Article Title: Humbled and Humiliated all in one
The San Francisco 49ers are like a ship without a rudder, endlessly turning in circles without any clear direction. The loss against the Minnesota Vikings creates a huge sucking sound that we call an NFL black hole that has exasperated and annihilated a franchise thought to have been revived under new leadership. We are now on a three game losing streak that looks as ugly a it possibly gets, meaning none of our opponents looks to be an easy pushover like our sole victory against the Chicago Bears was.
Stress and frustration have planted seed inside this team and the choking weeds of discontent have sprouted and taken hold of major organ that helps run this franchise. Is Dennis Erickson to blame? Or is it the ownership of this franchise that so kindly and graciously escorted Steve Mariucci out the door and into a waiting black van to speed away with no semblance of recognition for good deeds done. Is it the injuries that that the 49ers have incurred and has that translated into identifying the glaring lack of depth at almost every position?
We all can draw our won conclusions as fans and certainly the players themselves can draw their own. Sports critics and analysts are already tearing apart at the questions that surround the San Francisco 49ers that have gone from two straight playoff berths to a revisit of their dreaded 1999 season when the entire world fell apart at 4-12.
Can we honestly be that bad? That is something that bodes to be reviewed by all of us mentally as we all see signs of the team not performing to it’s identified traits and strengths and is being seen getting away from basic fundamentals that define a West Coast offense.
Looking back on the 13-12 loss at home against the Cleveland Browns the stress and frustration really started to take hold and bite with Terrell Owens calling out the offensive line for not providing protection to Jeff Garcia so that he could get the ball into his hands. His sense of utter chaotic frustration is not without complete merit as the 49er offensive line has been without key starters that would’ve made significant improvement in providing Garcia with competent and reliable protection.
The left side has been without starting left tackle Derrick Deese and starting left guard Eric Heitmann. It has also been playing with injured center Jeremy Newberry and a banged up and recovering right tackle in Scott Gragg.
“(I’m) beyond frustration,” Owens said after the 13-12 loss to the Browns. “This is the West Coast offense; they say it’s all about timing. You’ll never see the air attack coach Erickson wants if we don’t get the protection.”
On the left side the San Francisco 49ers have been relying on first round draft pick Kwame Harris and a reserve lineman in Kyle Kosier. There have also been alignments that featured Dwayne Ledford alongside these other two with Scott Gragg sidelined at the same time. The offensive line has been notorious in creating unwanted penalties and has contributed to the team’s woes in getting pushed back because of lack of experience and discipline. Nagging injuries and player inexperience have attributed to these causes and have tested every nerve of every lineman up and down the line.
Certainly coaching has to come into play as well. To be honest I’ve seen very little of what Dennis Erickson has promised let alone changed after the dismissal of Steve Mariucci. With four games gone and us staring from the cellar on up at a 1-3 record you have to believe that this is the Dennis Erickson of old when he was with the Seattle Seahawks.
I cannot see any communication on the sideline or even indiscreet hints of him trying to make suggestions on the headphones to his coordinators while he is on the field. I can see letting your assistants have at it and provide drives, but when the drives are failing and the protection schemes are crumbling the head coach needs to react in a more positive manner.
Now is the time when Dennis Erickson is needed the most and to show the world that he is better coach compared to his yesterday’s of long ago. Now is the time for Dennis to reel this team back in and give it the emotional boost that is severely lacking since going on a three-game losing streak.
Terrell Owens has basically called the team out himself and been the very able spokesperson he is so well known for. Finger pointing and shotgun remarks have been the order of the week with Terrell Owens losing his media shyness from last year to ridiculing the very team as a whole as being responsible.
“I feel all I’ve done from being double-teamed to going one-on-one, I’m still a playmaker,” Owens said. “I don’t think (the coaches) realize the talent I have. All I can do is keep running my routes. It’s my job to run routes and catch the ball. It’s their job to know the personnel on the field. It’s their job to know who the playmakers are and to design the plays.”
Some of the targeted problems not only stem with the offensive line but with Jeff Garcia as well, in that he has been happy with his feet sometimes way too early for comfort. Taking off before the pocket is in danger of collapsing has left him an open target and under undue duress because he is out in the open. Playing with a mild groin strain also seems to have sapped the life in his step a bit as well as was indicated in our 35-7 destruction against the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome.
As well as the San Francisco defense has been through its first three games it utterly fell apart on Sunday at the Metrodome against the Minnesota Vikings under their back up quarterback In Gus Frerotte nonetheless. Against the Bears in the first game they allowed only 127 total yards, giving up 55 yards rushing and 95 yards passing. They continue that in St. Louis, limiting the Rams to only 88 yards on 24 carries. In fact the Rams under their high-powered offense averaged 3.7 yards per carry, with Marshall Faulk carrying the ball 18 times for 57 yards.
And against Cleveland, they held the Browns to only 51 yards on 19 carries at that. So you can see that the San Francisco defense has played up to its part in trying to put the team in contention in every single game. Sure there was some key drives that probably should’ve been played differently and they missed some opportunities in stopping the offense on occasion but overall they’ve played hard. Unfortunately it has been our offense that has failed time and time again in securing third downs and scoring touchdowns in the red zone.
