Terrell Owens speaks what's on his mind.
And when he spoke with a group of reporters earlier this week, his mind clearly still was filled with angst over the 49ers' galling overtime loss to Chicago last Sunday.
"I'm a person who doesn't like to lose," Owens said. So, while sitting in front of his locker, Owens spent more than 20 minutes describing how hard it was to accept the 37-31 loss to the Bears in a game that the Niners led by 19 points midway through the third period and by 15 points with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. And he didn't stop there.
Owens criticized himself for his role in the loss, since Chicago's winning touchdown came on a pass that bounced off his hands and was turned into a game-ending interception return. But he also said the game never should have come down to that play, that the Niners should have put the game out of reach well before then, but instead stopped attacking offensively after building a 28-9 lead in the third period.
"I think as a team, we just lost it, all the way around the board," Owens said. "From the offense, and the defense, special teams, the coaches. I know they're probably beating themselves over the head as well."
So Owens went ahead and beat them over the head a little more. Head coach Steve Mariucci in particular. "I know for me, you put in so much hard work and you got a good thing going and then, I don't know, we just let one slip away from us," Owens said. "And I think, hopefully, it means coach now, he'll probably change his mentality about, you know, about us just really destroying teams now. I think he, his buddy system with all the coaches around the league, I think he tries to spare them sometimes, just like he doesn't want to embarrass a team. But you gotta understand, if you're trying to win a championship, you have to spare feelings sometimes."
Owens was referring to Mariucci's friendship with Chicago coach Dick Jauron. Mariucci and Jauron coached together as assistants for three seasons in Green Bay, where they and their families developed close relationships. Mariucci at first declined to comment on Owens' words, but said later during a conference call with Niners' beat writers that his star receiver was speaking out of frustration.
"He knows that a lot of coaches in this league are connected," Mariucci said. "He knows that we have respect for the game and respect for each other. He knows we play to win. He's probably saying some things tongue-in-cheek. Obviously, I value my job more than I value Dick Jauron's job for him. We play to win. It's nothing more than that." Owens, who caught an NFL-record 20 passes in a December win over the Bears last year, had four receptions in the first quarter last week. But he had only two the rest of the game before Garcia hit him with a pass on the first play of overtime.
Owens said he caught the ball and, sensing he had running room, began to accelerate, knocking the ball out of his own hands with his knee. Chicago safety Mike Brown plucked the ball out of the air and returned it 33 yards for the winning score. "I've beat myself up over it, but at the same time, looking at the big picture, we shouldn't have been in that position," Owens said. "You've got to play for four quarters. I think as an offensive unit, we have to go out there and we have to take control ... and just be aggressive every quarter. I don't call the plays. You've gotta play for four quarters. I mean, point blank. No matter what the situation is, you just keep the metal to the pedal. Like I said last week, no matter what the situation is, no lead is secure in the league. And it was very evident this (past) weekend."