49ers big comeback a shocker in Seattle

Hold on, 49ers fans. San Francisco's 2008 season took a wild early spin Sunday afternoon in Seattle, and after a dizzying array of mistakes and bad breaks that the visiting team somehow was able to overcome, the Niners are alive and kicking. Rallying from a two-touchdown deficit, the 49ers shocked the Seahawks 33-30 in overtime, getting significant contributions from about every area imaginable.

San Francisco made enough mistakes and saw enough go wrong again Sunday that could have easily turned this game into another bitter, ugly defeat.

But in the end, after Joe Nedney split the uprights with a 40-yard field goal four minutes and 40 seconds into overtime, the struggles the 49ers overcame to get there only made this huge comeback victory that much sweeter.

Nedney, after all, had just missed a rather routine 41-yard field-goal attempt that could have won the game on the final play of regulation. But he hooked the ball and missed it wide right by a few feet – Nedney's first miss of a field-goal attempt within 50 yards in his last 33 attempts in such situations.

That was just one of several times that Sunday just didn't look as though it was going to be San Francisco's day. But the 49ers refused to fold and just kept persevering, and now they are the team standing with a 1-1 record and sole possession of second place in the NFC West.

"There's nothing louder than 67,000 people dead silent," Nedney said after his last kick silenced a notoriously raucous Seattle throng that had rocked Qwest Field and made things difficult for the 49ers throughout the afternoon.

"The first one, that was played over a million times in my mind," Nedney continued. "My gosh, from 41 yards, I've made that thing 100 times and I simply pulled it. It happens. Unfortunately, it happened at a very bad time, and I'm sorry about that, 49ers fans. But we got another shot at it. The offense did a heck of a job getting down the field again."

Linebacker Manny Lawson, San Francisco's special teams captain on this day, gave the offense that opportunity by calling tails during the coin toss to begin overtime. The coin came down tails, and the 49ers took full advantage of their final opportunity in a game that was filled with opportunities for the red and gold – some the Niners capitalized, and some they allowed to fritter away.

But quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan, who had a career day with 321 yards passing, led the 49ers down the field with poise and precision just as he had all afternoon in the face of a relentless, pressuring Seattle defense that sacked him eight times.

With San Francisco facing third-and-7 after taking the overtime kickoff, O'Sullivan calmly set up in the pocket and delivered with traffic all around him. He hit Isaac Bruce in stride down the right side to take the 49ers into Seattle territory, then came through again on third-and-3 from the Seattle 37 with a first-down pass to Arnaz Battle to push forward the drive that ended with Nedney stepping on the field with a chance for redemption.

"You're only as good as your last kick," Nedney said. "So I'm feeling pretty good right now."

And so are the 49ers after beating the Seahawks for just the third time in their last 11 meetings with the four-time defending NFC West champions, who swept San Francisco by a combined margin of 47-3 last year.

The 49ers prevailed in one of the NFL's toughest venues for opposing teams, a place where the Seahawks had won 24 of their previous 28 games. San Francisco was satisfied to see the breaks finally break its way at the end after the 49ers committed five turnovers during last week's season-opening 23-13 loss to Arizona, a game the 49ers felt they should have won.

The 49ers – who had a zany sequence of plays go against them as Seattle streaked to a 14-0 lead midway through the first period – made their own breaks by forcing three turnovers that helped turn the contest in their favor.

The biggest of those takeaways came midway through the third quarter when the Seahawks were driving deep in San Francisco territory and appeared poised to add to their 20-13 lead.

But one play later, the game was tied. Walt Harris made a nice play on quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's pass over the middle, deflecting it into the air, where it fell into the hands of linebacker Patrick Willis.

Willis started going the other way in a hurry, and after sidestepping a few tacklers and making a few others miss, he returned the pick 86 yards for a shocking touchdown that tied the game. It was the longest return of an interception for a touchdown by a linebacker in 49ers history.

Harris came up with San Francisco's second pick of Hasselbeck on Seattle's next series, and the 49ers turned that takeaway into a touchdown run by Frank Gore that gave the 49ers their first lead at 27-20 late in the third quarter.

The Seahawks didn't let down, however, scoring the next 10 points to resume control before the 49ers took it back at the end of the game.

"Our guys hung in there and did an outstanding job," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "My goodness, some things happened out there that kind of make you feel snakebit. It was a character check, I guess you could say, but we've always said our team has great character. And it does. We persevered, hung in there, came back and made a win out of it."

The 49ers overcame penalties, careless mistakes and the ball bouncing against them to pull out the win. For example, Lawson blocked a punt in the first quarter, but it bounced right into the hands of Seattle's Jordan Babineaux, who was able to gain 24 yards on the play to keep alive a drive that ended in Seattle's first touchdown.

On San Francisco's next possession, Gore fumbled after being hit in the backfield, and four Seattle defenders had their hands on the ball before it finally landed in the paws of defensive tackle Craig Terrill, who returned it 10 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, it was 14-0 Seattle.

But O'Sullivan remained undaunted. He calmly led the 49ers on their first sustained drive that ended with a Nedney field goal at the end of the first quarter, then led San Francisco 70 yards for another Nedney field goal midway through the second quarter.

O'Sullivan kept leading the 49ers back after they fell behind 17-6, then later 20-13, then in the pivotal final minutes led San Francisco to Nedney's third field goal to tie the game 30-30 after Seattle had rallied from a 27-20 deficit to take a 30-27 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

When all was said and done, O'Sullivan was the constant that kept the 49ers in the game and ultimately won it for them. Despite the constant pressure he faced on practically every passing play, O'Sullivan completed 20 of 32 passes to finish with a passer rating of 106.4.

In the process, he became the first San Francisco quarterback to pass for 300 or more yards in a game since October of 2004 while sending Seattle to its first 0-2 start since 2002.

"Well, I haven't been here," O'Sullivan responded to those facts. "What's this game mean? It means we're 1-0 this week. That's the way we are going to try and do things, and that's the same thing we are going to try and do next week. I don't really care (about passing for 300 yards). I'm just glad we won."

The 49ers couldn't have done it without O'Sullivan, who remained cool and kept plays alive despite being hounded from beginning to end. He also protected the ball – no turnovers after throwing an interception and losing two key fumbles in last week's opener.

"He should have been sacked even more," Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. "They made a couple of plays when he broke the pocket, and we missed a couple of tackles on him that we should have had. You let him run around there too much, or don't get pressure on him, your secondary is vulnerable."

And now, after appearing vulnerable throughout the afternoon, the Niners enter a new week with a whole new outlook after responding big in an early must-win situation.

"There were some ups and downs, but we moved the ball when we needed to, and we turned a 14-0 deficit into a win," Nedney said. "That's awesome. We definitely needed that. We're riding a high right now, and we're going to ride that wave this week and go in next week and take care of Detroit at home."

Taking care of the Seahawks on the road, particularly in the rousing fashion they did Sunday, definitely was a wave in the right direction for the Niners.



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