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Niners offense goes south

By DARRELL FRY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 22, 2002

What's up with the 49ers' West Coast offense?

The unit has seemingly slumped since the second half of last season, gaining more than 300 yards only once in the final six games (and that was the regular-season finale against a fading Saints team that seemingly had given up).

In two games this season, the Niners have yet to produce a 300-yard game and are ranked 27th in the 32-team league. With the pass-happy Redskins in town today, the offense might have to come alive to keep the Niners from falling to 1-2.

"This year it's a little slow right now, and the offense is not working the way it needs to work," veteran running back Garrison Hearst said. "If we get the passing game working the way it's supposed to, the holes and big plays will come for everybody."

Yeah, if.

Apparently, teams have been playing the Niners deep, taking away the long pass. That dares the Niners to run, but they have been ineffective at it, averaging just 92 yards.

"This two-deep stuff is nothing new," coach Steve Mariucci said. "You've got to be able to run the ball against it. You've got to be patient. If you run the ball, people tend to put a safety in the box. That's what we've got to be able to do (be patient)."

MAYBE HE HIT HIS HEAD IN THE SHOWER THAT MORNING: Coaches are known for purposely exaggerating the prowess of upcoming opponents, but Packers coach Mike Sherman took it to a new level talking about today's game against the lowly Lions.

Said Sherman of the Lions: "They might be the most dangerous team in football."

DID YOU KNOW?: With the Dolphins led by punishing running back Ricky Williams, the offense has picked up the nickname "The Miami Pound Machine."

DID YOU KNOW II?: After the Eagles' Monday night game in Washington, the team took the train back to Philadelphia, arriving at 3:15 a.m. Coach Andy Reid pulled a Jon Gruden and went straight to the office to review film for today's game.

DID YOU KNOW III?: When the Packers play today at Ford Field, the Lions' new domed stadium, they could be in trouble. Quarterback Brett Favre is 12-19 in domes and 14-34 on artificial turf.

GIVING AWAY MONEY: When Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch retired before his rookie season really got started, he agreed to return nearly $400,000 in signing bonus money to the Rams.

ARE YOU SOLD ON THEM?: The Saints are 2-0 and have beaten two quality teams: Tampa Bay and Green Bay. Yet the Saints say they aren't getting enough respect.

"We're still unknown," receiver Joe Horn said. "They all think it's luck. They all think it's a fluke. They don't give a (expletive) about the Saints."

HE SAID IT: Lions president Matt Millen said his 0-2 team has gotten "better in a lot of areas" after going 2-14 a season ago. But when asked after the Lions' 31-7 loss last weekend to Carolina to identify those areas of improvement, Millen said: "Well, after today, there's none."

BRING ON DALLAS ... AGAIN AND AGAIN: Ever since the Texans slumped against the Chargers a week after their dazzling season-opening win against the Cowboys, they have tried to figure out the key to playing intensely every week.

"Maybe we need to act like every team that lines up across from us is Dallas," quipped Texans running back James Allen. "Maybe we're going to have to put that star on all of our opponents' helmets."

LOOK MA, I'M ON TV: Bears receiver David Terrell has two catches this season and both game-winners. Both times, he finished with end zone celebrations designed, he said, to get him on SportsCenter.

Against the Vikings, he jumped the retaining fence and bounded into the end zone bleachers. Last weekend at Atlanta, he leaned against the goal post and imitated a "counting the money" routine by comedian Mike Epps.

Said Terrell: "I'm just going to be myself, come out here and make plays and knock the criticism off my back."

FORGET ME NOT: After T.J. Duckett gained 32 yards on five carries against the Bears last weekend, he didn't play in the second half. Falcons coach Dan Reeves all but admitted he forgot about the rookie.

"It was the plan coming in and you get away from it, him not playing in the second half," Reeves said. "We're trying to correct that so that's not a situation at the end of the ballgame where you sit there and say, "Golly, why didn't he play in the second half?' "

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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