Dorsey delivers go-ahead TD in 49ers’ 14-10 win over Raiders
SAN FRANCISCO – With three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Jeff Garcia walking the sidelines for Thursday night’s Battle of the Bay against the visiting Oakland Raiders, rookie quarterback Ken Dorsey entered the game for his normal rotation.
But this time there was 7:27 remaining in the preseason classic and the San Francisco 49ers were trailing 10-7 after a 45-yard field goal from Raiders’ place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski broke the long-standing tie.
Dorsey, like the Niners’ first-year head coach Dennis Erickson, had never been involved in a Bay Bridge battle. But he was up for the challenge – the first of his two-game-old NFL career. The former University of Miami star led the 49ers on a 12-play, 71-yard scoring drive that was capped off by a nine-yard touchdown pass to the wide open Matt Stanley – who bobbled the ball before bringing it in and going into the end zone.
“It’s just one of those things where you have to do whatever it really takes to win. It was no where close to being just one person,” said Dorsey of his first NFL comeback drive in his first game at Candlestick Park. “It was the offensive line doing a tremendous job, run blocking and pass blocking, and Rashaan (Salaam) running the heck out of the ball, receivers coming up with big catches. It was a complete offensive unit that was just ticking right there.”
The Raiders’ offense was ticking as well. Backup quarterback Rick Mirer, a one-time Niner, and rookie running back Justin Fargas, out of USC, brought the Silver & Black to the San Francisco nine-yard line. But a bumbled snap on a fourth-and-two ended the Raiders’ drive and put the 49ers on the winning side of a 14-10 thriller.
“It was a fun ending. I thought we made it as exciting as you can for a preseason game. So it’s always nice to win,” said Erickson from the post-game interview room. “Obviously, we made some mistakes out there. I thought particularly in the first half there were a couple of times with that first unit where we drove the ball down offensively and had some opportunities, didn’t take advantage of it.”
Dorsey – who rotated in for much of three quarters with second-year man Brandon Doman after starter Tim Rattay worked the opening 15 minutes – surely took advantage when it counted most.
“As you evaluate quarterbacks, they’re going to have some ups and downs. It’s what they do at the end of the football game – which he’s done all of his career. He makes big plays,” said Erickson of Dorsey. “He avoided the rush in that last drive. He made some awfully good throws and I thought we stepped up and did what we had to do regardless of who we’re playing with or against or the situation.”
It was the first defining moment for Dorsey (6/15, 47 yards, TD) – who also threw for two touchdowns in the Niners’ opening victory over Kansas City.
“It was intense. It was very intense,” said Dorsey from in front of his new locker. “It was kinda one of those things where you’ve got to understand how to play with that kind of intensity and channel it and try to be successful.”
The last time the Niners graced Candlestick field it was Garcia guiding them to a miraculous comeback win over the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs.
Although his was only a preseason win at that, Dorsey soaked up the moment – but at the same time stayed grounded about his progress this early in August.
“No past experience qualifies for what you’re doing here, now. You’ve just got to have a lot of faith in what you’re doing and what you’ve learned so far,” Dorsey said. “I’m no where close to where I want to be and I still have a long way to go, but I’m learning as I go and that’s the important thing. It’s still a learning experience for me and I’m just trying to learn and to just get better as a football player.”
Wide receiver Arnaz Battle also shined on the final drive – catching a 15-yard pass from Dorsey on a crucial third-and-10 and then taking a reverse 16 yards on the ground in back-to-back plays.
“The other guy I thought who stepped up was Arnaz Battle in that particular drive. He made a couple of catches right at the first,” Erickson said. “I thought offensively the thing that stood out was of course Dorsey’s drive at the end. But we just dropped too many footballs.
“We’ve got to be more consistent with catching the football,” he added. “Like I said that drive at the end was great. We held up defensively at the end and it was a pretty tight football game.”
After a scoreless first quarter – which saw Jeff Chandler miss a 31-yarder for the Niners and Janikowski go wide from 48 yards for his first of two misses – the Niners’ defense ignited a spark as linebacker Julian Peterson forced a fumble deep in Oakland territory. Peterson sacked Raiders’ quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo – jarring the ball lose – and defensive lineman Sean Moran recovered it.
On first-and-10 from the Raiders’ 10-yard line, Doman hooked up with wide receiver Cedric Wilson in the corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead – which remained at the break.
The Raiders struck back in the third quarter on a seven-play, 64-yard scoring drive as Fargas – who also had a 20-yard burst earlier on the same drive and finished with a game-high 126 yards – rambled in from a yard out. Another key connection went from Mirer (134 passing yards) to tight end Teyo Johnson for 32 yards.
The game remained tied until Janikowski made good on a 45-yard field goal to put the Raiders ahead by three late in the fourth before Dorsey’s game-clinching drive.
“It makes it fun. It was an intense game. There was a lot of intensity to it so you wanted to come out and finish on a good note,” said Dorsey of the Bay rivalry. “I think it’s a situation where you put guys in the right situation and you’ve got to come up with plays and in that circumstance a lot of guys came up with plays.”
Dorsey, a seventh round draft pick, has already impressed Erickson – his fellow one-time Hurricane. And what better time to do it than when he’s fighting to make the roster on a ball club that has an ailing starter in Garcia.
“Everybody had a lot of questions about him. The thing that’s happened is that he’s a different player physically right now than he was a year ago at the University of Miami,” Erickson said. “He’s put on maybe 20 pounds. He’s more physical. His arm is stronger and he is a good athlete. He’s a lot better athlete than people give him credit for.”