Time to win is now

It's getting to that point in the season where the 49ers need to start winning some tough games within their division. The 49ers head into Sunday night's game with the Seattle Seahawks as slight underdogs, but it does not get a whole lot easier for them after this.

At 2-3, the 49ers have back-to-back games on the road against Seattle and at home against Tampa Bay. They also have road games remaining at Green Bay, Baltimore and Philadelphia, and home games against St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Seattle.

In other words, in order to afford themselves a little wiggle room later in the season, the 49ers need to string some victories together.

But coach Dennis Erickson is so focused on this week's game that he said he has not taken a peak at the 49ers' schedule.

"I know who we play but I haven't looked past this week," Erickson said. "We got to get past this one and then we worry about whoever we play next week. As soon as you start looking ahead, you have problems."

Niners general manager Terry Donahue, a college Hall of Fame coach, has a similar philosophy.

"I've been through this and all you can continue to do is work hard and push and worry about the next game," Donahue said. "You just have to play well and win and get a victory."

The 49ers snapped a three-game losing streak last week with a less-than-impressive 24-17 victory over the Detroit Lions.

"I don't know how anybody views a victory other than how I view it: It's a victory," Erickson said. "Obviously you'd like to play better every time you line up and play. It's easy to sit here after a win and say we should have played better, and we should have."

Through five games, this season is not going the way Erickson had envisioned when he signed on to become 49ers coach in February. The 49ers were thought to own a high-powered offense behind Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia and All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens.

But what Erickson is beginning to discover is that his offensive unit might be better equipped to run the football.

While compiling a 2-3 record this season, they have gotten better more production from their two-headed running attack of Garrison Hearst and Kevan Barlow. Hearst and Barlow rank ninth and 12th, respectively, in the NFC in rushing. Hearst averages 4.7 yards a carry, while Barlow checks in at a 4.3-yard clip.

The 49ers' reliance on their run game is certainly not a departure from the recent past. From 1979 to '96, the 49ers never finished out of the league's top 10 in passing. But in six seasons under coach Steve Mariucci, the 49ers ranked 14th or lower in passing four times.

Last Sunday, the 49ers' run game played a pivotal role in the victory over the Lions, as the 49ers never had to attempt a pass after taking over with 3:19 remaining in the game. Holding a seven-point lead, Hearst rushed four times for 20 yards, and Garcia gained 10 yards on a bootleg. Garcia then took a knee three times to run out the clock.

Erickson vowed to make the 49ers' offense more vertical when he was hired. But, perhaps, the 49ers' offensive weapons are not capable of playing that kind of football.

After all, Garcia does not have the strongest of arms. He is at his best on the move. He is not considered an accurate deep passer, and he generally does not have the patience to wait in the pocket for a receiver to get open down field.

Also, Owens has never been anywhere near the deep threat of a Randy Moss. Owens is at his best when he's catching short crossing routes and making defenders miss tackles.

Garcia said he does not take exception to Erickson saying the team might be better suited to running the ball.

"If it's running the football and getting us points on the board, that's he kind of football I'm willing to play," Garcia said. "I'm just trying to do my best to execute the offense. If it means handing the ball off at times and getting positive yardage, then that's going to be my role."


Niners Digest Top Stories