49ers deal Vikings tough loss

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 6, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) &8212; The Minnesota Vikings put on an offensive show, all right &8212; and the 49ers&8217; offense was even more revolting.

Yet, Joe Nedney provided all the points San Francisco needed, and the Niners&8217; maligned defense went from historically bad to astoundingly good to win a meeting of two teams that couldn&8217;t find the end zone even with directions from Joe Montana.

Nedney kicked his third field goal with 7:15 to play, and San Francisco won with defense for the first time in recent memory, beating the frustrated Vikings 9-3 on Sunday.

Minnesota&8217;s offense has now played nine quarters without a touchdown, while the 49ers&8217; offense has just one TD in 10 quarters. The only scoring pass thrown at Candlestick Park came from Montana, who jokingly re-enacted his famed &8220;The Catch&8221; toss to Dwight Clark on its 25th anniversary in a halftime ceremony.

Montana apparently didn&8217;t inspire Alex Smith or Minnesota&8217;s Brad Johnson, who led their teams to just 371 combined yards &8212; but something got into San Francisco&8217;s defense, which looked formidable one week after giving up 41 points in a first-half debacle in Chicago.

&8220;You have to believe in what you&8217;re doing, and you have to stay the course,&8221; coach Mike Nolan said. &8220;The only way to do that is by having some success. Although the scoreboard wasn&8217;t lighting up, we stayed with it, stayed close. I just knew we&8217;d have to steal a game against some opponents.&8221;

With Nedney&8217;s strong leg &8212; and his lobbying efforts, which helped him to get a second shot at his final field goal &8212; the 49ers (3-5) backed that shocking performance by their defense, which had allowed 150 points in its last four games.

They simplified their defensive game plan and hung on, stopping Minnesota&8217;s final drive at the 49ers 27 with 1:04 left.

&8220;I wish I could say we did a lot of things differently, but it just came down to heart,&8221; linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. &8220;We showed a lot of toughness when we had to. Both defenses played well, but we got it done when it mattered.&8221;

Smith passed for just 105 yards and Frank Gore rushed for only 41 as San Francisco made just eight first downs, but hung on for its eighth straight home victory since 1988 over the Vikings (4-4), who seemed to be questioning everything about their game plan.

&8220;Right now, being 4-4, we&8217;re an average team,&8221; safety Darren Sharper said. &8220;That&8217;s not where we should be. We shouldn&8217;t be here.&8221;

Johnson passed for 136 yards but made three turnovers for the Vikings, whose final drive ended dismally. Troy Williamson dropped an on-target pass on third down before Mark Roman and Shawntae Spencer prevented Bethel Johnson from catching a desperate throw at the goal line.

With just 238 total yards and a host of dropped passes and mistakes, Minnesota showed every negative effect of its injury problems and a short week of preparation after Monday night&8217;s loss to New England.

Chester Taylor rushed for 96 yards but had his only big play negated by a Travis Taylor&8217;s block-in-the-back penalty in the third quarter, while Johnson followed up his three-interception benching last week with two fumbles while being sacked and another interception on a deflection.

&8220;They&8217;ve been thrashed in different areas, and they changed it up, played vanilla, played to their strengths,&8221; Johnson said of the Niners&8217; defense. &8220;If we don&8217;t convert on third downs or are not effective on first downs, it&8217;s going to cost us and that&8217;s what happened.&8221;

Nedney hit field goals from 25 and 30 yards before nailing a 51-yarder &8212; but only after he wheedled another try.

Flags flew during his first attempt, and referee Ed Hochuli initially called a delay-of-game penalty that would have taken San Francisco out of field-goal range. But Hochuli picked up his flag after Nedney argued that the play clock had been reset erroneously, messing up the play&8217;s timing.

Nedney then made the kick, leaving the Vikings steamed.

&8220;When you make more plays than you give up, you don&8217;t have to worry about calls,&8221; Sharper said. &8220;You don&8217;t have to worry about putting it in the referees&8217; hands. You can take the game over yourself as a team.&8221;