Cold Barlow Fumbles
October 24 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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I won’t even for a second claim that the Kevan Barlow’s first fumble of the season, during the fourth quarter of the Saints game, deep inside 49ers territory was the reason the 49ers lost the game on Sunday. Certainly, it was a contributing factor, but so were Garcia’s interception, a killer special teams unit, brutal third down defense and several other reasons.
Barlow’s fumble however does speak to a point I raised last week, about the 49ers and the way they alternate carries between their running backs. Last week, I stated that the one-two punch was an effective mechanism to keep defenses off balance. But I also stated that the 49ers can’t be afraid to stick with a hot running back, or to not split the carries evenly.
While Barlow entering the game in the fourth quarter was unavoidable given Hearst’s injury, it certainly proved my point. Entering the game, after missing several series, Barlow fumbled the ball. It’s obviously impossible to tell what would have happened if Hearst kept on running, or had Barlow been part of the flow before being brought back into the game, but I tend to think the outcome would have been different.
As a back remains in a game, he begins to see things develop quicker and the rushing adrenaline allows him, like any other player, do extraordinary things. While no back may have been able to hold onto the ball the way it was hit away from Barlow, I really have to wonder if Hearst, or a warm Barlow would have avoided the situation had they been part of the flow of the game at this point.
I don’t blame Barlow for the loss. Obviously with Hearst injured he was the best alternative in that situation - but I do contest, and will continue to point out throughout the season, that the 49ers need to be able to stick with a hot running back at times, and not switch it up, even if the convention is to alternate series between the two backs.