Overall Game Statistics
Against the Vikings the San Francisco defense gave up a total of 354 yards with 252 yards through the air and 102 yards on the ground. The defense may have failed in stopping the pass but it still held the Viking running game to 3.4 yards per carry. The San Francisco secondary seemed powerless to find an antidote to high flying and high stepping wide receiver Randy Moss who had a whopping 8 receptions for 172 yards and three touchdowns.
The highflying passing attack continued with Nat Burleson having three receptions for 54 yards and one touchdown. The Minnesota Vikings torched the San Francisco secondary almost at will because it’s offensive line is one of the best in the league at this time. With going from left to right you have McKinnie, Liwienski, Birk, Dixon and Rosenthal all linemen that have a tremendous upside in motivation and tenacity. In fact the 49ers were only able to manufacture two sacks on Gus Frerotte and they did very little in setting this offense on its heels.
Jeff Garcia had his most horrific outing to date as he went 11-of-23 for 108 yards, three interceptions and a quarterback rating of 21.9%. Jeff has not had a game with that many interceptions since October 10, 1999 during a 42-20 loss at St. Louis. Again Jeff looked panicky and had happy feet as pressure came at him in various forms as he was sacked twice during the game.
In the third down efficiency rating we had 6-0f-15 for a 40% ratio while Minnesota had 5-for-10 for a 50% ratio. Penalties continued to be a problem for the San Francisco 49ers, as we remained pathetic at execution and disciplined on the line despite the noise that was practiced to at their Santa Clara complex prior to this contest. The 49ers incurred nine penalties for a total off 55 loss yards. These penalties are costing the team good field position on a regular basis and handicapping the offense in achieving first downs.
What is so amazing is that the Vikings never even needed Daunte Culpepper to win this game like everyone believed. It was achieved through roving gypsy quarterback Gus Frerotte who had a spectacular day of going 16-of-21 for 267 yards and get this four touchdowns. He had a spectacular quarterback rating as well scoring 157.2% which is something he is not at all accustomed to achieving in his career, but did this day against the San Francisco 49ers to make them 4-0 in their division.
First Quarter Highlights
Certainly there was nothing in the sort of positive playmaking for the San Francisco 49ers as the Minnesota Vikings came out firing right out of the gate. Moving from their 28-yard line the Vikings moved down to the San Francisco 15-yard line where Gus Frerotte hit Randy Moss for a 15-yard touchdown making it 7-0 Vikings.
With 6:53 left in the quarter the 49ers moved from their own 35-yard line down to Minnesota’s 42-yard line where Jeff Garcia was intercepted by Cory Chavous who brought it back into 49er territory for 39 total yards. It was because of this turnover that Minnesota scored from the 49er 5-yard line with a running play from running back Onterrio Smith to make it 14-0 Minnesota.
Second Quarter Highlights
With 11:45 left in this quarter Jeff Garcia suffers a sack and fumbles the ball at the Minnesota 46-yard line but the ball is recovered by right tackle Scott Gragg. On the next drive by Minnesota drives from their very own 12-yard line down to the San Francisco 35-yard line where Frerotte hits Randy Moss in the end zone for a 35-yard touchdown reception making it look easy to make the score 21-0 Vikings.
At the two-minute warning with San Francisco having the ball Jeff Garcia throws to Tai Streets from the Minnesota 45-yard line where he is intercepted once again and is brought back for seven more yards. It was again because of this turnover that the Vikings drove down to the 49er 22-yard line where Frerotte hits Nate Burleson for a 22-yard touchdown making it 28-0 Vikings.
Adding insult to injury on the next San Francisco drive with 17 seconds left to play Jeff Garcia is sacked at the 49er 47-yard line, and then a timeout is called. Upon resumption of play from the 47-yard line Jeff Garcia throws his third interception of the game ending the first half with no mercy from the Viking crowd.
Third Quarter Highlights
There was little to celebrate as the San Francisco 49ers came out in the second half shell shocked at what had just happened to them in front of a capacity crowd in the Minnesota Metrodome. Penalties rained down on the 49ers in this quarter but they were successful in sacking Gus Frerotte twice and stopped him from scoring barely that is.
Fourth Quarter Highlights
The Minnesota Vikings had a successful drive underway just as the third quarter ended however ending up at the Minnesota 41-yard line where Frerotte unloaded a pass to Randy Moss who took it in for a 59-yard touchdown to make it 35-0 Vikings. It was in this quarter that Jeff Garcia was asked to sit down and Tim Rattay was injected to try and jump-start the offense.
From the San Francisco 36-yard line he drove the team down to the Minnesota 37-yard line where he hit Tai Streets for the touchdown to make the score 35-7 avoiding a humiliating shutout. Tim looked very good in that drive but was unable to further the score due to a sack and more costly 49er penalties. The score remained 35-7 at the end of regulation and the 49ers boarded their plane with a gloomy record of 1-3 putting them in the cellar of their division.
