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One foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel

Dec 5, 2003 at 12:00 AM

It wasn’t enough for the San Francisco 49ers to suffer another setback and another road loss in their defeat at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers right after their defeat here fell three games behind the St. Louis Rams in the National Football Conference Western Division. In this game Green Bay rolled out 243-yards in rushing against the league’s fourth-ranked rushing defense in the San Francisco 49ers.

In fact Green Bay averaged 5.1-yards a carry in that game in which you saw literal three lane highways opened up for running back Ahman Green to run through. The rugged and talented offensive line for Green Bay manhandled our lighter defensive line and made them totally ineffective in stuffing their run game.

Our defensive line had just made a name for itself prior to this game by giving up only 53-yards rushing in the previous two games played against the St. Louis Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“We had no sync, no rhythm whatsoever offensively,” Coach Dennis Erickson said. “They took the running game away from us, got in our face, and we didn’t execute the passing game. When that happens you get beat 20-10.”

“This was a game if we won would get us back on track,” 49ers cornerback Mike Rumph said. “Just to beat Green Bay. In history, we’ve had tough times with them, but I thought we could come in here and win. But they played harder than we did.”

And that in fact they did folks. And why is that? Why didn’t our defensive line come to grips with it and stop the run? Where were the motivation and the encouragement from our head coach? Where was the hunger to comeback from adversity and triumph like we had so many times last season under former head coach Steve Mariucci?

Our offensive line at the same time had their problems in trying to move up and down the field. It looked utterly pathetic in establishing any sense of security for quarterback Tim Rattay who up until now had looked like the quarterback of the future for the San Francisco 49ers. Injuries played a huge part in that demise as right guard Ron Stone was lost in this game early due to a hamstring injury incurred during practice prior to the game.

In came his replacement Dwayne Ledford, but he sprained his right ankle on the second series and stayed in despite the injury but it limited his effectiveness. The Green Bay Packers smelled blood after this and came at Tim Rattay with an array of blitzes that sent him pounding to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Despite the injuries though you have to wonder if the line is playing to it’s best abilities when the replacements are so thin in overall game experience and quality.

What it really came down to though in this particular road loss was the determination to win. The Green Bay Packers had it and we didn’t that is the bottom line. They beat the heck out of us without Brett Favre being a main factor because they ran the ball down our throats the majority of the plays. Becoming more physical at the line of scrimmage was the key that opened the door for Ahman Green and Company.

As the Baltimore Ravens game approached tinkering with the offensive line took place in that Ron Stone would be out for the game. Eric Heitmann returned to his left guard spot while Derrick Deese assumed his left tackle rotation. In for Ron Stone at right guard would be second-year journeyman Kyle Kosier.

But what they faced was a defense that is probably the equal of a Tampa Bay Buccaneer defense in that middle linebacker Ray Lewis is their master motivator and stunt act.

The Baltimore Raven defense has established itself in that it has been responsible for placing the team at the top of their own division. It is run from a 3-4 stance much like the Pittsburgh Steeler defense is but with much more nastiness and tenacity.

Going into this contest at (5-6) really put us in a different set of mind. We had to win this game at all costs and we had to try and redeem ourselves after the shredding we sustained back against the Green Bay Packers. Winning on the road just had to happen. We had to find that chemistry and that comfort zone that we always seemed to have while at home in Candlestick Park.

Baltimore Ravens running back Jamal Lewis was on the menu after already rushing for 1,364-yards which is 38-yards more than Ahman Green. What he would benefit from the most was the offensive line that he would be running behind, which is the heaviest in the NFL.

Four of their offensive linemen top over 340-pounds. It is a line that simply road grates everything in sight and would be a tremendous challenge for any defensive line lighter in comparison facing them.

But it wouldn’t be just Jamal Lewis this time all day that would help defeat us. It would be ourselves again that helped beat us. Our playoff dreams and aspirations were annihilated when the Baltimore Ravens came out and simply dominated this game from start to finish. It was as if we had never showed up for this game either mentally or physically.

I cannot help but to be disgusted with what I have witnessed on and off the field. I cannot help but doubt my sincerity to this team when the ownership makes personnel decisions based upon whims and notions that make no sense and result in termination of a success story.

Dr. John York is a pitiful owner and an owner that meddles and plays mental head games to the highest degree. If he had any sense of self-guilt he would understand that what he did to Steve Mariucci was the worst crime he could have ever have committed against this franchise.

