49ers - Team Notes - Thursday

Taking a step back and watching somebody else play the position gave 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia time to ponder his own game.<br><br> Garcia will return to the starting lineup Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens, and the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback said he hopes to be able to apply some of the things he noticed from watching backup Tim Rattay over the past three games.

Rattay started three games for the 49ers, and achieved passer ratings of 100-plus while the 49ers won games over the Rams and Steelers. However, Rattay struggled in the 49ers' 20-10 loss to the Packers on Sunday. Garcia is not going to be eased into the action. His first game since Oct. 26 will come against the No. 5-ranked defense in the league. Garcia has been out with a high left ankle sprain. Garcia reported to training camp with a bulging disc in his lower back, which kept him sidelined for two weeks. Once the season began, he sustained a concussion; a groin strain; and a bruise to his forearm that affected the thumb on his throwing hand and wrist. 

Now, he returns to the lineup after being out of action for five weeks -- including the bye week. "I think you have to get some of the rust off," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "There's no question about it. But he's been around the game long enough that it is a little easier with him. I think practice is going to make a difference. I look at him right now and he's probably healthier than he was at the beginning of the year, with all the other things that he had. And then he was able to, for a month, to not only heal the ankle, which was the key, but a lot of that other stuff healed up."

While watching Rattay play, the difference between the 49ers' quarterbacks was quite apparent to Garcia, who is more apt to move around in the pocket and make plays with his legs. Rattay had success with a more traditional pocket passing approach. Garcia said he can learn from some of the things he saw from Rattay. "We have similar body types and maybe some similarities as far as arm strength, certain things like that, but we're just different styles," Garcia said. "I'm a little more frantic in the pocket. I move around and somewhat make things happen on the run. He's a little more calm in the pocket and allows things to develop. In the two games he had success, he was allowed to do that. At times, that needs to be my game, as far as being more patient."

Rattay has attempted roughly half the passes that Garcia has thrown this season. Rattay has completed 62.7 percent, compared to Garcia's 54.9 percent. Rattay's average gain per pass attempt is 7.23 yards, compared to Garcia's 6.48. Rattay appeared to be better equipped to throw the deep ball because his feet were always set and he generally lets the play develop down the field. "That's something I took from watching Tim," Garcia said. "He was patient, he allowed things to develop and he made plays."

Garcia said part of the reason he was eager to get on the run through the first half of the season was because of a makeshift offensive line that has been subject to injuries this season. Niners quarterbacks have not always had a lot of time to throw. Although Rattay was sacked just once in his first two games, he was dumped four times against the Packers. But just as Garcia is returning to the lineup, the 49ers are being hit with more injuries up front. Backup Kyle Kosier could start his tenth game this season at his third different position. Injuries are expected to keep starting guards Ron Stone and Eric Heitmann out of the lineup, which could force offensive line coach Pat Morris to perform another juggling act. Under one scenario, veteran backup Brock Gutierrez would get his first playing time of the season on offense at right guard, while the rest of the line remains intact. "They're going to come to play," Garcia said. "Whoever steps into the position for Ron Stone is going to hopefully take advantage of the opportunity. We're all professionals. We all have to step up and we all get paid to play this game."

Rattay has anticipated the move back to the sideline since he was anointed the fill-in starter for the Nov. 2 game against the Rams. "Obviously, I like to play and want to be out there," he said. "But now I go back to being a backup. He's ready to go, so I go back to being a backup and doing what I can to help this team." Rattay said he was happy that he could also be of some help to Garcia, whom Rattay has watched closely for nearly four full seasons. "I've learned so much from Jeff: How to manage a game and protect the ball," Rattay said. "He's just been really good and really supportive. I've thanked him after every game. He knew he wasn't going to play, but he was still in the meetings and watching the film."

