49ers retrospective: The good, bad and picturesque of the 2001-02 season
It was a season that far exceeded realistic expectations.
San Francisco was not expected to go to the playoffs this year, but the 49ers proved naysayers wrong by posting a 12-4 regular season record and gaining a wild card berth in the National Football Conference playoffs.
The 49ers got the job done without peerless wide receiver Jerry Rice, who defied age and went across the Bay to play for Oakland this year, and cornerback Anthony Parker, who went down with a shoulder injury.
It may not have been the glory days of Joe Montana or Steve Young, but San Francisco put together an exciting brand of football. Six players were selected for the 2002 Pro Bowl: quarterback Jeff Garcia, running back Garrison Hearst, wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive tackle Bryant Young, guard Ray Brown and center Jeremy Newberry.
Garcia, a Canadian Football League transplant in his third year with the 49ers, passed for more than 3,000 yards and 32 TDs. Favorite target Owens led the receiving corps with 93 catches for 1,412 yards and 16 TDs, and once again found himself the subject of controversy with coach Steve Mariucci, making the relationship between the two icy at best for most of the season.
Pro Bowl-bound Hearst, back from a knee injury that cost him two seasons, rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored five touchdowns to help provide the offense with some semblance of balance.
San Francisco won nine of its first 11 games; the run snapped with its second loss of the season to St. Louis. The defense shined with a late-season shutout of Miami and another shutout against division foe New Orleans to close out the regular season.
The momentum of the performance against the Saints was short-lived, however, as the 49ers exited the playoffs in the first round with a wild card loss to Green Bay, leaving fans to wonder what might be in store for next season.
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