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Knocked out at home

Sep 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

The Dallas Cowboys of old came to Monster Park in San Francisco last Sunday. They came in and hand painted their Dallas Star in the middle of the field and it was quarterback Drew Bledsoe that stood erect and proud with hands straightened towards the heavens.

Drew Bledsoe went 24-for-38 and passed for 363-yards and two touchdowns in this pivotal game following a head splitting loss on the road to the Philadelphia Eagles.

In the fourth quarter following Brandon Lloyd's remarkable touchdown made possible by 49er safety Tony Parrish intercepting Drew Bledsoe, the Dallas Cowboys discovered an adrenaline surge with the score 31-19 49ers.

Drew Bledsoe of the Dallas Cowboys became the focal point of the sea of Dallas stargazers within the confounds of Monster Park. He orchestrated a fourth quarter comeback that would utterly erase the 12-point deficit that his team was under and score 15 unanswered points to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in a knock out swing at home.

In just four quick plays with a key play in his 58-yard strike to wide receiver Terry Glenn from the Dallas Cowboy 28-yard line, the Cowboys took up camp on our 14-yard line and punched it in with Julius Jones to make it 31-26 49ers.

With our lead melting away right before our eyes and the cheers of Dallas Cowboy fans deafening our enthusiasm, San Francisco 49er quarterback Tim Rattay again became a big question mark of being able to compete within the fourth quarter.

His track record speaks for itself in that he has been picked off 11 times within the fourth quarter signaling his inability to deliver during close games.

When you look at last year as an example, the 49ers were always in clean-up mode because they were always having to pass the ball to try and catch-up from being behind in the score.

Some of these interceptions on Tim Rattay's record are explained in this manner but he's also shown and proven that he does not have the late quarter heroics of a Jeff Garcia or a Steve Young.

Last year, defenses knew that we would have to pass in order to catch-up, but it also takes a quarterback that has that internal instinct and edge that they know can make a difference when they call upon it within themselves.

With 14:44 in the last quarter from our very own 30-yard line we began a drive that brought us to the Dallas 34-yard line where on the next play Tim Rattay threw a pass that was deflected and intercepted by linebacker Al Singleton at the Cowboys 31-yard line.

The San Francisco defense was able to hold this time, but on the next offensive series Tim Rattay was suddenly sacked at our own 36-yard line, which forced Andy Lee to punt the ball.

Both teams followed suit by going three and out on drives, but the Dallas Cowboys with 6:05 remaining in the quarter and starting on their 24-yard line drove all the way down to our 14-yard line where Bledsoe found Keyshawn Johnson to score and even converted a two-point conversion to make it 34-31 Cowboys.

With 1:51 remaining it seemed like we had just pulled over to the side of the road with four big flat tires both offensively and defensively. The ball and the fate of the game would lie in Tim Rattay's hands, and everyone I knew as a 49er fan was as nervous about that as I was.

Out of the shotgun in one last hurrah Tim Rattay takes the snap but on a false start by Eric Heitmann. From our 23-yard line the impossible started then to look even more impossible with a penalty to start the drive.

Dallas Cowboy fans all around me cheered and sneered at the predicament I found myself in as I wore more crimson red and white Steve Young throwback jersey.

I thought to myself that this is where Steve Young would really make a difference. This is where the pedal hits the metal and all those that had doubt or disbelief would pay the ultimate penalty by our retribution.

We only reached the 37-yard line in our own territory before all was lost and Tim Rattay threw another deflected pass that was intercepted by linebacker Day Nguyen intended for wide receiver Otis Amey to end this game.

"Obviously, I'm not trying to have turnovers in the fourth quarter," Rattay said. "We're obviously trying to win games we're behind."

When you look at the final desperate drive by Tim, you can see what the frustration is on everyone's faces are. Watching your 12-point lead disintegrate right before your eyes and to see your defensive secondary completely unravel with huge passing plays orchestrated by Drew Bledsoe is enough to cause a breakdown.

Tim Rattay forced the ball into heavy coverage and the pass was tipped by cornerback Terrence Newman causing it to sail into the air and getting picked off by Day Nguyen. But did Tim have as bad a game as everyone believes he did? Well not quite when you analyze the statistics.

He went 21-for-34 and passed for 269-yards and three total touchdowns, yet he was sacked three times and intercepted twice causing his fall again from grace with fans. Some fans blame Tim for this loss with the two interceptions and are calling for a change at quarterback now rather than waiting later.

But when you ask first round pick rookie quarterback Alex Smith his opinion he offers a more sympathetic gesture of sorts. "I'm very empathetic," Smith said. "To look at both of those passes, both were tipped. It's tough. It's so unfortunate."

Yes it is Alex and it usually happens with Tim Rattay at the controls unfortunately. Of his 17 career interceptions, 11 have come on fourth-quarter passes, which include seven last year in nine starts.

