49ers 16, Giants 13

About the only thing that lived up to the billing in the NFL's rare weeknight season opener was the final score.

The San Francisco 49ers came into the game as 3-point favorites and won 16-13, beating the New York Giants on Thursday on Jose Cortez's 36-yard field goal with 6 seconds left.

``We made enough plays to win tonight, but we can't afford to play like that every single week because we won't be coming out with wins,'' 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia said.

Garcia was shackled most of the night before launching the winning drive, throwing a 33-yard pass to Terrell Owens on the first play after New York scored the tying TD.

The Giants joined San Francisco in a game that for most of the night looked like an episode of ``Football Follies.''

Owens, one of the NFL's top receivers, had just three catches for 8 yards before the big catch, and dropped a couple in the first half.

New York quarterback Kerry Collins threw for 342 yards but also had three passes intercepted and couldn't get the Giants into the end zone until 1:55 was left. Garcia threw one interception and had only 160 yards passing - 115 before the final drive.

``We just made critical mistakes,'' Collins said. ``If you make them against a good football team, they come back to bite you.''

The game, played six days before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, was preceded by a Times Square concert in New York during the day. At the game, Jon Bon Jovi performed a short reprise of his concert act.

The ESPN telecast seemed appropriate for a conference championship. The network's halftime show featured a chat on an on-field set among commentators from each of the four networks that televise NFL games - John Madden (ABC), Phil Simms (CBS), Terry Bradshaw (Fox) and Chris Berman (ESPN).

That might have been a better show than the first half, which ended with New York taking a 6-3 lead on Matt Bryant's 33-yard field goal as time expired.

Some of it indeed was good defense.

San Francisco stuffed New York's running game - the Giants ran for just 43 yards on 22 carries, an average under 2 per try.

The New York secondary forced Garcia to throw short swing passes. The San Francisco quarterback wasn't sacked all night but was constantly under pressure, thrown off his rhythm by Michael Strahan, Keith Hamilton and Michael Barrow. Offensive tackle Mike Rosenthal blocked Cortez' field goal attempt on the first series.

The second half started much the same way - there was only one first down by the two teams combined in the first four series.

The 49ers finally got the big play they needed late in a the third quarter when Kevan Barlow took a short pass from Garcia, broke several tackles and took the ball 29 yards to the New York 5. Two plays later, after a penalty set the 49ers back to the 9, Garcia flipped the ball to Garrison Hearst, who slipped by Barrow and dived to the goal line, just getting the ball over.

Cortez' 33-yard field goal made it 13-6 midway through the fourth quarter before the Giants got going, moving 77 yards in 14 plays to tie the game on Tiki Barber's 1-yard sweep. That drive was marked by a 23-yard pass on third-and-16 from their own 17 to Amani Toomer, who finished with nine catches for 134 yards.

But San Francisco finally did what it couldn't do all game - throw deep and accurately.

``We feel comfortable in those situations,'' tight end Eric Johnson said. ``We felt we had a big advantage, even after they tied the game. We know we can win that way, even on the road.''

After Garcia found Owens, he hit J.J. Stokes for 12 yards. Then it was just a matter of running down the clock and getting Cortez in the middle of the field for the winning kick.

``We knew their game plan was to take me out of the game,'' Owens said. ``They did. But I got the one that counted.''