Contra Costa Times

Plummer happy to see long day come to an end
January 06, 2003
By Ann Tatko

SAN FRANCISCO - The moment the yellow flag came out of the official's pocket, 49ers cornerback Ahmed Plummer dropped to one knee.

The New York Giants had just botched a last-second field goal and received a penalty for an ineligible player downfield. For Plummer, one thought immediately penetrated through the din of 60,000-plus screaming fans at Candlestick Park and past the adrenaline of the 49ers' improbable 39-38 comeback win in Sunday's wild-card playoff game.

"Thank the Lord," Plummer later recalled thinking, "I get another chance to play one of these great games."

Plummer almost didn't get another chance, largely because of what he called the worst first-half performance of his career.

Nine times the Giants threw passes in his direction. Nine times they went for completions. Three times they went for touchdowns.

He broke up only one pass the entire game, but it turned out to be a huge play, coming with 29 seconds remaining and the Giants marching toward a potential game-winning field goal.

Yet, even his best play of the game didn't go exactly his way.

Giants quarterback Kerry Collins threw a 10-yard pass to Amani Toomer, the same receiver who already had beaten Plummer seven times for 131 yards.

This time, when Plummer went up, he made a play for the ball and came down with what appeared to be an interception. But the officials saw Toomer jar the ball loose as the players hit the ground and ruled it an incomplete pass.

"I felt like I had it," Plummer said. "We rolled around and he was still trying to get the ball out. I thought I heard a whistle."

Plummer shrugged.

"It didn't go my way," he said, "but I still had to play."

That had become like a mantra for Plummer throughout the game.

With rookie Mike Rumph starting in place of injured right cornerback Jason Webster (sprained ankle), Plummer took on responsibility for shadowing Toomer. And he struggled from the beginning.

He gave up catches of 18 and 10 yards to Toomer on the Giants' first scoring drive, then gave up a 12-yard touchdown catch to Toomer.

Although he recently returned from a groin injury, Plummer wouldn't use that as an excuse.

"I just screwed up in the beginning, and they made some good plays also," Plummer said. "When I was struggling, it was pretty hard, especially in a crucial game like this."

It kept getting harder for Plummer as the first half wore on. He gave up two more touchdowns -- on passes of 8 and 24 yards to Toomer -- in the final 2:49.

Toomer finished the game with eight catches for 136 yards.

Plummer credited his teammates for getting him through the dismal first half.

"We've all been there," Rumph said. "Every time he made plays, I would just tap him on the shoulder and give him that look like, you got to keep playing."

And when it was all over, as he saw Giants guard Rich Seubert get called for being downfield on holder Matt Allen's desperation pass, Plummer dropped to his knee.

It wasn't just because he felt relief, Plummer said. He also felt vindication.

"I felt a whole lot, really," Plummer said. "In a game like this, your emotions are so back and forth. When reality finally sets in, that's when you're able to release all the things inside you."

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