49ers Are Young at Heart in Comeback Win
With Steve Young hurt, the San Francisco 49ers turned to Ty Detmer and Wade Richey, and they overcame their own mistakes.
Detmer, who had four of San Francisco’s six turnovers, led a drive to set up Richey’s 46-yard field goal with 33 seconds left, lifting the 49ers past the Carolina Panthers, 25-23, on Sunday.
“I think most guys would like to have the ball in their hands toward the end of the game,” Detmer said. “For me, it’s satisfying knowing we put that drive together. We had made mistakes, but we didn’t let them stand in our way.”
Detmer, also the holder for Richey, calmed the rookie kicker before the decisive field goal.
“He said, ‘You see those big yellow posts? Just kick it right in between them,’ ” Richey said. “I just repeated to myself again and again and again that I was going to make it.”
But Richey nearly became a goat when he botched a squib kick after his field goal, sending it only 17 yards downfield before it was stopped by Anthony Johnson.
The Panthers, who once led by 16 points, advanced to the San Francisco 39, but John Kasay’s 57-yard field goal try fell short as time expired.
“[Johnson] made a great play on it,” Richey said. “I didn’t expect that to happen. It almost spoiled the moment.”
Carolina’s Steve Beuerlein didn’t buy the argument the 49ers lucked out.
“Give San Francisco credit,” he said. “That team has been there and knows how to win close games. The 49ers are never lucky. They’re a great ball club.”
The 49ers (7-2) have won their last 13 regular-season games at home, including comeback wins this season over Indianapolis and the New York Jets.
Detmer, making his first start since joining San Francisco as a free agent, threw three interceptions in the first half and fumbled once. But he came back to throw touchdown passes of 36 and five yards to Terrell Owens and a 29-yarder to J.J. Stokes.
“It was mind-set more than anything,” he said of his improved play in the second half. “We mixed the pass and run well and started getting in a rhythm. We didn’t feel they could stop us in the second half.”
Young, ending a streak of 24 starts, missed the game because of an abdominal strain from the nine-sack pounding last week in Green Bay.
Beuerlein, 25 for 41 for 265 yards, threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Raghib Ismail. Kasay kicked field goals of 50, 42 and 41 yards and former 49er fullback William Floyd had a two-yard touchdown run that put Carolina (1-8) back on top after the Panthers blew their big lead.
Floyd’s score, with 5:43 remaining, followed a 42-yard march by Carolina that began when Eric Davis recovered a fumble by Jerry Rice, San Francisco’s sixth turnover in the game.
Detmer, making his first start since last November with Philadelphia, finished with 276 yards, completing 22 of 36 passes.
He and Owens were also at the center of a freak play before the go-ahead score to Stokes with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
On third down, a blitzing Lenny McGill sacked Detmer, forcing a fumble that was recovered on the run by Les Miller. He tumbled to the ground, got back up and momentarily didn’t realize he still hadn’t been touched by a 49er. When he started running again, Owens reached in and stripped the ball from him, returning it 13 yards to the Carolina 43.
Five plays later, Detmer threw the scoring pass to Stokes and then completed a two-point conversion pass to Owens.
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