December 2 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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Steve Mariucci and his staff are really something arenít they? Up 31-10 I turned to my brother, who was watching the game with me, and said: ďfunny thing is, if any team can blow this lead, itís the 2002 NinersĒ. Ok so those werenít the actual words, but it was along those lines. Imagine that, a 21 point lead and still no confidence. Clearly there is a problem here.
The 49ers called a pretty good game on both sides of the ball right up to half time. They didnít get the execution from Garcia on offense, but stuck with Hearst and it paid off. In the second half though, they went conservative and while Hearst still ran a little it wasnít enough.
Defensively the team held the Hawks to three points in the first half. Playing in a prevent defense for what seemed like the entire second half, it took 14 more points and an onside kick recover for Mora to wake up and get back to the aggressive style he was playing in the first half. The difference paid off, allowing Rashad Holman to come up with the game winning interception as the defense blitzed.
There was a whole lot of good that came from the coaching staff in this game too though. For starters, the team recognized that if Keith and Parrish are to play on the same field, itís Parrish that should play free safety. That moved paid off. The team recognized the need to increase the blitz, and they did in the first half. The coaches moved Mike Rumph back inside, and while it didnít answer all the problems it did seem to stop the long down field passes, and allowed for some good blitz packages.
The coaching staff have a long ways to go with this 8-4 club. They failed to build momentum in this key game. A win? Yes, it was. But a victory? Hardly.