Seeing Eddie DeBartolo standing with legendary defensive back Ronnie Lott at the number retirement ceremony sent chills up and down my spine because Ronnie recognized Eddie for starting this great dynasty and for manufacturing one of the most celebrated franchises in NFL history.

It was Eddie that created and nurtured this franchise to greatness by assembling unbelievable talent and personnel all around him in the likes of Bill Walsh, George Seifert and Steve Mariucci.

Money was never an issue if it helped us win then it was spent. If it would assist us in getting to the Super Bowl spare no expense. With the salary cap came different times and hard times, but still there remained an indoctrination to win at all costs. We simply had to rebuild first and that process began in 1999. Eddie’s sister Denise resumed command after a gambling crime claimed the elimination of Eddie from the football world.

Denise having no sense of football or real compassion allows her husband of equally unsound mind and illiterate football sense to run the operations regarding the San Francisco 49ers.

What happens is a long and twisted road to nowhere as the 49ers struggle to keep their integrity and their once hallowed name alive within the framework of the NFL. Bill Walsh is kept to continue the long haul over the salary cap turmoil and tutors Terry Donahue to greatness to take over.

But the more Dr. John York involves himself the uglier the situation becomes. Salaries are slashed and budgets are cut. Special amenities are outlawed and talks concerning a new stadium are stalled and covered up.

Community ceremonies and simple appearances are kept to showboat that the San Francisco 49ers are still alive and real, but behind this lays a man that personifies fiscal restraint and complete authority to meddle and question where he has no expertise.

Steve Mariucci is a success in San Francisco he brings them to the playoffs four times and wants a contract extension couples with a tad bit more authority on personnel decisions. Not too much to ask right especially after other teams show interest in his abilities and talents?

But it is a dark stain on his ideology to want and to seek greater opportunity that destroys Steve and Dr. John York in a fit of childish idiocy fires a coach that has achieved nothing but success for San Francisco.

Dennis Erickson is brought in and promises to be better than what is imprinted upon his resume from the past with the Seattle Seahawks. He promises to open up the passing game and to be more aggressive and to be the personification that Dr. John York desires.

A head coach that simply wants to coach only and never question or disagree. A head coach that says he will get the job done despite his reputation and failure in the NFL. Dennis Erickson is not an abomination but he is not the right fit for San Francisco.

His philosophies and principles run counter to the West Coast Offense and he tends to allow others to do too much with little impact from his own experiences and accomplishments. He shows no creativity or imagination on the sidelines. He does not carry plays in his hand while roaming the sidelines and he shows no motivation or enthusiasm as so many other legendary 49er coaches before him.

He looks tired and beat and simply put done in. He shows no punch in his voice and utters no real concern for mediocrity in his speeches and press conferences. He is mundane and boring to say the least in my opinion. Yes it is coaching my friends coupled with injuries that have done this team in this season, this I conclude.

We will not be playing football in January folks and that is just heartbreaking to say the least. In a season so full of hopes and dreams and a new beginning it turns out to be a simple ending.

Injuries are responsible for a season full of inconsistency and mediocrity I will attest to that as truth but coaching also rings the bell loud and clear that Dennis Erickson is far from a master motivator and or teacher on the field. His relationship with the players is questionable at best and is not of the same mold or quality that created bonds such as Steve Mariucci did.

Overall Game Statistics

It was the long awaited heralded return of starting quarterback Jeff Garcia from a high ankle sprain against the Baltimore Ravens. What we saw was a quarterback that was running for his life and making decisions that a rookie would make and learn from later.

His accuracy was off and his movement was self-induced at times as Jeff Garcia looked miles apart from his Pro Bowl career days as a starting quarterback. Rust was definitely a factor and his ability to create something just never materialized.

Jeff Garcia completed just 14-of-29 passes for 112-yards with zero touchdowns and a career high four interceptions. He had an arctic blast quarterback rating of 18.8%. He was so pathetic that come the final 12 minutes of this game he was benched in favor of back up quarterback Tim Rattay who went 3-for-7 and 46-yards with a quarterback rating of 65.2%.

The running game by the San Francisco 49ers was limited to 106 total yards with Kevan Barlow carrying the ball 11 times for 48-yards and Garrison Hearst 12 times for 47-yards.

In the passing game it was almost nonexistent with tight end Jed Weaver achieving four catches for 27-yards and Fred Beasley three catches for 42-yards. Baltimore Raven cornerback Chris McAlister took Terrell Owens away effectively with him catching only three balls for a pathetic 23-yards.

