SEATTLE

J.T. O'SULLIVAN didn't morph into Joe Montana or Steve Young. But he did get his first win as the 49ers' starting quarterback Sunday.

He didn't throw a winning touchdown pass. But he did put the 49ers in position to win on a walk-off field goal. Twice.

He didn't have an easy day in the pocket, as the Seattle Seahawks' eight sacks attest. But he did avoid getting sacked a ninth time, thus keeping alive the 49ers' late drives.

He didn't celebrate the 49ers' 33-30 overtime victory by rushing to an on-field television interview. He simply headed over to the stands behind the 49ers bench to chat up a U.C. Davis fraternity brother.

O'Sullivan needed this win — and, yes, still more —- to validate his credentials as a viable quarterback and not just a stop-gap option or QB-by-default. The 49ers needed this victory to atone for their opening-week clunker against Arizona, and to rekindle thoughts of a franchise renaissance.

They got what they came for: Joyous memories from Seattle's great (and loud) outdoors.

"He's awesome," right tackle Barry Sims said. "He reminds me a lot of Rich (Gannon), because of his competitive spirit and his ability to make plays when nothing's there."

That's an enlightening comparison, O'Sullivan to Gannon, an intense fella (like O'Sullivan) who bounced around the NFL (like Sullivan) before ultimately leading the 2002 Raiders to the Super Bowl.


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"I have a lot of respect for him the way he competed today," Sims added of O'Sullivan. "He loves to take charge when that needs to happen. It's reassuring to have that guy in there."

It sure is. When's the last time the 49ers could say that and mean it, not just hope it? O'Sullivan became the first 49er to pass for over 300 yards since Tim Rattay in October 2004.

His thoughts on that: "I don't really care. I am glad we won."

In full disclosure, 45 of O'Sullivan's 321 yards came in overtime. But those were 45 huge yards. The biggest came on a perfectly placed 33-yarder to Isaac Bruce on third-and-seven from the 49ers' 23.

What made it an even better throw — or more hyperbolic, in this case — is that O'Sullivan chucked an absolute dud on his second-down pass, a daisy cutter into the turf in front of Bruce. Shaking that throw off wasn't a problem for Mr. O'Confident.

"I've made a lot of mistakes, thrown a lot of picks. I can bounce back," O'Sullivan said.

He had no passes intercepted Sunday, however.

He completed 20 of 32 passes for 321 yards, including a 63-yard bomb to Bruce, last week's forgotten man. That play set up O'Sullivan's first touchdown pass as a 49er, a quick 3-yarder to Bryant Johnson that really introduced the thought of a 49ers comeback, as they trailed 17-13 with 1:42 left in the first half.

As for those eight sacks, some were his fault for holding on to the ball too long. Some could be chalked up to shoddy blocking, excellent pass-rushing and inability of receivers to get open.

Then again, he may have been sacked 16 times if his wily nature didn't send him scurrying out of trouble so often.

"He did a good job staying active. He's definitely faster than we thought," Seahawks (and ex-49er) linebacker Julian Peterson said. "He knew the system and he knew exactly where to throw the ball."

"He's an athlete. He's fast. There are a couple plays I can't wait to watch over again, because those were going to be negative plays," 49ers quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner said. "I thought it was a phenomenal performance."

Adding to that phenomenon was O'Sullivan's ability to keep the 49ers offense from losing its collective mind with all the noise Qwest Field reverberates.

When it came to crunch time, the stadium's raucous crowd didn't induce any trademark false-start penalties (though the 49ers offense had three in the first three quarters). Sims called it one of the loudest games he's ever played in his 10-year career.

Not surprisingly, 49ers coach Mike Nolan said he learned "nothing new" about his quarterback. Uh, sure.

"He has a great presence in the huddle, out of the huddle, at the line of scrimmage," Nolan said. "He has got the physical skills. He's competitive. But you see the same thing I see."

What you saw Sunday was a much-needed performance out of the ever-perilous 49ers quarterback spot. You didn't see a rally-crushing ninth sack. You didn't see a single interception (well, OK, except for a potential one in the end zone that a Seahawks penalty negated).

You didn't see this coming, did you?

Contact Cam Inman at cinman@bayareanewsgroup.com.