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GRR!
11/22/02


I hate Jose Cortez.

I hate him with a passion that burns into the fires of my very soul.

I demand to see his name on the waiver wire yesterday.

Alright, I think I need to take a deep breath. Hold on.

'Kay.

I am not one to usually call for a man's job after messing up in a football game, but Cortez has gone too far this time. In what was really a great game against two very good teams, the 49ers found themselves in overtime against the San Diego Chargers, a team who had discovered genuine life in their passing game after going most of the season without. But the 49ers countered every one of the Chargers' punches masterfully and had a chance to win a thriller in overtime if Cortez could simply do his job and punch in an all-too makeable 41 yard field goal with the wind at his back.

Instead, Cortez did what he always does. He screwed it up.

He pushed the ball wide left, and with that one miss probably sealed his ultimate fate as a 49er.

As you probably know by now, the Chargers, given new life by the miss, drove quickly and decisively down the field and booted in their own game winning Wade Richey (once a maligned 49ers kicker in his own right) field goal.

I almost feel bad for blasting Cortez this badly in this space, if only because Cortez had shown some consistency this season, at one point kicking 13 straight field goals. But I will note that none of those figgies came with the game hanging in the balance. And I'm sure I dont need to try and paint a picture of 49ers fans worldwide biting their fingernails whenever Cortez stepped onto the field. The Raiders game was the beginning of the end, and Sunday's performance was pretty much the 2-ton pile of bricks that broke the proverbial camel's back. I had been privately wondering to myself when Cortez, who has one of the funniest-shaped skulls in all of pro sports (Niners LB Derek Smith is also in the running for this honor, as noted in this column last week) would cost the 49ers a game. This game was it.

Cortez is a young kicker who needs to learn some consistency, but the 49ers are a genuine contender in a playoff hunt, and they cant afford to let his growing pains jeopardize prime opportunities to move up in the standings any further.

WHAT DID NOT HAPPEN THIS WEEK:

I'm somewhat of an internet connossieur. I like to read a lot of different writing from a lot of different places and people. But it infuriates me to no end to read the rantings of uninformed, unreasonable people who cannot see events in the NFL for what they are. These are direct quotes which I've chosen to debunk right here and right now. Hell, if I keep finding tidbits this juicy, this may become a permanent feature here at Trevor's Corner.

"49ers offense stalled in tough loss at San Diego."
Tom Jackson - TJ's Take - ESPN.com"

The 49ers on Sunday piled up 467 yards, their highest yardage output of the season. The offense constantly reacted to the Chargers' defense and found new ways to attack. Terrell Owens tied his season high with 2 TD receptions. Jeff Garcia was red-hot all throughout the second half, and the running game continued to pay big dividends, getting timely big gains and keeping the Chargers on their heels. Stalled? Please.

"This is not the WCO as Walsh designed it, this is Mariucci/Knapp build a lead and protect it offense, and personally I think that sucks, and in the NFL it will not lead to championships imho. Are the niners doomed? I hope not, but I sure hope that when they review the tape they see what went wrong."
2winspapa, as posted to the 49ers Paradise Forum.

First of all, a tiny apology to 2winspapa, one of my favorite posters on the Niners Forum. He's not the only one who types up crap like this, but he's the one who caught my eye.

DOOMED?! Doomed, you say?? Cripe's sake people, the 49ers only lost ONE STINKING GAME! Everyone loses a game now and again! Even the almighty Green Bay Packers lost! You think anyone is saying their season is doomed??

And honestly, I thought the 49ers' playcalling borderlined on brilliance at times. The Chargers came at them early with agressiveness and fire and the Niners countered and did everything they had to do to win this game. Conservative? Do you call a long touchdown pass on 4th and 3 conservative? I think that people are getting caught up with buzz words and doomsday predicting and are too blind or stubborn to see this game for what it really was -- a very well-played game between two of the better teams in the NFL.

WHAT DID HAPPEN THIS WEEK:

Okay, I feel a little bit better. Now here's a look at what actually DID happen this week in regards to the 49ers.

