October 19 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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The 49ers have had a tremendous amount of success this season in protecting the ball. With only four turnovers they are ranked best in the league (Jacksonville is a close second with only five), and with recovering 11 turnovers, the team is second to Green Bay in the turnover ratio department, after playing one fewer games. Obviously the emphasis Mariucci has placed on holding to the football has paid off.
Each year, in training camp the first thing Mariucci teaches his team is about the ‘four points of pressure’ between the player and the football when carrying the ball. He emphasizes that the hand should be over one tip of the ball, the elbow should cover the other tip of the ball, while the forearm and chest support the sides of the ball, thus giving the players the best possible grip on the ball with one hand. Mariucci continues to emphasize the same point throughout the season, and it certainly has paid off.
Mariucci is the all time leading coach in fewest turnovers because of his practices. His teams average just 1.45 turnovers per game. Through 85 games as a head coach, this is truly a great accomplishment for Mariucci. It speaks volumes as to the emphasis he places on protecting the ball.
Of course it helps to have an accurate quarterback too. Jeff Garcia has only thrown 36 interceptions in the NFL. On average, Garcia throws 2.19 touchdowns for every interception he throws, Garcia ranks first in NFL history in this category, only being intercepted on 2.3% of his throws is also a tremendous achievement.
"If a team takes care of the football, and that’s what we’ve been doing, we haven’t turned it over in a month - that’s huge. The two takeaways that we got - one with Zack Bronson and one with Ahmed Plummer resulted in scores for us. That statistic in itself is becoming a real factor in our games. I liked the way our offense started. We scored on our first two possessions and in a sense calmed that crowd down a little bit. It was important for us to keep the crowd out of it as much as possible - not give them much to cheer about."
The loss of Zack Bronson to a broken foot will really hurt the team in this department. Bronson has recorded three interceptions to date (he had seven last year), more than any player on the team. He and fellow safety Tony Parrish have recorded seven turnovers already this season. Ronnie Heard will most certainly have some big shoes to fill this week.