Wild comeback: If I am asleep, don't wake me
January 6, 2003 at 12:00 AM • 0 comments
Forgive me Niner gods, for I have sinned. Yes I predicted a 49ers win Sunday, but with 9:53 left in the 3rd quarter, the Giants had just gone up by the score of 35-14. My youthful optimism had plummeted and I turned to my pillow and laid my head down to take a nap. This game seemed all but over. It looked as though my beloved 49ers would once again make an early exit from the postseason.
Flashbacks of last season's disappointing Wildcard loss at frozen Lambeau Field entered my head. Why couldn't Garcia, Owens, and the rest of my team make a serious run just once?
The next drive ended with a 49ers punt by Bill LaFleuer, one of my least favorite players on the team. No, not because he is a bad player, but because his appearance represents an offensive stall. Yes, a nap sounded very good at the time.
There were no worries at the start of the game. I was not worried about Jeremy Shockey. Julian Peterson would be able to shut him down just as he did with Tony Gonzalez of the Chiefs. I was not worried about Tiki Barber. The 49ers defense would be able to contain him. I was not worried about Kerry Collins. After all, we had Ahmed Plummer in there and safety Zack Bronson was finally back. Speaking of Ahmed Plummer, that brings me to Amani Toomer. I have no idea why I didn't worry that much about this guy.
With 5:52 left in the 3rd quarter on 3rd and 5 from the 49ers' 49 yard line, Collins airs it out to Amani Toomer who gets inside the 5. Why didn't I even worry about Toomer? Why can't my 49ers stop anyone on 3rd down? Yes, a nap sounded very good at the time.
A field goal puts the Giants up 38-14. I only heard it though. With the game clearly decided, I was resting at the time.
A few minutes later, I glanced up because it sounds as though my 49ers were actually holding onto the ball for a good amount of time. Niner gods, what is this?! I witnessed a valiant effort by Terrell Owens to escape Giants defenders after catching a pass from Jeff Garcia, and he rammed his way into the endzone. All of a sudden, I was awake. Next, Owens catches a two-point conversion. The score is now 38-22 with the Giants in the lead. Have my beloved 49ers awakened from their offensive slumber? Or was I still in mine and was all this just a dream?
Things were starting to look a lot better now. It was certainly a lot better than 38-14.
A coverage sack of Kerry Collins gave the Giants their first 3 and out of the game. This was a rare sight for me. The 49ers had stopped an opposing team on 3rd down.
With 0:36 left in the 3rd quarter, the 49ers start yet another drive. The very first play of the 4th quarter and only the second play of the drive, Garcia runs a bootleg to the left and scrambles his way into the endzone. The 49ers go for two again and Garcia hits Owens in the back of the endzone! With 14:55 left in the 4th, the score is now 38-30. I was awake! I was most definitely awake!
The roar of the homefield crowd had me pumped up. Things have certainly gotten much more exciting. The Giants defense looked tired, frustrated, and confused as a result of the 49ers' no huddle offense.
Again, the Giants go 3 and out. Their once unstoppable offense was now stumbling themselves.
The 49ers start yet another drive with 13:15 left in the 4th. A great catch and run by Owens moves the 49ers offense to the 49ers' 44 yard line. Two plays later, Cedric Wilson decides to get involved and moves the ball to the Giants' 38. Seven plays later, Owens makes a catch to put the 49ers at the 11. The drive would end with a Jeff Chandler field goal with 7:49 left in the game. The score was now 38-33. This was no longer the hopeless mess it seemed to be. This game was far from over.
The Giants started moving the ball fairly well. I could only stand there and hope that the Giants would not score. With 4th and 1, Matt Bryant of the Giants sets up for a 42-yard field goal. No good! No good! The sideline and fans erupt in celebration. I cannot believe what I am seeing.
There was 3:01 left in the game. The 49ers would have to move the ball well to even have a chance of winning this game. With 1:55 left, the 49ers were at their own 43. A completion to Johnson moves the ball to midfield. Johnson catches it again and moves the ball inside the Giants' 30. Jeff Garcia would take the ball himself and move it to the 13. The Giants defense was definitely exhausted. After a dropped pass by J.J. Stokes, Garcia guns it to Tai Streets in the endzone! Are you kidding me?! Was I still in my slumber? Was this some sort of magnificent dream? It sure seemed like it. The scoreboard now had the 49ers on top by the score of 39-38 after a failed two-point conversion.
If the 49ers could hold on, it would be the second greatest comeback in NFL playoff history. At one point, the 49ers had been down by 24. The Buffalo Bills, in a 1993 AFC Wildcard game against Houston, accomplished the only larger comeback.
Then my stomach started to turn as I watched the Giants move the ball slowly and effectively down the field from their own 48. They were moving closer and closer toward field goal range. There were only 22 seconds left in the game. Then the worst thing that could have happened did happen. Collins passes it to Ron Dixon who takes it to the 49ers' 28. The 49ers would need a miracle. I could only kneel there and stare at the television hoping for that miracle. Matt Bryant trotted out onto the field and set up for the game winning kick. There was no way he could miss twice, right? The 49ers' season came down to this...a prayer. With 6 seconds left in the game, the ball was snapped. Bad snap! Bad snap! It was a bad snap by newly signed long snapper Trey Junkin. A failed pass attempt by punter/holder Matt Allen preserves the 49ers win!
Oh how the Niner gods have blessed this team on this Sunday. The 49ers had done it. They were cast off by the media and by many of those watching during the game. But they pulled it off and proved everyone wrong. These 49ers had finally woken up and they could not have done it at a better time. The Giants were no longer the hottest team in the NFL. The 49ers had stolen that title from them. Anyone who saw that game had watched history in the making. This was certainly one of the more memorable moments in 49ers history. The team, coaching staff, and even the fans helped the 49ers turn their season around.
If I were on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, I would really be worried about playing the team that knocked off the hottest team in football after being down by 24. Watch out Bucs. You may be next.
Game Notes, Quotes, and Anecdotes
After the 49ers' final touchdown of the game, 49ers wide receiver Terrell Owens and Giants safety Shaun Williams attacked each other after Owens yelled out "Look at the scoreboard now!" The two scuffled again after the failed two-point conversion and Williams was ejected after throwing a punch at 49ers center Jeremy Newberry.
Amani Toomer had beaten 49ers cornerback Ahmed Plummer, who was playing with a groin injury, for 148 yards and three touchdowns.
41-year-old Trey Junkin was signed by the Giants to replace their regular snapper who was injured during the final week of the regular season. Earlier in the week, Junkin had made comments voicing his displeasure with other long snappers that failed to effectively snap the ball when it counts. He could not understand how this could happen.
Fans witnessed a little pep talk by Terrell Owens on the sidelines. When asked about the pep talk, Owens said, "I told them there is going to be a point in the game where we're going to be in critical situations." Owens continued by saying, "Tai Streets got upset a couple times because he got open a couple of times and Jeff didn't see him. I said, 'Look, they are going to double team me, so take your time. Jeff is going to hit the open guys.'"
This was the 49ers' first playoff victory with Jeff Garcia as their starter.
Garcia, who long has lobbied for a more wide-open attack, very tactfully said: "When you're trying to maintain a balanced attack and be methodical, and it isn't working, it's time to change...There was no holding back, no tomorrow...It woke the crowd...We finally got into some kind of rhythm."
Giants tight end Jeremy Shokey threw a cup of ice into the stands out of frustration. The ice hit some young fans. He later apologized for the incedent.
Terrell Owens threw a 25-yard pass to Tai Streets in the second quarter, setting up Kevan Barlow's 1-yard TD run.
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