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Article Title: A New QB? Could It Be?
Article Date: Nov 13 2003
By Bryan Hersh

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The big question of the past two weeks would have to be who will start at quarterback for the 49ers in their first Monday night game of the season. This week that question seems to be answered. Barring a “miracle” as head coach Dennis Erickson put it; Tim Rattay will get his second consecutive start, as Jeff Garcia continues to recover from a series of injuries. Increasingly, it seems that 49ers fans and even players are beginning to lose faith in Jeff Garcia. The switch to Tim Rattay for some, is quite welcome.

With Rattay at the helm, there are a whole lot of questions that arise. Will Rattay be able to perform as he did in the 49ers slaughtering of the Rams? Or will we see the same Rattay who was down right awful in his short outings earlier this season? And then of course there are questions regarding what happens if Rattay continues to perform at a high level. Will Garcia get another shot? Will Garcia be relegated to back up duties? What happens next year? With a strong performance form Rattay this Monday the 49ers will have a full fledge quarterback controversy on their hands. All this and rookie Ken Dorsey’s name is not even being mentioned.

Facing the Steelers brings up an interesting scenario. The Steelers are the only team the 49ers face this season that run a base defense with three defensive lineman, and four linebackers contrary to the four-three. The Steelers are a run stuffing team and are not as strong against the pass. Still when they blitz, it is harder to determine where they are coming from, and this may make Rattay’s job more difficult. It may be necessary to use the pass to set up the run in this game, which is fine, as long as the team still commits to rushing the ball. Fewer than 20 runs with the backfield the 49ers have is simply not acceptable. And when the team does run, it should be from the “I” formation behind Fred Beasley.

The team should also try and keep three receivers on the field as much as possible. Not only will this help get Brandon Lloyd play time, but it will also limit the types of blitzes that the Steelers can throw at the 49ers. Getting the running backs involved in the pass game, and perhaps off a ‘pitch’ rather than a handoff may be a good change of pace for this team, and could be a good way to get around the big run stuffing defensive line.

The defense needs to continue its strong play. Sacks are far better this season than they were last season, but third down defense still needs some improvement. It will be interesting to see who is back healthy for this game, as the 49ers could surely use guys like Andre Carter, Jason Webster and Zack Bronson. The team will likely go after Tommy Maddox in an attempt to rattle him. This could mean a very big day from the linebackers.

Consistency in the kicking game and return game are keys to the special teams. Nothing could be worse for this team than another missed extra point or short field goal.

Having the bye week as some time to heal, and hopefully game plan should have helped this team regain its focus and hopefully create some consistency. These have been huge issues throughout the season, and it will be interesting to see if the bye week has made a difference in this area.

At half time, hall of famer, Ronnie Lott will have his number retired. This should be a very exciting and emotional ceremony. Lott is extremely deserving of this honor, and will be the first 49ers since Joe Montana to have his number retired. Lott will also be promoting his charities during the game.