Niners improve to 3-1 in OT this season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- It might be a stretch, but all these Jeff
Garcia-led comebacks are earning the San Francisco quarterback
comparisons to Joe Montana.

Garcia threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens and made a
2-point conversion with 1 second left in regulation. Then he helped
set up Jose Cortez's 26-yard field goal that lifted San Francisco
to a 25-22 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

The rally drew postgame comparisons to Montana, the Hall of Fame
quarterback known for his numerous late-game heroics and four Super
Bowl titles.

"It's obviously a compliment anytime you're mentioned in the
same sentence with Joe Montana. I idolized the guy and saw him do
so many great things for the 49ers," said Garcia. "As far as
coming back and winning games late, it was something that he was
known for, and to be mentioned among that is a great honor."

It was the fourth time this season Garcia rallied San Francisco
(7-2) to either win or tie a game in the waning moments of the
fourth quarter. The 49ers are 3-1 in overtime in 2001 and are
starting to believe Garcia will pull them through every time.

Where would you rank Jeff Garcia in the MVP race?
Garcia has to be right in the thick of the MVP race. Look at what he's done, with the fourth-quarter comebacks and late-game heroics. So he's definitely in the hunt.

His numbers are strong. He's completed 65 percent of his passes and thrown for 20 touchdowns (with nine interceptions). Garcia leads the NFC with a quarterback rating of 95.2, second only to Rich Gannon's NFL-leading 101.0 rating.

ESPN.com's Vinny Cerrato was director of player personnel for the Redskins and 49ers.


"Jeff has really come into his own since stepping in for us,"
said J.J. Stokes, who caught two touchdown passes. "He's getting
better every day and he's one of the tops in the league right now.
I really think the sky's the limit for him, and for us with him."

The rally gave the 49ers a season-sweep over the Panthers (1-9),
dropping Carolina coach George Seifert to 4-2 against the team he
led to two Super Bowl titles. It was Carolina's ninth straight

Seifert said Carolina's confidence is gone.

`I think it's once again shattered in a tough, close game,"
Seifert said. "They played very hard today and there's no words to
describe the feeling."

For a moment, it looked like Seifert still had San Francisco's

Carolina was clinging to a 19-14 lead and looking for a stop
when former 49er Brenston Buckner stepped in front of Garcia's pass
at the 42-yard line for his first interception of the season.

He returned it to the 14, setting up John Kasay's third field
goal, a 28-yarder with 1:52 left for a 22-14 lead.

Garcia then began the comeback, marching the 49ers 66 yards on
11 plays, converting a fourth-and-4 at the Carolina 46.

From the 7, Garcia hit Owens on a fade in the right corner of
the end zone to make it 22-20. With one tick left on the clock, he
tossed a pass to rookie tight end Eric Johnson, who was one step
inside the end zone, sending the game into overtime.

"Jeff is so calm in those situations, he never panics and knows
we're all going to help him make the plays," Owens said.

The 49ers won the toss in overtime and Garcia again took them on
a 66-yard drive. He completed passes of 8 and 15 yards to Owens to
set up Cortez's winning kick.

Garcia finished 34-for-54 for 305 yards, three touchdowns and
two interceptions. He never panicked and barely showed any emotion
on the field.

"I'm a very mellow person as is, and I learned over my years
that getting too excited on the field was physically draining,"
Garcia said. "My controlling that, I've learned that when it comes
down to the end of the game I still have something left."

Chris Weinke, who missed last week's game and was slowed most of
this week with a sore throwing shoulder, returned and helped the
Panthers capitalize early. Fred Beasley fumbled on San Francisco's
first possession and Weinke turned the turnover into a 13-yard
touchdown pass to Richard Huntley.

Carolina held a 13-7 lead until Garcia finally got San
Francisco's offense moving late in the third quarter. A 79-yard
drive ended on a 9-yard TD pass to Stokes.

Garcia was moving the Niners again at the start of the fourth
period when he made his first mistake. Carolina's Doug Evans dived
for a low pass and got his league-leading eighth interception of
the season at the 46-yard line.

Carolina used the turnover to retake the lead, 19-14. Weinke
threw his second touchdown, a 24-yard pass to Wesley Walls. But the
2-point conversion pass failed.

Game notes
San Francisco defensive tackle Bryant Young dislocated
his finger in the first quarter, but continued to play. ...
Carolina receiver Muhsin Muhammad did not play in the second half
because of a shoulder sprain. ... Weinke's first-quarter TD pass to
Huntley was his first since Oct. 21 and Huntley's first score this
season. ... The two-game series has been swept every year since

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