Mistakes sink Vikings again
San Francisco — (AP) Even when Joe Nedney's kicks weren't perfect, his lobbying was flawless in a surprising win for the San Francisco 49ers.
Nedney kicked his third field goal with 7:15 to play after convincing the officials to give him another chance, and San Francisco's maligned defense improbably shut out the Minnesota Vikings in the final three quarters of a 9-3 victory Sunday.
The 49ers (3-5) managed just 133 total yards in a miserable offensive performance, but still eked out their third home victory with outstanding defense from the same unit that gave up 41 points by halftime last week at Chicago.
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 Mark Roman and Shawntae Spencer prevented Bethel Johnson from catching a desperate pass at the goal line with 1:04 left. With just 238 total yards, Minnesota showed every negative effect of its injury problems and a short week of preparation after Monday night's loss to New England.
Nedney hit field goals from 25 and 30 yards before nailing a 52-yarder - but only after he wheedled another try.
Flags flew as he missed 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.
After giving up 150 points in the last four games, the Niners' defense suddenly looked impressive against Minnesota's hesitant, muddled attack. 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.
Nedney then executed a perfect surprise onside kick, but San Francisco couldn't capitalize with a first down. Minnesota also did nothing, managing just 106 yards in the first half against a team that has given up more than 367 per game this season.
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 linebacker Brandon Moore in the back, negating the play.
That drive ended in San Francisco territory with Johnson's second fumble, and the Niners drove for Nedney's third score.