The 2002 San Francisco 49ers Season Review.
The 2002 San Francisco 49ers went through more dramatic changes this season and ultimately improved upon last season by dominating their newly respected division by achieving the National Football Conference’s Western Division crown. In what was expected to be a hot contest between the St. Louis Rams and the San Francisco 49ers for the division it was anything but that, as St. Louis went through quarterback injuries and offensive production problems.
Needless to say we had our problems also as the numbers especially when you look at the team overall were marginally worst than last season. Yet we were able to win the division and strike deeper into the post-season by going up against Tampa Bay in the divisional playoff round.
We finished this season by going (10-6) a bit worst from last season when we were at (12-4). Yet the main factor that existed with this season and bore a direct impact on our overall health as a team was injuries.
Injuries like you would never believe, this was one of the worst season’s injury wise for the San Francisco 49ers in a very long time. Depth was tested at every level on this team and back-ups had to step up and learn in a hurry on any given day they were called upon. What was even more testing was that the back-up’s sustained serious injuries forcing us to dig deeper and even go out on the free agent wire for emergency assistance.
Injuries touched every facet of this team on offense it targeted the entire offensive line as every lineman suffered injury in one form or another. Left guard Dave Fiore was lost for the season to a season-ending injury which elevated rookie Eric Heitmann into a starting role in which he did very well. Heitmann sustained injury himself as did Derrick Deese, Jeremy Newberry, Ron Stone and Matt Willig.
This line played through all the pain and agony though and still provided Jeff Garcia with solid protection and running lanes for our diversified running attack. Offensive playmakers suffered their own injuries throughout the season as Terrell Owens, Eric Johnson, J.J. Stokes, Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow all dealt with various injuries throughout the season.
On defense the injury bug ravaged this unit especially in the secondary as Zack Bronson was lost for most of the season with a broken foot and the man who replaced him Ronnie Heard suffered injury as well. Winner of the Len Eshmont Award Tony Parrish played hurt for most of the season as he suffered damage to his shoulder and elbow that left virtually ligaments hanging while playing with a brace.
Others that sustained injuries on defense were Bryant Young, Dana Stubblefield, Julian Peterson, Saleem Rasheed, Jamie Winborn, Jimmy Williams, Jason Webster, Ahmed Plummer and Jeff Ulbrich. Every player was forced to deal with pain in some form or another this season and many remarkably gritted it out and rehabilitated to continue playing. Others were forced to stare from the sidelines for long periods of time helplessly while their team beckoned for their return.
On a whole the San Francisco offense was substantially worst than last year as they struggled to get the ball into the end zone and convert critical third down conversions. Much of the controversy regarding the offense has been centered on the play calling of offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp and head coach Steve Mariucci.
The fans and many sports analysts feel that the offense was vanilla at best and too conservative as games were played to just win by holding onto a lead rather than continue scoring.
On many occasions this could be interpreted as a truth as the team lacked a killer instinct in many games as more games than not came down to the wire in either victories or losses. The defense played heroically considering the daily wounded that fell from the ranks on a constant basis and defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. Continues to manufacture a credible defense that hammered the running game but gave enormous yards up in the passing game.
The nickel and dime defense was ravaged as the secondary suffered injuries and inexperience set itself in to contribute to that weakness we were sure we addressed in the draft before the season started.
The season had many a highlight as it progressed with six San Francisco 49ers being named to this year’s Pro Bowl in Hawaii the same number it was able to send last year in another season of recognized success. Quarterback Jeff Garcia, Wide Receiver Terrell Owens, Right Guard Ron Stone, Center Jeremy Newberry, Defensive Tackle Bryant Young and Linebacker Julian Peterson all will make an appearance in this year’s coveted Pro Bowl.
Quarterback Jeff Garcia will turn 33 this year and the 49ers saw a side of him this year that left them guessing about the future. Jeff being in his prime will have a window of opportunity that he will have to be ready for in the next few years as time will be of the essence to reach the ultimate prize the Super Bowl. His performance against the top-ranked defense in the NFL the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was anything short of disappointing.
His lack of arm strength is seen as a distinct weakness for this team as his weapons at his disposal are many still, yet he makes such a low volume of mistakes that he accomplishes victory regardless.
Jeff has compiled 53 consecutive starts, which is a miracle in itself considering he doesn’t often take a hit because of the solid protection provided him or he uses his athletic ability in his legs to avoid such a injury. Jeff again orchestrated some great come from behind drives that led to ultimate victory and recognition for this team. It continues to be promising as he learns on the job that opening up the offense is the only sure thing of achieving desired results.
Jeff Garcia attempted 528 passes and completed 328 of them for 3344 total yards, which is a completion rate of 62.1%. He averaged 6.3-yards per attempt and threw for 21 touchdowns. He threw just 10 interceptions for an interception percent of 1.9%. His longest completion in his passing game was for 76 total yards.
On the ground Jeff was just as deadly as he took off 73 times for 353 total yards and averaged 4.8-yards per carry when he found no one down the field to pass to. His outstanding come from behind win over the New York Giants in Wild Card Weekend at Candlestick Park from 24 total points down is the very essence of what he is. He struggled in the first half’s of many games struggling to get the offense in sync and scoring anything at all.
Instead he became more effective as the game warmed up and they entered the second half. He did improve upon his poise in the pocket but abandoned it too early in the divisional playoffs against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Overall Jeff remains this franchise’s ticket to the Super Bowl and needs the right play calling and coaching to succeed at what he does best.
In the running game Garrison Hearst continued to be the workhorse of old after obtaining a lucrative extension of his contract in the off-season. This season though showed some wear and tear on Hearst as he shared the duties of rushing with second-year running back Kevan Barlow.
He carried 215 times for 972 total yards averaging 4.5-yards per carry, still impressive numbers considering he shared more carries with Barlow this season than last. He also managed to score eight touchdowns and contributed as a prime outlet for Garcia when he got into trouble checking down the field for options.
Kevan Barlow continued to press for more carries and more recognition as being the future for this team at the running back position. Barlow struggled though again in managing to stay healthy over the long haul of the season and opened the door for Hearst to briefly bask in the limelight as the featured starter.
