CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It might be a stretch, but all these Jeff Garcia-led comebacks are
earning the San Francisco quarterback comparisons to Joe Montana.
Garcia threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens and made a 2-point conversion
with 1 second left in regulation. Then he helped set up Jose Cortez's 26-yard field goal that
lifted San Francisco to a 25-22 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.
The rally drew postgame comparisons to Montana, the Hall of Fame quarterback known for
his numerous late-game heroics and four Super Bowl titles.
``It's obviously a compliment anytime you're mentioned in the same sentence with Joe
Montana. I idolized the guy and saw him do so many great things for the 49ers,'' said
Garcia. ``As far as coming back and winning games late, it was something that he was
known for, and to be mentioned among that is a great honor.''
It was the fourth time this season Garcia rallied San Francisco (7-2) to either win or tie a
game in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. The 49ers are 3-1 in overtime in 2001
and are starting to believe Garcia will pull them through every time.
``Jeff has really come into his own since stepping in for us,'' said J.J. Stokes, who caught
two touchdown passes. ``He's getting better every day and he's one of the tops in the
league right now. I really think the sky's the limit for him, and for us with him.''
The rally gave the 49ers a season-sweep over the Panthers (1-9), dropping Carolina coach
George Seifert to 4-2 against the team he led to two Super Bowl titles. It was Carolina's
ninth straight loss.
Seifert said Carolina's confidence is gone.
`I think it's once again shattered in a tough, close game,'' Seifert said. ``They played very
hard today and there's no words to describe the feeling.''
For a moment, it looked like Seifert still had San Francisco's number.
Carolina was clinging to a 19-14 lead and looking for a stop when former 49er Brenston
Buckner stepped in front of Garcia's pass at the 42-yard line for his first interception of the
He returned it to the 14, setting up John Kasay's third field goal, a 28-yarder with 1:52 left
for a 22-14 lead.
Garcia then began the comeback, marching the 49ers 66 yards on 11 plays, converting a
fourth-and-4 at the Carolina 46.
From the 7, Garcia hit Owens on a fade in the right corner of the end zone to make it
22-20. With one tick left on the clock, he tossed a pass to rookie tight end Eric Johnson,
who was one step inside the end zone, sending the game into overtime.
``Jeff is so calm in those situations, he never panics and knows we're all going to help him
make the plays,'' Owens said.
The 49ers won the toss in overtime and Garcia again took them on a 66-yard drive. He
completed passes of 8 and 15 yards to Owens to set up Cortez's winning kick.
Garcia finished 34-for-54 for 305 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. He never
panicked and barely showed any emotion on the field.
``I'm a very mellow person as is, and I learned over my years that getting too excited on
the field was physically draining,'' Garcia said. ``My controlling that, I've learned that when
it comes down to the end of the game I still have something left.''
Chris Weinke, who missed last week's game and was slowed most of this week with a sore
throwing shoulder, returned and helped the Panthers capitalize early. Fred Beasley fumbled
on San Francisco's first possession and Weinke turned the turnover into a 13-yard
touchdown pass to Richard Huntley.
Carolina held a 13-7 lead until Garcia finally got San Francisco's offense moving late in the
third quarter. A 79-yard drive ended on a 9-yard TD pass to Stokes.
Garcia was moving the Niners again at the start of the fourth period when he made his first
mistake. Carolina's Doug Evans dived for a low pass and got his league-leading eighth
interception of the season at the 46-yard line.
Carolina used the turnover to retake the lead, 19-14. Weinke threw his second touchdown,
a 24-yard pass to Wesley Walls. But the 2-point conversion pass failed.
NOTES: San Francisco defensive tackle Bryant Young dislocated his finger in the first
quarter, but continued to play. ... Carolina receiver Muhsin Muhammad did not play in the
second half because of a shoulder sprain. ... Weinke's first-quarter TD pass to Huntley was
his first since Oct. 21 and Huntley's first score this season. ... The two-game series has
been swept every year since 1997.