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Article Title: Stick a fork in our offense
Article Date: November 4th 2004
By Sydney

162 yards of total offense against one of the worst defenses in the NFL, a third down efficiency of just 19%, which is a conversion of three out of 16 attempts. A rushing average of just 2.7-yards per carry for 62 total yards and a passing game from Ken Dorsey that generated a mere 100-yards illustrates an offense under severe duress in my playbook.

What can we say about the San Francisco offense that hasn’t already been witnessed and said time after time this season? This nationally televised game aired the battle of the want-to-be or should I say the armpits of the NFL. Both teams at (1-5) were fighting for some kind of rationality to their plight and both displayed exactly why they both are where they are positioned still today.

“I can’t think of anybody or anything that was positive on offense,” Erickson said. “That was an unacceptable performance,” he said. “In all aspects up front, at quarterback, at every single place we did not perform at a level that allows you to win in this league.” “I’m not finger pointing at anybody, because it starts with me.”

Even when you look at the only bright moment in this game that was generated I remind you from the defense and special teams on this team, when safety Dwaine Carpenter scored a 80-yard touchdown upon a fumble return, even that seemed meaningless when the game ended.

“I was too sick to celebrate,” Carpenter, looking glassy-eyed, said. “I don’t know what it is. I felt horrible. I felt nauseated. I just wanted to throw up I was so lightheaded.”

These are the same sentiments I felt after watching this game in all honesty a tragedy brought on by gutting the team to the point where competitiveness was non-existent, and this is attributed to ownership and management failing to make smart business decisions. I cannot help but blame where blame is due and that is right at the top. It is obvious that we wouldn’t be where we are if not for bad decisions based upon many years of over-spending and over-extending dead-player contracts.

We are now like a refugee camp of the NFL, where all the dumped players of every training camp of every team in the NFL that cut down their rosters in August are now visiting us. Mainly in large part because of attrition to our players and injuries that have plagued us again this season in record numbers.

In this game against the Bears the San Francisco coaching staff failed to get their leading receiver and the league’s second leading receiver the ball period. Eric Johnson had just one reception for nine total yards and as I witnessed was wide open on numerous occasions. However in defense of Ken Dorsey he was constantly under severe duress with pressure and blitzing from a Chicago defense trying to re-identify itself all of a sudden in this very game.

When you think about Eric Johnson remember that he is the veteran receiver on this offense in all actuality. With both Terrell Owens and Tai Streets exodus we saw the veteran presence on this receiving unit decimated. The only experienced receivers left on this team included Eric Johnson at tight end and then third string wide receiver Cedrick Wilson who was forced to step forward based upon his limited progress from 2003.

Consistent is what Eric has been for this offense in fact he’s been the only real bright spot in an offense that has struggled to find playmakers period. Eric Johnson before this game against Chicago had 13 catches for 162-yards against the Arizona Cardinals and 10 for 113-yards against the St. Louis Rams.

Eric Johnson’s 46 receptions are just three fewer than the combined total for wide receivers Curtis Conway (26) and Cedrick Wilson (23), who by the way rank second and third on the team. On yet another bright spot on the offense is kicker Todd Peterson who seems to have just enough power left in his leg to still get the job done.

He actually leads the club in scoring believe it or not which is a scary proposition in that he’s just the kicker. He leads the club in scoring with 34 points and is 9 of 11 on field goals, including 51 and 48-yarders against the Bears. The 51-yarder, which was just incredible for Peterson, was his longest since December 2001.

The departures of left tackle Derrick Deese and right guard Ron Stone and even back-up Matt Willig have left this offensive line in a state of turmoil. It is really pathetic when you really analyze it as both Jeremy Newberry and Kwame Harris are still out with injuries incurred this season.

At left tackle Kyle Kosier the versatile offensive lineman on this team was constantly beaten and pressured as the Chicago defense blitzed his side constantly in attempts to throw Ken Dorsey off his rhythm. Every time you looked you saw Chicago defensive linemen and linebackers in the backfield of our offensive line. They were beaten, engulfed, manhandled and embarrassed in my playbook.

