Rebound hopes rest with Rattay

So now it's up to Tim Rattay to stop the bleeding and keep the 49ers stabilized going into their bye week. Well, not Rattay alone. "Tim doesn't have to win it by himself," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said after making the sudden announcement that QB Jeff Garcia won't play Sunday against St. Louis. "I mean, that's the key. We've got other players on this team, and that's what it's about." With Rattay at the helm, the Niners quickly will find out what both they and their backup QB are all about.

Garcia, being the warrior he is, was hoping to be grit it out this week, rest and rehab and try to be ready to play Sunday. But that didn't make any sense. He has ligament damage in his left ankle and, while it's possible to play with such a condition - center Jeremy Newberry, for example, has been doing it all season - a quarterback trying to make plays all afternoon under those circumstances probably would hurt his team more than he could help it.

"He just can't move, so there's no reason to put him out there," Erickson said. "Our game plan is fit for both guys. Tim will do the things that he can do, he understands that. He'll make the plays that he can make, and we'll do what we'll do."

Nagging injuries have affected Garcia all season and have limited his effectiveness on a weekly basis more than most people imagine. His performance and numbers have been a far cry from what they were during his previous three Pro Bowl seasons.

The Niners need a victory in the worst way Sunday - something that has been said during several weeks recently - because, despite what many naysayers believe, there still is hope for them to salvage their season. But those who think the only way to beat the Rams is to throw a gimpy Garcia onto the field are wrong.

Rattay is the right way to go. His stronger arm will give the offense a new dimension and, frankly, Garcia needs the time to heal. Rattay can't do some of the things Garcia can, but he is capable of making things happen within the offense, and he will have the Rams scrambling to adjust the next few days to the changes he represents in San Francisco's offense.

He also has the right demeanor to step into such a situation. Rattay was his usual even-keeled self after learning Thursday morning he'd been tabbed for his first career start - finally - in his fourth NFL season.

"It is an opportunity and I'm excited about being able to play," Rattay said without a hint of emotion. "But it's still going to be get the running game going and then, obviously, get it out of my hands and into the hands of T.O. and those guys to make plays. My main thing is, I want to help the team win the game. That's my only goal and that's what I'm focused on."

Rattay is the quarterback who gives the Niners the best chance at winning this week. That may sound like a consolation prize to some, because this season circles a little bit farther down the drain if San Francisco doesn't beat the Rams.

Rattay can plug that leak Sunday. The Niners really have no other choice but to give him that chance. He's the best bet of getting them to their bye week with something still to play for once they return from it later this month.

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