SURPRISE, SURPRISE: NINERS OFFENSE IS NO. 1

When the 49ers woke up this morning, there was quite a surprise waiting for them on the NFL statistics sheets.

They're the No. 1-ranked offense in the league.

Not bad for a team that struggled on that side of the ball for three quarters before finally turning it on in the fourth period and overtime to hang a 16-13 season-opening loss on the Atlanta Falcons.

"I didn't know that," coach Steve Mariucci said at his weekly news conference. "Well, we made some big plays. And we had a lot of passing yards late. We spread it around, and we even threw the ball to our tight end. We tried to establish the run game, and I'm going to always try to do that. It's important for the big picture."

The Niners had trouble establishing the run all afternoon, which makes their NFL ranking even more difficult to believe.

 So does this: Entering the fourth quarter Sunday, they had scored only a field goal and trailed 13-3. But behind quarterback Jeff Garcia, the Niners scored 10 fourth-quarter points to send the game into an extra period. San Francisco won the overtime coin toss, and three plays later, Garcia hit receiver Tai Streets for a 52-yard gain to set up Jose Cortez's game-winning field goal. Garcia also had long gains of 40 yards to Terrell Owens and 47 yards to J.J. Stokes. T

he quarterback completed 26 of 40 passes for 335 yards - the second-highest total in the NFL on opening Sunday. San Francisco's defense also had an impressive season debut. The Niners allowed the Falcons only 241 yards, giving their defense - which finished No. 29 in the NFL last year - a No. 5 ranking after one week.


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