Where is the tenacity and nastiness in this offensive line? Certainly with Jeremy Newberry missing from the equation it has changed dramatically. The staple of the offensive line has always been our ability to provide a top-notch running game against almost any opponent. We rank 29th in rushing the football folks! Kevan Barlow like so many other games this season is not finding holes let alone seams to run through and is constantly getting sacked behind the line of scrimmage for losses at that.

He averaged just 3.1 yards per carry in this game and had 56 total yards against one of the worst defenses in the NFL. The load has increased even upon fullback Fred Beasley because the line isn’t doing the job up front and is not creating any kind of supplement for both players to take advantage of.

“As long as I’ve been here we’ve never had the really elite athletes,” Beasley said. “But we did have guys that go out there and play with heart and toughness and they knew they could get the job done.”

“That’s the difference in those years and this year. We have a limited amount of guys that have that same passion. You can tell just by watching it on film. That stuff is gone. We’ve got a bunch of young guys. They’re wanting the ball, but you’ve got to earn it.”

The San Francisco 49ers rank 24th in passing the ball and get this 25th in points per game! If this isn’t a validation on that we are back to the drawing board and rebuilding just like the year 1999 I don’t know what is.

Cutting 11- core veteran players from your roster to meet salary cap redemption has taken a huge portion of life out of this football team, and the ones paying for it are not only Dennis Erickson but all 49er fans as well.

“There’s nobody stepping up to make the big plays. We do have guys that are good enough to make plays, but they’re not,” Beasley said.

Remember back to this and I can still remember back to the miracle playoff game against the New York Giants at 3-Com Park. The come from behind playoff game is still ringing in my ears as I watched it and I saw Terrell Owens ranting and raving up and down the sidelines to his teammates.

“Who’s going to make a big play?” “I ‘m going to make a big play!” These are the true inspirational words of a playmaker in defiance of defeat folks. No matter how you look at Terrell Owens, I have always revered his passion for winning at all costs and his testimony on the sidelines when it was motivational.

These are the keys that are missing on the team, even if Dennis Erickson would show some kind of emotion on the sideline would be welcomed. But it seems that facial expressions are hard to come by with this melancholy symptomatic head coach.

Frustration is echoed in heaps up and down the nation in all of us as 49er fans. Mine as well as I have a real passion for my team. Even veteran players like Bryant Young and Fred Beasley can see that this team is now in the midst of a real downsizing transition.

It will take a long time to resurrect what has been lost from this team, and it will take several drafts and better decision making from the ownership and management of this team to do it.

“This would be fixable in a day, if it was up to me. It’s all about the personnel you put out there to play. We’ve got some other young guys who are not starting, and they’re the ones that need to be out there because we know they’re going to give 100%. But that’s just my own opinion. It doesn’t stand a chance.”

Fred Beasley has said he has made these comments to head coach Dennis Erickson. Would you think that they would register from a veteran player on this team? I should utterly hope they would, but at the same time Erickson has been exposed to an unkind situation where all his playmaker talent has left to attain financial recovery.

Ken Dorsey now comes with real concerns and real question marks in all of our minds. He is supposed to be the future at quarterback for this franchise, but after this game and others it stands without saying that it is in jeopardy based upon what we’ve seen so far.

Dorsey was 16-of-36 for 122-yards, he was sacked three times and was intercepted for a 71-yard comeback killing touchdown against the Chicago Bears. Not to have Tim Rattay now makes me nervous instead of jubilant that Ken Dorsey gets to prove himself again. But then again is Tim Rattay any better with tremendous durability questions that surround his every move and his inability to take a pounding physically in the NFL.

You have to ask yourself these questions seeing his constant injuries mount one right after another season, some can be attributed to the offensive line that doesn’t know how to protect an immobile quarterback.

“The decision making was there. Some of the throws got away,” said Dorsey, a second-year player who’s yet to throw a touchdown pass in three NFL starts, all this season and all losses. “It was a combination of a lot of things. I’ve got to hold myself accountable.”