In all the San Francisco 49ers could only generate 158-yards in the passing game mainly because the offense was not out on the field long enough to manufacture any real points because of turnovers.

At times you would have thought Jeff Garcia was a Baltimore Raven quarterback rather than a 49er quarterback because he had four interceptions on the game.

Of all the interceptions that Jeff threw they accounted for a total of 24 points, including a snapping of the spine when in the closing two minutes of the first half when the Ravens scored 14 points in 14 seconds, and 17 points over 1:25.

On special teams for the 49ers they were a non-factor as was the accomplishments of the San Francisco defense with Tony Parrish having the only interception. Linebacker Derek Smith had a high score of 10 tackles this day followed by cornerback Ahmed Plummer with six tackles. Defensive end John Engelberger attributed for the only 49er sack on the afternoon and the Ravens generated 15 first downs to our 10.

Penalties were a factor in the game in that we had six of them that cost us 46-yards and of course turnovers that racked up 24 total points against us. The funny thing is that the San Francisco 49ers won in time of possession with 32:39 to Baltimore’s 27:21. But it was the turnovers that created a bridge of no return for the 49ers.

The San Francisco 49er defense also made necessary changes in stopping the rush after their experiences with Green Bay Packer running back Ahman Green, Jamal Lewis on 19 carries generated only 78-yards and one touchdown in this game.

So of all the bleak news in this game this was probably the only bright spot left for us. Even though the interceptions thrown by Jeff Garcia were deflected it doesn’t sooth the hearts of so many 49er fans expecting us to turn things around once and for all.

“You watch on the film: If we’re at home and somebody makes a big play, people are jumping on each other and high-fiving,” defensive end Chidi Ahanotu said. “If you watch us on the road, you don’t see that. It might sound like a little thing, but it’s a big thing. The 12th man is how fired up you are.”

“Bryant Young called out everybody before the game, said he doesn’t see the fire,” Ahanotu said. “He said: 'we need the fire. I don’t see the fire in your eyes right now.” “That’s the exclamation point. Bryant Young noticed it. Good teams I’ve been on, it didn’t matter where we played, didn’t matter if it was the frozen tundra or what. We were still going to be fired up, pumped up. That’s what you need on the road.”

With this loss of 44-6 against the Baltimore Ravens the San Francisco 49ers have lost eight consecutive road games including the playoff game last year against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It sends up a red flag to all of us and the organization that road games are the stakes that have been driven right through are playoff hearts.

First Quarter Game Highlights

On San Francisco’s opening drive under Jeff Garcia from our own 26-yard line we drive down to our 41-yard line when Jeff throws a pass to Terrell Owens and it is deflected and intercepted by Baltimore Raven Ed Hartwell and returned 26-yards. Baltimore now set up on our 30-yard line drive down the field with running back Jamal Lewis who enters from six-yards out for a touchdown to make it 7-0 Ravens.

On the second series with Jeff Garcia starting from our own 37-yard line the 49ers manage to get down to the Ravens 30-yard line where Todd Peterson kicks a 48-yard field goal to make it 7-3 Ravens.

On Baltimore’s second series from their 35-yard line Anthony Wright drives them down to the 49er 43-yard line where he throws a pass intended for tight end Todd Heap that is intercepted by 49er safety Tony Parrish who returns it for no gain.

The San Francisco 49ers go three and out after the interception unable to turn an opportunity into points and the first quarter ends with the score as close as you’ll ever see it for the remainder of the game.

Second Quarter Game Highlights

On the opening drive for Baltimore from their 12-yard line, Anthony Wright drives them down to their 43-yard line when he is sacked by 49er John Engelberger and fumbles the ball but it is recovered by the Ravens and are forced to punt. The San Francisco 49ers do nothing on the next drive and the Baltimore Ravens on their second series fumble the ball and it is recovered by 49er John Engelberger at the Ravens 30-yard line.

The San Francisco 49ers under Jeff Garcia get down to the Raven 22-yard line and Todd Peterson kicks a 40-yard field goal to make it 7-6 Ravens. On the kick by Todd Peterson after this play Baltimore’s Larry Brightful returns the kick 75-yards to the San Francisco 19-yard line.

The Baltimore Ravens get down to the 49er 10-yard line where Matt Stover kicks a 28-yard filed goal to make it 10-6 Ravens. San Francisco takes over with 1:50 left in the game and Jeff Garcia from the 23-yard line goes three and out with no success and we have to punt the ball.