Barlow had 145 carries for 675 total yards and averaged 4.7-yards per carry. He provided needed rotation with Hearst and was a pair of fresh legs that kept the rushing attack potent enough to be a legitimate threat in many games. You can expect to see more of Barlow as the next season convenes and Hearst getting more spot duty on the side Barlow has had to be over two consecutive seasons.
Terrell Owens continued to be the sole playmaker in this 49er offense and made that point clearer game by game. Despite missing the last two games of the season with a groin injury he still managed 100 receptions for 1,300-total yards and 13 touchdowns. He averaged 13-yards per reception and was the greatest threat to anyone’s secondary as he beat some of the very best cornerbacks in the league again this season.
He came around full circle this season by blacking out the media and keeping comments he made publicly before to himself. He became a leader in the locker room and on the sideline and developed a healthy relationship with Steve Mariucci although he pressed for more opportunities to score.
Opposite Owens there was fourth-year player Tai Streets that surpassed J.J. Stokes for the coveted second wide receiving position. He did this due to J.J. Stokes injury and lack of production yet again this season. Tai Streets had 72 receptions for 756 total yards averaging 10.5-yards per reception and had five touchdowns to boot.
He is an unrestricted free agent this year and will command a bigger salary due to his success which makes J.J. Stokes likely expendable after 32 receptions for 332-yards and just one touchdown.
Tight end Eric Johnson continued to make strides also this year, as he became the option in the middle of the field where he continues to struggle a bit when the opposing secondary drops to a two deep zone type of coverage. His run-blocking techniques are still something to be desired and he needs to be more efficient in the red zone. Johnson had 36 receptions for 321 total yards averaging 8.9-yards per reception.
On special teams we saw more of the same as last year inadequate coverage units and inability to really break away any returns for scores at least all but one. With just eleven games into the season the 49ers actually fired kicker Jose Cortez and went with Jeff Chandler the very man they drafted in hopes he would be the answer.
Chandler finished the season by making 8-of-12 field goal attempts but he continues to struggle as a kick-off man period as the 49ers can only wish and hope that over time he will improve.
Billy LaFleur a reserve punter on the San Diego Chargers practice squad was acquired to replace anemic punter Jason Baker late in the season and proved to be nothing better at all. In fact LaFleur led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first touchdown in the divisional playoff game with a pathetic 14-yard punt.
Return specialist Jimmy Williams was the only bright spot before his ACL injury and was making a name for him throughout the league as being one of the top return specialists in the league. After his season-ending injury Cedric Wilson struggled with muffed punts and even Vinny Sutherland was brought back for playoff time and again failed miserably.
On defense this season we continued to mature and strengthen but still have not reached the level we have been drafting for all over the course of the last 3-4 years. Defense is what wins championships and we are still far from making this a reality.
Leading the pack in sacks was Andre Carter with a breakout season of 12.5 sacks and on the other end Chike Okeafor registered six sacks. Okeafor is an unrestricted free agent and keeping him will be difficult, as the 49ers are due to be over the cap rendering them limited on options as to where their money will go.
Bryant Young struggled in the sack category with just two this season but he took on many a double-team to help the ends and linebackers to make crucial plays when they needed to be. Dana Stubblefield played much better next to his old teammate and registered three sacks as well. As a team they registered 32 sacks this season but still did not apply enough pass rush to help the ailing and banged up secondary this season.
Strong linebacker Julian Peterson made his first Pro Bowl honors by playing in top-notch form this season by shutting down some of the best tight ends in the business. He also was the team’s second leading tackler with 104 stops behind veteran Derek Smith’s 138 stops. This unit continues to be very solid and in no need of an upgrade although both Jamie Winborn and Saleem Rasheed were lost most of the season due to injury.
Jeff Ulbrich has stepped up and been a menace when Winborn sustained a torn medial-collateral ligament. He even received Defensive Player of the Week status by having recorded 17 tackles in the opening game against the New York Giants.
In the secondary the San Francisco 49ers still found themselves with the same old adage of having a glaring weakness in their nickel and dime formations. The 49ers failed to stop the opposition on 46.9% of their third down opportunities. In fact in the playoff loss to Tampa Bay the 49ers could not stop them on 8 of 10 third down situations in just the first half.
Plummer continued to be the best corner but was rendered vulnerable as he played during the later season with a pulled groin. Webster missed both playoff games with an ankle sprain. Tony Parrish, who endured a dislocated elbow in early December continued to play and remained the healthiest member on the defensive unit.
Zack Bronson a undisputed leader in the secondary, missed 11 games with a broken foot and returned to the playoffs but was far from 100%.
Mike Rumph, the rookie struggled to find his identity as he went through tremendous growing pains by being burned for yardage and scores on a consistent basis. Help should come though this season with the return of safety Kevin Curtis who injured himself in pre-season and did not participate at all this season.
And finally the coaching predicament that was so sudden and abrupt with Steve Mariucci being fired one day after the playoff loss to Tampa Bay after six years of wonderful service. He received his walking papers courtesy of a heated phone call from owner John York that sent him reeling for answers right up to this day as we speak.
With his firing came an array of signals from 49er fans that were both happy and sad, but the players came away clearly disturbed that he had been treated so harshly after bringing them to the post-season 4-out-of-6 times during his tenure as head coach.
Other coaches have already jumped ship with the removal of Steve Mariucci and they are special team’s coach Bruce DeHaven, defensive line coach Dwaine Board and linebackers coach Richard Smith.
The coaching staff was blamed for ultra-conservative approaches to this game led by Steve Mariucci and many believe a coaching change is necessary in order to lift us past this mentality.
Others feel that Mariucci received a raw deal and should have had more time to synchronize this team into championship material considering two years were lost to rebuilding period.
Season Notes and Quotes:
From opening the season with the very first regular season game to ending it in a whirlwind of defeat and misery at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay the 2002 San Francisco 49ers continued to live up to the high standard that we expect from them. Even though we are still not a sixth time Super Bowl Champion we continue to make progress on a season by season basis in the darkness of the salary cap.
Opening day for the NFL was a storied one being centered in New York against the Giants behind the ever present reminder of what happened when terrorists struck with all their might in this proud and wonderful city we know as New York.
