Rattay, Owens terrorize Pittsburgh secondary

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 18, 2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - His catches were beautiful. His blocking was gritty. Terrell Owens thrived in the spotlight again - and he even kept his pens in his socks.

Owens had a 61-yard touchdown catch among his eight receptions for 155 yards, and Tim Rattay went 21-of-27 for 254 yards in the 49ers' 30-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.

Helped by two downfield blocks by Owens, Kevan Barlow rushed for a 78-yard score in the third quarter to break open San Francisco's fourth straight home victory.

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Fullback Fred Beasley also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from Rattay, who added more spice to the 49ers' quarterback controversy with a second straight near-flawless performance in place of injured Pro Bowler Jeff Garcia. Former Steelers kicker Todd Peterson also made three field goals.

In the teams' first meeting since a rain-soaked game at Candlestick in 1999, San Francisco (5-5) dominated the matchup of defending division champions who have struggled so far this season.

Tommy Maddox was 25-of-44 for 327 yards for Pittsburgh (3-7), which lost its sixth in seven games thanks to key defensive errors and Antwaan Randle El's fumble on a kickoff return, which allowed San Francisco to score two touchdowns in 14 seconds.

But the Niners' victory was sparked by Owens, who had the best game of his up-and-down season. Fully aware of being on a prime-time stage, the would-be actor and basketball star got San Francisco started with one of the big plays he has provided only sparingly this fall.

On the third play of the Niners' second drive, Rattay lofted a perfect pass down the left sideline. Owens accelerated away from cornerback Chad Scott, stopped at the goal line and did a slow pirouette into the end zone before breaking into a dance.

It was all rather tame compared to his celebration in the 49ers' Monday night victory over Seattle last season, when Owens pulled a pen from his sock and autographed the ball for his financial adviser. No doubt, Owens disappointed the fan wearing a No. 81 jersey and a knit cap with a bunch of Sharpie pens dangling from it.

The Steelers periodically moved the ball well with inventive play-calling - but at other times, their execution was equally inventive. Pittsburgh made too many small mistakes, including a 7-yard loss on a pass by Randle El and a 10-yard setback on a double reverse.

Randle El had a 32-yard TD catch in the fourth. Though Pittsburgh is in one of the most dismal stretches of coach Bill Cowher's 12 seasons, the Steelers still are just two games out of first place in the AFC North.

The 49ers retired Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott's jersey at halftime, and at times their defense seemed to be paying tribute to one of football's hardest hitters with another solid performance.

Niners safety Tony Parrish intercepted a tipped pass early in the second quarter and returned it 48 yards, setting up a 32-yard field goal for Peterson, who began last season as the Steelers' kicker.

After gaining just 125 yards in the first half, Pittsburgh made a 79-yard drive to open the third quarter. Jerome Bettis scored on a 1-yard plunge.

But the 49ers answered with Barlow's fantastic run through the line, back across the field and down San Francisco's sideline. Owens paved the way, blocking two defensive backs in the final 15 yards of the longest run of Barlow's career.

Randle El then fumbled the ensuing kickoff - and on the next play, Rattay made another perfect throw down the sideline to Beasley. The fullback made a tough catch and dove across the goal line to give San Francisco a 24-7 lead.

Barlow was held out of the fourth quarter with a concussion, though he remained on the 49ers' sideline.