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49ers Struck by Last-Play Lightning Again

From Associated Press

Big Ben struck again for the Atlanta Falcons against the San Francisco 49ers.

Billy Joe Tolliver threw a 44-yard pass into a crowd of eight players in the end zone, and Michael Haynes caught it with one second remaining Sunday to give the Falcons a 17-14 victory over the 49ers.

“We used to do it in 1980 when I was here (as an assistant coach),” Atlanta Coach Jerry Glanville said. “I guess we had one more left. It’s a lucky play.”

Glanville had his dates a little wrong, but this was Atlanta’s third victory in similar situations.

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Steve Bartkowski passed 57 yards to Alfred Jackson for a touchdown on the same play with 19 seconds left in a 20-17 victory over New Orleans in 1978.

In 1983, Bartkowski connected with Billy (White Shoes) Johnson on a 47-yard scoring play to beat the 49ers, 28-24, on the final play.

“I was just concentrating on the ball,” Haynes said. “It just dropped in my hands, and then I just hung on for life.”

The Falcons’ winning drive covered 80 yards, beginning with 53 seconds left after the 49ers took a 14-10 lead when Steve Bono hit John Taylor on a 30-yard scoring pass play with third down and 21 yards to go.

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Atlanta (5-4) kept the drive alive when Tolliver completed a 19-yard pass to Andre Rison on fourth-and-six to the San Francisco 44 with 16 seconds left. After an incomplete pass, Tolliver threw the ball into into the crowd in the end zone.

“You just reach back and throw and hope your guy comes down with it,” Tolliver said. “I saw all our guys down in the right corner and just aimed for the middle of the group.”

The 49ers (4-5) didn’t know what hit them.

“That’s always a tough situation,” said Johnnie Jackson, one of the defenders in the end zone. “You don’t know what’s going to happen. We should have won. It shouldn’t have come down to a last-second play.”

Added safety Dave Waymer: “I don’t know what happened. I really don’t. Until I see it on film or on a replay of it, I have no clue. This is a tough one. Really tough.”

Atlanta went ahead, 10-7, on Norm Johnson’s 19-yard field goal with 2:39 remaining after Tracy Johnson recovered Sanjay Beach’s fumbled punt at the San Francisco 17.

The Falcons, who beat the 49ers, 39-34, in San Francisco three weeks ago, gained a two-game sweep of San Francisco for the first time since 1980.

The 49ers scored first on the longest scoring pass play in their history, a 97-yarder from Steve Young to Taylor with 8:01 left in the first half.

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Throwing out of his end zone, Young connected with Taylor at the San Francisco 46 between defenders Tim McKyer and Scott Case, who collided, allowing Taylor to break free.

Taylor outran Deion Sanders to the end zone.

The Falcons gained a 7-7 tie on Tolliver’s three-yard pass to Rison with 8:23 left in the game. It ended a 75-yard drive that took 18 plays and ran 11:30 off the clock.

Mike Rozier had 35 yards in nine carries during the drive, including a one-yard run on a fourth-and-one gamble at the San Francisco 44 to keep the drive alive.

Tolliver completed seven of eight passes for 40 yards in the drive, after being one of six for nine yards after replacing injured Chris Miller midway through the second quarter.

The drive started when Brian Jordan intercepted a pass by Bono that was deflected by Sanders. Jordan threw a lateral to Sanders, who had a 10-yard return.

San Francisco could have built an insurmountable lead, but misfired on four field goal attempts by normally reliable Mike Cofer in the first half.

Cofer’s 33-yarder with 5:47 left in the first quarter was blocked by Tory Epps, and his 32-yarder in the second quarter hit the right post and bounced back.

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Another 32-yarder by Cofer with 5:43 left in the half was wide to the left and he missed a 47-yarder, again to the left, with five seconds left in the half.

Miller gave way to Tolliver when he aggravated bruised ribs midway through the second quarter and Bono came on for the 49ers to start the second half because Young was sidelined with a left knee strain near the end of the first half.

Miller and Young were among nine players who were injured.

Miller had X-rays at halftime, but they were negative.

The 49ers said Young will undergo tests today in San Francisco.

The other seven reported injuries involved the Falcons. Tackle Mike Kenn will undergo treatment today for a sprained left knee.

Guard Bill Fralic sustained a hyperextended left elbow and center Jamie Dukes has a sprained right shoulder.

McKyer had a concussion, Sanders aggravated a thigh bruise, while Brian Jordan and Bobby Butler have sprained necks. All four are defensive backs.


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