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49ERS Mariucci likes his team's attitude



Published: Thu, September 12, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



San Francisco plays all five teams from its preseason schedule in the regular season.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

San Francisco 49ers coach Steve Mariucci agreed that last Thursday's 16-13 win over the New York Giants was anything but a beauty.

"But in December, we're going to look back on this as a big win," said Mariucci. "It was a defensive struggle in a very hostile environment in front of an emotional crowd against a good team.

"Victories are hard to come by, especially on the road. So to come-from behind in that fashion was a great way to win," Mariucci said. "We're going to need to be able to do it again."

After trailing 6-3 at halftime, the Niners scored on their final three possessions for the victory that has them alone atop the NFC West standings.

Relief

After watching second-year kicker Jose Cortez miss two field goal tries in the first half, Mariucci admitted he felt tremendous relief after the Niners drove on the Giants in the final two minutes, setting up Cortez's 36-yard game-winner.

"The two-minute drill has been good to us over the years, mostly because of poise at the quarterback position," Mariucci said.

The key play on the final drive was the first when quarterback Jeff Garcia hooked up with wide receiver Terrell Owens for a 33-yard pickup into New York territory. The catch was only Owens' third as the Giants secondary hounded him with double and triple coverage.

Garcia completed 16-of-26 passes for 166 yards.

Owens led San Francisco with four grabs for 41 yards.

"The thing that impressed me the most was an intangible quality we showed in attitude," Mariucci said.

"To be able to keep your composure and show continued confidence even when things aren't going well for you, to show belief that someone will make a big play or a break -- that's something not every team shows.

"Typically, a younger team with little or no experience at quarterback and short on leadership might throw in the towel," Mariucci said.

"That certainly wasn't the case with us."

Titan twosome

Mariucci credited offensive tackle Scott Gragg for a strong performance against Giants All-Pro rusher Michael Strahan.

"We're going to need another game-ball performance from his this week because he'll be up against [Broncos lineman] Trevor Pryce," Mariucci said.

Sunday, the 49ers are at home against Denver, which defeated the St. Louis Rams 23-16 in its opener.

This will be the Niners' second time seeing the Broncos in a month.

"Strangely enough, we play all five teams from our preseason schedule in the regular season," Mariucci said.

"Does playing them again so soon help? Yes and no. It certainly gives us some familiarity as far as personnel goes. But playing them in an exhibition doesn't give you a feel for their scheme.

"The scheme they showed against the Rams was nothing like what they put in during the preseason," Mariucci said.

After playing three exhibition games and the NFL opener in 18 days, Mariucci admitted the team is looking forward to getting into a regular routine.

"We arrived home at 5:30 a.m. last Friday and had the players come in to watch film and practice at 6 p.m.," Mariucci said.

"I gave them the weekend off so they could spend time with families."

Routine helps

After a full practice on Monday, the Niners had Tuesday off then resumed their regular practice schedule on Wednesday.

"It's good to get a routine started because we haven't had a one since we started training camp," Mariucci said.

"Our schedule is a little helter-skelter this year, with that Thursday night start, three Monday night games and one [on a] Saturday in December. We've been all over the map already, so it's good to settle into a routine."

williams@vindy.com




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