49ers beat Giants in Emotional First Game of '02

It was an emotional game, as many expected. With the Giants Stadium crowd singing along in heartfelt renditions of "God Bless America" and "The Spar Spangled Banner" and then a helicopter flyover with the American Flag being held underneath, there was an undercurrent of a feeling that this wouldn't be a blowout.

That feeling was on target as both the Giants and 49ers defense fought each other tooth and nail in battles that brought to mind those epic early 90s clashes between the two teams, when Lawrence Taylor and Ronnie Lott were the defensive heart and soul of these two teams. The Giants defense brought the crowd to their feet in the first quarter when they blocked 49ers kicker Jose Cortez's field goal attempt to keep San Francisco from taking the early lead.

While wide reciever Amani Toomer was the offensive star for the Giants, totalling 134 receiving yards, Giants quarterback Kerry Collins was never able to establish a true passing rhythm, as he threw three interceptions on the night. Tiki Barber, who many speculated before the game wouldn't even play, wasn't his usual speedy self, being unable to use his speed to turn the corner on many rushes. Ron Dayne also continued to be ineffective, refusing to use his body as the battering ram it should be.

Rookie tight end Jeremy Shockey had a good regular season debut, catching three passes for 44 yards and making several nice blocks to allow Collins to complete passes to Toomer. The Giants scoring in the first half was two field goals by rookie kicker Matt Bryant.

On the other end, the defense was shackling the 49ers vaunted offense for much of the game, with Will Peterson and Omar Stoutmire reducing Niners star wide reciever Terrell Owens to a non-factor in the first half. The Niners offense was generated by Cortez, who recovered from his blocked field goal in the first quarter to kick another in the first.

Jeff Garcia, the Niners quarterback, erased a 6-3 Giants half-time lead in the third quarter when he connected with nine yard pass to running back Garrison Hearst to make the score 10-6.

Cortez kicked another field goal in the fourth to make it 13-6.

Barber, who had been ineffective most of the game, showed how he can be dangerous when, with less than 2 minutes to go in the 4th, he banged off one 49ers defender at the goal line and then charged in to bring the Giants to within one. A Bryant extra point tied the game, and Giants fans hoped the defense, which had been so strong the entire game, could shut down the 49ers and let them go into overtime.

That didn't happen, as Owens, who had been neutralized most of the game, took advantage of a miscommunication between Jason Sehorn and Peterson to take what should have been a short pass play into a long play. Sehorn switched off coverage on Peterson, but Peterson didn't pick up on the switch in time and that left Owens wide open. The play allowed the 49ers to get into field goal position, and with .07 left, Cortez kicked a 36-yard field goal to give the 49ers a 16-13 lead.

The Giants still had a chance, as a short kickoff was downed at the 30-yard line. Collins had a chance to throw a Hail Mary, but he elected to throw a short pass, and several lateral plays later, the ball wound up in the 49ers hands as the game ended.


-Collins was sacked three times while Garcia was unscathed.
-The rushing game was stifled on both ends. Barber ran for 29 yards and Hearst lead both teams with 40 yards.
-Michael Barrow led the Giants with 10 tackles while Jamie Winborn had 16 total tackles for the 49ers. Michael Strahan only had four tackles.

Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories