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Triumphant 49ers shut down Vikings in final 3 quarters

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- At the two-minute warning, coach Mike Nolan
gathered the San Francisco 49ers' defensive players and let them
have it.

"It's up to you right now to win this game," Nolan said.
"It's on you right now. I'm not calling any timeouts, not saving
any time. Guys, it'll go down to the very last play. It's on you."

To the surprise of everybody who wasn't wearing the 49ers'
throwback uniforms Sunday, a much-maligned defense proved capable
of lifting that burden.

Joe Nedney kicked his third field goal with 7:15 to play, and
San Francisco shut out the Minnesota Vikings in the final three
quarters of a 9-3 victory.

Thanks to Nedney's strong leg -- and his lobbying efforts, which
helped San Francisco to get a second shot at its final field goal --
the 49ers (3-5) had just enough offense to back a shocking
performance by their defense, which had allowed 150 points in its
last four games.

San Francisco managed just 133 total yards with its own
miserable offense, but got cohesive play from the same unit that
gave up 41 points by halftime last week at Chicago. The Niners
simplified their game plan and hung on, stopping Minnesota's final
drive with 1:04 left.

"Statistics are important, but they don't say everything about
you," linebacker Brandon Moore said. "Nobody is going to come out
of the stands and help us win a game. It's going to have to come
from us."

Alex Smith passed for just 105 yards and Frank Gore rushed for
only 41 as San Francisco hung on for its eighth straight home
victory since 1988 over the Vikings (4-4), who'll be shaking their
heads all the way back to the Twin Cities after failing to mount
any significant offensive attack.

Brad Johnson passed for 136 yards but made three turnovers for
the Vikings, whose final drive ended when Troy Williamson dropped
an on-target pass on third down before Mark Roman and Shawntae
Spencer prevented Bethel Johnson from catching a desperate pass at
the goal line.

With just 238 total yards and a host of dropped passes and
mistakes, Minnesota showed every negative effect of its injury
problems and a short week of preparation after Monday night's loss
to New England.

But count Johnson among those shocked by the 49ers' sudden
defensive acumen.

"They've been thrashed in different areas, and they changed it
up, played vanilla, played to their strengths," Johnson said. "If
we don't convert on third downs or are not effective on first
downs, it's going to cost us and that's what happened."

Nedney hit field goals from 25 and 30 yards before nailing a
51-yarder -- but only after he wheedled another try.

Flags flew during his first attempt, and referee Ed Hochuli
initially called a delay-of-game penalty that would have taken San
Francisco out of field-goal range. But Hochuli picked up his flag
after Nedney vocally explained that the play clock had been reset
erroneously, arguing loudly enough to be picked up on Hochuli's
microphone.

Nedney then made the kick, and San Francisco's defense did the
rest. While the 49ers felt Hochuli got the call right, the Vikings
wondered why the play clock was reset.

"I was told that there's an NFL guy up there that runs the
clock, but it feels like home cooking to me," Minnesota coach Brad
Childress said.

Minnesota's offense was hesitant and muddled. Chester Taylor
rushed for 96 yards but couldn't break any big plays, while Johnson
followed up his three-interception benching last week with two
fumbles while being sacked and another interception on a tipped
pass.

After the clubs traded field goals in the first 17 minutes, San
Francisco got a break when Marques Douglas bulled through the line
and forced Johnson's fumble. Spencer returned it to the 21, but the
Niners settled for Nedney's second field goal.

The Vikings finally got a big play when Taylor turned a short
pass into a 65-yard touchdown rumble late in the scoreless third
quarter -- but Travis Taylor blocked Moore in the back, negating it.

That drive ended in San Francisco territory with Johnson's
second fumble, and the Niners drove for Nedney's third score.

Game notes
Smith met Joe Montana for the first time before the game on
Alumni Day. Montana, who usually shuns such events, even jokingly
re-enacted his famous "The Catch" pass to Dwight Clark at
halftime. ... Vikings FB Tony Richardson injured his hand, getting
X-rays after halftime. ... Ryan Longwell hit a 21-yard field goal
in the first quarter for Minnesota's only points.