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Article Title: Put Up Or Shut Up
Article Date: September 26 2003
By Bryan Hersh

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If the 49ers goal this season was to have a team identity defined by a lack of discipline, a one dimensional offense, and a defense that goes all out until the game is on the line and then shuts down, well then it would be quite safe to say they are well along the way to establishing such an identity. Of course if this is not what the 49ers were hoping for, and gosh I hope it was not their intentions, well then the team is very far from establishing an aggressive and dominating identity.

The 49ers have had a painful start to their season. Starting off with a dominating victory against the Bears, it’s been all downhill from there. A narrow defeat to the Rams, who appear to be an inferior team and a complete collapse against an awful Browns team, the 49ers stand at 1-3, and are likely, shocked as a result. Despite being the leads second ranked defense, and a much improved special teams unit, the team just can not get it done this year.

The team made a series of moves and non-moves this off-season that they thought would make this team better in this off-season. They brought in a new coach and a new staff, but did very little on the player side of things. General Manager Terry Donahue was banking on the return of many players from injury to make the biggest impact on the team. Unfortunately while many player did get healthy, many more got hurt, and that is certainly hampering the team’s ability to produce. What Donahue clearly overlooked is the need for depth when player go down, and lack of depth the 49ers have on their squad.

One could point to a series of problems the 49ers are having this year in trying to re-establish this teams identity. Players dropping passes, poor decisions on some passes, the lack of a dominating run game, losing the battle along the lines (despite being sack happy this year, the 49ers defensive line is clearly not up to par), missed opportunities in the redzone and on third down, penalties galore, perhaps coaching decisions has even been made poorly. The problems are numerous, and the aforementioned does not even come close to mentioning them all.

The 49ers will head in to the Vikings’ domed stadium this week in search of an identity, in search of confidence and in search of a win. This team at 1-2 is not out of contention yet, but a further loss would have serious ramifications on their playoff chances. Injuries still smother this team, but the coaching staff will have to find a way around that. They will also have to find a way to deal with noise of an indoor stadium.

Of the many sub-plots this week, the battle between Terrell Owens and Randy Moss will certainly be one of the more interesting to watch. The two receivers are both looking to make a claim to being “The Best Receiver In The Game”. The receivers are the same and different in so many ways and their battle this weekend should make things interesting.

Whether the Vikings start quarterback Daunte Culpepper who has broken bones in his back or not is a huge question mark on this game. The same could be said about the 49ers offensive line who probably account for 90% of the ankle injuries in the league right now.

Both teams will have a hard time containing all of each other offensive weapons, as both teams receiver depth is much deeper than the oppositions cornerback pool. All this should add up to an interesting game, and the 49ers better hope it falls their way. A loss would be more devastating than any 49er would want to admit.