Owens: bad hands, then foot in mouth



It's tough being Terrell Owens, apparently.

Last Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl wide receiver mishandled a pass that became a game-winning interception in Chicago's 37-31 overtime victory. By Wednesday, Owens was still so distraught that he lamented his role as primary playmaker, second-guessed the team's play-calling, and accused coach Steve Mariucci of going easy on friend and Bears coach Dick Jauron.

Owens felt the 49ers turned conservative once they built a 28-9 lead seven minutes into the third quarter.

"Hopefully, the coach will change his mentality about us just destroying teams now," Owens said. "It's funny. His buddy system with all the coaches around the league; I think he tries to spare them sometimes. He doesn't want to embarrass a team. But you've got to understand if you're trying to win a championship, sometimes you can't spare feelings."

A day later, Mariucci did not spare anyone's feelings.

"The statements about the outcome of the game having to do with an association of mine ... on the other sideline, in my 23 years of coaching, is maybe the most utterly ridiculous statement I've ever read and is completely void of any deep thought," he said.

Mariucci has had problems with Owens in the past. A year ago, he suspended the receiver for one game when he refused to apologize for an impromptu celebration on the Cowboys' star at Texas Stadium. Mariucci said there would be no fine for last week's comments.

What might be more distressing is how Owens is dealing with the pressure of his position. In the 49ers' 4-2 season, Owens has either won or lost three games. His 52-yard touchdown catch beat Atlanta in overtime, but his five dropped passes contributed to a 30-26 loss to St. Louis. And his muff last week on a catchable pass ended the game.

"I just hate the situation I was put in [to win the game]," Owens said. "Bottom line - we shouldn't have been in that situation anyway. Why me?"

Why? Maybe because he's the biggest talent the 49ers have.

"That's what beats me up," he said. "I try to put myself in Jerry [Rice's] shoes ... and I know he had a lot of pressure that he had to shoulder. I'm like, `How do you handle it?'"

Not this way.

Cut-block culprits

Controversy over cut blocks and the Denver Broncos is nothing new. In the past two weeks, guard Dan Neil has been fined $15,000 for an illegal clip that broke the right leg of New England linebacker Bryan Cox, and tackle Matt Lepsis $15,000 for breaking the left ankle of San Diego's Maa Tanuvasa when he rolled up the back of Tanuvasa's leg.

Cox tried to avoid Neil's cut block and landed awkwardly on his leg, breaking it in two places. Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said he didn't think contact caused the injury. But the clip was illegal because Cox was in the no-cut zone. (A clip above the knees is legal in the area between the tackles and 3 yards on either side of the line of scrimmage; a clip below the knees is illegal anywhere on the field.)

The Ravens experienced some of the Broncos' questionable tactics in last year's wild-card playoff game when Neil grabbed the ankle of linebacker Ray Lewis, put a shoulder into his knee and rolled with seeming intent to injure. The Ravens sent a tape to the NFL office, but no fine was forthcoming.

"That style of blocking has been a concern for a while," said Ravens coach Brian Billick. "There's a very fine line between good, aggressive football and stepping over the line, which has potential for injury. The league is doing everything it can with each repeated incident. I'm satisfied the league has a process [to review incidents]."

Backing up, not out

Former Ravens quarterback Trent Dilfer remains a backup to Matt Hasselbeck with Seattle, and while he won't rock the Seahawks' boat, he made clear last week that he still wants to play down the road.

"I think my best years are ahead of me," Dilfer said. "I came here because I wanted to improve my skills and become a complete football player. I want to play the game a long time. I love what goes with it, the highs and the lows."

Dilfer is 2-0 as a starter for the Seahawks, who play the Redskins today, and has won 17 of his past 18 starts, including last season's Super Bowl for the Ravens. He still talks to ex-teammates Mike Flynn, Brandon Stokley and Chris Redman.

"I took a lot from my experience in Baltimore," Dilfer said. "I think that team knows how much they meant to me, how special - not just the Super Bowl - but the entire season was. I took a lot from that coaching staff. It's one of the best in the NFL. Hopefully, I'll say the same thing when I leave here."

Going deep, maybe

With running back Eddie George injured and ineffectual, Tennessee will have to rely more on quarterback Steve McNair's passing. McNair had just four games in the past two seasons when he attempted more than 35 passes, and the Titans were just 2-2 in those games.

The Titans have only one pass play this season of 50 or more yards, and that went from McNair to rookie Drew Bennett.

They said it

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