“That was a big win for us. Especially on the road and in the emotional environment here in New York,” said Dana Stubblefield. “We all know the mistakes we made out there. The good thing is we can do nothing but get better.”
Then there was our redemption game against the Washington Redskins in the third game of the season where we redeemed ourselves from Steve Spurrier’s onslaught in our American Bowl pre-season opener in Japan. We defeated the Redskins in Candlestick 20-10 and proved that we were the better of the two once and for all.
“The four-man pass rush was unbelievable,” Ulbrich said. “We didn’t even have to blitz.” “We lost Dave Fiore for an extended period of time and Jamie Winborn for maybe too long,” General Manager Terry Donahue said. “We really got banged up.”
And one of the most talked about games of the season was the first game against the St. Louis Rams where we knew we had to make a statement for ourselves and for the division. This was a game where we had to break a losing streak that had haunted us for way too long one that left us hanging by the rafters six consecutive times.
“I think the team performed great today. I know the Rams were in a situation where they had some injuries and they weren’t the same team defensively as they’ve been in the past,” said Jeff Garcia. “But we came out ready to play. We controlled the temp, we took it to them all day running the football, and we made some good decisions throwing and guys made plays.”
“I know they will be tougher than they showed today in the future, but it’s nice to get that monkey off our backs and get a win vs. the Rams.”
In October we lost a critical game against the New Orleans Saints leading right into the third quarter only to blow a significant lead that opened the door for them all in the fourth quarter to comeback and defeat us 35-27.
“Clearly, one play never decides a game,” Donahue said. “Kids that make errors tend to be too critical of themselves. That one fumble by Barlow didn’t cost us the game. Was it more costly than the interception that Jeff (Garcia) threw? Or was it more costly than the (51)-yard kickoff return we gave them? Or was it more costly than the 35 points the defense gave up? And the answer is no.”
One of the best games of the season was in the Battle of the Bay showdown at the Networks Associates Coliseum in Oakland against the Raiders in an overtime victory that almost went wrong where we defeated them 23-20.
“I do not remember off-hand a more outstanding effort by a football team, in all phases,” Mariucci said to a crowd of reporters huddled into a small stairway outside the 49ers locker room, another reminder that the 49ers were not on their home turf. “The effort was outstanding. The performance was outstanding. It was gritty, it was courageous, and it was off the charts.”
In November we had the final straw with 49er kicker Jose Cortez in which overtime drew because he failed to connect on a field goal from 41-yards out. It was a misery of a loss in a game that we fought valiantly to stay in only to lose on a whim of someone’s foot. I remember this game well, as it remains burned in my mind on that kick.
“A lot of disappointment,” said Jeff Garcia, who threw for a season high 337-yards, two touchdowns and one interception, a Hail Mary caught by Chargers safety Rodney Harrison at the end of regulation. ‘It’s very tough when you lose a game like this. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. It was a tough game.”
And in December we played the Dallas Cowboys in Irving Texas a game that made Terrell Owens green with envy upon its return. The rivalry we have with Dallas so creative and real because of the celebrations of our coveted wide receiver not so long ago when he danced upon their star at midfield. We defeated them yet again 31-27 in a game that left me breathless and jumping for joy.
“We faced a lot of adversity today, and the guys on the field showed a lot of character,” cornerback Ahmed Plummer said. “There were a lot of back-up guys in there. Everybody kept their poise and we were able to get it done when we needed to get it done.”
“Just like Michael Jordan, you know he’s going to take that last shot, how do you defend him?” Owens said. In my situation, I knew I had to make a play. I’m always very confident I can do that, and Jeff gave me the opportunity.”
In the last regular season game on Monday Night the San Francisco 49ers were defeated by the St. Louis Rams 31-20 after once again leading right into the fourth quarter only to give up 28 unanswered points to the Rams in the fourth quarter.
“It’s been said all year long,” quarterback Jeff Garcia growled in the post-game locker room. “We do just enough to win games. But I want to see more, and expect more production out of ourselves.”
And then the well anticipated playoffs an entry we had all been waiting for anxiously yet nervous knowing that our offensive performance was not where it should be and our defense was missing vital links due to injuries.
It was one of the most trying times of the season knowing all of this and granted with all the information many felt we would be an early exit from the playoffs considering all that had happened to us throughout the regular season.
But we ignored the obvious and the adversity that lay before us in the New York Giants and we focused even after we allowed ourselves to be buried alive in a passing attack conducted by Kerry Collins. We came back to win this one 24-points down 39-38 in a miracle finish on the arms and legs of Jeff Garcia.
“Jeff is at his best as a spontaneous player, just like Steve Young was,” said Bill Walsh. “He salvaged our season. It didn’t look good out there for quite awhile, but we found a way to make it happen.”
“As long as you live, you might never see a game better than that,” said 49ers coach Steve Mariucci. “It’s kind of hard to remember everything right now, but I remember how it ended.”
On to the divisional playoffs the San Francisco 49ers advanced knowing they would face one of the very best teams in the league in No.#1 defense Tampa Bay led by the notorious John Gruden once from the Oakland Raiders. It would be a wait we all wish were longer as the results were devastating in losing that contest 31-6.
“They are a good defensive football team,” Garcia said of the NFL’s top-ranked overall defense. “Yeah, I would have liked to play better. I don’t think that I played up to the level I think I’m capable of playing. But that’s more a tribute to them than what we didn’t do.”
“I was accountable for four turnovers, and that’s just not me. That’s not my style,” Garcia said. “They helped create those, though. It’s just one of those things where we have to be better with the football. It got to a point where it was just difficult.”
That is the ending of this segment in overview, interesting statistics and notes and quotes. I hope that these have enlightened you and have been informative as well. The 2002 San Francisco 49ers starts anew with a look at brief review from pre-season to post-season in this game by game review.
Game 1 Redskins 38 49ers 7
This was the beginning of a very long season for the San Francisco 49ers as they were picked to open the NFL pre-season American Bowl in Osaka, Japan. They would face the newly appointed savior of the Washington Redskins in Steve Spurrier well known for his wide open passing attacks in college football.
The Redskins employed their first line offense and defense for much of the game running up the score on a 49er team led by Steve Mariucci who was more concerned with evaluating depth concerns and recognizing individual talent.
