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Article Title: The agony continues
Article Date: November 18th 2004
By Sydney

Monster Stadium has turned into just that a monster of a nightmare for the San Francisco 49ers and all of their beloved fans. With a team decapitated by the salary cap, devastated by injuries and starving for experience we once again fell at the feet of our adversary with a second half whipping by the Carolina Panthers 37-27.

We are being force fed the reality of our sins by ownership and management of this team. We are at the mercy of all that is taking place on the field right before our eyes and all we can do is pray that this is a season that will be the spring board to better tomorrows. So many of us as fans have speculated at where would we be right now if we had just retained Jeff Garcia?

I can tell you with all honesty probably with two to three more victories then we have right now. It is the sacrifice that we have all made with the new direction of this team in putting all our eggs in one basket with injury-plagued quarterback Tim Rattay. No one could honestly on the other hand predict we would have a quarterback with these types of reoccurring injuries.

However agonizing it was to watch Tim Rattay last Sunday at Monster Park, the prognosis by the coaching staff on our team is that this was a fluke and it shouldn’t happen again. There are I might admit certain elements that contributed to Tim Rattay’s demise in this game and were very much out of his control.

Calls for starting Ken Dorsey and even Cody Pickett have been resounding throughout the Bay Area and beyond in reference to Sunday’s game in which we all witnessed the dismantling of our starting quarterback. But head coach Dennis Erickson was quick to come to Tim’s side in all of this and defended his commitment to making sure that Tim Rattay works through this difficult process.

“Not unless it was an injury situation,” Erickson said. “There would be no reason for it that I can see. Tim Rattay is our quarterback, and he will be our quarterback next year.”

The varying differences of opinion to Tim Rattay’s difficulties on the field are interesting as you mull them over. His injuries this season are definitely an issue when you add up all the time he has missed from week to week. He is now dealing with strained tendons located in his forearm and has comeback from a torn groin muscle earlier in the season.

General Manager Terry Donahue was quick to blame at least some of his problems in his performance on his health, but Tim Rattay quickly disagreed. “It is basically healed. I feel good,” Rattay said. “The strength is maybe not all the way there, but it’s close. There are no throws I can’t make because of my forearm.”

There was plenty of trouble in this game when it came down to Tim Rattay making plays period in this game, in fact it has been speculated that the Carolina Panther defense knew how to rattle Tim Rattay and even knew the go to guy that Tim would look for to bail him out of trouble every time.

Eric Johnson had six receptions for 71-yards in this game against the Carolina Panthers and was a frequent safety valve for Tim Rattay when he was under constant pressure in this game and even prior to this game. With 57 receptions on the season, he is 11 away of tying legendary 49er tight end Brent Jones team-record of 68 set in 1993. He also has 618-yards receiving, making him just 129-yards shy of Brent Jones single-season best of 747-yards set in 1990.

“I’ve got a great deal of confidence in Tim Rattay. I believe that he didn’t play well yesterday. Do I think it is a concern that is going to happen all of the time and the rest of the season? No, I don’t. There is nobody that knows what they did wrong more than Tim Rattay right now,” Erickson said.

“But, what happened, happened. Again, we also have got to understand that he hasn’t played a lot of games. So, he’s a little bit inexperienced. It’s not like a 15-year veteran that is playing or a 10-year veteran or a guy that has played a lot. He made some mistakes. To me, it’s a learning process when that happens. I know that he’ll learn from it and get better.”

When you look at Tim Rattay this has to be his worst outing in his career by far, he was sacked four times which leads you to understand that the offensive line is not doing its job in protecting him and preventing undue pressure to him. He threw four interceptions and posted a passer rating of 53.0!

This after being rather impressive in his previous starts and entering the league with the 10th best passer rating, he has displayed moments in my opinion of greatness it’s just that he is not making wise decisions while under pressure and is not benefiting from having the time to find open targets.

“There’s no excuse,” Rattay said. “There are things that I can’t do. I am going to learn from it. I’m not going to go in the tank or whatever. You’re going to make mistakes, but we still had a chance to win.”

Kevan Barlow our featured running back after inheriting the role with the release of Garrison Hearst has been an utter disappointment this season. Again like quarterback Tim Rattay in the first half of this game he looked and acted the part of a professional starting tailback for the San Francisco 49ers. But that quickly declined once the fourth quarter came around and momentum swung in Carolina’s favor.

