Nedney to the rescue as offense struggles

Joe Nedney and a cloud of defense. That's nothing new for San Francisco's veteran kicker, who scored all of the 49ers' points in seven games last year. He did it again Sunday. On an afternoon the 49ers had only 133 yards of total offense, Nedney again came to the rescue, scoring each of San Francisco's points in a 9-3 victory, even if he had to make his game-deciding 51-yard field goal twice.

Nobody knew at the time, but the last of Nedney's three field goals - his 51-yarder with 7:15 remaining in the game - would be the difference after the Minnesota Vikings drove to the San Francisco 30-yard line in the final minutes.

Once there, the Vikings had to shoot for the end zone instead of setting up a field goal to tie the game, because Nedney had drilled a 51-yarder twice under some unusual circumstances.

The first time he made it - with plenty of room to spare - the play was called dead and the 49ers initially were flagged for delay of game. But after the officials huddled, the kick was called no play, and Nedney got a second chance without the 49ers being penalized.

Let Nedney - who earlier made a 25-yarder to tie the game in the second quarter and a 30-yarder five minutes later to give the 49ers their first halftime lead of the season at 6-3 - explain:

"Well, we went out there, and the field goal got called," Nedney said. "The offense was coming off, and the clock was running down. Andy Lee and I both looked at the ref, trying to motion to reset the clock. Everything was developing kind of late. Sometimes, the ref spots the ball down a little late and gives us a couple of extra seconds. Either way, Andy and I both looked at Hoculi, and said, ‘Reset the clock.' He said, ‘No, I'm not resetting the clock.' It was down to about seven. So I get in my stance and get back there, and as soon as I step over, I look up, and I see the clock. It says, '24,' so I was like, ‘Oh, they reset the clock. That's great.' So I take my time and hit the ball, and make the field goal, and he says it's a delay of game. That's when I looked at him and said, ‘Somebody reset the clock.' He said, ‘It wasn't me,' and I said, ‘Well, somebody reset the clock! It's not my problem!' I told him that one of his guys in the booth must have done it. I don't care. Somebody reset the clock. His best interpretation was that you can't charge us with a penalty on something that wasn't going correctly. So, he just made it a do-over."

Whew! That's some explanation.

Here's how had referee Ed Hoculi put it: "The play clock was running down and it was not a situation where we would reset the clock because the officials had not delayed the game, the team just took their time," Hoculi said. "The kicker (Joe Nedney) asked me to reset the clock, and I said ‘No we are not resetting the clock'. He (Nedney) then lined up to kick, the back judge who is responsible for the play clock watched it, it got to two seconds and then it went back up to 25 seconds. The back judge continued to count it the rest of the way down because he knew I had not reset the clock. When it hit zero he went ahead and threw the flag for delay of game and then came in and explained that to me. In my opinion, because there was time on the play clock, it had been inadvertently reset. I couldn't charge the delay of game on the offense because as far as they realized they thought there was still time on the clock because they saw it reset and they didn't know that I hadn't reset it. We didn't go with the delay of game because there had been time on the clock, so we simply replayed it over again."

And Nedney made the kick again.

"You know you can do it once," he said. "You have to take advantage of the second one. I knew I hit it on-line. I had to watch it a little longer than the first one, though."

The second 51-yarder barely made it over the crossbar, but that was good enough, and the 49ers had a little bit more of a cushion heading into the final minutes. On this day, that proved to be a big cushion.

And in the end, the 49ers had a big reason to smile even though they were held without a touchdown for just the second time this season.

"There's a little frustration not scoring a touchdown, but right now we're going to take the win," said quarterback Alex Smith. "We're going to enjoy this because we worked hard for it. But looking back at what happened on offense, there are things we can do better."

Smith completed 13 of 21 passes for 105 yards, but was sacked three times and had one of his passes intercepted. Frank Gore - fifth in NFL rushing entering the game and leading the league's top rushers with a 5.1 average per carry - was limited to 41 yards rushing on 19 carries. He also led the 49ers with five receptions.

San Francisco's longest play of the day was a 22-yard reception from Smith to Arnaz Battle, and the 49ers only had a handful of plays that went for more than 10 yards as they managed only eight first downs.

But they had that defense to fall back on. And they had Nedney

"When the ‘D' plays like it did today, it makes any quarterback's job easier," Smith said. "And you can't say enough about what Joe did today."

You sure can't. Nedney - who also had a successful onside kick Sunday, his second of the season - accounted for all of the 49ers' scoring in a home win with the 49ers wearing throwback uniforms for the second consecutive season.

Last season, Nedney was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking five field goals in the 49ers 15-10 win vs. Tampa Bay in October when San Francisco wore their throwback uniforms. The 49ers were in their 1989 uniforms Sunday against the Vikings.

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