Article Title: Permanent Hangover
Just a few weeks ago the San Francisco 49ers were celebrating a come from behind victory that was one for the ages. At newly named Monster Park the San Francisco 49ers came back being down 28-12 in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals to push the game into overtime and secure their very first victory of the 2004 season 31-28.
This one was a thriller and a half to say the least as we witnessed an offensive line that came together to buy Tim Rattay the needed time to spark an unprecedented passing attack. And we witnessed veterans and rookies working together and accomplishing the moving of the chains like a well-oiled offensive machine.
Tim Rattay finished that day with a career-high 417 yards passing and a quarterback rating we have all craved for in at 99.8%. He was an outstanding 14-of-20 for 115-yards and two touchdowns in just the fourth quarter, reminding us of the Tim Rattay of old in 2003. He even broke a Joe Montana team record by completing 38 passes, of which Montana held the previous record of 37.
Not all was glimmer and gold though in that we lost our very own franchise player in linebacker Julian Peterson for the season. He tore his Achilles tendon late in the first quarter The freakish accident was one in that Julian Peterson holds no regrets and understands that it is the percentages of the game that dictate your overall health. He continues to be a force on this day as he moved about on crutches on the sidelines and shouted encouragement.
“It is the worst-case scenario,” Peterson said, quickly adding he has no regrets. “I feel I can rewind the hands of time; I’d do the same thing. It is what it is. All I can do is heal, hope for the best and come back in shape ready to kick butt next year.”
“The doctors said it wasn’t that bad of a tear and I should be able to come back stronger than ever. And I’m still going to be here to cheer on my teammates and give them great support. This is a team event. It’s bigger than me.”
Head Coach Dennis Erickson said: “Here’s the leader of our defense that makes a lot of plays for us and has played very well. When you lose a guy like that, it’s hard. We have to make up for him being gone. It’s a devastating loss for us, but for him especially.”
What was even more interesting to me on this game was the play of tight end Eric Johnson who was there for Tim Rattay time and time again. He recorded a career-high day with 13 receptions for 162-yards making him believe it or not the most feared tight end in the league right now. In fact he was so feared that in the game after this with the New York Jets he was constantly double-teamed.
What was also encouraging was the decision by Tim Rattay to take off in the fourth quarter and record 15-yards rushing. It has been something I haven’t fully understood in Tim in that after being Jeff Garcia’s understudy for so long why he hasn’t adopted this sense of running when all possible targets are gone rather then throwing it away or taking the sack.
Jeff Garcia a lot more mobile then Rattay yes, but nothing should impede a quarterback from trying to move the chains when all his options are either covered or non-existent.
It was 49er Alumni day this day and the appearance of legendary icon Joe Montana sparked the memories of all 49er fans in the stands as he walked out on the field that day. The Hall of Fame quarterback that sparked the rise of the San Francisco dynasty along with Bill Walsh may have brought a sense of enlightenment on this day and instilled a sense of winning inside the brain matter of all his fellow brethren in a 49er uniform on this day.
“What can I say about these guys? They were down and out and there wasn’t anyone in the stadium that thought we had a chance to come back,” Dennis Erickson said. “Who Would? To come back and make two two-point conversions and then to go down and win it has to be one of the biggest thrills to me.”
Unfortunately that would be a thrill not repeated as the 49ers prepared for their road trip to the Meadowlands to take on the undefeated New York Jets the following week. It was here that the same curses would rear their ugly heads and evict us from any thoughts of sustained victories. It was a game that started off with immense hope and delight that all of our mistakes, be they mental and physical would somehow disappear and turn into simple plays of absolute execution.
But it wasn’t meant to be. The San Francisco 49ers led the game 14-3 at halftime. They had all the momentum going into the second half of this game executing all of it’s offensive plays and the defense played with a passion that was incredible with the absence of linebacker Julian Peterson nonetheless. In fact Tim Rattay completed an opening half going 11-of-16 passes for 193-yards, one touchdown and a quarterback rating of 130.5%!
What on earth happened in the second half? While I was watching this game so many of my friends came up to me and asked me why? Why was the momentum suddenly shifting into the New York Jets favor all of a sudden? It was aggravating and embarrassing all in one as I watched this second half unfold.
The New York Jets jump-started their offense on their opening 91-yard drive that scored with running back LaMont Jordan from 17-yards out. On yet another time clock consuming drive the New York Jets took the lead for the first time with a Curtis Martin touchdown from 1-yard out.
San Francisco answered with a promising drive that was at the New York 27-yard line when a fumble on a reverse call cost the 49ers eight yards and was unable to convert a third down.
The 49er defense did what they had to do and that was to contain Jet quarterback Chad Pennington and we had the ball back on our 35-yard line with 1:44 remaining. A miracle drive was in the making but on first down Tim Rattay instantly feeling the pressure by defensive end John Abraham abruptly threw the ball into the arms of Jet linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Chances appeared and were squandered bottom line. We had this undefeated team defeated going into the second half and our defense played brilliantly most of the game. They tried to buy time for our offense to catch-up but it was meaningless with turnovers and mental errors accumulating left and right.
For Brandon Lloyd our No. 1 wide receiver to drop a critical pass and duck and hide from another is just unacceptable and embarrassing. Rookie mistakes be damned it was just that and I hope that these kinds of circus acts aren’t repeated in the future.