The Redskins passed for five touchdowns, threw the ball 45 times and ran it just 21 times. The game created irritation and disgust for the San Francisco 49ers as they approached the game as merely a pre-season game versus an actual contest.
Jeff Garcia 4 of 8 for 20-yards and zero interceptions
Tim Rattay 9 of 13 for 80-yards and zero interceptions
Saladin McCullough 2 carries for 18-yards
Kevan Barlow 8 carries for 17-yards
Terry Jackson 3 carries for 17-yards
Cedrick Wilson 1 reception for 24-yards
Eric Johnson 3 receptions for 19-yards
Tai Streets 3 receptions for 16-yards
Jeff Chandler missed 51-yard field goal
Ahmed Plummer 1 interception
Brian Jennings botched snap
Jimmy Williams 1 sack 1 pressure
“I would’ve liked to put some points on the board,” Garcia said. “We had a nice second drive, but we didn’t finish it the way wanted to. We had a couple of missed opportunities and missed passes that I’ll get cleaned up. It’s the first pre-season game, and we’re just not quite clicking.”
“Sure, it was a little bit (frustrating),” coach Steve Mariucci said after watching game film. “It was a different sort of pre-season game from that standpoint. But I think you need to look at what both teams wanted to accomplish.”
“The Redskins wanted to start with a bang, get fans excited, and get everyone excited. And they played guys a little longer than we did. We just wanted to get our guys a taste, then get them out of there. We had two different goals in mind.”
Game 2 Chiefs 17 49ers 14
This was my first game that I ever attended; I did so right as I arrived in San Francisco for a 10-day vacation. It was in this game that the 49ers were trying to put the Steve Spurrier victory behind them and recover from jet lag across the Pacific from Japan.
Jimmy Williams would receive his audition in this game to return punts and he would prove worthy and rookie Kevin Curtis at safety would sustain a season-ending injury with a medial collateral ligament injury in his left knee.
Tim Rattay 10 for 19 for 132-yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception
Jeff Garcia 6 for 9 for 118-yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception
Brandon Doman 4 for 9 for 37-yards with 0 touchdowns and 1 interception
Saladin McCullough 8 carries for 40-yards
Garrison Hearst 6 carries for 24-yards and 1 reception for three yards
Kevan Barlow 5 carries for 11-yards and three receptions for 42-yards
Terrell Owens 1 reception for 71-yards and a touchdown
Tai Streets 3 receptions for 39-yards
Cedrick Wilson 3 receptions for 37-yards and 1 touchdown
Tony Parrish five tackles
Ronnie Heard five tackles
Frank Strong four tackles and 1 sack
Sean Moran 1 sack
“Wow!” Said linebacker Larry Atkins, a recipient of one of two Owens straight-arms delivered en route to a 71-yard touchdown catch and run in the first quarter on San Francisco’s third play from scrimmage.
“You know, people give him hell for what he does off the field,” Atkins said, “but when it’s time to play the game, he really brings it. He’s a receiver with tight end size. I put him right up there with Randy Moss (Minnesota) as the two best receivers in the league. I also know that’s a play our defense will hate to look at again when we watch game films on Monday.”
Game 3 49ers 12 Denver 7
This was a game that featured the retirement of Denver Bronco running back Terrell Davis as he wore the Denver uniform for the very last time due to health concerns. This would also be a battle of the kickers as incumbent Jose Cortez continued to battle newly drafted Jeff Chandler for the starting position come the regular season. The connection between Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens would continue to be a factor, as both would find each other in another big play.
Jeff Garcia 11 for 18 for 149-yards
Tim Rattay 9 for 10 for 91-yards
Jamal Robertson 10 carries for 21-yards
Garrison Hearst six carries for 17-yards
Paul Smith three carries for 15-yards
Terrell Owens seven receptions for 123-yards and 1 touchdown
Justin Swift 1 reception for 24-yards
Cedrick Wilson 1 reception for 22-yards
Jamie Winborn 5 tackles
Julian Peterson 1 sack
Tony Parrish 1 interception
“It feels good to get a win under our belt,” said Steve Mariucci. “We’re still very much in training camp mode and we still have work to do. I thought we did some nice things on defense tonight.”
“I have known Terrell Davis since college,” said Garrison Hearst, who also played running back at Georgia. “I know what he’s fought through to get back and do what he’ done. I know he’s hurting inside. He’s taking it like a trooper by going out on top. When he’s playing, he’s the best in the game.”
Game 4 Raiders 17 49ers 10
This was a game that was the set-up game for the regular season clash to come when the San Francisco 49ers would face the Raiders in November. The Raider defense would be a dominant factor in this game as the 49er offense would come under tremendous pressure.
Tim Rattay continued to get repetitions as to establish his presence as the legitimate No.#2 quarterback and wide receiver Cedrick Wilson continued to make his presence felt as a viable receiving threat for the 49ers.
Tim Rattay 12 for 19 for 140-yards and 1 touchdown
Jeff Garcia 8 for 16 for 60-yards
Jamal Robertson 5 carries for 41-yards
Saladin McCullough seven carries for 18-yards
James Jordan 1 reception for 36-yards
Terrell Owens 1 reception for 35-yards
Mark Anelli 2 receptions for 27-yards
Cedrick Wilson 1 reception for 15-yards and 1 touchdown
Jeff Ulbrich 6 tackles
Bryant Young .5 sack
Andre Carter .5 sack
“Every play is critical. They had a few good runs on us. I think we probably need to rush the passer a lot better as a defensive line,” Andre Carter said. “We’re coming along. We haven’t arrived yet. We can’t say that. But we keep on working.”
“Not having that continuity on the front line right now is difficult,” Jeff Garcia said. “We just have to learn from this and move on. Right now, I’m just concentrating on getting ready for the season opener.”
Game 5 49ers 27 Chargers 3
Strong performances would be witnessed, as Tim Rattay would take the game in hand while Jeff Garcia rested on the sidelines. Running back star from NFL Europe Jamal Robertson would make a viable case for keeping him on the active roster after his performance.
Ball control would finally be established by the San Francisco offense and they would manage the clock well almost learning from their previous four outings as the regular season came knocking on the door.