Here are the facts when looking at Tim Rattay's overall passing efficiency; his line through three quarters in this game was for an astonishing: 15-for-23 for 209-yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, 133.9% passer rating. In his line through the fourth quarter: 6-for-11 for 60-yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and 30.7% passer rating.

How do you explain this? What can possibly be done but for Tim to try and work it out himself? Everyone that is a 49er fan would love to see this change including myself, and when you ask Tim to explain it he responded: "I don't know. You guys probably have the answers more than me. The guy got his hand in there and tipped it up and they got it. I didn't make a play and I take full responsibility for that."

Gone are the days of late game heroics for the San Francisco 49ers. We have not seen these since Jeff Garcia was banished as the quarterback back before the 2004 season started.

Whenever you look back and remember any 49er quarterback, they are most remembered for their abilities to comeback in games that we are behind in and win regardless. Now that has been a drought of epic proportions as of late.

"Obviously I'd like that to change," coach Mike Nolan said of Rattay's fourth-quarter history. "I don't want to carry over what he's done in the past. It's a whole different offense, and we have to give him the opportunity to prove himself. The difference today between the first half and the second half was turnovers."

Hate him or love him, he has the support of his players none the same. He had big passing plays to Arnaz Battle who caught six passes for 68-yards and a touchdown. He hit Brandon Lloyd for four passes for 142-yards and two touchdowns, and on a whole his receivers averaged 12.8-yards a catch.

"I trust Tim to the fullest," said wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who caught two of Rattay's three touchdowns passes Sunday. "I love him as a player, I love him as a person and everything about him. We lost momentum and plays weren't working for us. It's not that Tim (stinks), because he doesn't."

Sharing the blame is the 49er defense that melted under the aerial attack of Drew Bledsoe and Company. Although some members of the defense performed at a high level like safeties Mike Rumph and Tony Parrish who both created turnovers and a fumble that was recovered by defensive end Marques Douglas the 49ers failed to sustain that edge come fourth quarter.

Even when you look at the run defense that held the Dallas Cowboys to under 100-yards rushing, you ask yourself: "How in the heck did we lose this game and why were there so many Dallas Cowboys fans inside Monster Park that Sunday?"

So many in fact that Tim Rattay had to abandon a shotgun formation and come under center because the shouting Cowboy fans began drowning out the line audible. Some 49er season ticket holders obviously have been selling their tickets to Dallas Cowboy faithful, and in conjunction have turned Monster Park into a hostile environment for the San Francisco 49ers.

"Our fans, as I said when I took this job, will be instrumental in our success," Nolan said. "They were instrumental in our victory over the Rams. I would like to just see them keep their seats and sit in them and cheer for us rather than give them to Cowboy fans."

The San Francisco defense gave up a total of 443-yards in offense to the Dallas Cowboys and 26 first downs. On top of that our offense surrendered two sacks to Tim Rattay and committed costly interceptions that changed the dynamics of this entire game.

Penalty flags flew like confetti on the playing field with a total of eight for 67-yards after committing only seven in two whole games prior to this one. Time of possession tilted in favor of the Dallas Cowboys with 32:05 to 27:55 for the 49ers.

Injuries have decimated the team as well with linebacker Julian Peterson straining a hamstring, the same with Arnaz Battle and cornerback Ahmed Plummer injuring a groin as well. Further information revealed that Plummer has had to have surgery to remove a bone chip in his left ankle that will sideline him for up to six weeks.

Safety Mike Rumph was elevated to Plummer's position and nickel back Mike Adams elevated to Mike Rumph's old position. But again, injury has born its ugly head by placing Mike Rumph on injured reserve with a torn plantar fascia in his foot (the same injury that sidelined tight end Eric Johnson).

Former Denver Bronco cornerback Willie Middlebrooks, who was brought in to training camp after a trade with John Engelberger and then cut late in August to make the 53-man roster, is now back again. He will now share that position with seventh-round pick rookie Derrick Johnson on a rotating basis.

Despite all of these latest moves and the injuries, Head Coach Mike Nolan understands all of our frustrations and our desire to be winners again after a (2-14) season. He will provide us a path of least resistance in that he'll make the players follow criteria as explained and demanded by the coaching staff.

If they don't comply then there will be reprisals that will follow, because he believes that there must be order and a sense of direction and purpose among his players. If you are unwilling to comply with team philosophies and agendas then you compromise your very existence on the team.

Finally, someone that holds people accountable, including himself. This is something we've been lacking since the days of old under Bill Walsh. Now, like his father Dick Nolan, he is instituting a doctrine that must be believed in and followed.

"In that room, it is unacceptable to lose that game," Nolan said. "They ought to feel the same way. It's unacceptable. We are not a 2-14 football team. When all of you start thinking you are a 2-14 football team, then that's an okay performance. I want our players to know that, that is unacceptable."

For the record Mike, I agree it is unacceptable. And all 49er fans agree so let's press onward. Challenges are ahead with injuries and re-positioning going on but they can be overcome. We need to keep leads and at the same time be able to comeback and take games away as well. Then that would be most acceptable.
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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