Game Six San Francisco 49ers at New York Jets (Loss 22-14)
First Quarter Highlights: On first San Francisco offensive drive from our own 20-yard line Tim Rattay throws what appears to be an interception but illegal contact on New York brings the ball back. With just over five minutes left to play in the quarter after unsuccessful drives by both teams the 49ers from their 22-yard line embark on their first scoring drive.
With rushes from Barlow and Beasley and a 19-yard pass to Cedrick Wilson Tim Rattay reaches the Jet 33-yard line where he hits Brandon Lloyd with a beautiful touchdown pass to make it 7-0 49ers.
Second Quarter Highlights: After a nice punt from the New York Jets special teams, Tim Rattay starts the drive from our own 12-yard line. From our own 33-yard line Rattay connects with wide receiver Arnaz Battle for a thrilling 65-yard romp down to the Jet 2-yard line where Kevan Barlow runs it in to make it 14-0 49ers.
The New York Jets answer back on the next drive though from their 29-yard line and a penalty on Bryant Young for neutral zone infraction. Chad Pennington reaches the 49er 25-yard line and runs out of gas where they kick a field goal to make it 14-3 49ers. The first half ends with time running out for the New York Jets on an offensive drive with just over a minute left to play.
Third Quarter Highlights: On New York’s first drive in the second half from their own 9-yard line Chad Pennington drives his team all the way down to our 17-yard line with the help of a defensive off-sides penalty on Anthony Adams. Here running back LaMont Jordan hits a hole for 17-yards and a touchdown. A two-point conversion is attempted but fails making it 14-9 49ers. The quarter ends uneventful for the 49ers and Tim Rattay sustaining a sack as well.
Fourth Quarter Highlights: On New York’s first drive from their 30-yard line they ruin and pass with precision all the way down to our 1-yard line where Curtis Martin runs it in and scores. A two-point conversion again is attempted but fails but the Jets take the lead 15-14. On San Francisco’s next drive Tim Rattay is again sacked and then the New York Jets go three and out.
On our second drive from our own 38-yard line Tim Rattay reaches the Jet 27-yard line when on a reverse is fumbled but recovered by Arnaz Battle. However they are unable to convert third down with so many yardages lost and the Jets are back in business.
On our next offensive drive from our own 35-yard line Tim Rattay drops back but is instantly pressured by the New York Jet defensive front that compels him to throw without checking into Jet linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s hands.
Now on the 49er 20-yard line the New York Jets move to our 9-yard line where again Curtis Martin runs it in with a touchdown to make it the final score of 22-14 sealing this game like so many others in that turnovers and un-sustained drives spell gloom and doom for our hopes in victory.
Some question the game especially the coaching staffs of the San Francisco 49ers in making a decision in the fourth quarter to go on a reverse play call to wide receiver Arnaz Battle from Tim Rattay rather then just kicking a field goal while on the 27-yard line. Certainly if the team was then coached by Steve Mariucci the call would be for a field goal to achieve the needed points but both Dennis Erickson and coordinator Ted Tollner remain convinced aggressiveness was needed.
“It went through me, and it was the right call,” Erickson said. “We probably should’ve called it earlier. The way it was blocked, Arnaz was going to go 10 to 15 yards. He might have taken it to the house. We felt like we needed a touchdown and we were being aggressive, and that is how we have to be.”
It looks to me and to everyone else that there is not enough faith in kicker Todd Peterson. Is that a legitimate thought? His career-best field goal was way back in 1996 on a 54-yard field goal, since then his only miss this season has been from 46-yards out.
This was the last and best drive for the 49ers to finally put the game away and they failed miserably. With a dramatic turnover there shortly afterwards this game was signed, sealed and delivered to the New York Jets.
What is in our future for 2004? Certainly with rookies and injuries mounting more of the same, but also learning curves that are starting to round out as well. The 49er defense has for the most part been the strength of this team, but not enough to force turnovers and convert those into points. We must find a way to achieve just that and so much more.
Final Statistics: The New York Jets had 22 first downs to our 19 and converted more third downs with a 50% completion ratio to our 42%. Total net yards were close with 374 total yards for the 49ers to the Jets 371.
The New York Jet offense ran the ball for 152-yards to our 99 total yards signaling that the front four on our defense continues to struggle. The San Francisco 49ers were the most penalized as well with seven penalties that cost us 61 total yards. We also fumbled the ball three times and lost one to the New York Jets that had a big fat zero.
Time of possession favored the New York Jets as well with 32:16 to the 49ers 27:44. What this game comes down to is mental ineptitude and turnovers. We are not executing and we are not taking advantage of opportunities as a team that is (1-5) it clearly shows. I expected this team to struggle and to be at clear disadvantages but some of these plays could’ve gone either way and it comes down to just execution and the will to win.
With a week off to rest and nurse injuries it comes at a very opportunistic time for the 49ers, in fact it may be enough to assist us in getting a victory over the Chicago Bears before national television.
San Francisco 49er fans I feel your plight and all of your pain. I remain committed and undeterred in my love for this proud organization and all it stands for. Frustration and anger are voiced in my commentaries but always know that it is because of my deep convictions for this team.
We want and deserve answers and we need a new stadium instead of talking about it. We need a legitimate sound management and coaching staff to get us over the hump and we need a practice facility that will let us back in so we can watch our players because us the fans deserve that common courtesy and respect.
I also want to apologize for my absence the past two weeks being that my software and computer encountered major malfunctions and caused me many a headache as well. I am proud to be finally back and contributing again as a writer bringing you facts and my own personal opinions as well.