Tim Rattay 16 for 21 for 158-yards and 1 touchdown
Brandon Doman four for seven for 38-yards and 1 interception
Jamal Robertson 21 carries for 112-yards and 1 touchdown
Kevan Barlow eight carries for 34-yards
Cedrick Wilson five receptions for 64-yards
James Jordan five receptions for 62-yards
Brandon Moore 6 tackles
Frank Strong five tackles
“Tim Rattay has made great progress in every pre-season game that we’ve played this year and I’m really happy with where he is right now,” said Steve Mariucci. “He had a real good first half; very solid. He played smart and had a lot of different experiences this pre-season. So, in some ways, mission accomplished.”
“I’m pleased with the way I played tonight,” Jamal Robertson said. “I carried the ball well, ran hard; I felt like my routes and assignments were correct. I guess I’m just hungry right now.”
Regular Season Games
Game 1 49ers 16 NY Giants 13
This was the first ever nationally televised opening day game giving the 49ers the National spotlight to showcase their high-powered offense and young defense. After a hard fought game the 49ers came out with a narrow victory.
Up until the 49ers final drive, their high-powered offense was MIA. But when it counted most, Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens came through to put the 49ers in position for the game winning field goal. It was the 49ers defense that played outstanding, despite giving up 361 yards.
Jeff Garcia – 16 of 26 for 166 yards with one touchdown and one interception
Garrison Hearst – 12 carries for 40 yards and 2 catches for 10 yards and a touchdown
Kevan Barlow – 8 carries for 33 yards and 3 catches for 34 yards
Terrell Owens – 4 catches for 41 yards
Eric Johnson – 3 catches for 44 yards
JJ Stokes – 3 catches for 37 yards
Jamie Winborn – 16 tackles including a sack earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week Honors
Sacks by Jamie Winborn, Chike Okeafor and Dana Stubblefield
Interceptions by Zack Bronson, Tony Parrish and Julian Peterson
“There was all the potential in the world to have a real frustrated locker room at halftime because we just couldn’t seem to get going. It was hard to make first downs, but I didn’t see any frustration. I saw poise. I saw composure. I saw good discussion at halftime. I saw some confidence. I saw some real poise and we had been in this situation before.” Coach Steve Mariucci
“You take it anyway you can get it, and if we call this win ugly, which is a term we all use, I guess it would fit that description.” Coach Steve Mariucci
“We can’t look past anybody and can’t believe we’re a playoff team. Tonight we were fortunate to come out of here with a win.” Quarterback Jeff Garcia
Game 2 Broncos 24 49ers 14
In the 49ers home opener, the Denver Broncos dominated them, once again never establishing any consistency on offense and letting the Broncos offense wear down their defense.
Jeff Garcia – 27 of 36 for 205 yards with one interception and two touchdowns (one rushing)
Garrison Hearst – 5 carries for 5 yards and 6 catches for 30 yards
Kevan Barlow – 7 carries for 47 yards and one catch for 9 yards
Terrell Owens - 5 catches for 38 yards and a touchdown
Eric Johnson - 7 catches for 69 yards
JJ Stokes – 4 catches for 28 yards
Sacks by Julian Peterson, Andre Carter and Chike Okeafor
“We have some great talent on this team, and we had a great game plan, but every time we got something going we just made a lot of mistakes and we’d shoot ourselves in the foot, stalling drives.” Wide Receiver – Terrell Owens
“I’m not especially concerned. I’m just more so at a point where we will continue to work hard and fight through the struggles that we’re experiencing right now. We realize that there’s a lot of talent on this offense. This is a solid team with solid players that can execute as a team. We just need to do a better job of executing. Our attitude as an offense needs to be committed to getting better. There’s a solid team there, it’s just a matter of pulling it out and doing it.” Quarterback Jeff Garcia
Game 3 49ers 20 Redskins 10
This was, in a sense, a revenge game for the 49ers after the Redskins ran up the score in their pre-season meeting. Unfortunately, a virus swept through the team affecting many key players as well as the coaching staff. The highlight of the game came on a reverse option to Terrell Owens, which he kept and ran and weaved through the Washington defense for a spectacular 38-yard touchdown.
Jeff Garcia – 10 for 19 for 84 yards and one interception
Tim Rattay – 5 for 9 for 41 yards
Garrison Hearst – 19 carries for 97 yards and 3 catches for 25 yards
Kevan Barlow- 15 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown
Terrell Owens – 2 catches for 33 yards and one carry for 38 yards and a touchdown
Tai Streets – 3 catches for 27 yards
JJ Stokes – 4 catches for 20 yards
Eric Johnson – 3 catches for 20 yards
Sacks by Chike Okeafor and two by Andre Carter
Interception by Zack Bronson
“I’d rather be 3-0, but 2-1 is respectable. We’ve played some decent football teams. So it is nice going into the bye week with a win and first place in our division.” – Coach Steve Mariucci
“I think in many ways, we have to feel good about being 2-1. We haven’t looked all that good offensively, and yet we are still winning games. Much of that is how our defense is playing and how they’re really stepping up and creating opportunities for this offense. That’s a real positive thing to look at.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
Game 4 49ers 37 Rams 13
A game the 49ers felt they had to win in order to take control of their division and get by the team that had beat them the past six meetings. The 49ers dominated the entire game on both sides of the ball with big plays coming from everyone.
Jeff Garcia – 18 for 26 for 214 yards and a touchdown and a rushing touchdown
Garrison Hearst – 13 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown and 4 catches for 17 yards
Kevan Barlow – 10 carries for 50 yards
Terrell Owens – 7 catches for 89 yards
JJ Stokes – 2 catches for 64 yards and a touchdown
Interceptions by Tony Parrish and Jason Webster returned one for a touchdown
A sack by Jeff Ulbrich
“I think we got some things down now on offense. It was very important for us to get the ball going on the ground. Garrison did a good job running for us, finding holes, getting up the field. When we get our running game going, it obviously opens us up for the pass. We also got some things down on defense. We just have to clean up a few things now and keep it going.” – Wide Receiver Terrell Owens
“In order for us to get where we want to be, this had to be done. It was the monkey off the collective back of this entire organization. We have to take advantage of all the opportunities. We didn’t want to be the team that the Rams decided to get healthy on after going 0-4.” – Safety Tony Parrish
“We just had a good mix of things throughout the game. We came out with just a great attitude. We went out and took care of business and we just weren’t going to allow ourselves to have a setback today. We weren’t going to hold anything back.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
Game 5 49ers 28 Seattle 21
Another nationally televised game, this one on a Monday night against a new division opponent was highlighted by the now famous “sharpie incident”. This game was another in which the 49ers played well on both sides of the ball with the offense moving up and down the field and the defense holding one of the league’s best running backs in check.
