After his four-touchdown performance against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Jeff Garcia now leads the NFC in passing and is the NFL's second-ranked passer.
"It goes hand in hand," Garcia said Monday. Actually, there have been several hands that have helped the Niners become one of the league's best offenses at midseason after a slow start. Garcia is on his way to another Pro Bowl season with a 98.0 quarterback rating - just behind NFL leader Rich Gannon of Oakland (98.6) - and is tied for the NFL lead with 17 touchdowns passes.
He has been getting plenty of help in that department from star receiver Terrell Owens, who is tied for the league lead with 10 touchdowns. Owens also ranks second in the NFC and fourth in the NFL in receptions with 56. His 768 receiving yards rank second in the conference and third in the league.
And then there's the Niners' running game, which also ranks second in the league behind the dynamic duo of veteran Garrison Hearst and rookie Kevan Barlow. After his 145-yard rushing performance against the Saints - his first 100-yard game since his career-threatening ankle injury of three seasons ago - Hearst now is fifth in the NFC in rushing with 578 yards and is on pace for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. Barlow also is listed among the NFC's top 20 rushers with 289 yards. The Barlow-Hearst tandem also has combined for 37 receptions for 417 yards.
But making it all click has been Garcia, who also has contributed 214 yards and three touchdowns rushing. Even while playing most of the past three games with a partially torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee - and being restricted by a brace on that knee the past two weeks - Garcia's passer rating has climbed while the Niners have improved to 6-2.
"In order for this offense to click, you need a quarterback who makes positive decisions, and I understand that," Garcia said. "And, obviously, you need players who can make big plays - and we've got plenty of those." But the best still is yet to come, Garcia said. "Actually, I envision us being better as an offense than we are right now," Garcia said. "There's so much room for us to continue to grow. It just hasn't all come together on the same week yet. I think that's something we can be really excited to look forward to in the sense that we haven't put a complete game together yet. Not to say you're ever going to play that perfect game, but to get to that game where you feel like you're clicking on all cylinders - I think it will be something very magical to look at."