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Charger Victory Taken to Heart

They come back from 10-point deficit in fourth quarter and beat 49ers in overtime, 20-17.

November 18, 2002|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — On a 40-yard field goal by Steve Christie, the San Diego Chargers beat the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17, in overtime Sunday, a come-from-behind victory before 67,161 at Qualcomm Stadium.

Winning for the first time in three games, the Chargers are 7-3 and tied with the Denver Broncos for first place in the AFC West.

The 49ers (7-3), who had won three in a row, remain in first place in the NFC West.

"If ever there was a question about this team's heart, it can be dispelled," said Charger Coach Marty Schottenheimer.

Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson had caused a stir last week by questioning his teammates' perseverance after a loss to the St. Louis Rams. After beating the 49ers, he agreed with his coach that such observations are now passe.

"We're back," said Tomlinson. "Determination and heart is what this team had."

With 88 yards in 24 carries, Tomlinson became the first Charger in team history to gain 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons. He also caught eight passes for 57 yards.

Trailing, 17-7, after three quarters, the Chargers got a 36-yard field goal from Christie and then tied the score with 35 seconds remaining in regulation on a one-yard pass from Drew Brees to fullback Fred McCrary.

"It was a roller-coaster out there," Charger linebacker Junior Seau said.

If Christie was the hero, 49er kicker Jose Cortez was the goat.

On the 49ers' first possession of overtime, Cortez shanked a 41-yard attempt wide right.

It was Cortez's fourth miss in three weeks.

"I think his confidence is OK," 49er Coach Steve Mariucci said. "Who knows what goes on inside one's head.... We certainly needed his field goal today."

Given a reprieve, Brees moved the Chargers 47 yards in eight plays, including a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Tim Dwight and a 18-yarder to wide receiver Eric Parker that set the stage for Christie's game-winner.

Christie, who had a 44-yard attempt blocked in the second quarter, has kicked eight field goals in overtime, the second most in NFL history, trailing only Jim Breech, who had nine.

"The last time I was really nervous was when I kicked an overtime field goal in my rookie year," said Christie, a 13-year NFL veteran.

Brees was 29 for 50 for 336 yards, including touchdown passes to McCrary and a four-yarder to wide receiver Reche Caldwell to give the Chargers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Wide receiver Curtis Conway caught seven passes for 152 yards.

The 49ers scored on a 32-yard pass play from Jeff Garcia to wide receiver Terrell Owens in the second quarter and a 76-yard pass from Garcia to Owens in the third. Cortez kicked a 24-yard field goal to give the 49ers their largest lead.

Garcia completed 25 of 43 passes for 337 yards.

The Chargers missed two touchdown opportunities, one when Brees was intercepted in the end zone, another when a Conway touchdown was called back because he had stepped out of bounds before catching the ball.

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