With 1:18 left to play Anthony Wright from the 49er 49-yard line due to a Terry Jackson face mask call for 15-yards on the punt drives down to the 49er 38-yard line where he hits Marcus Robinson for a 38-yard touchdown to make it 17-6 Ravens.

With: 46 seconds left on the 49er 20-yard line Jeff Garcia drives down to the 27-yard line and throws a pass to Cedrick Wilson that is intercepted by linebacker Ray Lewis and brought in for a touchdown to make the score 24-6 Ravens at halftime.

Third Quarter Game Highlights

Here is a quarter where neither team finds a niche in being able to score where you began to see signs offensively of how anemic the 49ers really were. The Baltimore defense strangled both the running lanes and the passing lanes for Jeff Garcia, and in return the 49er defense answered back by limiting them to no points.

Fourth Quarter Game Highlights

Starting from their 43-yard line in the third quarter the Ravens under Anthony Wright drove down to the 49er 29-yard line where Matt Stover kicked a 47-yard field goal to make it 27-6 Ravens. On the punt and with the 49ers having the ball on their first series they went from their 20-yard line to nowhere because Jeff throws a pass intended for Kevan Barlow that is intercepted by Gary Baxter and returned seven-yards.

From the 49er 21-yard line the Baltimore Ravens hit Todd Jones in the end zone for a six-yard touchdown to make it 34-6 Ravens. On San Francisco’s second series starting from their 27-yard line Jeff gets down to the 30-yard line and throws yet another interception to Willie Demps who returns it for three-yards.

The Baltimore Ravens again in scoring position from the 49er 38-yard line drive down to the 49er 23-yard line where Matt Stover kicks a 41-yard field goal to make it 37-6 Ravens. Jeff Garcia is benched in favor of Tim Rattay and on the next drive the 49ers are stalled at the Baltimore 47-yard line and are forced to give up the bal after failing on fourth down.

The Baltimore Ravens go three and out on the next series and so does San Francisco. On Baltimore’s last drive of the game with 4:50 left on the clock they chew the clock up starting from their 48-yard line and drive down to the 49er 2-yard line where running back M. Smith scores a two-yard touchdown to make it 44-6 and a wrap.

Some among the 49er staff accuse the Ravens of running up the score but to me there is no running up the score if there is time left to play in the game. To me the accusations are meaningless when you lose by such a large margin and 24 of those points were self-inflicted.

Overall Game Analysis

No heart for the game like Chidi Ahanotu said. That is what I believe to be true as well when you look at the San Francisco 49ers on the road. Where is that competitive fire that is supposed to burn out of control on this team?

Some of it I attribute to coaching mainly Dennis Erickson who I believe to be one of the main ailments of this team. There is no supportive bond that exists with Erickson and Jeff Garcia. They both seem to be on their own in true fashion as each adheres to their agendas and direction for winning.

If offensive coordinator Greg Knapp can’t see this then he is pretty blind to what is right in front of him. Tim Rattay is the prototype that fits Dennis Erickson’s style in throwing the ball right down the field. I’m surprised he hasn’t pushed for his emergence as the starter.

Injuries played a key role in the demise of this team yet again this week. The line on both sides of the ball was dominated at the line of scrimmage and nullified. We need to play better and more aggressively regardless of injuries if we are to secure victories.

Turnovers kill games and this was no different as the 49ers shot themselves over and over again for 24-points. Interceptions thrown by Jeff Garcia were deadly and the momentum swung heavily to Baltimore’s side after the first half was wrapped up.

Inability to establish a running game also attributed to our demise, as we couldn’t win the war at the line of scrimmage. Eating the clock and holding on to the ball would’ve been key factors in turning the game around even in the second half, in a third quarter where there was time to put points up on the board.

Terrell Owens and others were blanketed for much of the game and their inability to find creases and separation also led to our failures on the field. We need Owens to step up and produce in times like these, yet a great corner has the ability now to shut him down. Not having tight end Eric Johnson and wide receiver Tai Streets also are factors in this passing game, but others need to step up and take notice.

Finally we can all breath now as we head back home to face the Arizona Cardinals. With great relief we are at home. However it hardly sooths my soul and memory of what has happened to this team all season under Dennis Erickson and while on the road.

There are key ingredients missing now from our team and leadership that are marginal at best in steering us in the right direction. If ever there was a mistake that is starting to bloom in San Francisco Dennis Erickson seems to be it for real this time.

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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