Final/OT

49ers 26

(7-9, 3-5 away)

Broncos 23

(9-7, 4-4 home)

Coverage: FOX

4:15 PM ET, December 31, 2006

Invesco Field, Denver, CO 

1 2 3 4 OT T
SF 0 3 14 6 326
DEN 3 10 3 7 023

Top Performers

Passing: J. Cutler (DEN) - 230 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: F. Gore (SF) - 31 CAR, 153 YDS

Receiving: R. Smith (DEN) - 5 REC, 59 YDS

Niners' OT win boots Broncos, puts Chiefs in playoffs

DENVER (AP) -- Now Mike Shanahan wishes he hadn't gotten his wish.

Denver's coach wanted Kansas City to win on Sunday so that the Broncos wouldn't back into the playoffs but be motivated to play their best football.

Instead, the Broncos tumbled into the offseason when Joe Nedney's 36-yard field goal with 1:56 left in overtime sent the San Francisco 49ers past the stunned Broncos 26-23.

"Well, you want to play your best football this time of year," Shanahan said. "If we played like we did today, we wouldn't go very far in the playoffs. If we played like we did last couple of weeks, we had a chance to do something special."

Now, their AFC rivals in Kansas City will have that opportunity. Denver's fifth loss in seven games made the Chiefs (9-7) the final wild-card team.

Had the Chiefs not beaten Jacksonville, the Broncos would be heading to the postseason, even with their loss.

All the Broncos (9-7) needed was a win over the double-digit underdog Niners (7-9) or even a tie to earn a spot in the playoffs but they couldn't score touchdowns on three trips inside the Niners' 5 and blew an early 13-0 lead.

"Whenever you get on the 1-yard twice and in the red zone three times and you don't score no touchdowns that's pathetic," Broncos rookie receiver Brandon Marshall said. "We have a lot of work to do.

"San Francisco?" Marshall added. "Come on, San Francisco? It was a perfect setup for us."

And an absolute letdown.

"We had some opportunities early to put the game away," Shanahan said. "Obviously, San Francisco did a fine job keeping us out."

Of the end zone and the playoffs.

"You better believe it felt good taking them out," Niners quarterback Alex Smith said. "If we were going to be home for the playoffs we wanted them to be right with us."

With a sputtering ground game, the Broncos were unable to run out the clock in overtime.

"We weren't thinking about a tie," rookie quarterback Jay Cutler said. "That was the last thing on our minds. You play another 15 minutes, somebody's going to score most of the time."

San Francisco got the ball back with 4:38 left in overtime and drove 42 yards to the Denver 18, where Nedney kicked his fourth field goal. As it sailed through the uprights, Denver safety John Lynch smashed his helmet on the grass, a crushing end to Denver's dreams of a franchise-record fourth straight trip to the playoffs.

Niners coach Mike Nolan said that if Chiefs coach Herm Edwards gets a bonus for reaching the playoffs, "I want half of it."

The Broncos sent the game into overtime when Cutler, who was knocked woozy and sidelined by a hard hit in the first half, drove his team 80 yards in 10 plays and threw a fastball to fellow rookie Tony Scheffler for a 9-yard TD with 90 seconds left in regulation.

"I was a little dinged up. My head was swimming a little bit," Cutler said. "But I was fine in the second half."

After Champ Bailey returned his league-leading 10th interception 70 yards for a touchdown and a 13-0 lead, the Niners responded with 17 straight points, capped by Walt Harris's 28-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Harris, who had three takeaways, also picked off Jake Plummer, who came in after Anthony Adams' hard hit sent Cutler to the sideline in the second quarter. Plummer, who was benched five weeks ago, also committed a false start.

Capitalizing on linebacker Al Wilson's absence with a sore lower back, Frank Gore, the NFC's starting Pro Bowl running back, gained 153 yards on 31 carries and caught two more passes for 32 yards for San Francisco.

