Article Title: Skinning the bears alive
Candlestick Park couldn’t be more exuberant last Sunday as they rolled to a 49-7 victory over the Chicago Bears with contributions from both sides of the team that left a Kordell Stewart scratching his head and seeing red. Stewart saw a red and gold blitzkrieg of defensive backs coming at him from all sides in this lopsided victory under new head coach Dennis Erickson.
Kordell Stewart was at the mercy of the new 49er defensive juggernaut all day as he spun and weaved to try and avoid the oncoming onslaught of tremendous pressure being directed by defensive coordinator Jim Mora Jr. from the sidelines. If anyone had any doubts about Jim Mora’s development as one of the best young defensive minds out there, they should be all but vanished by now in my opinion.
Kordell Stewart the renegade quarterback from the Pittsburgh Steelers and now the headmaster in Chicago was sacked five times, threw three interceptions, two of which went to cornerback Ahmed Plummer and finished the day going 14-of-34 for only 95 total yards with one touchdown. And when you think about the so-called slash Stewart, as he was well known for in Pittsburgh you think that if Stewart can’t hurt you with his arm then his legs will. Well that turned out to be a non-factor as the 49er defense contained his footwork for six carries and just 21 total yards.
“We got whipped. We got whipped, period,” Stewart said. “I didn’t play well at all.” One of the main cogs in the San Francisco defense that harassed Kordell Stewart all day long was none other than linebacker Jamie Winborn, in his speed extraordinaire debut for the season. It was a combination of him and so many others that turned up the heat on a Chicago offensive line battered buy free agency and injuries.
“It was crazy out there,” Winborn said. “I would blitz and see so many guys back there that when we had a sack, I wasn’t sure who had it. So I just congratulated everybody and slapped them all.”
Winborn couldn’t even tell you just how many times he was sent on a blitz but he does remember at least three or four times. The other times he just kept coming anyways and played a vital part in applying extraordinary pressure on Stewart. Having a defensive backfield that was all the way around healthy also helped tremendously with the San Francisco 49erds having dominate success out on the field.
“We’ve got both of our safeties, all of our linebackers are healthy and the cornerbacks are playing great,” Peterson said. “The sky’s the limit. Our offense has always been great. They say defense wins championships, and that’s what were trying to do.”
And then you want to really talk up the secondary because it was there that we really shined in this contest with Ahmed Plummer intercepting two passes, one in the second quarter that was amazing as Stewart threw one from the San Francisco 34-yard line on second down into Plummer’s hands and Plummer ran it in from 68-yards out for a touchdown making it 30-7.
Then in the fourth quarter Ahmed Plummer became the star once again on a second down play that Stewart passed to Marty Booker, but in the way was Ahmed Plummer who took the intercepted pass 13-yards to the Chicago 25-yard line and helped set up a Garrison Hearst touchdown to make the score 49-7.
“Our guys at corner got a bad rap the last couple of years. They got blamed for a lot of the defense’s problems,” safety Tony Parrish said. “Let’s hope this game helps put a rest last season so we can get on with this one.”
It was also on second-year cornerback Mike Rumph’s blitz that enabled Ahmed Plummer to pick off a Kordell Stewart pass to David Terrell. Plummer was able to break on the under-thrown pass and had nothing but open field thereafter for a 68-yard romp into the end zone. Once into the end zone he found a section of fans, seated behind the end zone wearing his jersey with pride.
“I’ve dreamed about getting an interception for a touchdown and running over there to celebrate with them,” Plummer said. “It hit me when I got into the end zone. I’d finally done it.”
It was just shortly after this play that Kordell Stewart went back to the shotgun formation in order to try and recoup from the terrible 49er onslaught. From here cornerback Jimmy Williams broke on a pass on third down intended for Dez White that he intercepted and returned six yards to the Chicago 37-yard line. From here the San Francisco 49ers with but 18 seconds left to play in the first half made it to the Chicago 11-yard line where Jeff Chandler kicked a 29-yard field goal to make it 33-7.
“I thought Ahmed played extremely well,” Erickson said. “I thought all of the corners did. Jimmy (Williams) is really starting to develop as a corner. Michael Rumph did some really good things. He blitzed well and made some good plays.”
In the second quarter on a Bill LaFleur punt of 48 yards to rookie Bear punt return man Bobby Wade, cornerback Jimmy Williams delivered a devastating twisting tackle to Wade that forced the ball out for a fumble. It was here that Williams recovered the ball on the Chicago six yard line, that helped set up Jeff Garcia’s three yard touchdown to make it 17-7.
In the third quarter Mike Rumph sacked Kordell Stewart out of the shotgun on third down at the Chicago 41-yard line. The sack forced Stewart to fumble the ball where it was recovered by 49er defensive end Chidi Ahanotu. It was on this defensive play that the 49ers were able to drive to the Chicago eight yard line where Jeff Chandler hit a 26-yard field goal to make it 42-7.
This was a game that saw defensive redemption in sorts as many of the last season’s failures continue to haunt the 49er defense in a way that is almost relentless. Feeling the sting of injuries and it’s inability to cope with them last year, the team is finally relatively healthy on this side of the ball. It felt extremely comforting to all of the defensive players to have a defining role in this victory.