SERIES HISTORY: Second meeting. The 49ers lead the series 1-0, with a 38-20 victory in 1996 at Candlestick Park being the only meeting between the clubs.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
--One week, the 49ers are getting gashed by Packers running back Ahman Green, who gained 154 yards on 27 carries, now they face Ravens running back Jamal Lewis.
"Nah, it doesn't get any easier," 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson said. "The whole NFL is like that. There are great players on every team. And we got to find a way to slow people down and get the 'W' that we need on the road."
In back-to-back weeks, the 49ers will face the top two ground gainers in the league. Lewis leads the NFL with 1,361 yards on 266 carries, while Green has 1,326 yards and 10 touchdowns on 249 carries.
"He's fast," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said of Lewis. "He's probably faster than Ahman Green. He's pretty slippery. He's leading the league in rushing. Those are probably the two best backs in the league playing right now, from what I've seen."
--Receiver Terrell Owens has not produced nearly as many yards after the catch as in recent seasons. According to statistics supplied by the 49ers, Owens has averaged just 4.9 yards after the catch. Last season he gained an average of 6.0 yards after the catch.
--Left tackle Derrick Deese had not allowed a sack in 27 games, including the postseason, entering last week's game against the Packers. Although Deese appeared to surrender a sack to Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila in the first quarter, 49ers offensive line coach Pat Morris said Deese was not to blame.
"He (quarterback Tim Rattay) got flushed out and started to run," Morris said. "It wasn't his sack. To me, it's your sack if you flat-out beat. It's not your sack just because the guy was lined up over you. That seems fair to me."
--Fullback Fred Beasley, considered one of the top blockers at his position in the league, said the way to attack Ravens middle linebacker Ray Lewis is to go right at him.
"As far as what I see, he likes to run," Beasley said. "I think his weakness is running straight at him. I could be wrong. He might be juiced up for that. The guy's a good linebacker. I'm not taking anything away from him."
Beasley said the Ravens' defense is designed for Lewis to run from sideline-to-sideline and make tackles, but there will be plenty of opportunities for Beasley to block Lewis.
"I have my work cut out for me," Beasley said. "It's not just Ray. It's the other linebackers, too. Like (Edgerton) Hartwell and they have a 270-pound linebacker (Adalius Thomas) and they have Peter Boulware."
--When asked what part of Thanksgiving Day dinner he enjoys the most, quarterback Jeff Garcia answered, "The nap afterward."
--Beginning with the 1981 season, the 49ers put together an unbelievable string of success on the road. From '81 to 1990, the 49ers compiled a 61-14-1 record on the road for a win percentage of .809. At home the 49ers were not as good, going 51-25 for a .671 percentage.
But this season's 49ers have shown to be a horrendous road team. The 49ers are 0-5 away from home, while posting a 5-1 mark at Candlestick Park.
That is a trend they will be looking to snap Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

