49ers may not think outside the box

S.F. likely to stay focused on stopping run despite Robinson's 4-TD game

November 27, 2003|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

Marcus Robinson isn't making too much out of his breakout game Sunday. He figures opposing teams won't either.

The Ravens' receiver may have had 131 yards on seven catches and scored four touchdowns in his team's 44-41 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks, but he is not expecting the San Francisco 49ers - or any other team - to roll coverage his way Sunday.

At least not yet anyway.

"That was one game, and it was a great game, but guys are not going to start respecting you all of a sudden," said Robinson, who has 16 catches for 207 yards this season. "Defensive coordinators aren't going to start changing their game plan after one game when they see that. They are going to stick to their guns and play what they play best."

That is probably true, but the Ravens are anticipating Robinson's day will at least make teams consider playing their safeties farther from the line of scrimmage.

Usually, teams bring eight, and sometimes nine, guys into the box [an area about 6 yards away from the line of scrimmage], which leaves one-on-one chances for receivers and not much room for running back Jamal Lewis.

Before Robinson, the Ravens rarely made teams pay for that alignment. Travis Taylor has the only other 100-yard game by a receiver, scoring two touchdowns on four catches against the Cincinnati Bengals on Oct. 19.

In passing situations, teams nearly always double-team tight end Todd Heap, leaving at least one of the receivers in single coverage.

"That's the whole idea; if we can get someone to at least think twice about playing that hard eight in the box," Ravens coach Brian Billick said. "They are still going to do it. That's what [San Francisco] does, like everybody else. But hopefully we can make them at least peek outside occasionally and maybe even put someone out there to cover that guy."

Billick may have his wish.

"This is the first time that [Robinson] has jumped out to everyone because they got the ball to him and he made some plays," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "He is an excellent receiver, and they are going to throw it up to him because he has great size and can jump up there. Obviously, you look differently at him after last week."

Throwing it up to Robinson is what Ravens quarterback Anthony Wright did much of the second half against the Seahawks.

The Ravens fell behind by 17 points, forcing the team to open up the offense and pass nearly every down.

Heading into the game, that would have seemed to be a recipe for disaster, but Wright and Robinson, former teammates at South Carolina, made it work. The first touchdown came when Robinson out-jumped cornerback Ken Lucas in the end zone for a 13-yard reception. His confidence soared after that, and Robinson went on to make one more leaping end-zone reception over Shawn Springs from 25 yards out.

It was shades of Robinson in 1999, when he had a career-high 1,400 receiving yards, 84 catches and nine touchdowns with the Chicago Bears. Season-ending injuries in two of the past three seasons made many wonder whether he could regain that form.

"I was ecstatic for him because he knew he still had it in him, but he needed to see it himself," quarterbacks/receivers coach David Shaw said. "He wanted to feel that feeling again. Once that feeling started midway through the third quarter, it just rolled through the rest of the game. We are going to try and keep stoking that fire and keep it lit through the season."

The Ravens will likely do so by following the same script.

It looked like the Ravens were simply throwing the ball into the air for Robinson. Wright won't disagree with that assessment.

"That's what football has pretty much evolved into," Wright said. "Football has become a sport where you get a couple of guys who can make plays for you. Anytime you have a wide receiver on a DB and it's one-on-one, the worst thing that should happen is an incompletion. You want to give the receiver a chance to make the play."

Especially if that receiver is 6 feet 3 and 215 pounds like Robinson. With 49ers cornerback Mike Rumph doubtful due to an ankle injury, San Francisco will likely turn to 5-10 Jason Webster to start in his place.

Of course, San Francisco could choose to provide safety help against Robinson. But he is not anticipating that.

"We've got to do it consistently, and once you see that, then definitely you'll see a change," Robinson said.

Next for Ravens

Matchup: San Francisco 49ers (5-6) vs. Ravens (6-5)

Site: M&T Bank Stadium

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 45/WJFK (1300 AM), WQSR (102.7 FM)

Line: Ravens by 3

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