SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—Tim Rattay’s winless 49ers faced a 16-point deficit with five minutes left. His top two receivers were hurting, and the opposing defense hadn’t allowed a touchdown in 13 quarters.
If Rattay wondered what Joe Montana might do in this situation, he could have asked the Hall of Famer sitting up in the stands. Instead, the most recent name in San Francisco’s elite quarterback lineage worked a little magic of his own.
Rattay threw two touchdown passes and got two 2-point conversions in the final 4:35, and Todd Peterson kicked a 32-yard field goal with 11:37 left in overtime of the 49ers’ 31-28 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Of all the improbabilities in San Francisco’s first victory after a winless preseason and an 0-4 start, Rattay’s cool in dire circumstances was the biggest. He finished 38-of-57 for a career-high 417 yards, 169 after the third quarter—and afterward, he claimed the outcome was never in doubt in his mind.
“We’re never out of it,” Rattay said. “Let’s say we’re down 18 points. You’ve just got to score two (touchdowns) and get an onside kick. … It was a little tougher than you’d like, but we pulled it out.”
Running a no-huddle offense with the flair he learned at run-and-gun Louisiana Tech, Rattay hit tight end Eric Johnson for a score with 4:35 left, then ran for the conversion.
“Tim is amazing in that (offense),” said Johnson, who had another great game with career-bests of 13 catches for 162 yards. “He reads the defenses and makes so many great calls. That’s really where he shines, where he’s at his best.”
After Arizona punted, the Niners mounted a 72-yard drive. Brandon Lloyd made a diving 23-yard TD catch with 1:07 left in regulation, then wrestled the ball away from two defenders for the tying conversion.
Lloyd nearly was forced to leave the game with a groin injury and cramps, while Johnson needed a pain-killing injection to play with his bruised ribs.
San Francisco won the overtime coin toss, and Rattay drove 47 more yards before Peterson easily made his third field goal.
While the 49ers celebrated, the Cardinals trudged off the field with a dead-man’s walk that’s been around this woebegone franchise much longer than coach Dennis Green.
“When you have been around the game a long time, you get some tough losses, and this ranks up there with ‘em,” Green said. “Any time that you go on the road, you have to continue playing. They made a lot of plays in the fourth quarter and in OT. They just didn’t miss any plays.”
Josh McCown threw his first three touchdown passes of the season, but the Cardinals’ once-sturdy defense was shredded on the 49ers’ final three drives.
Rookie Larry Fitzgerald scored his first touchdown on a 24-yard catch with 8:19 left to give the Cardinals (1-4) their 16-point lead. Emmitt Smith also rushed for a fourth-quarter score, and Freddie Jones and Troy Hambrick caught scoring passes from McCown, who was 19-of-34 for 231 yards.
When Fitzgerald scored, the Candlestick fans who weren’t booing headed to the exits.
Smith rushed for 63 yards, a week after tying Walter Payton’s NFL record of 77 100-yard games. He left in the fourth quarter with a groin injury, but it wasn’t thought to be serious.
“What I feel physically is not comparable to what I feel about this loss,” Smith said. “What this team is capable of doing and where we want to go, this is one of the worst losses so far. I’d rather take five turnovers and get blown out than something like we had today.”
The 49ers’ victory was tainted by the loss of All-Pro linebacker Julian Peterson, who’s out for the season after tearing his Achilles’ tendon late in the first quarter.
Peterson, a two-time Pro Bowl player and the heart of San Francisco’s defense, was hurt on a low block by Arizona’s L.J. Shelton. He left the field on a cart, returning in street clothes and on crutches in the second half.
Peterson was standing on the bench, waving a towel over his head as the 49ers made their tying drive. He also went to midfield for the overtime coin toss, but was told by the referee to get lost.
“I think it was because I looked better than anyone out there on the field,” Peterson said with a grin.
The 49ers also lost backup FB Jasen Isom to a torn Achilles’ tendon. … Johnson’s 162 yards set a team record for tight ends. … Hambrick’s TD catch was the first of his career.