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Bears and Mother Nature

Nov 16, 2005 at 12:00 AM

The Chicago Bears at Soldier Field evidently held a nightlong vigil to pray to Mother Nature for adverse weather conditions during Sunday's game. The ensuing wind was a definite factor during the game, blowing between 45-50 miles per hour across the field and back again, almost always favoring the Bears in a long day that left the San Francisco 49ers guessing as to what could possibly happen next.

Have you ever watched a nature show about bear attacks? An expert usually tells you to stop, drop, and lay still like you were dead, right? Well, the San Francisco 49ers did just that, but they didn't lay still. Instead, they rolled around like a lifeless dead corpse being repeatedly mauled by an agitated bear. Never have I seen such incompetence and lack of execution on the part of our team (other than the loss we suffered at the hands of the New York Giants).

We are, hands down, the most penalized team in the NFL. I can remember when across the Oakland Raiders held this distinct honor for many years, but now the San Francisco 49ers are assumed to be the new bungling malcontents of the NFL.

If there was ever a case in this game to be upset, the fourth quarter fumble by Bear punt return specialist Bobby Wade and recovery by 49er Jim Maxwell is the play to set one over the edge.

The 49ers were trailing 14-6 after Adrian Peterson's 7-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, and we were suddenly in a position to tie that score. After Maxwell's recovery, the 49er offense stood poised at the 2-yard line smelling the air for their first touchdown after three consecutive without one.

Kevan Barlow was trounced for no gain and the erratic Cody Pickett made a sprint that netted only 1-yard. Then, all of a sudden, a series of yellow flags began to fly through the air and like a laughingstock the offensive line crumbled before the mighty Chicago Bear defense without breaking a sweat.

First, we were flagged for having too many men on the field. Then, we incurred a delay of game pushing us out to the 11-yard line. Then on third and long, and desperate to make amends for the offensive line's mistakes, Cody Pickett threw the ball just before Brandon Lloyd completed running his route and watched the pass flutter out of bounds and incomplete. Fourth down called for Joe Nedney to kick a field goal that pulled us to a score of 14-9, which would be the last points scored on the part of this pathetic offense.

Worse than that drive, was the second quarter 52-yard field goal attempt by Joe Nedney. It was on its way to the goal posts when out of the blue, the ball dropped like a duck being shot at by 100 duck hunters, and spiraled down into the waiting hands of Chicago Bear Nathan Vasher. Vasher returned the ball 108-yards in and around a sea of utterly shocked 49ers, earned a 7-3 Bear lead before the half, and left Mike Nolan shaking his head in disgust.

This game that was played on the wind-swept shores of Lake Michigan has to be the lowest point in our very long 2005 NFL season. We have not scored an offensive touchdown since the waning last seconds of the 52-17 defeat we suffered at the hands of the Washington Redskins on Oct 23. That TD was only scored because of defensive indifference, since the game was already handily won on the heels of Mark Brunell and Clinton Portis.

The offensive juggernaut once known throughout the NFL as being one of the most lethal, with superstar combinations such as Tittle to R.C. Owens, Montana to Rice, and Young to T.O., now thrills you with one Cody Pickett pass to Brandon Lloyd for 28-yards in an entire game.

What has happened to our beloved team? Will we ever be able to hold our collective heads up again and be proud of this offense? Obviously we can look at a variety of reasons and/or excuses as to why we are here at this point in the season.

Injuries are definitely one of the reasons we are where we are. Injuries to the line members Jeremy Newberry and Jonas Jennings, and injuries to our wide receivers and tight ends have virtually crippled our ability to move the ball down the field.

But penalties and lack of enthusiasm and execution seem to be main areas of concern as well. We are employing the wrong types of athletes (or should I say the cheap alternatives) that accomplish nothing but maintaining the current course.

You can blame weather conditions for the way we played out on Soldier Field, or you can blame the superior play of a Chicago Bear defense that held us to a total of 161-offensive yards, just 28 of which came from passing. Bottom line, the San Francisco 49er organization has only itself to blame for the predicament they are in right now.

There literally may not be a team in NFL history that has put worse offensive personnel on the playing surface then this one. We can't score and we have little chance of ever scoring with the offensive personnel now employed by this organization.

As fans, we have all seen low points in this team (think Dennis Erickson's era after a relatively successful Mariucci term). And now, after realizing mistakes from the past, Dr. York has turned to Scot McCloughan and Mike Nolan to turn around a franchise embittered with controversy and wavering in financial commitments.

