49ers Clubhouse 

49ers Need To Toughen Up For The Stretch

November 19, 2002

by James Parrott
Clubhouse Staff Writer

Eleven weeks into the season the 49ers have a well deserved 7-3 record.

Two of those losses have come on the road to good teams, in games that the 49ers led deep into the second half.

In all three the defense struggled mightily when it mattered most against reasonably balanced offensive attacks.

That the three losses have come against good teams is not an excuse that anyone can point to.

Strangely, in Steve Mariucci’s time as coach a veteran team has been torn down and replaced with a younger, faster one, and yet his teams still struggle against winning teams.

When the 49ers were at the top of the NFL they won on the road against any team.

This one wins on the road against teams it should beat.

Here are a few examples;

November 1st, 1998 @ Green Bay

The Niners have rallied from an early 16-0 deficit and lead 22-19. However, botched kicks (a PAT and a field goal) and a safety have cost the team six points. With 13.14 left the Packers tie it, then after forcing a punt take the lead for good on a 68-yard TD pass from Brett Favre to Antonio Freeman. The Niners go on to lose 36-22, giving up nine sacks of Steve Young in the process.

December 20th, 1998 @ New England

Leading 21-14 over the Patriots and facing Scott Zolak at QB for New England. failing to score throughout the second half, an interception sets up New England to tie the game with 7.34 remaining and with the Niners offense unable to do anything New England wins on a 35-yard field goal with three seconds left.

October 28th, 2001 @ Chicago

The 49ers get up early on the Bears and have leads of 28-9 and 31-16 in the second half. Unfortunately the defense cannot stop the Bears vanilla collection of power runs and crossing routes and the Bears, behind QB Shane Matthews and running back Anthony Thomas, tie the game at 31 with seconds remaining. On the first play of overtime Terrell Owens bobbles Jeff Garcia’s pass and safety Mike Brown intercepts the ball and returns it for a touchdown. After Zack Bronson’s 97-yard interception return gave the 49ers a 28-9 lead the 49ers are outscored are outscored 28-3. The Bears also recorded a second quarter safety.

October 20th, 2002 @ New Orleans

Leading 24-13 to start the fourth quarter, the 49ers can put up only a field goal en route to being outscore 22-3 in the fourth. The defense cannot stop the Saints, giving up 422 total yards and not forcing a single punt. Similarly, the 49ers attack goes in the tank against Jim Haslett’s overrated ‘Tough Guy’ defense.

The 49ers team from 1998 featured virtually none of the 2001/2002 lineup. And yet the patterns are the same.

Mistakes, missed opportunities, turnovers and disappearing offenses, added to defenses failing to hold leads have doomed the 49ers on the road against good teams in recent years.

The current defense has far too much talent to give up big plays to offenses like San Diego’s.

Whatever the problem is, Steve Mariucci and his staff and players need to find the answers very quickly.

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