1.) The 49ers piled up 467 yards, their biggest offensive output of the season, against a defense that was ranked in the top five in the NFL going into Sunday's game.

2.) The 49ers' defense held LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL's leading rusher heading into Sunday's game under 100 yards (88 on the day). In fact, were it not for rushes of 27 and 21 yards by LT in the 3rd quarter, Tomlinson would have had a flat 40 on the day. Heck, the defense did everything conceivable to win this game -- including intercepting Drew Brees in the end zone on one drive and even blocking a kick. When's the last time you saw a 49ers team block a kick? That's what I thought.

3.) As I mentioned, the 49ers coaching staff had a largely brilliant day, continually tweaking the offense to attack the weaknesses exposed in San Diego's scheme, allowing Garcia to have his biggest passing day of the season with 337 yards.

4.) The 49ers failed to capitalize on the Packers' loss to the Minnesota Vikings. No one knows better than San Francisco how difficult it is to win in Green Bay in the playoffs, and a win would have been a big step in wrestling home field away from the Pack.

5.) The Rams beat the Bears Monday night (as expected), and have pulled within 2 games of the divison-leading 49ers, making the two teams' Week 17 pairing on Monday Night that much bigger.

In short, a lot happened Sunday, and while the loss was a setback, the 49ers can easily bounce back. The first and biggest step to doing this is by ending the Jose Cortez experiment and letting Jeff Chandler prove why the Niners drafted him in the 4th round of this year's draft. This explosive offense with a steady kicker to back it up could prove to be a huge weapon heading down the stretch of this NFL season. And with the Niners defense continuing to improve, come playoff time this will be a team to beat.

NEXT WEEK'S GAME

In an event that clearly rocks the foundation of the NFL, the Philadelphia Eagles likely lost quarterback Donovan McNabb for the balance of the season. If you watched TV at all yesterday, you probably saw the gruesome footage of McNabb's toes on his right foot nearly touching the shin on his right leg. (He went on to play the rest of the game with that broken ankle, which earns him a lifetime MVP vote in my book.) Not a pretty sight. And if you got around to reading my Mid-Season Awards article with my favorite corner writer, SuperZim, you'll note that I actually voted McNabb as my midseason MVP, because he IS the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now, Koy Detmer IS the Philadelphia Eagles. Or rather, he plays the position that holds the key to their ultimate fate. You'll remember that in 1998, he actually was actually Philadelphia's starer for a while, following in the steps of his brother Ty and Bobby Hoying (God, who thought we'd ever mention THAT name again?) as crappy white QBs for the Eagles under then-offensive coordinator Jon Gruden. Now Detmer has to come on and produce for a Philly team that is undeniably talented, not to mention undeniably unpredictable, even when they had McNabb at the helm.

You know Andre Carter, Julian Peterson, Chike Okeafor, and the rest of the 49ers defense are licking their chops at this target. The Niners need to come out and blitz Detmer early and often. Take the reins off their pass defense and try and rattle this young QB early. He's not started a game since 1998, so one has to figure he's a bit rusty. If the 49ers can bring the house at opportune moments and knock him out of his rhythm, it'll be a long game for Detmer. And when the Niners aren't rushing the passer, they should still be keeping one man in the box to shut down that all-pro RB tandem of Duce Staley and Dorsey Levens. Force Detmer to beat you.

Offensively, the Niners are going to be facing a Philly defense that knows now that it must carry the team. D-coordinator Jim Johnson has always been free-wheeling with his unit, blitzing like a madman and taking chances that most coordinators wouldnt. Now that he doesnt have the safety blanket of McNabb on the other side of the ball, one wonders how he'll handle the pressure of carrying the team and whether that will change his scheme at all.

All in all, the loss of McNabb will be too hard to overcome for the Eagles. Garcia and Jeff Chandler will lead the Niners to victory on Monday night.



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  49ERS 35, EAGLES 10
11/22/02

In a game that should have featured fierce competition between two of the top teams in the NFL, the absence of maybe the league's biggest star made this one a snoozer between the San Francisco 49ers and the Philadelphia Eagles as the 49ers won it handily, 35-10.

