Signature victory in Seattle

Terrell Owens put his signature on this one. On a Monday night spent battling injuries and an inspired Seattle Seahawks team, the San Francisco 49ers needed a significant performance from their star receiver, and they got one.

Owens caught his second and third touchdown passes of the season, and on the final one, his breakout performance took on a new dimension when he broke out a magic marker after beating cornerback Shawn Springs for the 37-yard go-ahead touchdown with 7:46 to play.

Owens pulled the marker from his socks, autographed the football, ran to the stands, and handed the football to his friend and financial advisor, Greg Eastman. It just so happened Eastman is also the financial advisor for Shawn Springs, the Seahawks cornerback Owens beat for the touchdown. Eastman was sitting in Springs' field-level luxury suite.

``I try to be creative and have fun,'' said Owens, who had six catches for 84 yards but also dropped two passes. ``I just had a feeling I was going to score so I put a pen in my sock.''

The touchdown held up as the game-winner, and the 49ers (4-1) escaped Seahawks Stadium with a 28-21 victory and a one-game lead over second-place Arizona (3-2) in the NFC West. The Seahawks, who needed a victory to get into the division race, fell to 1-4.

Surprisingly, Springs said he was not at all offended by Owens' post-touchdown caper.

``That's something he should do," Springs said. ``I was talking to him all day. That's something I would do if I was a wide receiver. I was happy to see that."

Owens said he got the marker from a trainer before the fourth quarter. How did he know he was going to get into the end zone and get to use it?

``I know me,'' he said. ``Anybody who don't know me now, you'll never know. I'm confident in my ability to play this game.''

Running back Kevan Barlow, who also is an Eastman client, said if he'd scored, he was going to get the pen from Owens and perform the identical stunt. Of Owens' autograph session, Barlow said, ``That was tight. … He's a player. He makes plays.''

Coach Steve Mariucci said, ``That's a new one. … We don't teach that.''

Quarterback Jeff Garcia: ``It's T.O. being very unique.''

The victory was good news for the 49ers, who badly needed some on a night when they lost starting free safety Zack Bronson to a broken foot and special-teams captain Terry Jackson to what may be a season-ending knee injury.

If there was one thing the 49ers learned from this game, it was that they have some other receivers who can play if J.J. Stokes can't - and Stokes was unable to go Monday night because of a sprained right knee.

Tai Streets stepped in and caught four passes for 66 yards, including a difficult 35-yarder on which he caught the ball over his shoulder and managed to keep his feet in-bounds despite close coverage by cornerback Ken Lucas.

The 49ers' winning drive was set up by an interception by Ahmed Plummer at his 32-yard line. Plummer grabbed a Trent Dilfer pass that was tipped at the line by defensive end Chike Okeafor.

What followed was a six-play, 68-yard drive that included a 16-yard third-down gain by Garrison Hearst on a shovel pass by Garcia. The touchdown came when Owens got a step on Springs. Garcia lofted the ball, and the 6-foot-3 Owens used his three-inch height advantage on Springs to haul in the football.

``Basically,'' Owens said, ``it was a jump ball. I used my height. It was a situation where my basketball skills came into play.''

Garcia then passed to Hearst for the 2-point conversion.

In the early going, it looked as if it would be an easy victory for the 49ers, who bolted to a quick 10-0 lead.

The 49ers got a Jose Cortez field goal on their first series, and a subsequent Bronson interception set up their first touchdown, an 8-yard pass from Garcia to Owens.

But the Seahawks responded with a 10-play, 69-yard drive that ended with a 5-yard pass from Dilfer to fullback Mack Strong. They then took the lead on a 61-yard punt return by Bobby Engram.

The 49ers drew to within a point shortly before halftime when Cortez kicked a 29-yarder, his ninth consecutive successful field-goal attempt.

And the 49ers took the lead in the third quarter when, after being pinned inside their 1-yard line after a punt, they put together a 12-play, 99-yard scoring drive that ended with a 6-yard run by Barlow.

``We took the opportunity to take time off the clock and put points on the board,'' Garcia said. ``It gave the defense time to rest. They were banged up. It was huge. Anytime you have a drive like that, it can be a game-winner.''

Hearst added, ``That really helped us. It helped us a lot.''

Still, it almost wasn't enough. The Seahawks went back in front late in the third quarter, Shaun Alexander scoring from one yard out. But the 49ers were undeterred, and in truth, Alexander didn't hurt the 49ers that much. Coming off a five-touchdown effort two weeks ago, Alexander rushed for 96 yards on 25 carries. But 42 of those yards came on one run.

``It all starts with stopping him, and except for the 42-yard run, we did an outstanding job stopping him,'' defensive coordinator Jim Mora said.

Owens' late touchdown nullified Alexander's efforts. He ran into the end zone, signed his name, and the 49ers then wrote the final chapter by getting a stop on defense, then running out the clock.

On that final clock-killing sequence Garcia executed a third-down bootleg to keep the drive alive, and Barlow removed all doubts with a 26-yard run. After rushing for just 52 first-half yards, the 49ers finished with 161 - including a season-high 48 by Garcia.

Naturally, though, when it was over, Owens' penmanship was the hottest topic.

``Everybody always says I'm disrespectful, says I'm a bad guy," Owens said. ``I'm just trying to have fun.''

 


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