The emphasis by head coach Dennis Erickson on special teams play has obviously shown positive results. It was in this game that 49er special teams were exactly that in being “special.” Training camp and special teams practices are a common site now under Dennis Erickson as he has expressed that it’s importance on a game is paramount to it’s outcome.
I am certainly proud that we finally have a direct interest in this unit in carrying a larger role throughout the season. It can only carry out that role if the team deems it important by granting it special attention and scheduling practices that focus primarily on special teams action.
Jimmy Williams forced fumble on Bobby Wade was but an example of great special teams play in this game as it helped set the offense up for a touchdown that advanced our cause. And yet on another play being a Bears punt, rookie wide receiver Brandon Lloyd flew in, eluding blockers, and deflected the ball of Chicago Punter Brad Maynard’s foot. Running back Terry Jackson was able to recover the ball on the Chicago 18-yard line, and three plays later Jeff Garcia found Tai Streets from 16-yards out for a touchdown as well.
Special teams are exactly that, special. We have finally made that a priority in most categories except for on occasion questions that still circulate about our kicker in Jeff Chandler who missed an extra point kick in the second quarter after a Tai Streets touchdown. And Bill LaFleur’s punts expertise that can go from hot to cold in a matter of one play after another. It was in this game though that he actually punted well with two going inside the 20-yard line and he averaged 44 net yards a punt with a long one of 52 yards.
There was a new man in Arland Bruce taking over the kickoff duties once held by cornerback Jimmy Williams. Bruce was by no means spectacular out there as he averaged 18.5 yards on two returns, and he muffed a kick in the fourth quarter that was recovered fortunately by tailback Terry Jackson. Jimmy Williams has blossomed in other areas of importance especially on coverage units and being the nickel cornerback. However don’t think for a moment should Arland Bruce not live up to expectations that Jimmy Williams won’t get the call to take over kickoffs again like he did so well last year.
“Obviously, turnovers made a big difference,” said Erickson, who actually began his post-game remarks by lauding the special-teams units. “Jimmy Williams play on that punt return, to me, was probably the key to the game because they had come back (to 10-7) and had some momentum going.”
Looking at statistics
First of all the San Francisco 49ers just simply dominated in this game, with 23 first downs to Chicago’s eight. We had a 50% third down efficiency rating compared to Chicago’s at 21%. Of course turnovers were key elements in this contest. In total net yards we had 391 total yards, with 162 of those yards in rushing and 229 yards in passing.
The stars in this running attack in yardage goes to Kevan Barlow who carried the ball 15 times for 62 total yards averaging 4.1 yards per carry. Garrison Hearst had 11 carries for 56 total yards and averaged 5.1 yards per carry with one touchdown to boot. Jeff Garcia of course contributed with seven carries for 36 total yards and had one running touchdown.
In the passing game we start with of course Terrell Owens who had the most receptions of seven for 112 total yards averaging 16 total yards per reception. Tai Streets had a great game with four receptions for 48 total yards and one touchdown, as did Garrison Hearst who caught three passes for 41 total yards and again one touchdown.
In the interception game we had three with two going to Ahmed Plummer and the other to Jimmy Williams compared to one for Chicago, which was caught by Mike Brown. On fumbles both teams had three apiece but Chicago lost two and we lost one. Penalties in this game were really a non-factor as both teams fared well in that category.
Jeff Garcia went 19-of-35 for 229 total yards and two touchdowns and one interception for a quarterback rating of 81.7%. And Kordell Stewart went 14-of-34 for 95 total yards with one touchdown and three interceptions for a quarterback rating of 21.9%.
As far as Jeff Garcia’s back there seemed to be no problems at all as the bulging disk question seemed to finally have been answered once and for all for the season. Jeff was not sacked once in this game because of the tremendous job done by the offensive line that is largely playing as usual banged up.
He did take a number of big hits though with Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher drilling him near the goal line as he prepared to take it in. Jeff eventually got the ball into the end zone regardless when Dennis Erickson called a quarterback draw on the next play that had Garcia walking into the end zone with four wide receivers lined up.
A far as asking Jeff to avoid unnecessary hits, all coaches wants that from their quarterbacks. But it is in Jeff’s nature to want to make those plays when all else fails. He then uses his feet when that need arises and can make some dramatic things happen when he does turn to his feet.
“I don’t want to take that away from him,” Erickson said. “That’s what makes him a great quarterback. He’s tough and competitive, and that’s how he plays the game. He slides occasionally, but not very often. We have to work with him on that.”
As far as injuries in this game we were dealt another blow in the secondary with reserve cornerback Rashad Holman sustaining a groin injury that will sideline him for 2-4 weeks. It will be up to Jimmy Williams to fill in which he did anyways admirably in his absence. Mike Rumph also sustained a right shoulder stinger but it shouldn’t be a factor this week against the St. Louis Rams.