This team cannot return to championship form just by compiling more draft picks each and every year, or by qualifying for the first round pick in every draft. It must be committed to paying large salaries and signing premier talent. We need to sign maybe two or three premier players a year until we can stand up and become competitive again. Veteran presence is also needed on this football team, especially when you look at all the inexperience and lack of discipline out on the field.

Coaching has to be a main factor as well, and regardless of what Mike Nolan thinks of his offensive coaches he has to be dissatisfied (if not overly disappointed) with the current results. If he isn't, we have a distinct problem. Someone needs to be held accountable for being at 2-7 and not scoring an offensive touchdown in three consecutive games, and for the 10 penalties resulting in 80 yards lost registered in this one game alone. Why not the coaches? And certainly the personnel out on the field need to be held accountable for the lack of execution. This is what they are paid handsomely to do each and every week.

The same players are flagged each week and no example is made out of them (as I have mentioned countless times in articles I have written). Left tackle Anthony Clement and right tackle Kwame Harris are repeat offenders, yet they are permitted to play at a low level every game and cost the offense opportunities galore.

I would like to point out that the interception by cornerback Shawntae Spencer in the third quarter off Muhsin Muhammad was exceptional, and I believe he is turning into one of the better cornerbacks in this league. (And the defensive pass interference he was flagged for towards the end of the third quarter was absolutely ridiculous as it was a play that was just good bump and run coverage.)

Cody Pickett, in my opinion, looked far worse then his last game against the New York Giants. He was grossly ineffective, incurring delay of game penalties and being off center and target (even though the wind was a factor). Not to mention, he only completed 1 of 13 passes for 28 total yards in this game earning a passer rating of 7.5%!

The Bears' quarterback Kyle Orton completed 8 of 13 passes for 67 yards despite the wind, and put his team in a position to score more times than not. The San Francisco 49er defense, again out on the field for too long, allowed 172-yards of rushing offense thanks to Chicago's Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson. The rushing attack by the Bears established 4.3-yards per carry while their defense limited our rushing attack to 133-yards and 2.9-yards per carry.

"It's an extension of some other issues we have," Coach Mike Nolan said of his team's touchdown drought. "Saying you can't score a touchdown is like saying you can't win a 100-yard dash because you're slower than the other guy."

And 49er teammates, standing aghast at what transpired on Nathan Vasher's play for a 108-yard touchdown, still were biting at the lip about how it happened and why it happened in the first place.

"It was definitely long enough and then it caught that gulf stream or whatever kind of wind they have in Chicago and all of a sudden we were running after him," center Eric Heitmann said. "That's what happens when you have 300-pound guys chasing a 200-pound guy."

"By far, that was the worst wind I've ever kicked in," said 49ers kicker Joe Nedney. "Not even in practicing under some of the wind conditions at our facility, and I'm sure the winds at Candlestick can get going that good, but I haven't seen anything like that."

"Joe was 2/2 before that," explained Nolan. "Joe's the strength of our football team and I have a tremendous amount of confidence in him. Joe felt he had the distance but at the time, he came up short. But, he is the strength of our football team and I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to use that strength. It was unfortunate what came about."

I have to say, Joe Nedney is a great kicker and probably one of the best we've had in a long time. But at the same time when you hear your head coach describing the kicker as the strength of the football team, you have to be a little worried...don't you?

Don't get me wrong, it is nice that we have a strong kicker, but to say that we don't have a Terrell Owens, a Garrison Hearst, and/or a Steve Young is really worrisome. We have absolutely no playmakers on this offense and it doesn't look like we will have any for many years to come at the rate we are going.

To say that the only playmaker you have is the kicker is absolutely absurd. I would give anything to have just some consistency and execution to this offense. We need less penalties and more crossovers into the end zone, either by our so-called "two headed monster" Barlow and Gore, or by Battle, Lloyd or a rejuvenated Morton.

An even more devastating thought is the season-ending injury to Safety Tony Parrish, who fractured his fibula on the first series of the game. His 121-game consecutive starting steak started at Soldier Field in 1998 and ended there last Sunday. He was the captain on this 49er defense and his absence will be sorely missed the rest of the season.

The San Francisco 49ers have a lot to digest the rest of this year. It is a season of futility my friends, and we will be in for more headaches and heartaches. Mike Nolan must take this offensive ineptness seriously right now. Accountability must take hold and find a place. If he does it with these players like he did with Jamie Winborn and Tim Rattay, he should do the same with his coaches.
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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