Falcons give up 10-0 lead at home

ATLANTA (AP) -- The San Francisco 49ers had done it all before
against Atlanta.

Fall behind by double digits. Rally for the tying score in the
final seconds of regulation. Complete a 52-yard pass and win in

Jeff Garcia threw his third touchdown pass of the game to
Terrell Owens, a 52-yarder with 6:16 left in overtime Sunday,
giving the 49ers a 37-31 victory over the Falcons.

How important is this win for the 49ers as they push toward the

It's a big win on the road. It's a confidence-builder for a young team to be
able to come from behind a couple of different times -- especially when the
49ers fumbled and it looked like they were going to lose.

Give a lot of credit to the coaching staff. At halftime they made some
adjustments and said, we need to get the ball to Terrell Owens in the second
half. And when you look at the half Owens had, you can see the 49ers did
just that.

ESPN.com NFL analyst Vinny Cerrato has served as director of player
personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


"Whoa!" coach Steve Mariucci said. "We have been around some
crazy games before, but that one takes the cake."

Actually, it was just a higher-scoring version of Week 1, when
San Francisco (4-1) beat the Falcons 16-13 in overtime.

In that game, the Niners rallied from a 10-point, fourth-quarter
deficit. Jose Cortez kicked a 20-yard field goal with 11 seconds
left in regulation to tie it, then booted a 24-yarder on the first
drive of the extra period after Tai Streets turned a short
completion into a 52-yard gain.

"We are growing every single week," said Garcia, leading the
Niners to their best start since 1998 -- the last season they made
the playoffs.

The last two years, San Francisco was 10-22.

Garcia was brilliant again, completing 27 of 41 for 332 yards --
just 3 yards fewer than he had in the first game against the

Owens didn't have a reception in the first half, but wound up
with nine catches for 183 yards.

"I just kept with it," he said. "Once I get my hands on the
ball, anything can happen."

Rallying from an early 14-0 hole, San Francisco tied the score
at 31 when Garcia hooked up with Owens on a 17-yard TD with 17
seconds left in regulation.

The Falcons (2-3) caught a break in overtime when the Niners
drove to Atlanta's 16 on their first possession, only to have
Garcia fumble a snap.

Atlanta couldn't take advantage, going three-and-out to give
Garcia another chance. He quickly redeemed himself.

On third-and-5 at the San Francisco 48, Owens got Falcons
cornerback Ray Buchanan to bite on a fake to the inside, broke a
tackle along the sideline from Ronnie Bradford and coasted into the
end zone for the winning TD.

"I got challenged on the play and didn't make the play,"
Buchanan said. "It shouldn't boil down to that, but it did, and
I'm man enough to live up to it."

Owens, who also caught a 33-yard scoring pass from Garcia late
in the third quarter, dunked the ball over the crossbar after

The final 4:44 of regulation featured two lead changes before
Owens scored the tying touchdown.

Kevan Barlow scored on a 4-yard run to put the Niners ahead for
the first time, 24-23. The Falcons responded with Chris Chandler's
47-yard touchdown pass to Brian Finneran, with a 2-point conversion
stretching Atlanta's lead to 31-24.

Finneran dunked the ball over the crossbar after his first
career touchdown, a foreshadowing of Owens' move after the winning

But first, the Niners had to tie it. They did with a 10-play,
72-yard drive. Garcia completed five straight passes and ran twice
before an incompletion left San Francisco with second-and-10 at the
Atlanta 17.

Owens cut toward the middle on a slant pattern, beating Darrien Gordon and hanging on to the ball after hits by Ashley Ambrose and
Bradford. Owens gave the ball a spin to celebrate, saving his best
move for last.

Chandler, who went out with a concussion the previous week in a
31-3 loss to Chicago, completed his first six passes to help stake
the Falcons to a 14-0 lead.

Bob Christian caught a 5-yard scoring pass. Maurice Smith,
starting his second game in place of Jamal Anderson, scored the
first rushing touchdown of his career on a 3-yard run before the
opening period was over.

Garcia scored on a 7-yard run in the second period, but Jay Feely kicked field goals of 39 and 24 yards to give the Falcons a
20-7 lead at halftime.

Feely's third field goal, from 36 yards with 8:49 remaining,
pushed Atlanta to a 23-17 lead, setting up the wild finish.

Game notes
Atlanta's Michael Vick, the NFL's top draft pick, did not
play for the first time this season. ... San Francisco's Garrison Hearst returned to the stadium where he suffered a severe ankle
injury in the 1998 playoffs. He rushed for 78 yards and caught five
passes. ... Niners safety Lance Schulters went out with a
dislocated right shoulder in the first quarter. A trainer popped it
back in, and Schulters returned to finish with five tackles and a
sack. ... San Francisco won at the Georgia Dome for the first time
since 1997, snapping a four-game losing streak.

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