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Article Title: Winning is almost like losing
Article Date: December 16th 2004
By Sydney

What happened in Tempe, Arizona last Sunday was a football team playing in the name of pride and at the same time making a statement that it does have capability. There was a point in this game where we dominated the Arizona Cardinals 28-3 and had this game won overwhelmingly, but the culmination of jinx’s that this team has endured and manufactured came back to haunt it yet again.

From the final minutes of the third quarter and right on into the fourth quarter the Arizona Cardinals clawed and scratched their way right back in to tie this game 28-28 and force overtime. What has been the 49ers only real security blanket so to speak in this season has been kicker Todd Peterson who up until the moment is 16 of 16 on attempts from 45-yards or less, and he also has struck twice on field goals beyond 50-yards.

After the San Francisco 49ers were able to drive to the Cardinal 13-yard line under quarterback Ken Dorsey, Todd Peterson came out to kick the 31-yard field goal that clinched the second victory on the season for the lowly 49ers.

One has to imagine rather this was the right thing to do in winning this game or throwing it when you figure in the 2005 NFL draft and securing the first round draft pick that will be crucial to rebuilding the franchise after a decimating season like this.

With talk of Dennis Erickson either looking for a new job or staying on and making changes on his staff, and owner Dr. John York cheap skating his players after throwing a Christmas Party at team headquarters because someone somewhere in the organization didn’t make it a priority has this franchise unraveling at the seams.

Anyway you look at it, this team has been literally destroyed from the inside out and it’s infrastructure compromised to a point where promises mean almost nothing anymore. Ownership and management have miss-lead and fumbled with the general fan base of this franchise and the coaching staff it has established for the team has failed to meet even average expectations.

Players have under-performed and have been under-coached obviously when you consider that we are at (2-11) and little is done from one game to the next in any sort of visual improvement.

“I don’t think it will be possible to have all of them back,” York said of Erickson’s assistant coaches. “We need to evaluate some things with the season that is very disappointing,” York said. “We knew it was going to be a tough season, but nobody expected to be 2-11.”

These are the rumblings that were said shortly after the 49ers departed from Sun Devil Stadium with an overtime victory 31-28. The talk from owner Dr. John York quickly overshadowed exactly what the 49ers pulled out from this game, which was a close victory. The talk from the front office is that Dennis Erickson may be secured as the head coach but only at a price, which means cutting some of his long time friends in his assistant coaches.

I would have to go on record as saying that is the best news I have heard all season long. Because someone is being held accountable finally for this miserable season and the one before that, where we’ve failed to generate a winning season under his leadership. Granted we really have massive personnel weaknesses due to the cutting of so many promising veteran players in the salary cap purge this past off-season.

But when you look at other mediocre football clubs that have little to no talent personnel wise, but have quality viable coaching victories just seem to happen now and then. That isn’t the case here where you see a head coach methodically walking or standing on the sideline and doesn’t do anything to change the face of the game as weeks go by.

Looking back on this game a few players obviously really standout. Running back Maurice Hicks who carried the ball 34 times for 139 total yards and quarterback Ken Dorsey who had completed 18 of 34 passes for 191-yards with three touchdowns and get this zero interceptions.

Running back Kevan Barlow was deactivated for this game because of a concussion he suffered in the previous game. Barlow forced the hand of an underachieving offensive line in terms of motivating them to step up and prove that they had the ability to dominate at the line of scrimmage took his comments he made between the two games seriously.

Barlow, who is having a very disappointing season, joked about the 49ers going out and drafting seven offensive linemen in the upcoming draft. He tried to soften the comments by stating he believes that ownership should do whatever it takes to help the team win. Rather that’s the defensive line, offensive line, wide receiver or running back. But his words hit a nerve throughout the 49er offensive line and sparked the controversy he’s had with veteran fullback Fred Beasley.

“It did hurt them”, Beasley said of the line. “It hurt me. That’s something you don’t do.”

“You don’t want to throw alcohol on the wound,” Beasley said. “Maybe he meant it in another way, but the way it sounds is the way everybody took it.”

Said left guard Eric Heitmann: “It was exciting to get to run the ball. (Maurice) hits the holes fast, and he has a knack for making something out of nothing.”

“The running game helped the passing game tremendously,” receiver Cedrick Wilson said. “(Strong safety) Adrian Wilson had to be in the box all day, so he wasn’t able to get under our curls and comebacks and dig routes. He had to worry about the run.”

That is something we haven’t been able to do all season long up and until now. It has to be said the offensive line has had its share of turmoil and problems, but Barlow has failed to take advantage of even limited opportunities and has been hesitant on a large amount of his carries.

The staple of the West Coast offense is to establish a legitimate and threatening running game, so that it sustains itself with the perception that its what we do best. In turn this helps set up the passing game which proved to be very successful with Maurice Hicks running so well.

“This is like a breath of fresh air. It’s like a whole lot is lifted off my shoulders right now to just get this far,” Hicks said. “I’m just helping my team to find a way to win. It feels real good right now.”

“Maurice is a fun back to block for,” Brock Gutierrez said. “He hits the hole hard, he keeps his feet moving and never gives up.”

Establishing the running game has been a real tough piece of real estate for the 49ers as Kevan Barlow hailed as the perennial starting running back of the future has failed to live up to his title and makes us wishing that we had Garrison Hearst back in the lineup. Barlow long anticipated, as being a player that is team oriented is now becoming a distraction and a liability in some of the comments he has made with the media present.

Ken Dorsey in my opinion has a lot to be proud of and is the future of this franchise hands down. He was like the old Dorsey we knew before he was injured and he played with a certain confidence that we haven’t seen Tim Rattay play all season long.

“He showed up big today,” said Cedrick Wilson of Dorsey, who was making just his fourth professional start, filling in for injured Tim Rattay.

“I felt like I did some really good things,” Dorsey said. “In the second half, I just got a little too tight. I wasn’t as aggressive as I was early and I just have to remember to keep doing what I have to do in there.”

But believe this folks he played in this game with stomach flu and just kept right on ticking. Showing all his teammates and coaches to believe in him and all would be well. He established himself as the future in this team in my opinion just from his actions on and off the field and what ability and talent that he brings to a game by being able to side-step danger as it is approaching, something Tim Rattay has struggled to do all season long.

“I just came down with it last night,” Dorsey said. “I felt a little better this morning. It was just one of those things. Once you get in the game, the adrenaline starts kicking.”

And in it he did by establishing a quarterback rating of 99.0 and getting sacked for only one time is remarkable. He connected with leading wide receiver Cedrick Wilson five times for 83-yards and two touchdowns and Brandon Lloyd twice for 18-yards and one touchdown.

We were scorched in the second half by the Arizona Cardinals for they went with a passing attack on a vulnerable secondary that generated 299-yards all by itself. Our defense allowed the Cardinals under Josh McCown to step right in and allow his team a chance to steal this game. Fortunately with plays by Tony Parrish and Joselio Hanson we were able to close the book on this game.

What we can take from this victory is a renewed look at what can be accomplished when motivated and angry. What is possible when all teammates are on the same page regardless of experience. Ken Dorsey should he have the hot hand after the game against Washington deserves to stay in as starting quarterback, and Maurice Hicks should as well when they both get the nod.

Change is good on this team. Sustaining drives and not turning the ball over is yet another positive we can testify to and we should be playing the players that deliver the groceries so to speak in the winning column. I’m excited for the future and I am excited to know we can still get the job done.