Favre's touchdown pass at :02 sinks 49ers, 27-24
By: By Daniel Brown, San Jose Mercury News, Calif., Superior Telegram
Here's the (unedited) game coverage I filed for tomorrow's paper. Some compelling quotes in the locker room, including Vikings defensive Jared Allen describing his feelilng before the final play: "Be Brett. One time. Just be Brett."
MINNEAPOLIS -- On the verge of an improbable victory, the 49ers instead endured an all-too-familiar sight:
Brett Favre. Again.
The quarterback who won't go away stuck a 32-yard dagger into the 49ers' hearts with 2 seconds remaining, turning a potential feel-good victory into a feeling-sick defeat.
Greg Lewis caught the ball in the back of the end zone, a step ahead of safety Mark Roman, and managed to keep both feet in bounds. It marked Favre's 42nd career fourth-quarter comeback and kept Minnesota unbeaten.
The catch required an official's video review. But when referee Jerome Boger finally signaled touchdown, 63,398 pairs of arms at the Metrodome signaled touchdown as well.
Their hands went up. The 49ers' hearts sank.
In the dreary silence of the locker room, 49ers Coach Mike Singletary commanded every player's attention.
"Don't be looking down at the floor for anybody,' he bellowed. "You didn't steal anything. You didn't do anything wrong. OK? We're going to get better! We're going to get there!
"We'll see them again -- in the playoffs. Hold your heads up. Put your shoulders back and let's rock."
The loss denied the 49ers their first 3-0 start since 1998. They were within one defensive stop of getting there, despite having star running back Frank Gore for only one carry. (Gore aggravated a right-ankle injury in the first quarter).
Shaun Hill and Vernon Davis had kept the 49ers afloat with a pair of touchdown passes. The second one came on second-and-goal from the 20, with Davis making a leaping catch between free safety Madieu Williams and linebacker E.J. Henderson.
That gave the 49ers a 24-20 lead with 8:12 to play in the game.
In all, Davis had seven catches for a career-high 96 yards.
"At the end of the day,' he said, "I don't think it means anything'
Favre, playing in his first home game for his new team, made Davis' highlights irrelevant when the 49ers gave the quarterback one last chance. The 49ers tried running the clock out with three running plays on their last possession but were forced to punt with 1:36 to play.
Singletary was asked if the 49ers considered a pass on their last sequence, since a first-down would have sealed the game.
"What we did, I totally support,' he said. "I don't go back and try to analyze why."
The Vikings' drive started at their 20 with 1:29 remaining. Favre, famous for his big armed, nickel-and-dimed his way down the field -- then cashed in on the final play.
On third-and-3 from the 49ers 32, with 12 seconds on the clock, the Vikings had one last shot. Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen thought to himself, "Be Brett. One time. Just be Brett."
Favre escaped pressure from defensive end Justin Smith and stepped up in the pocket just as linebacker Manny Lawson was closing in. Lawson came close to a game-winning sack. "Not close enough,' he said.
Instead, Favre unleashed a laser of a throw to Lewis, a 29-year old who was signed on Sept. 10 after the Patriots cut him. Favre later said he had no idea who he was throwing to when he let the ball go.
Lewis had been on the field for all of four snaps. He was supposed to be on the left side, but improvised as Favre bought time.
"I was like, 'Well, I can't get the ball this far over, so let me go see what's going to happen over here,' Greg Lewis said.
What happened is that Lewis got a step on Roman -- who was playing in his 100th consecutive game -- along the back line. None of the other defenders was close enough to make a play.
"That's just Brett,' linebacker Takeo Spikes said.
The 49ers ought to know. Favre is now 12-2 against them in his career, including playoffs. Overall, Favre finished with 301 passing yards -- his 56th career 300-yard game and the first by a Vikings quarterback since Daunte Culpepper in 2005.
Entering play, Favre had totaled just 265 total over the Vikings' first two victories.
"I'm worn out. Believe me, I could fall right now,' said Favre, who turns 40 on Oct. 10. "I don't know how many plays we had, but it felt like two year's worth of plays.
"I'm telling you: They are a fine football team. Their defense is aggressive."
Until that final play, the 49ers looked as if they were going to take an unlikely path to a monumental victory.
