Long Road- 09/15/2000
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The 49ers had some very tough decisions to make this past week coming off one of the most dismal performances in recent history. Two of the more pressing questions were: Would Jeff Garcia be the starter? And, how in the world are they going to stop offences from racking up the points against such a young, and hurting defense? Well the week progressed and some new answers were determined that strayed substantially from conventional thought.

Yes Garcia would in fact start for the 49ers again this week. Much to the surprise of many fans, Mariucci decided to stick with his guns. The move was one of the best Mariucci has made in his short time as head coach. Not only did Mariucci prove that Garcia was the starter, but in so doing he surely boosted the confidence of a hurting quarterback. Clearly Mariucci made the right decision. Although Mirer's play has grabbed the eye of many fans, with his long passes, it must be remembered that Mirer has been competing against second string defenses for the most part, and in this past game, the Panthers were already in a prevent defense, susceptible to the long pass when he stepped in. In short, Mirer is under-practiced; Garcia has been practicing since last season. Mirer makes mental mistakes but Garcia makes physical mistakes. Thus the 49ers went with a man who they think can lead this team on offence and play consistently.

Garcia will have a tough job this week, and not so much because of the Rams defense. The problem is actually with the offence. The Rams offence, practically pre-determines that any team playing the Rams must record over thirty points to stand a chance. Garcia will have to find his receivers this week if he intends on making up for his performance last week.

The 49ers other decisions were regarding a defense that has given up over 30 points in two games, and in ranked last in the NFC. Somehow the rookies will have to stop making mental errors, and start making plays. Julian Peterson is a good example of this. Last week Peterson had an interception and a sack, but the two good plays came only after the Panthers exploited him by throwing to the tight end over and over again. Peterson finally stepped up to the challenge, but will have to realize he needs to play constantly at that level to make it in the NFL. Another good example is the play of Jason Webster, who is expected to make his first NFL start. Webster made several mistakes early on in the game, but then came up big along the goal line with a pass defended. Ahmed Plummer is another man who must step up his game. Last week he kept the completions down on his side of the field, but that may have been due to Beurline and his great ability to spread the ball around. Luckily the 49ers should benefit from the return of Lance Schulters this week to strong safety.

The 49ers are concerned about not getting to the quarterback in time. This past week has seen them arrive for the sac a second too late. There are two areas that need to improve up this area to par. Firstly the corners must hold their coverage for one more second. It is really that simple. Secondly the team must pick its speed up slightly. The 49ers may be able to do that by shifting Julian Peterson to middle linebacker on many plays. Peterson would be assuming Norton's role in the defense, and would provide Norton with some rest time for his back while adding to on-field speed. Jason Webster is also faster than Monty Montgomery, and there may be a change on special teams where Terry Kirby may assume the primary returning role.

Overall the 49ers have a long way to go this week. In a season that's all about improvement, the 49ers will have a tough time as they face the championship Rams this week. Look for the 49ers to focus on improving in the small areas rather than taking big steps. In doing that, the team may once again instill optimism in the fans.

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