Jeff Garcia has had several great games during his four seasons in San Francisco, but this might have been his defining moment as the 49ers quarterback. With the game tied and the outcome hanging in the balance, Garcia looked like a championship quarterback as he personally willed the Niners to victory and kept San Francisco's offense moving by extending drives with his legs and right arm. Several timely Garcia scrambles gave the Niners new life when third-down plays appeared doomed, and he had 46 yards rushing to go with his magnificent work through the air. That included 25 completions in 36 attempts for 282 yards and two touchdowns. Bottom line: Garcia never has been better.
Garrison Hearst fumbled for the first time in 323 touches dating back to last season, and he struggled to find any room to run with just 36 yards to show for his 18 carries. Kevan Barlow was more successful, going for 60 yards on 15 carries and busting a few key runs on San Francisco's consequential final two drives. But the star of this unit was fullback Fred Beasley, who came through on several short-yardage situations to keep drives alive, including a fourth-and-1 near midfield in overtime. Bottom line: Beasley comes up big when called upon.
Terrell Owens didn't get into the end zone, but he produced one of the finest games of his career with a game-high 12 receptions for 191 yards, including big-play catches of 41, 40 and 29 yards. He played through cramps that forced him off the field in key situations to produce several catches that counted in a big way. Tai Streets continued to be a significant contributor with eight receptions, and Cedrick Wilson caught his first NFL touchdown, holding onto a hot 11-yard dart from Garcia. Bottom line: The greatness is back in Owens, and the rest of unit isn't far behind.
This was a defining game for this quality unit, which had trouble opening holes against a tough Raiders rushing defense in the first half, but by the end of the game was dominating Oakland's huge front line and keeping the Niners' offense on the field for the game's final 30 plays from scrimmage. Unit also came up big on some key short-yardage situations in the fourth quarter and overtime. And the pass blocking was again exceptional as Garcia wasn't sacked once in the 40-plus times he dropped back to pass. Bottom line: This performance clearly lifts this unit among the NFL's elite offensive lines, if it wasn't there already.
Unit plugged the run well, limiting Charlie Garner to just a 3.7-yard average on his 14 carries. The pass rush sacked Rich Gannon only once – Andre Carter forcing a fumble on that play – but there was some good pressure that forced Gannon to hurry throws, and he was forced to stay in the pocket most of the afternoon. Bottom line: Unit held its own and did its part against league's No. 1 offense.
Julian Peterson was all over the field and made some aggressive plays to lead the Niners with seven tackles. Derek Smith had five tackles and Jeff Ulbrich three as this unit did a good job of plugging holes and negating Oakland's backs coming out of the backfield in passing situations. Bottom line: A strong, steady effort by unit that had been inconsistent in recent weeks.
Jason Webster was called for pass interference, and that led to a Raiders touchdown. Each member of the San Francisco secondary allowed receptions, but they mostly kept the Oakland passing game in front of them, and the Raiders' longest reception went for 24 yards. Tim Brown was limited to just one reception for 10 yards. Nickel back Mike Rumph was active with seven tackles, Ahmed Plummer had six and Webster five as the Niners limited the NFL's No. 1 passing attack to 164 yards in the air. Bottom line: Unit made big progress to contain explosive Oakland passing game.
This was a terrible day for Jose Cortez, who allowed the Raiders to make it into overtime by missing a 39-yard field-goal attempt and a routine 27-yarder on the final play of regulation to send the game into an extra period. But he redeemed himself there by drilling a 23-yard attempt to end the game. He also made chip-shots of 20 and 22 yards. Jimmy Williams had a big 48-yard kickoff return midway through the fourth quarter and almost broke a few other returns. The coverage units were solid and forced a turnover that the Niners turned into a touchdown. Bottom line: Cortez has to be better in pressure situations.
The Niners had an aggressive approach and never stopped coming at the Raiders. They also devised a way for their struggling defense to thwart a top-flight offense – in this case, the NFL's best. There were a few struggles in the red zone, but that came down mostly to execution. Going for it on fourth-and-1 near midfield in overtime was a gutsy call – and the right one by a usually conservative coach. This was a win that could push the Niners to another level, and it all starts here. Bottom line: Most complete performance and best all-around effort of season had a lot to do with preparation. Niners are riding high at midseason because coaches had them ready for this one.