The Oakland Tribune

Plummer endures after poor 1st half
January 06, 2003
By Dave Newhouse STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO -- Ahmed Plummer wanted this to be a special time in his life. His alma mater, Ohio State University, had just won the national championship. Now Plummer wanted to push the San Francisco 49ers closer to a Super Bowl.

But there was one obstacle in his path Sunday: Amani Toomer, a product of Ohio State's archrival, the University of Michigan.

Plummer, a very good cornerback, had an embarrassing first half defending Toomer, the New York Giants' standout wide receiver from De La Salle High School.

By intermission, Toomer had five catches for 68 yards and three touchdowns as the Giants held a 28-14 lead. Plummer was crestfallen, but his 49ers teammates lifted his crushed spirits.

"Everybody told me that they believed in me," he said. "Nobody came and criticized. Nobody was negative, just real positive. It's so easy to lose your confidence, and I was on the verge."

Life grew worse for the 49ers in the second half as the Giants increased their lead to 38-14. By then, Plummer had turned around his approach to covering Toomer.

"The first half, I had trouble figuring out how to play him," said Plummer, a third-year pro. "He's a crafty receiver. At the end, I just had to play my game. I told myself, 'If he makes a play, he makes a play.'"

Toomer didn't stop annoying Plummer in the second half. Toomer wound up with eight receptions for 136 yards as current De La Salle players, honored at halftime Sunday for their amazing 138-game victory streak, watched an alumnus with awe.

But Toomer didn't score again as Plummer grew stronger in spite of a nagging groin pull that affected his coverage -- an injury he refused to use as an alibi. He was injured Dec. 8 in Dallas, then sat out the next game against Green Bay.

"It's one of those things you have to play through," he said. "It wasn't bothering me to the point where I couldn't play. The only way it can get better is with some rest, but I can't think about that because we already had (cornerback) Jason (Webster) out (with a sprained ankle)."

Plummer's resolve is strong because he made a play late in the game that was critical in the 49ers' amazing 39-38 comeback win.

Giants quarterback Kerry Collins tested Plummer once more on a deep route to Toomer. This time, Plummer stepped inside Toomer and appeared to intercept the pass around the 49ers' 15. The two tumbled to the turf when the ball popped out of Plummer's grasp -- possibly pulled out by Toomer. The pass was ruled incomplete.

"I thought he had the pick," 49ers coach Steve Mariucci said. "I thought someone upstairs would take a look. It's a big game, a big play. Take five seconds and look at it."

Although the 49ers triumphed, Plummer had a difficult time trying to replay the near-interception in his mind.

"I thought I had it, but everything was a blur," he said. "I heard a whistle. I thought I heard a whistle. (Toomer) was still trying to get the ball out. It's a wild game when you get to the playoffs."

Few playoff games, though, are as wild as Sunday's at Candlestick Point. And after it finally ended, Plummer dropped to his knees.

"I released everything, my emotions," he said. "When the game was over, I knew we'd get another chance next week."

In Tampa Bay on Sunday, to be exact.

"It's been a good week," Plummer said. "Ohio State won, and we won."

And with that, he took a bite out of an energy bar. Well, victories like those two, dripping with drama, do sap one's energy.

Tell us what you think on the new 49ers Clubhouse message board.