January 6th 2003
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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How can you be disappointed with an offense that gained 476 yards? Easily when you consider the lack of performance in all of the second and most of the third quarter. But ultimately with the game on the line, this group came threw with 25 points that went unanswered.
This was Jeff Garcia’s signature game. Every good quarterback has a few of these in their career, this was truly Garcia’s most impressive points. To rally a team to victory when losing by 24 points is simply unheard of. Garcia used his arm, going 27/44 for 331 yards 3 touchdowns and an interception, and he relied on his legs for 60 more yards and a touchdown. He was simply on fire when the game was on the line, and willfully took the team on his shoulders.
While Garcia was carry the team, he did have some help lifting them to victory, particularly from Terrell Owens, who used his hands, feet and arm to take the 49ers to victory. Owens caught two touchdowns, in his nince receptions for 177 yards. He added two, two point conversions to those numbers. As if that wasn’t enough, Owens added a pass completion to Tai Streets for 25 yards, setting up a score. Owens lost his cool towards the end of the game being flagged twice for penalties after the play - luckily they were offset by foolish Giants. Tai Streets was clutch too, coming up with a key touchdown grab. He had five receptions for 58 yards. Eric Johnson had a tremendous day receiving the ball too. He caught 8 passed for 78 yards. JJ Stokes and Cederick Wilson combined for three receptions each of which were quite important to the 49ers moving the ball down the field.
Jeff Garcia was the teams leading rusher. Barlow and Hearst were largely in effective, though Barlow did manage to score a touchdown from the goal line. The 49ers eventually abandoned the run though needing lots of points quick.
The offensive line played an inspired game especially considering their injuries. Derrick Deese had to leave the game with an ankle injury too. The offensive line was not successful in the run game, even in short yardage situations, which was quite disappointing. Still when the game was on the line they provided Garcia with the protection to make plays.
There were too many misfires in this game to be truly satisfied, but 39 points is way more than the 49ers are used to this season, and the first playoff victory since 1998-99 sure feels good. Hopefully the team can get its offensive line healthy enough to stand up to the very aggressive Tampa Bay defense next week.