Jeff Garcia – 16 for 29 for 202 yards and two touchdowns, a 2 point conversion and 48 yards rushing
Garrison Hearst – 10 carries for 41 yards and 3 catches for 33 yards
Kevan Barlow – 12 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown
Terrell Owens – 6 catches for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns
Tai Streets – 4 catches for 66 yards
Cedric Wilson – 2 catches for 18yards
Interceptions by Zack Bronson and Ahmed Plummer
A sack by Andre Carter
Season ending injuries to Zack Bronson and Terry Jackson
“We knew we had to come up here and make a statement. It was going to be a tough game, sold out game, Monday night football, Seattle was going to be hyped and playing with a lot of emotion. We knew we had to come out here and just keep plugging at them.” – Running back Kevan Barlow
Game 6 Saints 35 49ers 27
A big game between division leaders in which the 49ers dominated through three quarters and then let the game slip away with two big turnovers in the 4th quarter. For the second consecutive game the 49er defense was unable to stop the opposing team from converting on third downs.
Jeff Garcia – 23 of 39 for 275 yards, one touchdown and one interception
Garrison Hearst – 14 carries for 87 yards and two touchdowns and 4 catches for 43 yards
Kevan Barlow – 6 carries for 28 yards and 3 catches for 43 yards
Terrell Owens – 4 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown
Tai Streets – 6 catches for 80 yards
Sacks by Andre Carter, Saleem Rasheed and Jim Flanigan
“I am devastated right now that we lost this game. We hate to lose this game. We felt we should have won this game.” – Wide Receiver Tai Streets
“They climbed back into it and made a heck of a game of it. It was close at the end. I was hoping to get another shot at it. I was hoping that somebody was going to say that we had one more second left.” – Coach Steve Mariucci
Game 7 49ers 38 Arizona 28
This game was a battle for first place between two 4-2 teams. The 49ers burst out to a huge lead and held on for a big victory with superb performances from Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens. The defense had a big day from back-up safety Ronnie Heard with 3 interceptions and also 3 sacks from the defensive linemen.
Jeff Garcia – 18 of 28 for 252 yards and 4 touchdowns
Garrison Hearst – 5 carries for 35 yards and 3 catches for 16 yards
Kevan Barlow – 18 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown and 4 catches for 35 yards and a touchdown
Terrell Owens – 8 catches for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns
Tai Streets – 2 catches for 62 yards
3 interceptions by Ronnie Heard giving him NFC Defensive Player of the Week Honors
Sacks by Andre Carter, Chike Okeafor and Bryant Young
“Coming in and playing a co-first place team the way we did, there are a lot of positive things to pull out of this game. It was an all-out team performance. Everybody stepped up and did what they need to do. I was disappointed about how we played in the second half, but we will correct that.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
“I know that everybody is saying, oh my god what happened? But to me it was extremely courageous given the circumstances we’re in. I mean, with the injuries we’ve had, and the guys that are stepping up and playing. I was awfully encouraged about that. You’re always discouraged when you give up touchdowns and you give up yards. But in this league, that’s going to happen. It’s a frickin’ gut check every week in this league. You know, I’m not trying to put a positive spin on it all."
"But with guys banged up, and guys in there that haven’t played to be able to just get through it and win and make a play when we had to make a play, it was very encouraging. That gives you character. Sometimes, I think you have to look through the yards and the points; you have to look through them for the positive. When you get through all the stuff that happened, it was a hell of an effort, a real character-builder.” – Defensive Coordinator Jim Mora
Game 8 49ers 23 Raiders 20 in overtime
In the battle of the bay, the 49ers got a gutsy performance from their Quarterback who almost single-handedly won this game for the 49ers with his outstanding effort. Garcia, Owens and the defense made all of the key plays to get out of the black hole with a victory.
Jeff Garcia – 25 of 36 for 282 yards and 2 touchdowns and 10 carries for 46 yards rushing
Garrison Hearst – 18 carries for 36 yards and 3 catches for 12 yards
Kevan Barlow – 15 carries for 60 yards
Terrell Owens – 12 catches for 191 yards
Tai Streets – 8 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown
Cedric Wilson – 1 catch for 11 yards and a touchdown
Andre Carter had a sack
The Offense held the ball for the last 30 plays of the game
“I do not remember a more outstanding effort by a football team in all phases. The effort was outstanding. The performance was outstanding. It was gritty. It was courageous. It was off the charts.” – Coach Steve Mariucci
“It has to be the most satisfying win as a professional. It really feels good to be a part of this team.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
“I thought that Jeff Garcia was really the culprit for us. We couldn’t corral him and we couldn’t defense him. He single-handedly won that game today. There’s no doubt in my mind.” – Oakland Coach Bill Callahan
Game 9 49ers 17 Chiefs 13
This time it was the defense that stepped up, holding one of the league’s top offenses to 256 total yards. The 49ers shut down the top running back and tight end in the league. The offense scored just enough to get the win. Line backer Julian Peterson was given the task of guarding Tony Gonzalez all day and he limited him to one catch for 6 yards earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week Honors.
