Lions send San Francisco to first loss of season

The Associated Press

PONTIAC, Mich. The Detroit Lions, winless entering the game and some fans calling for Coach Wayne Fontes' dismissal, delivered the biggest jolt of the NFL season last night.

They beat the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers 27-24 when Doug Brien missed a 41-yard field goal as time expired, the ball bouncing off the right upright.

In sending the 49ers to their first loss of the season, Jason Hanson kicked the winning 32-yard field goal with 1:12 left and the Lions prevailed, astoundingly, without a big game from Barry Sanders.

Detroit began the winning drive on its 26 with no timeouts left. Scott Mitchell hit Herman Moore for 12 yards, Brett Perriman for 22 and Aubrey Matthews for 11. That moved the Lions to the 49ers' 16.

Mitchell's sneak on third-and-1 was short by inches. But instead of going for the field goal, with 2:46 remaining, Fontes signaled Mitchell to go for it again. This time he slid off right guard David Lutz for 2 yards.

The Lions (1-3) then ran Sanders into the line three times, each for no gain, and Hanson came on for the winner.

Before the go-ahead field goal, the 49ers had used their last timeout. But with the game clock running, the Lions snapped the ball for Hanson's kick with more than 10 seconds left on the play clock, giving the 49ers additional precious seconds to move downfield for their last drive.

Then Steve Young, who has directed so many winning drives for the 49ers, took his turn. Out of timeouts, he marched the 49ers (3-1) from their own 20 to the Lions' 22 to set up Brien's try.

Young completed 27 of 44 passes for 349 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception. Jerry Rice had 11 catches for 181 yards. It was Rice's 51st 100-yard game, breaking Don Maynard's NFL record.

Mitchell, taking up the slack when the 49ers' defense stacked up to stop Sanders, completed 28 of 42 for 291 yards and a TD. Mitchell also ran for one. Sanders was held to 24 yards on 17 carries.

Mitchell's 20-yard touchdown pass to Moore, followed by Mitchell's pass to Perriman for the 2-point conversion, gave Detroit a 24-17 lead with 10:41 left in the fourth quarter. But the Lions used their third and final timeout just before the conversion.

But the 49ers, with Young hitting 4 of 5 for 72 yards, including a 32-yard toss to Rice, tied it 24-24 on a 26-yard touchdown toss from Young to John Taylor with 5:53 remaining.

Fontes has been the target for frustrated fans, and last night's upset could not have been a more welcome tonic.

''I'm like a big buck out in the field,'' Fontes said leading to the game. ''I'm dodging those bullets ... They want my rack on the wall. But I told my team to be strong. I'll keep dodging until they hit me. If it happens, it happens. But I'll go down fighting.''

The Lions looked like a carbon copy of the 49ers, using quick, short passes to keep the offense moving; keeping Sanders busy mostly as a decoy. Detroit tight ends, who had only three catches between them during the first three games, had six in the first half alone.

After Brien missed a 47-yard field goal attempt, Mitchell hit 7 of 10 passes for 56 yards, four of them to tight ends, to set up Hanson's 30-yard field goal with 2:26 left in the first quarter. It was the first time the 49ers had been scored upon in the first quarter this season.

Chris Spielman picked off Young's pass intended for Brent Jones and Detroit made it 10-0 on Mitchell's 1-yard sneak early in the second.

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