Jose Cortez kicked a 24-yard field goal with 10:56 left in
overtime as the 49ers rallied to beat the Atlanta Falcons 16-13
Sunday in a game featuring the limited debut of Vick and the return
Terrell Owens, J.J. Stokes and Tai Streets all turned short
receptions into long gains late in the game -- each leading to San
Francisco scores -- as the 49ers won with the passing game in their
first outing since Jerry Rice moved on to Oakland.
"Some of those balls would have gone to Jerry, that's for
sure," said Stokes, who had five catches. "We love Jerry, but now
that he's gone, we're allowed to make plays. That's all we ever
The 49ers scored 13 straight points in the final minutes to win
after struggling through the first three quarters. Owens and Stokes
each had 93 yards receiving, while Streets added 83 yards for the
49ers, who beat Atlanta at 3Com Park for the 10th straight time.
"We had some close games last year, and they didn't end like
this," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "We fell short every time
... but we came on really strong with our passing game. It's all in
keeping with being balanced and unpredictable. We want all our guys
to make catches and contribute."
After Cortez made a 20-yard field goal with 8 seconds left in
regulation to tie it, San Francisco won the coin toss and opened
overtime at its own 20.
Jeff Garcia, who was 26-of-40 for 335 yards, quickly found
Streets with a short pass that he turned into a 52-yard gain.
Moments later, Cortez made his third easy field goal, then jumped
into his teammates' arms.
Exactly 32 months after Hearst broke his left leg on the first
play of a playoff game against the Falcons, he returned to the
49ers' starting lineup.
Though he didn't show the acceleration of departed tailback
Charlie Garner -- or even the Hearst of 1998, when he rushed for a
career-best 1,570 yards -- he was solid and durable, rushing for 48
yards and catching four passes.
"I felt more and more confident as the game went on," Hearst
Jamal Anderson rushed for 86 yards and a score as Atlanta had a
dismal offensive day despite the debut of Vick, the heralded No. 1
draft pick who signed a $62 million contract. Atlanta managed just
241 total yards.
"I thought we played really good defensively until the last
three drives," Atlanta coach Dan Reeves said. "We gave it up, and
it cost us the game."
Vick played two series and didn't complete a pass in four
attempts, but he rushed twice for 32 yards -- including a 25-yard
keeper that gave a hint of things to come.
"I would always like to play more, but I'm not the starter,"
Vick said. "I'm the backup. I just tried to throw (the 49ers) off
a little bit."
San Francisco's offense finally got going when Stokes, primarily
expected to pick up Rice's statistical slack, caught a 47-yard pass
early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Garcia found Stokes
for a diving 16-yard TD catch with 11:29 left, cutting Atlanta's
lead to 13-10.
In the final minutes, Owens got the 49ers into scoring position
on a short catch he turned into a 40-yard gain with 2:00 left. San
Francisco got to the 4, but Garcia overthrew Owens and Streets on
Vick entered the game on the Falcons' second offensive series,
overthrowing receivers with his first two NFL passes.
Chris Chandler, who was 11-of-18 for 121 yards, led the Falcons
to the game's first score on their third possession. Anderson
scored on a 1-yard run.
Vick didn't return until the second series of the second half.
On his second career rush, Vick showed his breathtaking agility on
the 25-yard scamper through the heart of the defense, setting up
Jay Feely's second short field goal.
Cortez played in the XFL last spring, then won the 49ers'
job in training camp after Wade Richey left to sign with San Diego.
... Atlanta DL Shane Dronett intercepted a tipped pass with 5:56
left, but the Falcons went three-and-out, giving the ball back to
San Francisco for its game-tying drive. ... During the game-winning
drive, a message flashed on the scoreboard about Barry Bonds' three
home runs in Colorado. The crowd began chanting "Barry! Barry!"
Kansas City cornerback Eric Berry, 27, not only beat cancer but played well enough to be recognized for it at the NFL's annual awards show.
Aaron Rodgers' 61-yard, game-winning TD pass to Richard Rodgers vs. the Lions wins the NFL Play of the Year award.
Conan O'Brien, hosting the NFL Honors, worked both Bills coach Rex Ryan and twin brother Rob into bits during the league's annual awards show.
If Johnny Manziel wants help, the NFL and its players are ready to step in, according to NFL executive vice president of football operation Troy Vincent.
The former Chargers coach made significant contributions to the game of football, yet those contributions will not be rewarded with a bust this year.
John Lynch, denied induction into the Hall of Fame in his third year as a finalist, didn't hit his stride until his fourth season with the Buccaneers.