Jeff Garcia – 25 of 35 for 175 yards and one interception
Garrison Hearst – 15 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown
Kevan Barlow – 9 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown
Terrell Owens – 7 catches for 51 yards
Tai Streets – 4 catches for 41 yards
Justin Swift – 3 catches for 18 yards
Sacks by Andre Carter, Chike Okeafor and Dana Stubblefield
“Our offense played great. They had long sustained drives. We played great as a team today. Our offense stayed on the field a long time, which gave us a lot of time to rest. Our defense feeds off of our offense.” - Defensive End Chike Okeafor
“It’s great to win, Kansas City has one of the best offenses in the league, and we made some mistakes when we shouldn’t have, but our defense was able to out the win for us. Any time you get a big win, it’s satisfying. I love it when our defense can come out and play hard like that. Those are the plays we need. Sometimes one side of the ball needs to pick up for the other side and they did that for us today.” – Running back Garrison Hearst
“Sooner or later, defense was going to have to win a game for us. This was their turn. This was their time. And they did It.” – Coach Steve Mariucci
Game 10 San Diego 20 49ers 17 in overtime
The 49ers let another game slip away in the 4th quarter. A missed field goal by Jose Cortez in OT gives the Chargers the opportunity to win the game. Garcia and Owens once again have a big day on offense.
Jeff Garcia – 25 of 43 for 337 yards and two touchdowns and one interception
Garrison Hearst – 12 carries for 66 yards and 3 catches for 21 yards
Kevan Barlow – 13 carries for 49 yards
Terrell Owens – 7 catches for 171 yards and two touchdowns
Tai Streets – 8 catches for 78 yards
JJ Stokes – 3 catches for 44 yards
Quincy Stewart had an interception
“It just leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. We just didn’t make enough plays to put the game away and to win the game. It is a lot of disappointment right now.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
“This is a rough one to take. Especially, when we were clearly the best team. We let them come in the back door and take one away from us.” – Wide Receiver JJ Stokes
Game 11 Eagles 38 49ers 17
The 49ers seemed distracted and not well prepared for a game, which they needed to win in the National spotlight to prove they were back among the elite teams in the NFL. They came out flat and played that way throughout the game. Even with big games by Garcia and Owens the 49ers still looked terrible in this one.
Jeff Garcia – 29 of 51 for 284 yards and two touchdowns
Tim Rattay – 7 of 12 for 53 yards
Garrison Hearst – 10 carries for 65 yards and 4 catches for 31 yards
Paul Smith – 2 carries for 29 yards and 2 catches for 12 yards
Terrell Owens – 13 catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns
Tai Streets – 8 catches for 65 yards
JJ Stokes – 5 catches for 28 yards
Bryant Young and Andre Carter combined for a sack
“It was a bad at the office. We haven’t been beaten like this in a couple of years and it needs to be a wake-up call to every one in this locker room.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
“I take full responsibility for the loss. Philadelphia’s a good team that played a great game. We like to think we are a good team that just didn’t play very well. I was a little surprised how we came out and didn’t seem to be hitting on any cylinders at all. But I don’t think our backs are against the wall. We’re still in first place. We’ll find out how our guys will respond. I believe in these guys. I think they will respond.” – Coach Steve Mariucci
Game 12 49ers 31 Seattle 24
This was another game in which the 49ers gave up a big 4th quarter lead and just held on for a win. Garrison Hearst had his best game of the season to provide the spark for the offense. The defense seemed to take the week off making Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck look like a pro bowler.
Jeff Garcia – 16 of 29 for 164 yards and two interceptions
Garrison Hearst – 31 carries for 124 yards and 3 touchdowns
Terrell Owens – 5 catches for 45 yards
Tai Streets – 6 catches for 66 yards
JJ Stokes – 1 catch for 20 yards
Interceptions by Tony Parrish and Rashad Holman
“What can I say? A win’s a win, but we definitely need to improve on offense and play better as a team. We have to find away to finish games and finish off opponents and not allow teams to feel like they have a chance. And right now, I think teams do feel like they still have a chance against us. Even though they’re behind they still have a chance, just because of the way we play in the fourth quarter.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
“We’re 8-4. We’re undefeated in our division. We’re in control right now. So we have to continue to prepare to see if we can put together a run to have some momentum going into the playoffs.” – Strong Safety Tony Parrish
Game 13 49ers 31 Dallas 27
Finally, a game in which, it was the 49ers, not their opponent with a great 4th quarter comeback for a huge victory. Once again it was Garcia and Owens coming through and making the plays they needed to in order to get a win. Another spark on offense came from little used running back Paul Smith who had some key runs late in the 4th quarter.
Jeff Garcia – 36 of 55 for 276 yards and 3 touchdowns and 8 carries for 50 yards and another touchdown
Garrison Hearst – 9 carries for 35 yards
Paul Smith – 13 carries for 40 yards and 2 catches for 17 yards
Terrell Owens – 12 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns
Eric Johnson – 8 catches for 60 yards
Tai Streets – 6 catches for 36 yards and a touchdown
Tony Parrish had two interceptions
“It shows the character of this ball club. A lot of guys stepped up and made plays when we needed them. That’s what championship teams do.” – Wide Receiver Terrell Owens
“It really showed the character on our team. We were kind of cool and calm. And guys on this team, reserve guys, stepped up. There were a lot of guys playing with heart and soul out there. We just wanted to go out there and leave it all on the field.” – Line Backer Julian Peterson who played cornerback, safety, defensive end and line backer in this game.
“We’re happy and we’re thankful but we’re not satisfied. It was exciting and it was against the Dallas Cowboys. But we need to keep it in perspective. It’s Round 13. It was a big road win against a team that beat us here last year. And it clinched the division. We’re going to enjoy it for a day, but we’ve got another big game at home against Green Bay next week.” – Coach Steve Mariucci
Game 14 Green Bay 20 49ers 14
This time the 49ers 4th quarter rally came up short against one of their biggest nemesis the Green Bay Packers. The 49ers had a chance to win the game, but conservative play calling on the last drive made them come up short.
Jeff Garcia – 19 of 34 for 156 yards one touchdown and one interception and 5 carries for 32 yards
Garrison Hearst – 12 carries for 51 yards
Kevan Barlow – 6 carries for 24 yards
Terrell Owens – 8 catches for 75 yards and a touchdown
Eric Johnson – 8 catches for 66 yards
Andre Carter and Bryant Young combined for a sack
“I don’t think anybody is really down about this game. I think we know where we are. We know we’re in the playoffs. We lost the game but it’s not like it’s the end of the world.” – Wide receiver Terrell Owens
“We had every intention of coming out and being the better football team. We know we’re a good team, but at the sound of the gun, we weren’t the better team.” – Quarterback Jeff Garcia
Game 15 49ers 17 Arizona 14
With the 49ers playoff picture already decided they were able to rest some of their key players in this one, including star receiver Terrell Owens. The defense had a great game with 5 sacks and an interception.