Jeff Garcia was not himself in this game his decision-making was questionable and the play calling again was suspect. The San Francisco 49ers have a situation with Jeff where his injury could play a negative part in the rest of the season. His accuracy and ability to make plays was highlighted by three interceptions. Jeff will need to become healthy in a hurry and will need to prove to himself immediately that he can carry this team still to some extent.
The offensive line was again a factor in providing protection giving up two sacks and not providing time for Jeff to find his options on a regular basis. They did provide a good running game though as the 49ers rushed for 145 total yards believe it or not, but couldn’t keep up in the scoring department with Minnesota reaching the end zone through the air relentlessly.
The pass rush by the San Francisco 49ers was not at all significant enough against a stout Minnesota offensive line that far outweighed the 49er defensive front. Both Anthony Adams and John Engelberger created sacks, but other than that Gus Frerotte had way too much time to throw the ball to Randy Moss on too many occasions leaving the 49er secondary out on an island.
Penalties played a significant part in this game with San Francisco taking the baton from the Oakland Raiders of old for being the worst penalized team in the league. Dennis Erickson and all of his assistant coaches need to establish an identity to these problems and get them corrected in a hurry. Discipline on the team seems in my opinion to be lacking and players are not executing, as they should be including even the veterans who display sloppy play.
The secondary was torched by Minnesota Viking superstar Randy Moss time and time again and should have been in a better position to bump him and impede his progress at the line of scrimmage. He had way too many opportunities with suspect coverage in getting eight total receptions and three total touchdowns.
Mike Rumph continues to be a weak link on this team in the secondary as the Vikings zeroed in on this soft underbelly and took full advantage of us. Bottom line the secondary with no real shutdown corners needed the pass rush to be a constant rather than a nuisance.
Jeff Garcia was dejected of course following this game and it seemed like all the life had been sucked right out from him. Dennis Erickson was quick to rise and defend his starting quarterback and firmly believes that he’ll be able to bounce back from this tragic outing in Minnesota.
“He was hurt last week with a groin, but I didn’t know it was bothering him today,” Erickson said. “I really won’t know until we have a chance to look at the film. We just flat got beat. We got beat by a better team today.”
Randy Moss more than proved his true worth on this Sunday in a wide receiver duel with Terrell Owens that Owens clearly lost as he was not effective in either getting open or holding on to the ball once it was thrown to him. Coverage on Moss was erratic and nothing seemed to gel in order to shut down the agile Moss who took the scoring frenzy to the house.
“I can replay that over and over in my mind, but I can’t think of any other way that I would have tried to play that,” Plummer said of the 15-yard reception. “It’s just a matter of them making a perfect throw.” “The only thing I could have done is maybe tried to jump a little bit higher. That’s easier said than done.”
Rising from the ashes Jeff Garcia knows the importance of getting this horrific game behind him with a great performance immediately. Questions about his health continue to be asked and his durability has come into question. Excuses are something that Jeff simply doesn’t believe in and is probably the hardest person on himself above anyone else because of his competitive nature to excel at all times.
“It’s not something I’m going to lean on for an excuse as to why I played the way I played,” Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, said after a 35-7 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. “It’s definitely something that’s not completely healthy, but I feel that I could work through any sort of issue that I had with the groin and be a good quarterback. I don’t feel that it is what held our team back.”
Terrell Owens again threw the team down as a collective unit without shining the light on his very own play. It is this sort of commentary from our so-called superstar that so disturbs me to the brink.
To have a post-game meeting with the press and publicly degrade your own team while not discrediting yourself is right down selfish avenue in my book. If you want to talk egos just take a look at Terrell Owens and you’ll see the most inflated one I’ve ever seen after this game, in which his playmaking was downright horrible itself.
As much as I like Terrell He needs to know when to shut up and move on. He must know when to keep inappropriate comments that damage the team to himself or share them in front of his teammates and coaches in the locker room itself. I have a problem with what he says and how he indicates that he is all that.
“We got no heart,” said Owens after a post-game debriefing after the blowout loss to Minnesota. “I don’t know what to say. We go hard in practice. All I can say (is) it’s a gut check. Nobody can question how hard I play.”
Certainly no one should question Terrell’s hard work ethic because he does have one similar to legendary Jerry Rice and he strives to be 100% all the time despite his drops on the field. I simply wish that he would keep comments like this one to himself as it distracts from the team to what it should next be focusing on, and that is learning from what happened and move on.
Everyone’s boiling point is different from another and everyone has a limit of just how much they can take. Terrell Owens is no different and what happened on the sidelines in front of cameras must not be taken out of context because that is raw emotions and real life frustration. I cannot disagree with Terrell Owens on the sidelines in getting emotional and ranting and raving at the humiliation that has happened right before the teams eyes.
I cannot agree with a post-game session in which your star receiver publicly rebukes the entire team and claims no one on the team has a heart and seems unbothered by this loss as well as the two before it. It is comments like this that will be remembered come contract negotiation time I can guarantee you on that, because team unity should always come before an individuals ego and self-acclaimed expertise.