The Press Democrat

Faithful fans revel in unbelievable win
January 06, 2003
Football-crazed North Bay residents part of raucous Candlestick Park crowd



Tears of joy streamed down Barbara Elder's face as she hugged her husband, Dave, and a roar of celebration erupted from 66,318 comeback-crazed fans at Candlestick Park.

"I just kept telling everybody we were going to do it," Barbara Elder said, insisting she had not lost faith as the San Francisco 49ers fell behind by 24 points only to rally for a stunning victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.

"I'm hoarse from yelling," Napa resident Dave Elder said, giving his spouse credit for anticipating the heart-stopping game's final play.

"She said they were going to fumble the snap," he said, referring to the Giants' muffed field goal that could have turned the game around with no time left.

In an instant, the almost relentless roar that had cascaded across the stadium through a fourth quarter of ever-growing tension exploded into an even greater crescendo.

Fans who had been on their feet for the entire quarter screamed, hugged each other, spilled beers, gave each other high fives.

"Unbelievable," some shouted at the top of their lungs.

"Unbelievable," said others, their voices muffled as they shook their heads in relief -- or disbelief.

Santa Rosa resident Keith Christopherson said the turning point came in the third quarter when the 49ers, down 38-14, went to a no-huddle offense.

"It looked like the old Joe Montana days," said Christopherson. "They just started going down the field, bang, bang, bang."

Christopherson said the game ranked up there with the best.

"I've been going to these games for 30 years," he said. "It was the loudest I've ever heard it today. That place was wound up."

Windsor resident Leslie Sigler and her family -- husband Chris and children Patrick, 13, and Brittany, 20 -- had an excellent view of the final play from their seats two rows up from the end zone.

She said fans cheered when the Giants bobbled the attempted field goal, then fell silent when a referee's flag flew to the turf.

"All of a sudden, the Niners start jumping in the air and everyone in the stands followed suit," she said.

For longtime fans, who've followed the 49ers from the skids to Super Bowl victories, Sunday's thrill was one of the greatest ever.

"I think I'll be on an adrenaline rush for at least three or four days," said John Prouty of South San Francisco.

Back in the 1960s, Prouty's seats were up in the "nosebleed section," he said, three rows from the top of Candlestick's massive concrete bowl. He remembers the distant view of the field and the team's struggles, including a 2-12 season.

Prouty was as thrilled as anyone on the lower deck Sunday, but still not ready to proclaim it the best game ever.

"'The Catch' was the best," he said, referring to the Joe Montana to Dwight Clark TD that beat the Dallas Cowboys in January 1982 and ushered in the 49ers' Super Bowl era.

Barbara Elder had no such reservations. "Oh, this is the best game I've seen in my life," she said.

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