A fitting farewell: Hill, 49ers win for B.Y.

You can hit him and you can hurt him, but Shaun Hill is going to come right back at you. Especially when there's a game to win, which in Hill's mind Sunday was the only suitable sendoff for one of the greatest 49ers of them all. In Bryant Young's final home game, Hill made sure the renowned veteran walked off a winner, throwing three TD passes to spark a 21-19 upset of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

OK, so the 49ers also got quite a spark just from the presence of Young, the esteemed 14th-year pro who said this week he's likely to retire at the end of this season.

That set up Sunday's game against NFC South-champion Tampa Bay as Young's swan song in San Francisco, and his teammates made sure the music played just right as the 49ers won their second game in a row and their first this season over a team that is headed to the playoffs.

Before talking about another game during which he made it happen for the San Francisco offense, Hill first made it clear what getting a victory in this home finale meant to the 49ers.

"I've never really felt pressure going into a game," Hill said, "but I felt pressure to get a win today for B.Y. I honestly did. He deserved to go out there and get a win today. He's been quite an inspiration to this whole team, and that was really a main focus for everybody in that locker room, just to leave that field with a win for B.Y."

Hill made sure it happened, coming back after getting knocked out of the game temporarily with bruised ribs to throw a five-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis early in the third quarter that put the 49ers ahead to stay.

And that was another play that added to the respect and admiration that's quickly growing around Hill, since two plays earlier he was on the turf and writhing in pain after absorbing a late hit underneath his throwing shoulder from Tampa Bay defensive end Gaines Adams.

The 49ers, trailing 13-7 at halftime, had just taken over at the Tampa Bay 14-yard line after one of several big plays by an opportunistic San Francisco defense that forced three fumbles and recorded two takeaways. This one came when the amazing Patrick Willis – who had 20 official tackles, the most ever by a 49er in one game – stripped quarterback Luke McCown of the ball while sacking him on a third-down play. Safety Mark Roman swooped in to recover the fumble.

Two plays later, Hill dropped back to pass and looked for Arnaz Battle in the corner of the end zone. Hill's throw was a beauty, right into Battle's hands away from defenders, but officials ruled Battle came down out of bounds with the ball on what would have been a 12-yard TD catch.

After releasing the ball, Hill took a shot from Gaines, who buried his helmet into Hill's chest while drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty. Hill was down on the field for almost two minutes before walking off gingerly with bruised ribs that required X-rays after the game.

Recently-acquired Chris Weinke came in to take Hill's place, but one play later, Hill was trotting back onto the field to rousing cheers. And what a play it was. He dropped back and fired a perfect strike over two Tampa Bay defenders and into the waiting hands of Davis, who made up for an earlier fumble that had led directly to the touchdown that put the Buccaneers ahead at halftime.

"Adrenaline is a great thing," Hill said, smiling. "The injury was kind of a rib thing and the wind was knocked out of me, so I just had to go to the sideline and regroup. I feel good now. A win takes away a lot of pain."

Hill erased an early 6-0 Tampa Bay lead with another perfect strike into the end zone, this one going 21 yards to Darrell Jackson on a skinny post between defenders on the first play of the second quarter.

After Hill's second touchdown pass put the 49ers ahead 14-13, he struck for a third early in the fourth quarter when he connected in the flat with running back Frank Gore, who broke a tackle and scooted 23 yards into the end zone to increase San Francisco's lead to eight points.

Gore had another productive game, rushing for 89 yards on 21 carries against the NFL's third-ranked defense and also leading the 49ers with four receptions for 43 yards. Gore, who's finishing the season with a flourish, went over the 1,000-yard barrier for the second consecutive season early in the fourth quarter. He's the fifth player in team history to have back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.

Gore's touchdown came one play after Nate Clements intercepted a McCown pass deep in San Francisco territory and brought it back 62 yards for the longest interception return of his career.

But the San Francisco defense would have to answer again late in a game during which it spent 10 more minutes on the field than the San Francisco offense, which produced only 11 first downs and 213 total yards on the afternoon.

"Offensively, I don't feel we played great, but it's awfully nice to come away with a win even though we didn't play very well offensively," Hill said. "The defense was amazing. They stepped it up and played a great game."

That defense, which did some bending while allowing 434 yards of Tampa Bay offense, had to step it up one final time after the Bucs got back the ball at their own 39 with 2:45 remaining to play.

McCown – playing in place of starting quarterback Jeff Garcia, the former 49er QB who was pulled along with other Tampa Bay starters in the second quarter after throwing for 196 yards – quickly drove the Bucs to the San Francisco 24. With all kinds of time to throw, McCown then found tight end Jerramy Stevens with a 24-yard scoring pass that brought Tampa Bay within two points.

McCown again had all day to throw on the two-point conversion attempt, and he finally found Michael Clayton between San Francisco defenders in the back of the end zone. Clayton leaped to make the catch along the end line, but as he came down to the ground, his left foot landed half in the end zone and half on the white out-of-bounds line. The conversion failed, and the 49ers held on for one of their most satisfying wins of the season.

After the final seconds ticked away, Marques Douglas, Jeff Ulbrich and Isaac Sopoaga hoisted Young onto their shoulders and carried him across the field, where he later met up with former teammate Garcia.

Young then took a lot of time walking along the edges of the stadium, where adoring fans were waiting for him, before finally leaving the field at Monster Park for the final time.

"Bryant Young gave us a speech before the game and it brought tears to my eyes," said 49ers safety Michael Lewis, who had another stellar game and finished with eight tackles. "(Sending Young out with a win) was one of those things we wanted to do and we did it."

Added Clements: "It was icing on the cake. We knew it was B.Y.'s last home game, and there is nothing better than a win for Bryant Young."


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