Owens has 155 yards receiving

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Terrell Owens had been ordinary so far this

season, with drops, distractions and double coverages all

conspiring against one of football's most exciting players.

Under the prime-time spotlight, Owens finally broke free with

one spectacular play after another -- perhaps because the San

Francisco 49ers' All-Pro receiver knew all eyes were on him.

Owens had a 61-yard touchdown catch among his eight receptions

for 155 yards, and Tim Rattay went 21-of-27 for 254 yards in the

49ers' 30-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.

"They're giving me the opportunity to make some plays," Owens

said. "The first half of the season, I was really putting pressure

on myself. I dropped some passes and I wasn't playing T.O.-like.

That was when we went on a losing skid, and I was just trying to do

too much."

Helped by two superb downfield blocks by Owens, Kevan Barlow

rushed for a 78-yard score in the third quarter to break open San

Francisco's fourth straight home victory. While Barlow's teammates

mobbed him in the end zone, Owens strutted back to the sideline

with his swagger that's growing as quickly as the 49ers' playoff


"T.O., he played really, really well," 49ers coach Dennis

Erickson said. "The block he made on Kevan Barlow's run might be

the most impressive thing I've ever seen him do, and he's made some


In the teams' first meeting since a rain-soaked game at

Candlestick Park in 1999, San Francisco (5-5) dominated the matchup

of defending division champions who have struggled this season.

Fully aware of the national audience for his talents, the

would-be actor and basketball star got San Francisco started with

one of the big plays he has provided only sparingly this fall.

On the third play of the Niners' second drive, Rattay lofted a

perfect pass down the left sideline. Owens accelerated away from

cornerback Chad Scott, stopped at the goal line and did a slow

pirouette into the end zone before breaking into a dance.

"He's so big and strong that when they have to single him, it's

a mismatch," Rattay said. "We did a good job calling plays for


Fullback Fred Beasley also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass from

Rattay, who added more spice to the 49ers' quarterback controversy

with a second straight near-flawless performance in place of

injured Pro Bowl player Jeff Garcia.

"It ultimately comes down to Jeff's health," Rattay said. "If

he's healthy, he'll go. I love to play, I love to be out there, but

right now, my role is the backup."

Tommy Maddox was 25-of-44 for 327 yards for Pittsburgh (3-7),

which lost its sixth in seven games thanks to key defensive errors

and Antwaan Randle El's fumble on a kickoff return, which allowed

San Francisco to score two touchdowns in 14 seconds.

"All night, we were an inch away here and an inch away there

from converting some real big plays," Maddox said. "It's

frustrating to know that we were moving the ball, then we start to

hurt ourselves. We just aren't making the plays."

The Steelers periodically moved the ball well with inventive

play-calling -- but at other times, their execution was equally

inventive. Pittsburgh made too many small mistakes, including a

7-yard loss on a pass by Randle El and a 10-yard setback on a

double reverse.

Randle El had a 32-yard TD catch in the fourth. Though

Pittsburgh is in one of the most dismal stretches of coach Bill

Cowher's 12 seasons, the Steelers still are just two games out of

first place in the AFC North.

"We hurt ourselves with our mistakes, and we also gave up too

many big plays," Randle El said. "That is tough to overcome. This

is a big loss, but we'll bounce back."

Niners safety Tony Parrish intercepted a tipped pass early in

the second quarter and returned it 48 yards, setting up a 32-yard

field goal.

After gaining just 125 yards in the first half, Pittsburgh made

a 79-yard drive to open the third quarter. Jerome Bettis scored on

a 1-yard plunge to pull the Steelers within 10-7.

But after Owens paved Barlow's way to the end zone, Randle El

fumbled the ensuing kickoff -- and on the next play, Rattay made

another perfect throw down the sideline to Beasley. The fullback

made a tough catch and dove across the goal line to give San

Francisco a 24-7 lead.

Former Steelers kicker Todd Peterson also made three field goals

for the Niners.Game notes
Barlow was held out of the fourth quarter with a

concussion, though he remained on the 49ers' sideline. ... Chicago

Cubs manager Dusty Baker attended with 4-year-old former batboy son

Darren, who watched his first live football game. "I like when

they make the touchdown," the boy said. ... "Alias" actress

Jennifer Garner came by to meet the Baker family, hollering, "Are

you ready for some football?" as she met little Darren. ...

Pittsburgh WR Hines Ward left in the third quarter after hitting

his head on the turf while dropping a pass, but he eventually

returned. He had four catches for 44 yards.