Looking Back- 12/22/2000
It's been a heck of a season. The 49ers started off the season looking every bit like the 49ers of last season. The team could score points. The team could score lots of points, and Garcia was performing well. But the defense, oh that defense that was supposed to be much improved gave up 115 points in the first three games. Even optimistic fans were beginning to fear the worst.
It started to change, as any 49ers season should. A win against the nemesis Cowboys. The heated rivalry was exactly that. Terrell Owens had the league's and the rest of the world's attention when he gloated after two touchdowns at mid-field on the Dallas star. The 49ers suspended Owens for a game. The team, winning or losing was going to do it with class, and a message was immediately sent to the squad. It doesn't matter who you are, how many touchdowns you score, if you don't act like a 49ers player should, you wont be a 49ers player.
The message was clear. The team began to rally. Nobody was pointing fingers; the 2000 season was to be remembered as the team of players that functioned as a whole, and not for the individual. A theme that held true all season, even to the last weeks game. Where Jerry Rice was carried off the field by the whole team. Every single person in the organization wanted to make it Jerry's Day. The 49ers of 2000 rallied, they rallied without their primary receiver to beat the Cardinals the following week.
As the season progressed, the 49ers win streak came to an abrupt hold. The Raiders, Packers, Panthers, Rams and Saints all beat up on the 49ers. Things were improving though. In most cases, the 49ers fought through these games. Losing often in the fourth quarter and sometimes by disputable official calls. Then things started to fall into place.
Former 49ers quarterback Elvis Grbac marched his Chiefs into town, and the 49ers finally put a real solid game together. Now the 49ers were looking like the team that everyone was hoping they would be after a solid draft. The 49ers won two more, raising their win streak to three, and giving them five on the season.
Thoughts of sweeping the last three games and finishing with an eight and eight record began to spur in the locker room. The team felt very confident at the time. New Orleans put an end to those dreams, but it took incorrect calls by the officials for the Saints to walk away with the win.
Bouncing back the 49ers beat the Bears in what was likely Jerry Rice's and Ken Norton's final home game in 49ers uniforms. The emotional day was chalk full of good moments. The defense never let the Bears past the fifty-yard line, and recorded it's first shut out since 1998. Jerry Rice had an emotional goodbye, and watched his daughter sing the national anthem to open the game. Terrell Owens set a record for receptions in a game with twenty. Jeff Garcia surpassed 4000 yards and put the team record for passing yards in a season into reach.
Years from now the 2000 49ers season will be remembered for a number of things. Be it Jerry Rice's and Ken Norton's final days with the team, Terrell Owens shenanigans and records, or Jeff Garcia starting a new era of great quarterbacking with the team. The 2000 season will forever be remembered as the year the 49ers started to climb back to the top functioning as single unit, with one mission on their mind: To reign again.
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