They led despite going 0 for 11 on third-down conversions and despite playing with rookie Glen Coffee in Gore's place at running back.
The 49ers stuck around thanks in part to a big play before halftime, when Ray McDonald blocked a field goal attempt and Nate Clements ran it back 59 yards for a touchdown. The momentum swing gave the 49ers a 14-13 lead at the half.
Minnesota countered that big play with rookie Percy Harvin's 101-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, which gave the Vikings a 20-17 yard lead.
The play took a lot of Harvin, which is why he ran out of gas in the final seconds. That's why Lewis came on the field to replace him for the improvised touchdown catch.
"We haven't practiced that play, I assure you,' Favre said.
The 49ers' though, may have felt as if they had seen it before.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Vernon Davis has already transformed his image from petulant head-case to team captain.
On Sunday, he added another new description: go-to guy.
Davis had seven catches for a career-high 96 yards, including a pair of touchdown passes. The tight end's final grab was a 20-yard touchdown catch that gave the 49ers a lead midway for through the fourth quarter.
He would have been the game's hero, if only Brett Favre had retired.
Instead, the 49ers will settle for signs of progress from Davis, who had the type of game the team expected when they took him with the sixth pick in the 2006 draft.
"I think it's all about being mature,' Davis said. "It's about being accountable for where you need to be."
Davis' previous career high was 91 yards against Arizona during his rookie season.
His two touchdowns Sunday matched his total from all of last season.
"Vernon's come a long way,' quarterback Shaun Hill said. "He's doing a great job for us."
-- A week after topping 200 yards, Frank Gore managed just one carry on Sunday.
He aggravated a right-ankle injury on a 4-yard run less than 3 minutes into the game and was promptly carted to the locker room for X-rays.
Tests revealed no break and the 49ers described the injury as a strain, not a sprain. The NFL Network reported that Gore had a high-ankle sprain, but the team called the report untrue.
There was no immediate word on Gore's prospects for next week.
On Sunday, rookie Glen Coffee filled in and rushed 25 times for 54 yards against a defense that led the NFL in rushing defense over the previous three seasons.
"When you watch your start running back go down, it's hard to bounce back,' left tackle Joe Staley said. "But I was proud of the way the guys played. Glen Coffee ran really hard and showed why he's going to be a great back for us."
The Vikings have now gone 26 consecutive games without allowing an individual 100-yard rushing game.
--Vikings running back Adrian Peterson had 19 carries for 85 yards, including a long of 35. It was far below his average but much better than the 3 yards he managed against the 49ers defense in 2007.
"We know that those guys were going to come out and focus on the run,' Peterson said. "We were able to balance it out and put points on the board."
--Defensive end Ray McDonald and cornerback Nate Clements gave the 49ers a lead at halftime with an improbable play. McDonald blocked Ryan Longwell's 44-yard field goal attempt and Clements took it back 59 yards for a score
It gave the 49ers a 14-13 lead despite being outgained 201-74 in total yards.
Clements also returned a blocked field goal 74 yards against the New York Giants last Oct. 19.
--Brett Favre, who ought to be smarter at his age, ran down field and put a hard block on 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis at the end of a 36-yard gain in the third quarter.
"I saw Bernard (Berrian) break a few tackles and I thought maybe I could spring him,' Favre said. "Maybe I can get on SportsCenter. I don't know."
It was the Vikings longest pass play of the season.
-- Beyond Gore, the 49ers had a fairly lengthy injury list. These players will be evaluated Monday: right guard David Baas (left-ankle sprain), safety Reggie Smith (right groin strain), linebacker Jeff Ulbrich (right quadriceps contusion), cornerback Dre Bly (right toe contusion) and Staley (right knee contusion).
-- Ahmad Brooks, active for the first time this season, made a nice open field tackle to bring down Percy Harvin for an 8-yard loss on a reverse.
-- Jim Marshall, the durable defensive end for the Vikings' famed Purple People Eaters defense, served as honorary captain. Marshall started 282 consecutive games from 1961-79. He also famously ran 66 yards the wrong way into his own end zone after recovering a fumble against the 49ers on Oct. 25, 1964.
-- Copyright (c) 2009, San Jose Mercury News, Calif./Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.