It’s been over a day since Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens abused 49ers cornerback Nate Clements, catching 7 passes for 213 yards and a 75-yard touchdown in Dallas’ 35-22 victory.
Clements has been taking plenty of heat for his coverage meltdown, and understandably so. But I think it’s time to turn the blowtorch in another direction, toward the 49ers’ defensive brain trust.
What was defensive coordinator Greg Manusky thinking? It was ludicrous to have Clements spend most of the day covering the former 49ers star man-to-man. And it was suicidal for the 49ers to give Owens such a huge cushion so often, to let him run freely off the line of scrimmage and quickly get his 220 pounds moving at max speed.
Defenses have been double-covering Owens all year. They’ve been bumping him at the line of scrimmage, disrupting his release, then doubling him over the top.
Until Sunday, Owens hadn’t had more than 89 receiving yards in a single game. In the previous five weeks, he had averaged 35 receiving yards.
Manusky had a ready-made blueprint for containing Owens, but for some reason he ignored it.
I admire Clements’ fearlessness. I admire the way he hits and tackles. He’s a solid cover corner. But he’s no Deion Sanders. Despite what his mega-salary hints, Clements is not a shutdown corner. And the 49ers shouldn’t have put him in such a vulnerable position against Owens.
At his Monday news conference, 49ers interim coach Mike Singletary said Owens didn't warrant consistent double-coverage. Are you kidding me? I guess Singletary still isn't fully aware of Owens' history of destroying his former teams, the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.
Containing Owens should have been the 49ers' No. 1 priority on defense. It clearly wasn't, and Owens made them pay.