The 49ers started the scoring in a hurry. After a 32 yard kickoff return by Jimmy Williams, Jeff Garcia dropped back on the game's first offensive play and lobbed a bomb to Terrell Owens. 57 yards later he found paydirt, and the Niners were on the board 7-0.

Koy Detmer started the game in place of the injured Donovan McNabb, and he looked far from sharp. His first two passes skipped in the dirt as the Eagles went three-and-out and punted to the 49ers.

The Niners next drive was slow and methodical as the team ground out yards with Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow en route to a 14-yard touchdown run by Barlow. All told, Hearst logged 42 yards, and Barlow 36 in the ten play drive, which put San Francisco up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

It was at the beginning of the second that the Eagles began to show some life. Detmer flipped a screen out to Duce Staley, who stiffarmed Niners linebacker Jeff Ulbrich to the ground and turned the short completion into a 15 yard gain. Two Dorsey Levens runs set up Detmer's 9-yard touchdown pass to Chad Lewis, who snatched the ball out of Julian Peterson's fingertips and somehow managed to keep his feet inbounds as he fell out of the back of the end zone.

The teams then traded a few punts before Philly took possession on their own 42 yard line thanks to a masterful 26 yard punt return by Brian Mitchell. Detmer found Freddy Mitchell on three consecutive pass plays, beating 49ers rookie Mike Rumph, to bring the Eagles to the 49ers' 11 yard line with :30 left in the first half and two timeouts. But the 49ers, in a display reminiscent of their game against Philadelphia last year, stopped the Eagles on their next four plays. On first down, Staley ran for six yards up the middle to the 49ers' five. On second down, Detmer's passed sailed over the head of Antonio Freeman and out of the end zone, but a holding penalty on Derek Smith gave the Eagles first and goal at the 2. Detmer attemtped a naked bootleg, but was thrown to the ground behind the line of scrimmage by Andre Carter for his first sack of the game. Then finally, on second down, Detmer's pass intended for Todd Pinkston in the corner of the end zone was intercepted by Ahmed Plummer. The clock ran out and the teams went into the locker room at halftime with the 49ers leading, 14-7.

The Eagles' offensive woes carried on into the second half, as Carter logged another sack on Philly's first offensive snap for a loss of five yards. Staley gained seven on a delay, and Detmer's third down pass intended for Mitchell fell incomplete and the Eagles punted again.

San Francisco then went back to work. Seemingly energized by their defense's stellar play to end the half, the 49ers moved the ball with authority, capping a six play, 72 yard drive with a 13 yard touchdown pass to Owens.

Philadelphia's next possession ended in a fumble by Demter off a Chike Okeafor sack and the 49ers took over at the Eagles' 42 yard line. Garcia dropped back on the first snap after the fumble and hit Tai Streets on a short slant in front of Ealges corner Bobby Taylor. Streets faked out Eagles safety Blaine Bishop, turned on the jets, and was gone for the score which put the 49ers comfortably ahead, 28-7.

The Eagles, sensing a game that was very nearly out of their reach, began a frantic series of passes which got them 62 yards down to the 49ers' 18 yard line. But again the offense stalled, and the Eagles settled for a David Akers field goal which set the score at 28-10 at the end of the 3rd quarter.

San Francicso took the ball and ordered Garcia to start handing off after that. Hearst received the bulk of the carries, at one point logging seven straight, as San Francisco's rushing attack fought a battle of attrition against a depleted Eagles' defense. When the drive ended with Hearst's two-yard touchdown dive, the 49ers had held the ball for 4:36 of the five minute quarter. Hearst accounted for 61 yards on the drive.

Hearst received player of the game honors for logging 17 carries for 144 yards and the final touchdown. Streets led the team in receiving yardage with 123 and a score, while Owens logged 97 yards and two TDs. Carter had three total sacks on the day in another stellar performance. Julian Peterson held Chad Lewis to one reception for nine yards and the Eagles' only TD.