Contra Costa Times

49ers peg a not so shocking matchup
January 04, 2003
Peterson to take on Giants' marquee tight end Shockey

By Cam Inman

SANTA CLARA - Forty-Niners linebacker Julian Peterson helped secure his first Pro Bowl berth by doing such a good job shadowing Kansas City Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez earlier this season.

Peterson might be able to land his first playoff victory with the 49ers if he does an equally impressive job against New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey in Sunday's first-round playoff game.

"That's where the cameras have got to be," said 49ers rookie cornerback Mike Rumph, a college teammate of Shockey's at Miami. "Shockey's a great athlete and Julian is, too. I want to see that."

So does 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora.

"It's going to be one of the great matchups to watch of the year," Mora said. "There's going to be some plays where everyone's going to know that Julian's got Shockey and Shockey's on Julian."

Shockey had only three catches for 44 yards in his NFL debut, a 16-13 loss to the 49ers in the season opener. He's become such a key to the Giants offense, however, that he'll join Peterson at the Pro Bowl.

Shockey finished the regular season with 74 receptions, the most in team history by a tight end, surpassing Mark Bavaro's record of 66 in 1986. The Giants hoped Shockey would be Bavaro-esque when they drafted him in the first round last spring, and Shockey not only has produced, he's done so with flair.

"What I admire the most about the guy beside his physical skills is his passion," Mora said. "He really loves to play. You'd love to have him on your defense. He epitomizes what you look for in a defensive player, just a real passion and a zeal to play."

Peterson said he hopes to parlay Shockey's intense passion into frustration.

"He's a young guy with nothing to lose. He's got a cocky sort of attitude, kind of a me-against-the-world sort of thing," Peterson said. "He's just going out there and having fun. I'm going to do the same thing, and if he talks to me, I'll talk back. It won't be a big issue. I won't be throwing blows obviously. It'll just make it more competitive of a game."

Brian Jennings, the 49ers long snapper and third-string tight end, has been playing the role of Shockey in scout-team drills, and Peterson said Jennings has done a great job "pushing off and yapping out of his mouth."

Giants quarterback Kerry Collins, speaking on a conference call with Bay Area media, said Shockey has given the Giants a pass threat down the middle that they've been lacking for years. That threat also has freed up things for the Giants' top two producers -- running back Tiki Barber and wide receiver Amani Toomer.

"A lot of times he's too quick and agile for some of the linebackers," Giants coach Jim Fassel told Bay Area media this week.

Collins, however, said Peterson has what it takes to keep up with Shockey. "He's the kind of guy that can match up with Jeremy's speed," Collins said. "That (speed) is the thing people are having trouble with. I think Peterson is as fast as Shockey, maybe faster. We're going to have to be selective with what we do and pick our spots with him."

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