"Right now, we're a terrible road team," 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia admitted. "We haven't won a game on the road. That's been the Jekyll and Hyde of this team. We've been solid at home and not very good on the road, and we need to find a way to change that."
--The 49ers are mathematically still alive in the NFC playoff race, but their hopes are nearly extinct. The 49ers are one of 10 teams in the conference within one game of the .500 mark. Seven teams have better records than the 49ers, who are 5-6. The other teams who have the same record -- New Orleans and Tampa Bay -- have far easier schedules, as does Green Bay at 6-5. The Packers also hold a tiebreaker over the 49ers, based on their head-to-head victory. The 49ers have remaining games against Baltimore, Arizona, Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Seattle -- teams that have a combined win percentage of .545.
BY THE NUMBERS: 9 -- The number of consecutive road losses coach Dennis Erickson's teams have suffered. Erickson lost his final four road games with the Seahawks in 1998, and the 49ers are 0-5 on the road this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Until they tell us we are out of it, we aren't out of it. That is just how it is. If we are still in it, as far as record-wise, then we are still in it until we aren't in it any longer. Simple answer, but true. The biggest thing we have to focus on is trying to win our next game. We'll try to get to 6-6, then worry about the next one after that." -- 49ers coach Dennis Erickson on the 49ers' almost-impossible playoff chances.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--The 49ers might have to do some shuffling on their offensive line if right guard Ron Stone, who has made three consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, is unable to play with a left hamstring strain.
Stone aggravated his injury on the first play of the game Sunday against the Packers, forcing the 49ers to use Dwayne Ledford. Then, Ledford sustained a right ankle sprain. He played the remainder of the game but will miss the remainder of the season.
That leaves the 49ers in a bit of a quandary for Sunday's game against the Ravens. The 49ers are already down one guard, as Eric Heitmann has been out with a high left ankle sprain.
They might move left tackle Derrick Deese to left guard, switch Kyle Kosier from left guard to right guard and bring in rookie Kwame Harris to take over at left tackle. Another, perhaps more likely, option would be to insert veteran Brock Gutierrez at right guard and leave the rest of the line intact.
Regardless, the 49ers are trying to fight through their injuries. They have had their entire starting offensive line together on the field for only 22 plays this season -- mostly because of high ankle sprains.
"We all have injuries, that is just an excuse because you still have to win and do what you are supposed to, but I've never had it hit one position like it has hit the offensive front with the same injuries: the high ankle sprains," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "If anybody could invent a cure-all for high ankle sprains, they would probably be really wealthy."
The 49ers signed offensive lineman Rob Murphy, who played 10 games for the Colts last season, to take Ledford's spot on the roster.


PERSONNEL/INJURY NOTES:
--WR Terrell Owens has been a major part of the 49ers' plan in the passing game this season. Through 11 games, Owens has been the intended target of 113 passing attempts -- or 32.7 percent of all the team's passes. He has 61 catches, which means just 53.9 percent of all passes thrown his way have resulted in completions.
--LB Derek Smith leads the 49ers with 125 tackles from the "mike" position. Smith tied a season high with 15 tackles against the Packers last week. Smith has reached the 100-tackle mark for a sixth consecutive season.
--RB Kevan Barlow has averaged a team-high 4.7 yards after the first hit on 124 touches this season. Barlow was used sparingly in the second half against the Packers because the coaching staff still does not have a lot of confidence in him as a pass protector.
--QB Tim Rattay heads back to the bench with a 98.1 passer rating. For the season, Rattay has completed 62.7 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. "We won two and lost one," Rattay said of his three starts. "Obviously, I wanted to win three. There are areas to improve on, so I'll try to improve on that stuff. But it was fun to have a week to prepare and get the reps in practice. I haven't done that, obviously, since college."
--SS Tony Parrish is tied for the team lead with five interceptions this season, two of which have led to 49ers touchdowns. Since last season, Parrish has 12 total takeaways -- eight interceptions and four fumble recoveries.
--C Jeremy Newberry continues to play every week despite missing significant practice time because of a torn ligament in his left ankle that will require surgery at the end of the season. His ankle has been sprained so many times that he has developed chronic instability. His workout regimen consists of pool work and a heavy-duty tape job. Newberry has started 65 consecutive games. This season, Newberry has committed just one penalty -- a holding call in a victory over Detroit.
--PR Jimmy Williams, who led the NFL in return average a year ago, has not shown the same burst this season as he returns from a torn ACL. Williams has a long return of 20 yards this season with an average of 7.8 yards on 25 returns.
--QB Jeff Garcia ranks second on the NFL's all-time list in touchdown to interception ratio. Garcia's 103 touchdown passes and 51 interceptions is a 2.02 ratio. Steve Young is the all-time leader with a 2.17 ratio of 232 TDs and 107 interceptions.