Jeff Garcia – 23 of 39 yards for 256 yards one touchdown and one interception
Garrison Hearst – 11 carries for 38 yards and a touchdown
Kevan Barlow – 13 carries for 50 yards
Tai Streets – 8 catches for 90 yards
Cedric Wilson – 4 catches for 56 yards
JJ Stokes – 4 catches for 48 yards
Fred Beasley – 1 catch for 25 yards and a touchdown
Tony Parrish had an interception
Sacks by Chike Okeafor, Josh Shaw, a combined one by Jeff Ulbrich and Bryant Young and two by Andre Carter
“We had to take things and play at another higher level. This was just a game to let it all hang out. This game was personal pride. Good record or bad record, you have to come in and play like a champion.” – Defensive End Andre Carter
“To clinch the division three weeks out, that says a lot about what this team is, and the success we’ve had, and I think that is the compliment we need to recognize. It’s nice that we were able to get some wins early so that we could put ourselves in a situation where we can rest guys if we need to. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams this year and we’ve lost a couple of close ones to good teams also. Really, I think we all know that we’ve got a shot.” - Offensive Tackle Scott Gragg
Game 16 Rams 31 49ers 20
The 49ers again rested their key players in this one, Garcia and Owens did not play much in this one. Garcia led a great opening drive, which resulted in a field goal and then left the game. The back-up players played well but could not hold up in the 4th quarter against the Rams starters.
After an amazing 12:07 opening drive many of the starters left the game. Tim Rattay stepped in and went 14 of 21 for 138 yards and two touchdowns to Tai Streets. The 49ers held a 20-3 lead entering the 4th quarter.
Jeff Garcia 2 for 3 for 16-yards
Tim Rattay 14 for 21 for 138-yards and two touchdowns
Kevan Barlow 10 carries for 87-yards
Garrison Hearst 19 carries for 67-yards
Tai Streets five receptions for 53-yards and two touchdowns
Cedrick Wilson two receptions for 31-yards
Derek Smith five tackles and 1 sack
Andre Carter 1 sack
Dana Stubblefield 1 sack
Tony Parrish 1 interception
Ronnie Heard 1 interception
“The plan was well thought out and we had to stick with it. We had to have that young offensive line in there. We had to get those defensive players out of there as much as we could. We just needed to do that for the Giants, and in doing that, we weren’t going to be playing our best football. I was hoping it would be good enough to hang on and win that thing, but it wasn’t."
"We started substituting in the second quarter. In the second half we continued to substitute. We thought that was the smart thing to do, but it wasn’t the best thing for finishing this game. It certainly caught up with us. It was really a tale of two halves.” – Coach Steve Mariucci
Game 1 49ers 39 Giants 38
Marked as the second best comeback in NFL history this game left many of us with a few more white hairs on our heads and breaking out in nervous sweats. Coming from behind when all else seemed so helpless from 24-points down in the fourth quarter was a remarkable experience.
It was one I know like many of you out there will never ever forget, simply because it was so dramatic and so inspiring to see the team rally from so far down. Both Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens combined to elevate the game both on and off the sidelines as they manufactured the motivation and will of the team to comeback from disparity.
Jeff Garcia 27 of 44 for 331-yards with three touchdowns and one interception
Jeff Garcia seven carries for 60-yards
Garrison Hearst six carries for 15-yards and 1 reception for three yards
Terrell Owens nine receptions for 177-yards and 2 touchdowns
Eric Johnson eight receptions for 78-yards
Tai Streets five receptions for 58-yards and 1 touchdown
Julian Peterson 7 tackles and 1 interception
Derek Smith 8 tackles
John Engelberger 1 sack
“As long as you live, you might never see a game better than that,” 49er coach Steve Mariucci. “It’s kind of hard to remember everything right now, but I remember how it ended.”
“I asked everybody who could make plays,” Terrell Owens said. “I told them I could. Other guys chimed in. They could. I said. ‘We have a lot of weapons. We have to play with poise. Time is on our side.”’
Game 2 Buccaneers 31 49ers 6
This was an incredible accomplishment for the San Francisco 49ers to move ahead to the divisional playoff round considering their exhausting comeback laced in controversy over an official review that a call was blown at the end over the last second botched snap made by the New York Giants.
Tampa Bay poised considerable challenges above and beyond what the New York Giants had, and the injuries that were key to the 49ers would ultimately effect the outcome of this game.
Jeff Garcia 22 for 41 for 193-yards and three interceptions
Garrison Hearst 10 carries for 55-yards
Kevan Barlow three carries for seven-yards
Tai Streets five receptions for 62-yards
Terrell Owens four receptions for 35-yards
Garrison Hearst four receptions for 29-yards
Rashad Holman 1 interception
Julian Peterson 9 tackles and 1 sack
“If you look at it in the context of where we were, we had a very good year,” John York said. “You don’t like to lose a game like this. You don’t like to lose the last game.” “I told the team, ‘The way we want to finish is we want to have a celebration in the locker room.’ That’s what this organization is going to do. It wasn’t this year but you have to congratulate them for where they brought us this year.”
I want to also make note that this review was a lot of hard work done through research and done over a course of time that established every category in sequence and tries to illustrate the surface of each and every aspect of the team. The 2002 San Francisco 49ers did achieve many desired results but failed again to go deep into the playoffs. Injuries and lack of production are partly to blame as is the coaching in the name of play calling and devising adequate schemes along with not being aggressive enough.
For that and in the name of power Head Coach Steve Mariucci was fired and a replacement is sought. The balance of power came into full clarity when John York insisted that the change was necessary even though he had just gone on record 24 hours earlier that he was proud of where the team was at and that Mariucci had so much going for him.
In the end I express thanks to Steve Mariucci and hope the future holds blessings for his family and himself, he was a great coach and a great human being as well.
I also want to mention assistance with this 2002 Review from a fellow friend of mine and writer in Brian Killeen; he was instrumental in formatting the regular season game coverage of this review. God Bless our San Francisco 49ers.