Inept 49ers Make Jaguars Look Like World Beaters
New and improved on defense, still running steady on offense, the Jacksonville Jaguars looked every bit a Super Bowl contender.
But were those the real San Francisco 49ers?
Looking old and worn out, the 49ers lost, 41-3, Sunday in a game that may have signaled a shift of power in the NFL.
“I think they might ask what’s wrong with San Francisco before they say Jacksonville’s the team,” said Jaguar rookie cornerback Jason Craft, a fifth-round pick from Colorado State who returned a fumble for a touchdown. “You’ve got to figure San Francisco will be back next week. They’re a good team. They just got knocked off balance a little.”
And that may have been the understatement of the week.
The Jaguars, with a defense revamped by new coordinator Dom Capers, clamped down on 37-year-old Steve Young, who was nine for 26 for 96 yards with two interceptions in the rain. His favorite target, 36-year-old Jerry Rice, was nearly invisible, catching two passes for 17 yards.
The 49ers, a franchise that won three Super Bowls in the 1980s, hadn’t lost this badly since the New York Giants beat them, 49-3, in the 1986 playoffs. It was San Francisco’s worst regular-season loss since Dallas won, 59-14, in 1980.
“We seemed a little helpless,” Coach Steve Mariucci said. “There didn’t seem like much we could do about it. What I told the players is that we have so much to correct, starting with me. We’ve got to catch better, throw better, pass-protect better, tackle better, block better, the whole thing.”
With Garrison Hearst sidelined because of a broken leg, the 49er running game was ineffective. Other than Charlie Garner’s 37-yard run before halftime, San Francisco’s backs didn’t manage a gain of more than five yards until late in the fourth quarter. Lawrence Phillips had eight yards before leaving the game with a concussion.
The passing game that was supposed to be San Francisco’s salvation didn’t look any better. Young was frazzled and jumpy all day. The 49ers converted only one of 14 third downs.
“Certainly, we looked rusty,” Young said. “Everyone knows we haven’t spent much time together in the preseason. That was done in an attempt to keep us healthy. Today, we just didn’t come through for the coach.”
A good part of it was due to the Jaguars, who had the biggest blowout in their five-year history.
Mark Brunell threw for 265 yards and Mike Hollis kicked field goals of 41, 32, 50 and 42 yards to extend his streak of successful kicks to 17, a team record.
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