Kevan Barlow rushed for 60-yards and two touchdowns in the first half of this game, this made my mouth water for a 100-yard-plus game that I believe all of us were hoping for. But once the second half opened up his progress was quickly reversed, losing 13-yards in five carries. His frustration got the best of him and he was actually benched after an altercation on the field that resulted in a costly penalty.

Early in the fourth quarter, Carolina Panther linebacker Brandon Short tackled Kevan Barlow four yards behind the line of scrimmage with safety Colin Branch adding a whack while Barlow laid on the ground. Kevan Barlow took exception by it and threw the ball at Branch, resulting in a un-sportsmanlike-conduct penalty that reversed the 49ers another 12-yards.

As Barlow left the field and headed by Dennis Erickson for the first time you could see the disgust and vocal retaliation by Dennis against his star running back for a ridiculous error in judgment. It was a moment that left me surprised in that Erickson actually reacted and displayed his visual displeasure with. I was proud to see that accountability is something that our coach is demonstrating both on and off the field for a change.

“What Kevan did; you just can’t do that in that situation, so we pulled him out,” Erickson said. “But then Maurice Hicks was playing pretty well, so we left him in.”

Although unpopular by all means, I take my hat off to Dennis Erickson for demonstrating his authority and displeasure with a costly play that might have gone in our favor had we been careful enough with. Kevan Barlow defended himself as the starting running back on this team, but as with anyone if you demonstrate bad judgment that should always be left open for review.

One can’t look at this game either without recognizing the fact that we have no pass rush registering only one sack in this game and the fact that we have a secondary so ravaged by injury that we will continue to see aerial bombardments of this nature. Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme passed for 303-yards and three touchdowns to lead his Panthers to a 37-27 victory, which if you translate it our secondary got lit-up.

Our very rookie and young secondary took a beating, but one has to remember some of them played out of position and most played on very little to no experience at the level of the NFL. “They did fine,” 49ers strong safety Tony Parrish, said.

Said free safety Ronnie Heard: “That’s asking a lot for young corners who haven’t played a lot to cover Muhsin Muhammad and Ricky Proehl. Those are two Super Bowl wide receivers.”

First-year cornerback Joselio Hanson received his first NFL start, in replacing an injured Jimmy Williams, who by the way had been starting for an injured Ahmed Plummer. Dwaine Carpenter, who had played safety before this game came around, started at right cornerback for the injured Shawntae Spencer, who had also replaced Mike Rumph, who is also out for the season with a broken right arm.

On top of all these green replacements, un-drafted rookie Rayshun Reed played exclusively as the team’s No. 3 cornerback in this just his second NFL game. Shawntae Spencer who is nursing an ankle sprain, saw only limited action in the second half, but then did not return to the lineup after giving up a 40-yard scoring pass to Muhsin Muhammad.

It was a dream come true for Jake Delhomme and his agile and experienced wide receivers who literally took our youthful secondary to school and painted them with a failing grade all the way around both up and down the field. Here is where you can see what happens when you are hit with an injury bug of our magnitude and a salary cap that has robbed us of great depth and strength to continue the good fight.

Monster Park fans again became restless in this game after witnessing success in the first half and utterly watching it vanish into thin air in the second half. They left in droves and uttered frustration and promises of not coming back again. It is a stressful and unknown time for us 49er fans, one in which we have no real recourse but to be patient and entrust that this organization will right itself and head in the right direction.

Carolina Panthers at San Francisco 49ers (Loss) 37-27

First Quarter Highlights: From the San Francisco 29-yard line Tim Rattay looks sharp as in just under six minutes reaches the one-yard line where Kevan Barlow takes it in for a touchdown to make it 7-0 49ers. On Carolina’s first possession under Jake Delhomme on the Panther 38-yard line he passes to Kerry Colbert who runs for 18-yards and is hit jarringly by Jamie Winborn and fumbles the ball with strong safety Tony Parrish recovering it at our own 46-yard line.

In just under five minutes Tim Rattay again moves the ball with the help of a defensive holding penalty on Carolina to the 10-yard line where kicker Todd Peterson makes it 10-0 49ers. The quarter ends in high fashion for fellow 49er fans and inspires hope of more achievements to come as eyes are peeled for the second quarter.

