San Francisco Examiner

Owens makes his mark
January 07, 2003
Of The Examiner Staff

Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens was everywhere on the field Sunday with a game-high nine catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns.

He also contributed a pair of critical 2-point conversions, a 25-yard pass to Tai Streets that set up San Francisco's second touchdown and some aggressive lobbying that led to coach Steve Mariucci's successful replay challenge in the 49ers' 39-38 NFC wild-card playoff victory over the New York Giants.

But maybe the most critical space he occupied was not a location on the field, but rather in the heads of the Giants.

Following San Francisco's final score, Owens mixed it up with New York strong safety Shaun Williams. The outburst was one in a series of skirmishes between the two -- and it drew offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties -- but its lasting significance was that it set the table for Williams' ejection a play later.

After Will Allen intercepted Jeff Garcia's attempted 2-point conversion, Owens was a bit overzealous while escorting the New York cornerback out of bounds. Williams, in his haste to retaliate, matched Owens' unnecessary roughness penalty with one of his own, then compounded it by throwing a punch at 49ers center Jeremy Newberry, which earned him an ejection.

"(The Giants) talked trash the whole game," said Owens, who ignored the taunts of Michael Strahan after his second TD. "I seldom said anything much at all until toward the end. Shaun Williams tried to get into my head the whole game. I never heard somebody curse and call me so many names in a ballgame. But I knew that was what they were going to do. I just kept my head and kept my composure."

That composure surfaced at halftime, when he delivered a fiery speech, and during the go-ahead drive, when he challenged his teammates in the huddle.

"I heard somebody ask who could make a play," he said. "I said I could. Then other guys chimed in. ... Time was on our side and we just had to take it one play at a time."

WARMUP WOES: Niners kicker Jeff Chandler started his day on the wrong foot -- literally.

Chandler, the rookie who inherited the job after the team released slumping Jose Cortez six weeks ago, sustained an ankle injury one hour before the game.

But Chandler was able to play after receiving an emergency treatment of ice followed by a massive tape job by trainers. Mariucci was so concerned that he asked first-year punter Bill LaFleur whether he could kick field goals.

The 49ers didn't need to resort to that, however. Chandler converted a 25-yard attempt in the fourth quarter and was able to handle the kickoff chores without much of a problem.

"I tried to rest some guys (against St. Louis) last week, but you can't protect guys during warmups," Mariucci said. "You gotta warm up. Jeff had to do it and he did a good job."

BRONSON RETURNS: Niners safety Zack Bronson, who returned Sunday after missing 11 weeks with a broken foot, was pulled from the game late in the fourth quarter after complaining of pain.

Mariucci didn't seem too concerned about Bronson's condition, saying: "I'm thinking he's going to be OK." Bronson was too elated to even discuss his injury. "It was great for the team to ... come back," he said. "That's what it's about."

NINERS' INJURY REPORT: Left tackle Derrick Deese (ankle) and right guard Ron Stone (ankle) aggravated their injuries and were unable to finish the game. Matt Willig replaced Deese and rookie Kyle Kosier finished for Stone. Mariucci said Deese's ankle, which has bothered most of the second half of the season, is of greater concern.

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