The Chicago Bears although not great offensively either harassed Ken Dorsey almost at will against our line. They blitzed on 30 of the 49ers 62 plays from scrimmage and Dorsey failed time and time again to find wide receivers left in single coverage. He was even unable to help generate a rushing attack where Kevan Barlow was held in check throughout the entirety of this game.

“In those situations, you’ve got to make plays,” Erickson said. “He’s a young guy. He gets rattled easy,” fullback Fred Beasley, said of Dorsey. “It’s up to us as an offense the offensive line and the running backs, we’ve got to keep him protected. They were in his face all night. When you get that pressure, you get rattled, and he was. He didn’t get into a rhythm.”

The San Francisco defense stepped up in this game big time and allowed Ken Dorsey ample time to bring this game back into the victory column. Without so many starters in the secondary this unit still delivered as promised and played with intensity and passion on the field, I was proud of them.

Veteran Bryant Young came through with a game record 10 tackles and two sacks despite being double-teamed and constantly harassed and pressured the Bear offensive line. The linebackers in Derek Smith with nine tackles, Jamie Winborn with two sacks and Brandon Moore with yet another sack proved that speed is still a fundamental element to achieving desire results.

Forcing two fumbles and one interception also spoke volumes about a defensive showboat that was displayed in this particular game. Bryant Young had his first multi-sack game since December 21, 2003 against Philadelphia. In his career now he’s had 17-career multi-sack games.

“Bryant Young was all over the place. I don’t know all his stats, but he was good,” Erickson said. “The whole defense played well, but Bryant’s a special player. He’s a professional.”

Even the words of former quarterback Jeff Garcia are testimonials to what he thinks the team is going through from afar in Cleveland. Jeff was cut by the 49ers on March 2nd, 2004 after four full seasons at the controls of this offense, and expressed sympathy for his former teammates and coach Dennis Erickson.

“That offense was really put into a position where it would have to overcome huge odds,” Garcia said in a media conference call to promote a new Innovative Fitness training center in Seattle.

“To be the (49ers) quarterback would be a difficult situation because of all the newness in the team with all the personnel changes. They’ve come to find out its not easy being behind an offensive line that’s going through growing pains and injuries.”

This offense will not be able to compete so as long as protection is not provided and that is the bottom line. We are dealing with inexperienced players like Kyle Kosier switching from the right to the left, Kwame Harris injured and still learning, Brock Gutierrez lacks the motivational tenacity and leadership of a Newberry and right guard Justin Smiley learning all of a sudden instantly right on the spot and lacking the bulk to move the right side forward.

The offensive line is key to making the whole offense click and getting the rhythm established from every snap of the ball and being dominant at the line of scrimmage on almost every play. Please bring me back Bob McKittrick and Pat Morris so we can generate a line that is the staple of the San Francisco 49ers all over again.

“The lack of time Ken Dorsey had in the pocket, it leads to so many things. Whether he’s accurate or not, it goes back to his security,” Garcia said. “They need to improve the team. It’s difficult for Coach Erickson. But it’s been put upon them to make the product work. It’s difficult to replace those starters, and that’s what they’re finding out.”

How true this statement is folks, right from the former starting quarterback himself and even it’s very own starting fullback himself. How can it be wrong? It isn’t that’s all I have to say. Lord knows I miss Jeff Garcia right now who has been instrumental in getting Cleveland to be competitive again in the NFL.

The San Francisco 49ers now (1-6) face the Seattle Seahawks that recorded a shutout of them earlier in the season 34-0. Being at home you’d like to think positive, but let me tell you something fans, unless we wake-up like immediately and adorn a new attitude and play with protection and passion in mind there will only be more of the same.

In my last article “It’s Hard to be a 49ers Fan,” was not intended for a slam as some may think, it was just a mere evaluation of where I think we’re at right now. Let there be no mistake that my heart is in San Francisco with my beloved team good or bad despite my ranting which also comes from my heart.