Niners Lead Steelers 27-7 Early in Fourth
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Kevan Barlow ran for a career-long 78-yard touchdown, with help from the blocking of animated receiver Terrell Owens, and the San Francisco 49ers took a 27-7 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers early in the fourth quarter Monday night.
Todd Peterson kicked his second field goal on the first play of the fourth, staking the 49ers to a big lead.
Owens, who had a 61-yard TD catch earlier in the game, blocked two defenders as Barlow ran into the end zone and then mugged for the television cameras just as he promised he would if he got the chance. Owens usually relishes the spotlight, and he flapped his arms in delight after contributing to the TD.
Antwaan Randle El fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, giving the Niners the ball back at Pittsburgh’s 28. And Tim Rattay connected with fullback Fred Beasley for a 28-yard touchdown pass only 14 seconds after Barlow’s big run to make it 24-7.
After a poor first half, Jerome Bettis scored on a 1-yard run early in the third quarter in Pittsburgh’s first productive drive of the game to get the Steelers back in the game. Tommy Maddox orchestrated the nine-play, 73-yard drive over the first 4:59 of the third quarter, throwing his arm in the air in joy once his team finally got into the end zone.
But tackling errors and turnovers gave momentum back to the 49ers, who retired Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott’s jersey during a halftime ceremony.
Tony Parrish’s interception return of 48 yards set up Peterson’s first field goal, a 32-yarder, that gave the Niners to a 10-0 halftime lead. Peterson was cut by the Steelers last February.
On the third play of the Niners’ second drive, Rattay uncorked a long pass down the left sideline to Owens.
The All-Pro receiver sprinted away from cornerback Chad Scott and roared to the goal line, where he stopped and a did a slow pirouette into the end zone before Barlow joined him in a low-key dance.
It was a fairly mellow display compared to his Monday night antics of a year ago.
In the 49ers’ victory in Seattle last season, Owens sparked controversy when he hauled in a fourth-quarter touchdown pass, then pulled a pen from his sock to autograph the ball.
At least one fan still appreciated that: A man in the sellout crowd donned an Owens jersey and a knit cap with at least 15 Sharpie pens dangling off it from safety pins.
Rattay, a longtime backup making his second career start while starter Jeff Garcia nurses his sprained left ankle, completed his first six passes for 92 yards, 74 of those on three passes to Owens.
Garcia, a three-time Pro Bowler, missed his second start in 63 games and watched from the sideline in uniform as the emergency No. 3 quarterback.
Rattay was poised and comfortable managing the offense again.
The Niners, playing for the first time since a 30-10 win against St. Louis on Nov. 2 and well rested after their bye week, put constant pressure on Maddox in the first few series as Pittsburgh made its first appearance in San Francisco since 1999.
Maddox and the Steelers couldn’t get on track in the first half. Maddox went 12-of-20 for 112 yards, while the tailback tandem of Bettis and Amos Zereoue rushed for just 13 yards on 11 carries.
Parrish picked off a tipped pass intended for Jay Riemersma early in the second quarter, returning it to the Pittsburgh 19.
The Steelers tried a double-reverse late in the second quarter and Zereoue wound up getting tackled for a 10-yard loss. Later, Zereoue caught a pass from Maddox but was leveled by Niners cornerback Mike Rumph for a short loss.
The teams, which have nine Super Bowl titles between them, are defending division champions still hoping that a strong finish will get them into the playoffs.
Neither team has won consecutive games this season, and both have endured humiliating losses to the otherwise-struggling Cleveland Browns. They have just one road victory between them: Pittsburgh’s narrow win at Cincinnati eight weeks ago.
Owens had 42 touchdown catches over the last three years, but he has just five this season.
Riemersma left the game with a chest injury.