Contra Costa Times

49ers report card
January 14, 2003
QUARTERBACK: A flustered Jeff Garcia never got in sync, producing a season-low 35.9 passing efficiency rating. He threw three interceptions, was sacked four times, had no carries and completed 22 of 41 passes (53.7 percent) for 193 yards. Grade: F

RUNNING BACK: The 49ers totaled only one first down by rushing as Garrison Hearst (10 carries, 55 yards) and Kevan Barlow (three carries, 7 yards) didn't do much with their limited opportunities. Barlow drew the wrath of his linemen in the first quarter when he stopped in the backfield and suffered a 2-yard loss at the Bucs' 6-yard line. Grade: D-

RECEIVER: Terrell Owens and Tai Streets both had a pass bounce off them and into the hands of Buccaneers defenders for interceptions. The Bucs' focus on stopping Owens with bump-and-run coverage and double teams paid off, as he had only four receptions for 35 yards. J.J. Stokes, in his probable farewell game, averaged 6.7 yards on three receptions. Grade: F

OFFENSIVE LINE: The Buccaneers' vaunted front four won the battle in the trenches, constantly getting to Garcia or at least making him panic further. Matt Willig, who replaced Derrick Deese in the second quarter, drew two false start penalties. Grade: D-

DEFENSIVE LINE: Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson got sacked once (on a blitz by linebacker Julian Peterson) and had way too much time to exploit the 49ers injury-depleted secondary. Defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield didn't record a tackle. Grade: F

LINEBACKER: Peterson, Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich combined for 36 tackles, but running back Mike Alstott proved tough to bring down. The pass coverage was also lackluster, including on a second-quarter TD catch by Joe Jurevicius when the linebackers appeared to bite on a possible run. Grade: D+

DEFENSIVE BACK: Losing cornerback Ahmed Plummer to a dislocated shoulder less than four minutes into the game was extremely costly, especially considering cornerback Jason Webster was out for the second straight game with an ankle game. That left Mike Rumph, Rashad Holman and Duane Hawthorne as the easy-to-target cornerbacks. Free safety Zack Bronson bowed out in the third quarter when his once-broken left foot started hurting. Grade: F

SPECIAL TEAMS: Aside from Jeff Chandler's two field goals and clutch tackle on a kickoff return, it was a woeful day for this unit. Bill LaFleur had a 14-yard punt to set up the Bucs' first scoring drive, and returner Vinny Sutherland's second-quarter fumble on a punt return robbed the 49ers offense of a much-needed drive. Grade: D

COACHING: The easiest call to criticize was Steve Mariucci's decision to not attempt a last-minute scoring drive before halftime. The 49ers had the ball on their 40 with 37 seconds and two timeouts remaining, and when Mariucci gave word to head into the locker room, that drew angry responses from several players. After all, the 49ers rallied from a 24-point deficit a week earlier against the New York Giants because they seized on every precious possession. Grade: D-

OVERALL: The 49ers played as bad as the Buccaneers played well. Giving up 28 first-half points marked their doom, especially against as stingy a defense as the Bucs'. The 49ers made it to the next step by winning a first-round playoff game, but by following that up with this debacle serves as a reminder this team has a ways to go to reach an NFC title game. Grade: D-

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