Improvement must begin on offense

To use Steve Mariucci's words, the 49ers have "certainly a lot of things to clean up." He gets no argument there, but when the Niners begin the process of washing away the things that went wrong Thursday night in New York, they should start first with an offense that hasn't been right since the team started training camp.

That the 49ers are behind on that side of the ball was obvious in the first half of their fortunate 16-13 victory over the Giants, a win that was entirely a product of the Niners simply being the superior team, and simply too good to lose an important opener to a mediocre opponent that actually outplayed them.


But the offense was totally out of sync until it resiliently assembled scoring drives the last three times it had the ball. That's because all 11 starters never played together as a complete unit during the preseason, and even when most of the starting unit was intact, it didn't get much time to establish rhythm before being yanked from the game.


The offense, notorious for its slow starts last season, needs to find a way to be productive quickly with offensive-minded opponents Denver, Washington and St. Louis coming to San Francisco for the Niners' next three games.


"Well, the only way I know how is to roll up the sleeves and keep working at it," Mariucci said. "I think we're a good offense and I think we'll show that. I think the

Giants did a good job defending us, I think we helped them a couple times

with penalties and some dropped passes and some poor execution on certain

occasions, but we were playing against a good defense and we were just a

little bit off for most of the game, but when it counted we put some points

together at the end of the game in order to win that thing."


That's not the way the Niners want to have to do it the rest of this season, however. To ultimately be successful at the highest level this year, they need to be a quick-striking unit that can score early and allow their young defense to be more aggressive, instead of the "sort of bend but don't break" offense Mariucci said the Niners displayed on Thursday.


Mariucci's other takes on his struggling offense:


--- The coach was concerned about the way his team bogged down several times in the red zone after passing the New York 20-yard line. "Some areas in every phase of our game certainly can use some improvement," he said. "That's one of them."


--- Mariucci is not concerned that quarterback Jeff Garcia is slow out of the gate. "I told Jeff after the game when we were in the locker room and I said a lesser quarterback would not have been able to win this game. He's a Pro-Bowl guy and he needed to have some sort of Pro-Bowl mentality in a game like that, because we needed to find a way to put some drives together when it was rough sledding through most of the game and he was able to do that. Maybe a different kind of guy would have come unglued. He kept his wits about him and found a way to score points."


--- The team will continue to make adjustments to find more ways to get star receiver Terrell Owens the football. "You're continually making up schemes and plays and formations to get him in single coverage or in zone coverage, those sort of things. What will happen is if we run well, then they'll have to put a safety up in the box, eight men in the box, which puts him more one-on-one on the outside. (The Giants) did a good job of having coverage towards him in a variety of ways, it wasn't just double-coverage. When that happens, we've got to devise ways to get him open, plus use other guys, use the run game and J.J. (Stokes) and the tight end and be versatile that way."



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