Deja vu in the desert

A 31-28 overtime victory over the Arizona Cardinals? Yes, that looks sort of familiar. But the method certainly didn't.

The 49ers recorded their second victory of the season Sunday against the same opponent they beat for their first win, by the same score, and by the same fashion with a Todd Peterson field goal.

Peterson's 31-yard field goal with 8:38 remaining in the extra period lifted the 49ers to 2-11 and ended San Francisco's seven-game losing streak. Peterson's 32-yard field goal with 11:37 remaining in overtime gave the Niners their first win of the season over the Cardinals back on Oct. 10 at San Francisco's Monster Park.

But that's where the similarities end.

The Niners needed a miraculous comeback to beat the Cardinals two months ago, rallying from a 28-12 deficit with less than five minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime and win it once they got there.

On Sunday at Arizona's Sun Devil Stadium, it was the Cardinals assembling the dramatic comeback. The 49ers blew a 25-point lead, allowing a seemingly-beaten Arizona team to charge back after falling behind 28-3 early in the third quarter.

But after falling part, which has been typical this season, the 49ers responded at the finish, which hasn't been typical.

"We let them get back in the game, but we were just going to get in there and fight to the end," 49ers cornerback Dwaine Carpenter said. "They made some adjustments and turned things around and made some big-time plays that gave them some confidence. I don't feel like we matched their (intensity) after that. Not until we had our backs against the wall."

After the Cardinals rallied to within 28-25 with 2:40 remaining on Emmitt Smith's eight-yard touchdown run and quarterback Josh McCown's ensuing two-point conversion run, the Niners predictably tried to give the game away with another fourth-quarter fold job.

On the next series, halfback Terry Jackson broke through the middle on a third-and-22 draw play and was closing in on a possible first down when he was hit and coughed up the ball. The Cardinals recovered, and this was quickly turning into another sorry ending to another sorry chapter in San Francisco's sorry season.

But after an 11-yard run by Smith gave the Cardinals a first-and-goal situation, San Francisco's defense toughened, and cornerback Joselio Hanson flew in from the left side to knock away a McCown pass that was headed for a wide-open Freddie Jones in the end zone on third down. Arizona had to settle for Neil Rackers' 22-yard field goal, and the game headed for overtime.

"We did a great job defensively on that last drive to hold them to a field goal," 49ers coach Dennis Erickson said. "You could just see the momentum changing that whole fourth quarter. They had it, and then thank God we gained it back in overtime."

After the 49ers traded punts with the Cardinals, the stars of the day – 49ers quarterback Ken Dorsey, running back Maurice Hicks and receiver Cedrick Wilson – made sure San Francisco was not going to be denied.

Dorsey connected with Wilson on a third-and-17 pass from San Francisco territory, slipping it in between three defenders for a first down to keep the drive alive. The Dorsey-to-Wilson collaboration came up big all day. Dorsey completed 18 of 34 passes for 191 yards and three touchdowns, two of them going to Wilson, who led the Niners with five receptions for 83 yards.

Two plays later, Hicks ripped off a 17-yard gain that took the ball down to the Arizona 13 and set up Peterson's game-ender.

It was the exclamation point on a tremendous afternoon for Hicks in his first NFL start. Running with heart and determination all day – not to mention a rib contusion throughout the fourth quarter – Hicks finished with a game-high 139 yards rushing on 34 carries, including a one-yard touchdown burst that gave the Niners a stunning 21-0 lead midway through second quarter before the Cardinals could put their first points on the scoreboard.

When it was over, when Peterson's down-the-middle kick sailed through the uprights, it didn't much matter to the Niners that they had given back all of that lead – and more.

All that mattered was they were tasting victory again, something that has been in very short supply this season.

"This is huge for myself and for the team," said Dorsey, who recorded his first NFL victory as a starting quarterback and threw his first career touchdown passes while recording a fine passer rating of 99.0 – easily his best game of the year.

"Everybody in this locker room really wants to go out and perform well these last couple of weeks, not only for ourselves but for the organization and the fans," Dorsey continued. "We're excited about this stretch and we want to go out and play well. There's no quit in anybody in this locker room, and I think you see that out there every day."

You could definitely see it out there as the shadows began to fall Sunday in Arizona.

"We're really going to enjoy this trip home," Carpenter said, "and let this one sink in."


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