The Big Play

The situation: Four minutes, five seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Chicago leading 16-13, and the 49ers facing a second-and-10 play at the Chicago 36-yard line.

After a scoreless third quarter followed a 13-13 halftime tie, the Bears went ahead early in the fourth period on the third of Paul Edinger's three field goals.

The Niners attempted to answer on their next drive, reaching the Chicago 32 before Todd Peterson's 50-yard field-goal attempt fell well short.

But the San Francisco defense stopped Chicago on its next drive to give the Niners - and perhaps Peterson - another chance.

But the Niners never got their kicker on the field again after driving from their own 25 to a first down at the Chicago 36.

That first down pass from Niners quarterback Ken Dorsey to halfback Kevan Barlow went for no gain after "we had somebody wide open and didn't protect (Dorsey)," Niners coach Dennis Erickson said. A hurried Dorsey was forced to dump the ball off to Barlow, his safety valve, who was immediately tackled by Brian Urlacher.

At least Dorsey completed that pass to a player wearing a San Francisco uniform. He wasn't as fortunate on the next play.

Taking a quick drop, Dorsey set up and fired a pass to his left intended for Brandon Lloyd, who was running a quick slant pattern.

But Chicago rookie cornerback Nathan Vasher cut off Lloyd and grabbed Dorsey's off target throw that was high and ahead of Lloyd.

Vasher bobbled the ball as he collided with Lloyd and tumbled to the ground. After stumbling, he regained his feet and started streaking down right sideline.

Following blockers smartly, Vasher was able cruise down the sideline for a stunning 71-yard touchdown return, breaking away from a final pack of would-be 49ers tacklers near the 15-yard line.

The play immediately was challenged by the 49ers, and replays clearly indicated that both of Vasher's knees had hit the ground after he had made contact with Lloyd, which would have had him marked down at the Chicago 29 with 3:52 still remaining - still plenty of time for the San Francisco defense to stop the Bears and get the ball back for one last try.

But the officials ruled that Vasher still was gaining possession of the ball after he collided with Lloyd, which would allow him to get up again after his knees touched. The touchdown was upheld, turning a tentative three-point lead into an insurmountable 23-13 advantage.


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