George Seifert's knack for winning in San Francisco hasn't deserted him now that he's coaching the Carolina Panthers.
Carolina scored 24 second-quarter points and hung on to beat the 49ers 31-29 Sunday, stopping San Francisco's club-record 19-game home winning streak and giving Seifert the victory in his first meeting against the team that unceremoniously dumped him 2 1/2 years ago.
"It was an important, exciting win for Carolina," Seifert said. "I've got close ties with players and coaches and I've won and lost with guys over there. But with the way this game goes, you can be on another planet and not realize where you are. I'm about as spent as I've ever been."
"We have a way of making it interesting. I hope it gets us over the hump," Beuerlein said.
The Panthers withstood two 49ers' defensive scores, including Mark McMillian's 41-yard return off Tshimanga Biakabutuka's fourth-quarter fumble, and foiled the potential tying two-point conversion by pressuring Jeff Garcia into an incompletion after he threw an 11-yard TD pass to Jerry Rice with 1:28 left.
"It's always strange when you see a coach like George Seifert on the other sideline, but somehow you try to stay focused," Rice said. "After the game, I wanted to go congratulate him because we had some great times together and I wish him the bes."
It was San Francisco's first loss at home in 18 games under Steve Mariucci, who was brought in as Seifert's replacement before the 1997 season even though Seifert won two Super Bowls in eight years as 49ers coach.
"I don't care what you say. It was not just another game," said Walls, who played for Seifert in San Francisco and now Carolina. "These things have to be special, I'm sure for him, too. There is a special feeling in this locker room and part of it is that we beat the 49ers."
Seifert's 100th regular season victory came in San Francisco first home loss since the Seifert-coached 49ers lost 30-24 to the Panthers on Dec. 8, 1996.
"We have had a lot of barnburners during this streak and this was another. It just went the other way," Mariucci said.
The 49ers (3-3) played their third straight game without Steve Young, still bothered by the aftereffects of his fourth concussion in three years. There is no telling when or if the two-time NFL MVP will be cleared to play again.
"I don't know what the situation is with Steve and how that's going to turn out. Right now, Jeff is the man and we have to make plays for him," Rice said.
But Garcia, in his third career start, didn't always give them that chance and couldn't prevent San Francisco's first back-to-back losses since midway through the 1995 season. He led drives resulting in three field goals by Wade Richey but also overthrew Rice twice and Fred Beasley once while they were open in the end zone.
Said Mariucci: "It would have been nice if they could have played catch there."
Carolina (2-3) was trailing 9-3 when Beuerlein, who finished 23-of-36 for 300 yards with three interceptions, gave Carolina its first lead, hitting Jeffers on a crossing pattern for a 7-yard score miway through the second period.
Darnell Walker, beaten for three touchdowns in St. Louis last week and demoted from the starting lineup in favor of R.W. McQuarters, stepped in front of Eric Metcalf to intercept Beuerlein and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown and a 16-10 49ers lead.
But the Panthers then overtook San Francisco and pulled away, aided by San Francisco mistakes.
Michael Bates broke free on a 72-yard kickoff return and Beuerlein then hooked up with Muhammed for the score.
San Francisco resorted to some trickery to try to get back in the game but got burned instead. Sean Gilbert and Dean Wells foiled a halfback option play by sacking Charlie Garner and forcing a fumble that the Panthers recovered, leading to Walls' scoring catch.
Jeffers' second TD catch came after a third-quarter Carolina punt bounced and hit San Francisco's Reggie Givens. The muff was recovered by the Panthers' Donta Jones, and Beuerlein again teamed up again with Jeffers for a score.
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