January 6th 2003
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
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I donít think Iíve ever lost hope about the 49ers chances on victory, but admittedly thereís a first time for everything. Down 38-14 with less than half a football game to go I was a realist. I thought the 49ers season was all but done. The 49ers however proved me wrong, and taught me a lesson in the process. I will never lose faith in this team again. Rallying back from a 24 point deficit, the 49ers made some big plays, the key plays, and somehow avoided the disaster of penalties in the process. The result was a squeaked out 39-38 victory and the second biggest comeback in NFL Playoff history.
The game started out as any 49ers fan could have wished. A Julian Peterson interception followed by a ten yard pass that turned into a 76 yard pass to Terrell Owens for a touchdown. The Giants answered quickly with two touchdowns, and while the 49ers would get another in the half, they made two costly errors, a muffed punt return by Cederick Wilson that gave the Giants the ball inside the five, and a Jeff Garcia interception that gave the Giants a 28-14 half time lead.
Coming out at half time it looked like the 49ers would continue to sink. They gave up 10 more points and it seemed to be all over. Just then though, the defense began to pick up its game, only submitting to a field goal. The 49ers were able to answer with a touchdown, and force two three and outs in a row while the offense added the winning ten points. The Giants had an opportunity to win the game, but two incomplete endzone passes, a missed field goal and then a muffed snap and a series of off-setting penalties where both teams lost their cool, ultimately leading to their demise.
Two off-setting penalties nullified what would have been great opportunities for the Giants to pull away a victory. The 49ers lead by Garcia and Owens were simply too much for the Giants when the game was on the line.
And so the 49ers will now set their sites on Tampa Bay. Steve Mariucci will be looking to avenge the 1997 loss to the Bucs, in which both Steve Young and Jerry Rice were injured. Mariucci also did something few thought he could with this club in winning a playoff game. He had a lot of help though with Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens simply refusing to lose. The 49ers will play at 4 PM PST this Sunday, and while Florida is a better place to play the Green Bay, home field advantage of the Bucs still would have been nice.