"I think most guys would like to have the ball in their hands toward the end of the game," Detmer said. "For me, it's satisfying knowing we put that drive together. We had made mistakes, but we didn't let them stand in our way."
Detmer, also the holder for Richey, calmed the rookie kicker before the decisive field goal.
"He said, 'You see those big yellow posts? Just kick it right in between them,"' Richey said. "I just repeated to myself again and again and again that I was going to make it."
But Richey nearly became a goat when he botched a squib kick after his field goal, sending it only 17 yards before it was stopped by Anthony Johnson.
"(Johnson) made a great play on it," Richey said. "I didn't expect that to happen. It almost spoiled the moment."
The Panthers, who led by 16 points to start the game, advanced to the San Francisco 39 but Jhn Kasay's 57-yard field goal try fell short as time expired.
Carolina's Steve Beuerlein didn't buy the argument the 49ers lucked out.
"Give San Francisco credit," he said. "That team has been there and knows how to win close games. The 49ers are never lucky. They're a great ballclub."
| Raghib Ismail eludes Marquez Pope for a 16-yard gain in the second quarter. (AP) |
The 49ers (7-2) have won their last 13 regular-season games at home, including comeback wins this season over Indianapolis and the New York Jets.
Detmer, making his first start since joining San Francisco as a free agent, threw three interceptions in the first half and fumbled once. But he came back to throw touchdown passes of 36 and 5 yards to Terrell Owens and a 29-yarder to J.J. Stokes.
"It was mindset more than anything," he said of his improved play in the second half. "We mixed the pass and run well and started getting in a rhythm. We didn't feel they could stop us in the second half."
Young, ending a string of 24 consecutive starts, missed the game with an abdominal strain from the nine-sack pounding last week in Green Bay.
"I'll be back at full speed next week," Young said.
Beuerlein, who was 25-of-41 for 265 yards, threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Raghib Ismail. Kasay kicked field goals of 50, 42 and 41 yards and former 49ers fullback William Floyd had a 2-yard touchdown run that put Carolina (1-8) back on top after blowing their big lead.
Floyd's score, with 5:43 remaining, followed a 42-yard march by Carolina that began when Eric Davis recovered a fumble by Jerry Rice, San Francisco's sixth turnover in the game.
"I never felt we were out of the game, not even at the end. That's why it hurts so bad," Carolina tight end Wesley Walls said.
Detmer, making his first start since last November with Philadelphia, finished with 278 yards, completing 21 of 35 passes.
He and Owens were also at the center of a freak play before the go-ahead score to Stokes with 28 seconds left in the third quarter.
On third down, a blitzing Lenny McGill sacked Detmer, forcing a fumble that was recovered on the run by Les Miller. He tumbled to the ground, got back up and momentarily didn't realize he still hadn't been touched by a 49er.
When he started running again, Owens reached in and stripped the ball, returning it 13 yards to the Carolina 43.
Fivplays later, Detmer threw the scoring pass to Stokes and then completed a 2-point conversion pass to Owens.
San Francisco got on the board with Detmer's first scoring pass, a 36-yarder to Owens with 3:27 left in the second quarter.
And after San Francisco's defense forced Carolina to punt, the 49ers were on the move again as Detmer had four consecutive completions for 44 yards and scrambled for 10 more.
But with a first down at the Carolina 25, Detmer tried to force a pass to the well-covered Rice and Davis picked it off for the Panthers third interception of the day.
Detmer's first two interceptions led to 10 points for Carolina.
Tony Veland picked off an overthrown pass to Rice, leading to a 42-yard field goal by Kasay. Detmer also overthrew a pass to Marc Edwards and Jeff Brady intercepted. Three plays later, Beuerlein threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ismail.
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