The San Francisco 49ers' star not only caught two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter -- including the game-winner with 12 seconds left -- he rubbed it in with his words and his wardrobe after a 31-27 victory Sunday that clinched the NFC West title.
|Garrison Hearst (20) is hammered by Cowboys DL Michael Myers. (AP)|
"The play worked to perfection," said Garcia, who went 36-of-55 for 276 yards with no interceptions and three TDs, all in the fourth quarter. Garcia also led his team in rushing with 50 yards, including a 21-yard TD run.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer wasn't surprised the 49ers went to Owens with the game on the line. But he was upset his players weren't as aware.
"My 10-year-old daughter knew it was going to 81," Zimmer said.
Two years after punctuating a pair of touchdowns with celebrations at the Cowboys' midfield logo, Owens showed up at Texas Stadium wearing a leather jacket, leather pants and shoes all colored Cowboys blue.
Why? "Because I knew all eyes were going to be on me," he said.
Owens relished living up to his expectations.
"It's kind of like Michael Jordan taking the last shot at the end of the game," he said.
While the 49ers went from a possible third loss in four games to winning their first division title in five years, the Cowboys (5-8) lost their shot at their first three-game winning streak since they started the 1999 season 3-0.
It was Dallas' seventh loss when tied or leading in the fourth quarter.
"We'll deal with it the same way we have all year: We'll go back to the drawing board," said Emmitt Smith, who had 66 yards on 19 carries, including the 4,000th of his career. He also scored two TDs, his first multiple touchdown game since November 1999.
San Francisco lost running back Garrison Hearst to a hyperextended left knee in the second quarter. Hearst watched the rest of the game from the bench, but coach Steve Mariucci said he'll be listed as probable for next week's home game against Green Bay.
The 49ers came in knowing they could win the division if St. Louis lost; the Rams were beaten 49-10 loss in Kansas City.
Yet San Francisco couldn't pull away, missing two field goals, fumbling a kickoff and getting a punt blocked. Those gaffes led to Dallas' first 13 points.
Things got interesting when Owens made a juggling catch for a 3-yard touchdown pass early in the fourth, putting the 49ers up 17-13.
Woodrow Dantzler put Dallas back ahead when he returned the ensuing kickoff 84 yards for a touchdown, making an amazing sideline dance to stay in bounds. Smith then scored to make it 27-17 with 6:56 to go.
Garcia answered with a four-play, four-completion drive that ended with a 23-yard strike to Tai Streets. After Smith was stuffed on third-and-1 at the 28, Dallas' Billy Cundiff missed a 47-yard field goal.
Garcia took over again at his 37 with 2:16 left, and the 2-minute warning his only sure way of stopping the clock. He went 6-of-10, including a spike, and twice ran for first downs.
"It was not a perfect offensive game," Garcia said. "But everyone stepped up and made plays."
That includes Owens, who needed time to get rolling.
He was shut out in the first quarter, and in the second he was so upset about a third-down incompletion not going to him that he looked at the bench with his arms out and palms up; Cowboys safety Roy Williams stood a few yards behind him and mimicked the gesture.
In the third, Owens gave up on a deep pass that was headed way out of bounds. He walked by the 49ers' sideline on his way back to the huddle and appeared to exchange words with Mariucci.
But when the game got tight, Owens kept getting loose. He had six of his 12 catches and 61 of his 123 yards in the fourth quarter. And neither of his TD celebrations were highlight-worthy.
On the first, he struck a statue-like pose, then pounded the ball on a wooden box against the stands. He followed the second with nothing more dramatic than bumping chests mid-air with Garcia.
"I wasn't going to do anything -- unless you were going to pay my fine," he said. "It's nice to have the last laugh."
- Owens had two TD catches for the fifth time this season, two shy of the NFL record. His 12 TD catches lead the NFC.
- This was the sixth straight non-playoff meeting between the teams, the longest in their 30-game series history. It also was their third straight at Texas Stadium.
- Dallas' Roy Williams made nine tackles, two more on special teams and forced a fumble.
The Associated Press News Service
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