Second Quarter Highlights: On our first possession in the second quarter on a drive from our own 21-yard line Tim Rattay drives the team to our own 46-yard line, but throws an interception intended for Eric Johnson to linebacker Will Witherspoon.

Carolina takes over on their own 32-yard line and goes three and out. On our next possession from our own 27-yard line Tim Rattay and Kevan Barlow drive down to the three-yard line where a defensive offside penalty assists us in another Kevan Barlow three-yard touchdown to make it 17-0 49ers.

The Carolina Panthers answer back starting from their 32-yard line and drive all the way to the 49er 19-yard line where they kick a field goal with assistance from a penalty for defensive off-sides penalty to make it 17-3 49ers. So the first half of this game concludes with again excitement in Monster Park at a potential victory in the brewing, and little letdown or signs of it manifesting itself at this time.

Third Quarter Highlights: On the kickoff to Carolina a fumble is caused and we recover the ball at the Carolina 27-yard line but are unable to even get close enough for a field goal try forcing us to punt. On Carolina’s second possession from their four-yard line they drive down on the arm of Jake Delhomme to our seven-yard line and kick a field goal to make it 17-6 49ers.

With just over 10 minutes left in the quarter from the 12-yard line due to an offensive holding penalty against us, Tim Rattay hands the ball to Kevan Barlow who is tackled and the ball is fumbled.

linebacker Mark Fields brings it in for a touchdown, but upon review it is overturned with our challenge, on the next play Barlow is dropped for a loss. Then from our own eight-yard line Tim Rattay again under pressure throws an interception intended for Eric Johnson to Mark Fields who makes it to the one-yard line.

From here the Carolina Panthers begin their march back into this game with a one-yard touchdown to make it 17-13 49ers. San Francisco goes three and out and the Panthers from the 10-yard line go down to the 49er 40-yard line where Jake Delhomme connects with Muhsin Muhammad for a 40-yard touchdown to make it 20-17 Panthers.

With just under four minutes the 49ers take over at their 23-yard line and incur an offensive holding penalty and a sack on Rattay. The 49ers reach Carolina’s 28-yard line where Todd Peterson kicks a field goal to tie the game 20-20.

Fourth Quarter Highlights: With San Francisco’s first possession at our own 29-yard line Tim Rattay minus Kevan Barlow because of a un-sportsmanlike conduct penalty drive down to the Carolina 30-yard line and Rattay connects with Brandon Lloyd for a 30-yard touchdown to make it 27-20 49ers.

The Carolina Panthers come right back from their 31-yard line where they benefit from a roughing the passer penalty on John Engelberger and reach the 49er four-yard line where Jake Delhomme hits Muhsin Muhammad for a touchdown to make it 27-27. On the 49ers next possession from our own 38-yard line Tim Rattay is sacked at the 31-yard line and fumbles the ball and is recovered by Panther linebacker Will Witherspoon.

From the 49er 21-yard line the Carolina Panthers reach the 16-yard line where they kick a field goal to make it 30-27 Panthers. On the kickoff the 49ers resume control at their 38-yard line when Tim Rattay throws an interception intended for Maurice Hicks to former 49er defensive tackle Brentson Buckner.

The Carolina Panthers take control with just over three minutes left to play in the game at the 49er 25-yard line and Jake Delhomme hits Muhsin Muhammad again for a 26-yard touchdown to make it 37-27 Panthers. With just over two minutes left to play from the 49er 31-yard line Tim Rattay ends the day reaching the Carolina 28-yard line only to throw another interception intended for Brandon Lloyd that ends this game with resounding displeasure from all 49er fans.

Statistics: The San Francisco 49ers manufactured 23 first downs to Carolina’s 17 and were even better in third down efficiency converting 50% to 22% for the Panthers. Total net yards by both teams were similar with 358 for the Panthers and 357 for the 49ers, but we were out gunned in the passing game with 301-yards passing to our 247-yards.

Both teams incurred seven penalties each, and the 49ers even had time of possession with 36:41 to the Panthers 23:19. The difference maker was turnovers folks and lots of them; it again raises concerns on not only quarterback judgment but line protection as well.

We cannot continue not to ignore the fact that these turnovers are our own self-destruction and that jockeying for a first round pick in this next NFL draft is not our ultimate goal. Certainly we are experiencing many kinds of pain and will continue to struggle even for another remote victory, but leave no mistake about the fact that we will overcome this darkness and this dynasty will rise again.