GAME PLAN: The 49ers were prepared to see the run game of the Packers, and they could do nothing to stop it. This week, they can also figure to get a heavy dose of Baltimore running back Jamal Lewis, who comes in the game as the NFL's leading rusher. The 49ers have a defense that emphasizes speed and quickness over brute strength and force. Lewis is a bruising runner who will try to pound away at the middle of the 49ers' defense. The middle of that defense might be weakened if ILB Jeff Ulbrich is unable to play with a high ankle sprain. That would mean Brandon Moore would get his first NFL start. Moore has overpowered at times when he got into the game against the Packers. If Ulbrich does not play, it means that two of the 49ers' top four linebackers will be out. Jamie Winborn, who played so much he was considered the team's fourth starting linebacker, was lost two weeks ago with a herniated disc in his neck. The 49ers need to do a better job of stopping the run on early downs and forcing Ravens QB Anthony Wright to beat them. Offensively, the 49ers need to stick with their run game. They completely got away from what they do best against the Packers, as running back Kevan Barlow was underutilized. Barlow, who had gained 98 yards against the Steelers just six days earlier, carried just four times for 18 yards against Green Bay. Because of his power and strength, Barlow is likely to be a more effective ballcarrier in winter conditions than starter Garrison Hearst, who is too small to break a lot of tackles. If the 49ers are able to get some yards on the ground, that makes it easier for them to get the ball down the field in the passing game. If the running game is clicking, it generally does not matter who is the quarterback.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH: 49ers FB Fred Beasley, considered one of the top lead-blockers in the league and a key to the team's running attack, vs. RILB Ray Lewis, who is generally regarded as the league's top defensive player with 153 tackles this season.
--WR Terrell Owens, the team's most dangerous offensive weapon, vs. Ravens CB Chris McAlister, who generally gets the assignment of covering the opposing team's top receiver.
--LT Derrick Deese, who has solidified the 49ers line since he return from an ankle sprain a month ago, vs. ROLB Peter Boulware, who leads the Ravens with 5.5 sacks.
--CB Jason Webster, who will likely make his first start of the season in place of injured Mike Rumph, vs. WR Marcus Robinson, who is five inches taller than Webster and is coming off a four-TD performance
--RDE Andre Carter, who leads the 49ers with 5.5 sacks but is listed at just 265 pounds, vs. LT Jonathan Ogden, who is listed at 340 pounds and is one of the game's best lineman.
--LB Julian Peterson, whose all-around skills might be best used in coverage instead as a pass-rusher, vs. TE Todd Heap, the Ravens' leading receiver with 44 catches for 533 yards and two touchdowns.
--MLB Derek Smith, who leads the 49ers 125 tackles, vs. RB Jamal Lewis, the league's leading rusher with 1,364 yards and a 5.1-yard average.

INJURY IMPACT: CB Mike Rumph (right ankle) is not expected to be available for Sunday's game. Rumph has shown tremendous improvement in his second season in the league, and has started all 11 games. Jason Webster would start in his place.
--LB Julian Peterson is listed as questionable with a right thigh contusion but coach Dennis Erickson said he expected him to play. Peterson has also been bothered by the flu.
--LB Jeff Ulbrich has proven to be a quick healer. Two weeks ago, it did not look as if he would be able to play with a right ankle sprain. But Ulbrich never missed a game. This time he is listed as questionable with an aggravation of the ankle injury, as well as a thigh bruise.
--S Ronnie Heard, who sustained a torn medial-collateral ligament in his right knee Oct. 26 vs. the Cardinals, is listed as questionable for Sunday's game.
--G Eric Heitmann, who sustained a left ankle sprain on Nov. 2 against the Rams, is questionable. Heitmann has been inactive for seven games this season and seen limited action because of injuries in three other games.
--G Ron Stone has battled a left hamstring strain most of the season and lasted just one play in Sunday's game vs. the Packers. He is not expected to play.
--Backup OL Dwayne Ledford (right ankle) was placed on injured reserve, ending his season.
--WRs Terrell Owens (groin) and Tai Streets (quadriceps) continue to rest nagging injuries that have cut down on their practice time. Both are expected to play Sunday.


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