Pickett, Niners snap five-game losing skid

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Although both teams played without their top quarterbacks, the 49ers' fourth-string special teams cowboy was better than the Buccaneers' top backup when it mattered most.

Cody Pickett led his first NFL scoring drive a few moments after tackling a punt returner and San Francisco snapped a five-game losing streak with a 15-10 win over punchless Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Joe Nedney kicked five field goals, including a 28-yarder with 1:56 left to end the deciding drive led by Pickett, who performed admirably in the final 11 minutes while Ken Dorsey and Alex Smith
were out with injuries.

Pickett, the fourth-stringer before Tim Rattay was traded to Tampa Bay last week, took a job on special teams this season to get on the field. But when the 49ers got down to their last quarterback, Pickett literally wore two hats -- and though Chris Simms only had one helmet, he couldn't stop the 49ers from equaling last season's win total.

"You never know if you're going to play, but I had both of my helmets ready," Pickett said. "I was only a small part of this one, but hopefully I gave us a boost there at the end."

Pickett, who qualified for three National Rodeo Finals as a teen, has endeared himself to his teammates with his special teams adventures. He seems good at it, too. In fact, he
tackled punt returner Mark Jones 32 seconds before he stepped behind center.

"I was running out on the field, and I saw Ken limping off," Pickett said. "I knew I might need my other helmet."

That's the one with the wireless connection to offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy; only quarterbacks are allowed to wear those helmets. After Dorsey sprained his left ankle, Pickett marched the Niners 42 yards in 11 plays to Nedney's last field goal -- and the crowd, realizing the crazy situation, chanted "Cody! Cody!"

The 49ers' defense shut down Tampa two more times to clinch it. San Francisco won with just 208 yards of offense, 101 yards rushing from Kevan Barlow.

"The guys play hard for [Pickett] because he's a tough guy. He's one of them," coach Mike Nolan said. "The guys that did it were on defense today. It takes 11 guys to stop a running game like that."

Joey Galloway caught eight passes for 149 yards for the Buccaneers (5-2), who began the day with the NFC's best record. Their defense kept San Francisco out of the end zone, but Simms was as terrible as his teammates in their first game since quarterback
Brian Griese was lost for the season with torn knee ligaments.

"That's the way this league is: If you are not ready to go, you are not getting out of here with anything but what you deserve," coach Jon Gruden said. "We were playing a young quarterback, and we have some growing pains that we have to work through."

Simms was 21-of-34 for 264 yards in his first start of the season, but his numbers didn't reflect an inconsistent, tentative performance: Five sacks, two interceptions -- one bouncing off the head of umpire Darrell Jenkins -- and a key fumble.

Galloway caught a short pass and ran 78 yards for the game's only touchdown with 10:33 left to pull the Bucs within 12-10. But San Francisco crowded the line to stop Tampa Bay's vaunted rushing attack, daring Simms to beat them. He couldn't.

"I know that I missed some throws that I could normally hit, but they played some good defense and made it tough on me early," Simms said. "I know I can play better, and I can't wait until the next game to prove it."

The Buccaneers also played without three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Simeon Rice, who was sent home for an undisclosed violation of club policy. Rice had five sacks in Tampa Bay's first six games but apparently missed a team meeting.

Dorsey started in place of No. 1 draft pick Smith, who didn't dress with strained ligaments in his knee. He was 7-of-18 for 40 yards before his injury.

After Nedney's fifth field goal, Simms fumbled as he was hit by Bryant Young on Tampa Bay's first play. Nedney missed the resulting field-goal attempt with 39 seconds left, but the Buccaneers did nothing.

Nedney was the 49ers' entire offense, scoring from 45, 47, 41, 46 and 28 yards. He was cut by Tennessee in February after missing the past two seasons with injuries but had been perfect on field goals in San Francisco until his miss in the final minute.

Game notes
Galloway caught the 500th pass of his career. ... Young had two sacks, giving him eight in his first season as a defensive end. ... The Niners wore the throwback uniforms of the 1989 Super Bowl


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