First quarter highlights
With 7:51 into the first quarter the 49ers score on a Jeff Chandler field goal from 22-yards out after a Jeff Garcia fumble in which he recovers the ball on the Chicago 9 yard line. Shortly thereafter on another impressive drive from the Chicago 12 yard line, Jeff Garcia connects with Garrison Hearst on a 12 yard touchdown reception, making it 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Second quarter highlights
With 14:10 left in the second quarter Jeff Garcia is intercepted by Mike Brown in a pass intended for Terrell Owens at the San Francisco 16-yard line. From here Kordell Stewart engineers a drive with a touchdown to Desmond Clark for a touchdown making it 10-7. Shortly after this on a LaFleur punt Bears punt return specialist Bobby Wade is drilled by Jimmy Williams causing a fumble giving the 49ers possession.
On the next drive on the Chicago six yard line Jeff Garcia runs up the middle for a three yard touchdown making it 17-7. With 4:19 left in the second quarter Brian Maynard’s punt is blocked by 49er wide receiver Brandon Lloyd where we take possession at the Chicago 18 yard line.
With 3:25 left in the quarter Jeff Garcia finds wide receiver Tai Streets from 16 yards out for a touchdown, but Jeff Chandler’s extra point is no good making the score 23-7. With just 55 seconds left to play in the half at the San Francisco 34 yard line Kordell Stewart throws an interception to 49er cornerback Ahmed Plummer who returns it 68 yards for a touchdown making it 30-7.
And again with but 25 seconds left in the first half Kordell Stewart throws another interception, this time to cornerback Jimmy Williams who helps set up Jeff Chandler’s 29 yard field goal making it 33-7.
Third quarter highlights
On a long drive by the San Francisco 49ers on the opening drive Jeff Chandler kicks a 28 yard field goal making it 36-7. With 2:41 left in the third quarter the 49ers again score on a Jeff Chandler field goal from 24 yards out making it 39-7. On the next drive Mike Rumph forcing a fumble that helps the next score for the 49ers as they used over 12 minutes in this quarter with possession of the ball sacks Kordell Stewart.
Fourth quarter highlights
With 14:10 left in the fourth Jeff Chandler kicks a 26 yard field goal making it 42-7. On the next Chicago possession, Kordell Stewart throws another interception to 49er cornerback Ahmed Plummer. This turnover helps set up a rushing touchdown by Garrison Hearst to make the score 49-7. The game winds down with both teams doing little top nothing with the ball as the 49er defense holds it’s own for the entire duration.
The San Francisco 49ers made an outstanding debut under new head coach Dennis Erickson and his new staff. I could see as did many of you the new aggressiveness take hold and play out in this game. More passing yardage was accomplished than rushing but believe it or not more running plays were called in this 49er offense than passing.
Both sides of the line did extremely well and they worked together in unison to capitalize upon mistakes. This is the exact same energy that will be needed to attack a wounded top caliber team in St. Louis this coming Sunday.
Defense was stifling to say the least as the 49ers recorded a total of five sacks to start off their pass rush. This will have to be a mainstay especially this Sunday when they are staring at either Kurt Warner or Mark Bulger. Of the sack masters that deserve mention are Mike Rumph, Derek Smith, Travis Kirscke, Jamie Winborn, Tony Parrish, Andre Carter and John Engelberger.
If there were anything that I would’ve liked to see different it probably would’ve been the 49ers red zone efficiency making more field goals than touchdowns. We went 4-of-9 for 44% in red zone scoring efficiency. Time of possession was incredible with the 49ers having 38:01 compared to Chicago’s 21:59.
Offensively you have to really like how the offensive line held up banged up and protected Jeff Garcia. It was a day that many players saw the ball and everyone had a hand in winning this football game. Even though Terrell Owens didn’t score a touchdown he made enough yardage and drew enough attention away from others so others could succeed. Bottom line I would give the team a solid A in overall performance. Except for the fumbles and miscued interception we would have been flawless.
“Oh yes, definitely. Like I said, they tried to double team me a lot and they did that and I was able to get open and find some holes in the zone,” Owens said. “But at the same time, I think I am going to benefit Tai (Streets), Cedrick (Wilson), Garrison (Hearst) and all those guys and the tight ends making big plays down the field. They will not be able to double-team me throughout the season. If they take me away, our guys will take pride in making big plays.”
Terrell Owens shows the maturity in his words and his actions in this statement as he recognizes what his true role really is. Winning as a team and not individually spells success almost every time. Here he knows from this game and it’s entirety that winning takes everyone’s efforts and he recognizes that in his statement above. Contract disputes aside the 49ers know they are a better team with him than without him, affording him is another question all together.
Needing him to face teams like St. Louis is an obvious thing. Keeping Jeff Garcia active and healthy is also paramount to our future success. Of course minimizing injuries will also be a key element as well, but you have to love where we are right now. The hard playing surface in St. Louis will be our greatest test in our own division, we know that winning the division goes through here so we must not let up for one minute.
With Dennis Erickson steering the ship and showing his aggressiveness to attack like Mike Martz it could be an offensive showdown. Turnovers will be just that more precious against an opponent of this caliber, so let’s hope our defense can help us win this one as well.