September 23 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
THIS CONTENT IS COPYWRITED, REDISTRIBUTION OF IT (including copy/pasting it to a message board, forum or bbs) IS PROHIBITED AND COULD RESULT IN LEGAL ACTIONS - feel free to quote up to 1 paragraph providing a source link to http://www.49ersparadise.cjb.net is included
This fellow 49ers fans, was probably the best coached 49ers game I have seen in a while. Despite stating this week that the 49ers would not change anything in their offense, they did indeed change - and that was a good thing. The main thing I liked about this game was that the coaching staff did not stick to the most basic version of every play.
First, the 49ers ran the ball. Sure the 250+ yards in deceiving because eventually it was just a matter of the 49ers taking over the run game towards the end of the game. But the 49ers opened with the run, and kept to it. Hearst and Barlow combined for 34 carries, and when the 49ers run that much they almost always win. The coaching staff did not make use of plays to the fullback, and that gave the two star running backs a chance to make plays. The coaching staff also played both these backs in the backfield at the same time, and at times splitting one or the other out wide. This was a good use of mixing up the formations and in general controlling the tempo of the game.
Steve Mariucci made a good decision to sit Jeff Garcia. Garcia was not impressive and clearly suffering from his illness. While Tim Rattay did not make any huge plays, he was the better choice in the situation. Mariucci moved JJ Stokes into the backfield at times, and ran a great option to Terrell Owens that went for a touchdown. His offense under the guidance of Gregg Knapp was not inspiring but certainly made use of better play calling than it had in the prior two games.
What I didn’t like was that the offense only put points on the board on one occasion when starting from their own territory. They punted seven times which was far too many. The team was only assessed five penalties, which was average.
Defensively, the 49ers were well prepared for Spurrier’s unconventional offensive style. They allowed one really good drive by the Redskins, but responded by shutting them down, forcing turnovers on some big plays. This group was ready to play. Mora made good use of different personnel packages, and kept constant pressure on the quarterback. They need to improve a little against the run, but overall played a very good game.
The coaching staff need to get the redzone and third down efficiency ratings up. They need to be able to put together touchdown scoring drives that start in their own endzone. I liked that the offense began to capitalize on good defensive play. All four scores came off of big plays by the defense. If they can add a few touchdowns on ‘regular’ drives, then they would have a complete offensive game. There is still room for improvement, but I really felt the coaches stepped it up for this game, and the improvement now needs to come from improved execution by its players.