NFL.com wire reports
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Sept. 5, 2002) -- What seemed like a dud of a
season-opening party for the NFL actually turned into a thriller.
A seemingly invisible Terrell Owens made a
33-yard catch-and-run to set up Jose Cortez's
36-yard field goal with :06 to play, giving the San
Francisco 49ers a 16-13 victory against the New
York Giants in a special Thursday night opener that ushered in
Cortez also had field goals of 23 and 33 yards and
Garrison Hearst scored on a 9-yard pass for the Niners in the
game that featured more mistakes than good plays.
"It took us the whole game to get going, but we won," San Francisco
coach Steve Mariucci said. "Can you call this game ugly? I guess you
could say that."
It was also a great game to watch in the final minutes, capping an
opening that started with a concert in the heart of New York City, an
event meant to honor those killed in the terrorist attacks last Sept. 11.
A blown coverage on Owens' catch actually led to the game-winning score,
which came right after Tiki Barber tied
the game with a 1-yard TD run with 1:49 to go.
After returning the kickoff to the 30-yard line, the 49ers knew what to
do with the game on the line. They went to Owens, who until that point
had three catches for 8 yards.
"That's what I like, when the going gets tough and it's time for me to
make a play, then that's what I am going to do," Owens said. "Big
players make big plays."
|Jeff Garcia struggled early, but led the 49ers to scores in their final three drives. || |
Owens ran by Jason Sehorn on the play and the Giants cornerback let him
go, thinking he had help. He didn't get it.
Owens caught the ball and wasn't tackled until he reached the New York
37. A 12-yard pass to J.J. Stokes got the ball to the 25, and Hearst's
7-yard run set up Cortez, who earlier had a 25-yarder blocked and was
short from 48.
"After having a field goal blocked and missing another one, I was just
glad I came back and won the game," said Cortez, who played one game
with the Giants in 1999.
Rookie Matt Bryant made field goals of 29 and 33 yards for the Giants,
who turned the ball over three times, had 80 yards in penalties and one
bad punt that led to the 49ers' touchdown.
"Despite all the mistakes, we still should have won this game," said
defensive end Michael Strahan, who was
held without a sack. "Hopefully, we will learn from this. At the end of
the season, we will look back at this as a game we should have won."
The NFL ushered in this season with a special midweek start that
included a Manhattan concert. The league said it was celebrating New
York's resilience in the wake of the terrorist attacks that claimed the
lives of more than 3,000 people.
The festivities kicked off with what the NFL termed the "world's largest
tailgate party," a concert in Times Square featuring Bon Jovi, Eve,
Alicia Keys, 'N Sync's Joey Fatone and Enrique Iglesias. It continued
before the game with a more patriotic flavor.
New York City police officer Daniel Rodriguez sang God Bless America
as a 40-yard U.S. flag was unfurled by policemen, firefighters, members of
the armed services and construction workers who helped clear the rubble
of the World Trade Center towers. Following the national anthem, there
was a flyover by two Navy helicopters with U.S. flags waving in the
San Francisco seemed in control in the fourth quarter after wiping out a
6-3 halftime deficit on Hearst's 9-yard TD catch on a swing pass from
Jeff Garcia, and Cortez's 33-yard field goal, which came after
Kerry Collins was intercepted for the third time.
However, the Giants responded with a 77-yard, 14-play game-tying drive
that featured a key 23-yard pass from Collins to Toomer on third-and-16.
First-round draft pick Jeremy Shockey caught a 20-yarder and Barber made
a third-down catch-and-roll to give New York a first down at the 4.
Barber swept the left side two plays later for the touchdown, diving
into the corner of the end zone.
The Giants outgained the 49ers 361-279, with Collins and Toomer
providing most of the yardage.
Collins was 28 of 45 for 342 yards, but his three interceptions and some
key penalties hurt the Giants. Toomer, who had nine receptions for 134
yards, lost 44 yards on one third-quarter pass to the Niners 7 because
of a holding penalty against left tackle Luke Petitgout, the one
returning member of the Giants' revamped offensive line.
Garcia finished 16 of 26 for 166 yards. Owens, considered the best
receiver in the league by many, had only four catches for 41 yards, but
he had the big one at the key time.
Despite two first-half interceptions of Collins and a failure to convert
on two chances from the 49ers 21, the Giants took a 6-3 halftime lead on
Bryant's field goals of 29 and 33 yards.
San Francisco left three points on the field on its opening series.
An interception by Tony Parrish on the third play and a 16-yard run by
Garcia gave the 49ers a first down at the 7. But Mike Rosenthal, a
Giants offensive tackle who stands 6-foot-7, blocked Cortez's 25-yard
Despite facing a first-and-25 situation, the Giants went 69 yards in 11
plays on their next series. Collins hit Toomer on back-to-back passes of
22 and 14 yards and later found Ike Hilliard for 12.
Bryant, cut Friday and re-signed only 48 hours before gametime when Owen
Pochman went on injured reserve with a knee injury, then made his first
A 38-yard third-down pass from Garcia to Eric Johnson and a 19-yard run
by Kevan Barlow set up Cortez's game-tying 23-yard field goal.
Bryant put New York ahead on the final play of the first half with a
shaky kick that barely got inside the upright.
This was the Giants' 17th Thursday night game. Their first was on Nov.
11, 1926, against the Duluth Eskimos.
Tony Parrish, Zack Bronson and Julian Peterson had interceptions for
the Niners. Will Allen had one for the Giants.
New York is 3-9-1 in night games under Jim Fassel. They have lost
their past four night-time openers.
San Francisco won its season opener last year by the same score,
beating the Falcons in overtime.
The nine catches ties Toomer's career high.
Hearst was the game's leading rusher -- 40 yards on 12 carries.
The Associated Press News Service
Copyright 2002, The
Associated Press, All Rights Reserved