"Not to be able to help this team in the end is very tough," said Wilson, the Broncos' best tackler.

Cutler looked woozy upon his return after halftime and made several bad decisions and poor throws and even burned all of Denver's three timeouts on one third-quarter drive.

"I don't blame it on the quarterback. I blame it on me," Shanahan said. "I have to get it in there a little quicker."

"You could see it in his eyes he wasn't all there," Scheffler said of Cutler. "He obviously came in and toughed it out and played a pretty good game overall, with exception of one interception."

Bailey led the league with 11 takeaways -- but that would be of little consolation to the perennial Pro Bowl cornerback.

"It's terrible, it really is," said Broncos receiver Rod Smith, one of a handful of holdovers from the Broncos' championship teams of the late 1990s. "We're better than that football team, by far. We didn't play like it today. It ended our season. We ended our own season. It's hard to take that. We were in control of our own fate and we chose not to move forward and nothing you can do about it now."

Game notes


Gore broke Garrison Hearst's single-season franchise records for rushing and total yards. ... Denver's Tatum Bell topped 1,000 yards rushing but committed a costly fumble for the third straight game.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Team Stat Comparison

 
SF
DEN
1st Downs1719
Passing 1st downs
1012
Rushing 1st downs
73
1st downs from penalties
04
3rd down efficiency
9-203-13
4th down efficiency
1-20-0
Total Plays7664
Total Yards360325
Yards per play4.75.1
Total Drives1516
Passing171210
Comp-Att
17-3321-34
Yards per pass
4.65.7
Interceptions thrown
12
Sacks-Yards Lost
4-233-20
Rushing189115
Rushing Attempts
3927
Yards per rush
4.84.3
Red Zone (Made-Att)0-31-4
Penalties8-618-49
Turnovers13
Fumbles lost
01
Interceptions thrown
12
Defensive / Special Teams TDs11
Possession38:5834:06

Passing Leaders

SFC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Smith17/321946.1114-23
Robinson0/100.0000-0
DENC/ATTYDSAVGTDINTSACKS
Cutler21/322307.2112-17
Plummer0/200.0011-3

Rushing Leaders

SFCARYDSAVGTDLG
Gore311534.9024
Gilmore12020.0020
DENCARYDSAVGTDLG
Bell11666.0046
Bell12484.0011

Receiving Leaders

SFRECYDSAVGTDLG
Battle45614.0035
Gore23216.0026
DENRECYDSAVGTDLG
Smith55911.8015
Scheffler35418.0129

Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERSFDEN
denFG0:47Jason Elam 22 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 36 yds, 4:14
03
SECOND QUARTERSFDEN
denFG11:23Jason Elam 21 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 56 yds, 3:17
313
denTD2:24Champ Bailey, 70 yd interception return (Jason Elam kick is good)
Drive info: 4 plays, 29 yds, 1:51
013
sfFG0:09Joe Nedney 46 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 10 plays, 37 yds, 2:05
313
THIRD QUARTERSFDEN
sfTD8:01Moran Norris, 32 yd pass from Alex Smith (Joe Nedney kick is good)
Drive info: 12 plays, 76 yds, 7:08
1013
sfTD6:35Walt Harris, 28 yd interception return (Joe Nedney kick is good)
Drive info: 3 plays, -7 yds, 1:27
1713
denFG1:48Jason Elam 22 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 46 yds, 4:40
1716
FOURTH QUARTERSFDEN
sfFG12:00Joe Nedney 29 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 9 plays, 58 yds, 4:48
2016
sfFG6:18Joe Nedney 46 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 5 plays, 13 yds, 2:16
2316
denTD1:35Tony Scheffler, 9 yd pass from Jay Cutler (Jason Elam kick is good)
Drive info: 10 plays, 80 yds, 4:44
2323
OVERTIMESFDEN
sfFG2:00Joe Nedney 36 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 43 yds, 2:32
2623