the 49ers second drive from their 10-yard line Tim Rattay goes on a passing attack that forwards them all the way down to the St. Louis 27-yard line where he throws a strike to Brandon Lloyd for a 27-yard touchdown that makes the score 24-3 49ers.

The Rams start out from their 15-yard line under Marc Bulger and drive to their 38-yatd line only for Marc to throw a pass intended for Isaac Bruce that is intercepted by 49er safety Tony Parrish and returned 14-yards.

From here the 49ers take over with 1:46 left to play in the first half and drive down to the St. Louis 35-yard line after Rattay is sacked for a loss of 12-yards. The 49ers call a timeout with but two seconds left on the clock and attempt a 53-yard field goal that falls short and at halftime the 49ers lead 24-3.

Third Quarter Highlights

On St. Louis’s opening drive from their 26-yard line Marc Bulger is sacked by 49er defensive tackle Bryant Young and forces a fumble that is recovered by 49er linebacker Derek Smith. From here Tim Rattay guides the 49ers in striking distance by hitting Tai Streets for a five-yard touchdown reception. On the extra point conversion though by newcomer Todd Peterson it is blocked and the 49ers go up 30-3.

On the rest of the quarter the Rams fail to penetrate in the red zone after a defensive holding penalty is called on 49er cornerback Ahmed Plummer. This puts the Rams on the 49er 1-yard line but the defense becomes fired up after seeing their coaches go in a tirade on the sidelines after the penalty is called and stop the Rams even on fourth down and take the ball over on their own five-yard line.

Fourth Quarter Highlights

From this drive that they take the ball over after a failed fourth down conversion, Tim Rattay drives the 49ers all the way down to the St. Louis 36-yard line where he throws a pass to Kevan Barlow that is intercepted and brought back six-yards. Now on their 43-yard line Marc Bulger guides the Rams down to the 49er 41-yard line where he throws a strike to Tory Holt for a 41-yard touchdown reception to make the score 30-10 49ers.

On the next Rams possession with 12:06 left to play Bulger is sacked by Jamie Winborn for a loss of eight-yards and they are forced to punt. On the next 49er drive from their 46-yard line Tim Rattay drives down to the Rams 13-yard line only for Garrison Hearst to fumble the ball and is recovered by the Rams.

On that next drive from their 13-yard line 49er linebacker Jeff Ulbrich for a loss of 11-yards sacks Marc Bulger. The Rams still march down to the 49er 13-yard line but Bulger throws a pass intended for Isaac Bruce that is intercepted by Mike Rumph and returned for two-yards.

San Francisco takes over the ball with 4:27 left to play in the game and manages the ball the remainder of the game with four fresh first downs and effectively runs out the clock so that the 49ers better their record to (4-5) with a 30-10 victory over the St. Louis Rams going into a bye week.

Overall Game Analysis

This was a game that all of us wish would happen time and time again. Unfortunately it has been nothing like it at all so far this season. Tim Rattay was incredible to say the least and brings savvy to the game that cements his status as the legitimate back up to Jeff Garcia. His performance in this game as extraordinary because he was so calm and so confident in his abilities and in the offensive line to protect him.

Jim Mora Jr. deserves enormous credit for this defensive performance because it was his play calling and his schemes that worked the magic we witnessed on the field that day. We limited the Rams running game to nine yards and we forced turnovers three times and sacked the quarterback five times.

This is the kind of defensive masterpiece we have been drafting for all along. The speed of our linebackers and of our defensive backs is extraordinary as well, because this is the team we have been drafting to beat.

It has always been about Mike Martz’s St. Louis Rams and finding a way to match-up with his receivers and running backs both physically and mentally. We have finally reached that plateau of talent and ability and we are doing that on a consistent basis now.

Spreading the ball and including all the offensive weapons at our disposal is yet another masterpiece we can all be proud of in Tim Rattay. We can finally say that it is not all about Terrell Owens that life for the 49ers does not start and end just with him.
,BR>  Penalties were a big player in this game as was controlling the game clock with keeping our offense out on the field. Turnovers played an important role in keeping the scoring to a minimal in our favor for as long as it was.

This was a vintage championship San Francisco 49er in my opinion because for the first time I saw rhythm and balance all in one this day. Both the offense and defense combined and played exceptionally well and they are what decided this game by working together.

We are far from out of the hole that we have put ourselves in this season. At (4-5) we have tremendous work to do in even being considered for a wild card berth.

We must find a streak that is prescribed to winning and we must do it now right after the bye week. Jeff Garcia is our starting quarterback when he’s healthy, and yes he deserves the right to that for as long as he is successful. Tim Rattay is now our future because he has shown the ability and talents that will transform into what is necessary to get the job done.

Dennis Erickson needs to be aggressive and needs to allow the quarterback audible freedom at the line of scrimmage. He needs to trust what the quarterback is seeing and to go with their recommendations more so now than ever. We must get healed up in this bye week so that we can make a final push for playoff contention, although a long shot now we need to narrow the possibilities.

Bridge the gaps and find a level of consistency that we can all be proud of. We need the San Francisco 49ers to do what they have always done best and that is to win football games. Ownership and management must provide us the tools to get the job done the right way the first time.

Experiments in labor costs and finding players that are marginal at best will not get the job done. We as fans need to feel that specialty again of being one of a kind. You can hardly even mutter those words now for all the garbage that we now know.

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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