Is Garcia making the right decisions?

Jeff Garcia enters Sunday's game against the Redskins having completed 69 percent of his passes so far in the 2002 season. And still, he finds people screaming for his head. It's not that Garcia can complete passes that anybody is questioning. It's where he's going with those passes.

The Niners' two-time Pro Bowl quarterback completed 27 of 36 passes in last week's loss to the Broncos. But those 27 completions went for just 205 yards, and Garcia didn't have a completion of more than 15 yards in the game.

The 49ers' average completion gained just 7.6 yards. To put that number in perspective, only two teams in the NFL averaged few than 10 yards a completion in 2000, and both were within nine inches of that figure. The 49ers' average completion last season was 11.2 yards, and - for comparison's sake - the average St. Louis Rams completion last season gained 12.9 yards.

With the vertical taken out of the attack against Denver, the Niners' offense seemingly grinded to a halt when the game still was there for the taking. Garcia has been blamed by fans and criticized by the media for checking down to his secondary receivers.

Niners coach Steve Mariucci said that is misplaced blame.

"Jeff is a terrific decision-maker," Mariucci said. "He really is. It's one of his strengths. And if he starts taking chances down the field too many times, then we're going to turn the ball over more than we should. And so, he's good about that."

Garcia, who accepts criticism as well as any quarterback in the NFL, also defended where he has been going with the football so far this season.

"I really believe that when it comes down to passing situations, good decisions were made, and we just need to continue to build on some of the things that we did do, to continue to attack defenses," Garcia said. "For the most part, I felt good about the decison-making. It's one of those things where it really tests your patience as a quarterback. And I probably got myself in a bad position a few times when I tried to force a play. But I can't start to second-guess myself. If I start to second-guess myself, I'm out of the game."

And that would mean certain doom for the Niners. Mariucci and Garcia said the quarterback will keep running the offense and doing the same things that have made both he and the 49ers successful in the past, and hopefully will do so again in the future, beginning Sunday against the Redskins.

"It needs to start this week against Washington," Garcia said. "But there's no reason to throw in the towel and shake up the bag yet."

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