November 25, 2002
SAN FRANCISCO -- When Tai Streets simply has to win a game, there's only one quarterback he trusts.
Donovan McNabb is the 49ers receiver's choice ... in video games played avidly by a large portion of the league's young stars. Whether he's scrambling around or throwing downfield, nobody is more dangerous than the virtual McNabb.
"That's only in the (video) game, though," Streets said with a grin. "On the field, I'll take Jeff Garcia."
Koy Detmer is no McNabb, as Detmer readily admits. Still, the 49ers aren't convinced their task is any easier tonight with McNabb out with a broken right ankle.
Two NFC division leaders meet at Candlestick Park in a game both coaches expect to affect playoff seedings in five weeks.
San Francisco's defense didn't change much in its preparations and the Eagles didn't make wholesale adjustments to their offense. The Niners were more worried about Philadelphia's effective running game with Duce Staley.
"We'll run the same offense and just try to execute," Detmer said. "Every week, you put in different things and change up things to attack the defense you're going against. Duce is a big part of this offense when Donovan's in there or when I'm in there."
Still, the Eagles face a big adjustment going from the smooth, cerebral McNabb to Detmer, an unshaven, happy-go-lucky career backup who's called a goofball even by friends. Unless the Eagles fall far behind early, Detmer thinks his passing ability should be enough to get him through.
The Niners have been successful at keying on running backs. They clamped down on Kansas City's Priest Holmes so well two weeks ago he dropped out of the league rushing lead.
Only New Orleans' Deuce McAllister has run wild against coordinator Jim Mora's unit (139 yards), but Staley is the type of shifty back that gives San Francisco the most trouble. The 49ers are at their best when linebackers Derek Smith and Jeff Ulbrich step up to tackle rushers.
"He's good, and their line can be tough," Smith said. "You would expect them to try to establish the run early on in the game, but Detmer can throw downfield, too."
OF NOTE: If injured QB Donovan McNabb were playing, this would a classic Monday night matchup. But Koy Detmer takes some of the luster off of a crucial game between NFC teams vying for homefield advantage in the playoffs. If the Eagles defense shows up big and RB Duce Staley goes well over 100 yards, this could go down to the wire. Otherwise, the Niners will take out their frustrations from last weekend's overtime loss to San Diego on the wing-clipped Eagles today. Don't be surprised if it's a blowout.
FRY'S PROMISE: 49ers 24, Eagles 10. -- DARRELL FRY