SAN FRANCISCO (Aug. 26, 2005) -- Thomas Herrion still was in the San Francisco 49ers' hearts, and his number was on the backs of their helmets when they went back to work.
Joe Nedney kicked three field goals against his former Tennessee teammates, including the winning 24-yarder with 2:09 left in overtime, and the 49ers beat the Titans 16-13 in San Francisco's first game since Herrion's death.
Maurice Hicks atoned for a fumble late in regulation with 44 total yards on the 49ers' winning 80-yard drive led by No. 1 draft pick Alex Smith -- but the result meant even less than usual in the meaningless preseason.
Six days after Herrion collapsed in the locker room and died following a game in Denver, the Niners returned to the field in a fairly somber mood, judging by the pregame warmups. Candlestick Park was subdued before the game, partly because the stadium was only half-full.
"It was real emotional," said Tim Rattay, who passed for 131 yards. "We really thought about him, and when we kneeled down after the game, it really hit me again. It meant a lot to get this win."
The Niners stayed in the locker room while the club presented a video tribute to Herrion on the scoreboard, followed by a moment of silence. The team wore black, football-shaped decals bearing Herrion's No. 72 on the backs of their helmets.
"It was intense," right tackle Kwame Harris said. "We wanted to make sure that the events of last week were not forgotten, and that we are playing for Thomas."
The entire offensive line and most of the 49ers' coaches will attend Herrion's funeral in Fort Worth, Texas, on Aug. 27.
Adam "Pacman" Jones muffed two punts and struggled at cornerback in his first NFL action for the Titans, who played fairly well on both sides of the ball, but missed a chance to win in regulation.
After Rob Bironas kicked a tying field goal for Tennessee with 1:47 to play, Hicks caught a pass and fumbled while being tackled by three Titans with 56 seconds left.
Billy Volek, who went 13-for-17 for 140 yards, drove Tennessee into scoring position. But Jay Taylor, signed two days earlier to compete with Bironas, barely missed a 41-yard field goal as time expired.
"The challenge now, without looking at a watch, is that we know what time it is," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said at 11 p.m. PT. "We're going to lose a day of work. This is a team that just played five quarters, and it's a tired team."
Bironas made a 44-yard field goal in the second quarter, but Nedney, who was with the Titans from 2001-04, looked strong again for San Francisco. The Bay Area native missed all but one game of the past two seasons in Tennessee with leg injuries. He also hit field goals from 39 and 23 yards in regulation time.
Kevan Barlow rushed for an early score with the Niners' first-team offense, which moved slightly better with Rattay in charge. The veteran reclaimed his starting job earlier in the week from Smith, who didn't play until the final minutes of the third quarter against Tennessee.
Smith, who struggled mightily in his first two NFL games, then fumbled on his first drive while getting dropped by Bo Schobel. The Titans scored on the next play, Volek hitting Courtney Roby for 45 yards.
Steve McNair went 10-for-16 for 62 yards with an interception while playing the first half for Tennessee, and Chris Brown rushed for 72 yards on only 11 attempts.
McNair fumbled the snap early in the Titans' second offensive series, and Marques Douglas recovered. The Niners quickly drove 37 yards, with Barlow scoring from the 10.
Jones, who ended his contentious holdout Aug. 22, had an eventful day as the Titans' punt returner. He brought back a bouncing punt 17 yards in the second quarter -- but the sixth overall pick muffed a kick late in the first half, setting up Nedney's 39-yarder with 14 seconds left.
Jones then muffed the first punt of the third quarter, but recovered it. The Titans hope he'll play well enough to earn a belated starting spot at cornerback, but the rookie was turned the wrong way when Arnaz Battle slipped in front of him for a 20-yard gain on Jones' first series.
"It was frustrating getting him lined up (to receive punts) in the wind ... and then he did take his eye off the one he dropped (in the second quarter)," Fisher said. "He'll learn from his mistakes."
- Tennessee safety Tank Williams and WR Tyrone Calico played for the first time since knee surgery last year.
- The 49ers used No. 4 QB Cody Pickett as a special-teams blocker on kick returns. "I want to keep all the good football players we have," coach Mike Nolan said. "I'm trying to look for a way to keep him any way I can."
The Associated Press News Service
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