September 23 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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The reason the 49ers won this game was because they were able to capitalize on some very good opportunities given to them by their defense. Jeff Garcia only played half the game, and one has to wonder if the 49ers would have been able to put a long drive for a touchdown together had he stayed in the game. They didnít manage to put one of those drives together, but they were able to capitalize on opportunities, something they havenít done yet this season.
Iíll start this review along the offensive line. The lineís run blocking was obviously superb. They have been criticized all season for the inability to open holes for the running backs. That was not a factor in this game. There were occasions when the line gave the quarterbacks plenty of time to throw, but they also were beaten a few times, and on one occasion left a defender unblocked who ended up creaming Jeff Garcia. The offensive line played better, but Iím still waiting to see them put a good run and pass blocking game together. Early inside reports are that Fiore's knee injury may have ACL damage.
Quarterback was an interesting position in this game. Jeff Garcia played a week first half completing just over 50% of his passes and threw a deep interception when he had another receiver flagging to the left corner of the endzone. Garcia made a few plays with his legs, and given that he was playing sick did an ok job. Tim Rattay stepped in and kept the 49ers out front. Though Rattay relied mainly on the running backs, he effectively managed the clock and moved the offense enough to win the game. Rattay made a great throw to Terrell Owens that was dropped on the one yard line after going through Owens hands. That one pass could have turned a decent performance into a great one for Rattay.
Tight end Eric Johnson still leads the 49ers in the receiving department. That says a lot about the production or lack there of Terrell Owens and JJ Stokes. Owens dropped his sixth pass of the season, one that would have been good for a touchdown. Owens turned a busted option pass into a nifty 38-yard touchdown run Stokes continue to play well and not see the ball come his way. Tai Streets made two crucial first down grabs showing great skill in running the out pattern.
The story of the day was clearly the running game. Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow both ran for over 90 yards, and the team ran for over 250 all together. No other running back touched the ball in this game, but Owens added a solid 38 yards on an end around, and Garcia ran three times for 21 yards. The backs came up big time in the second half with the 49ers in the lead, and with Rattay at the helm.
The offense was dismal in the redzone, converting one out four attempts for a touchdown. They also only converted 43% of the time on third down. Both of these numbers have to improve for the 49ers to have a successful season. Passing yardage was still way down, at 145 yards. A key drop by Terrell Owens coupled with 250+ rushing yards can be attributed to that. The teams starting field position at their own 31 really didnít dictate the benefit the offense had. They only scored once when starting in their own territory.