"It's up to you right now to win this game," Nolan said. "It's on you right now. I'm not calling any timeouts, not saving any time. Guys, it'll go down to the very last play. It's on you."
To the surprise of everybody who wasn't wearing the 49ers' throwback uniforms, a much-maligned defense proved capable of lifting that burden.
Joe Nedney kicked his third field goal with 7:15 to play, and San Francisco shut out the Minnesota Vikings in the final three quarters of a 9-3 victory.
Thanks to Nedney's strong leg -- and his lobbying efforts, which helped San Francisco to get a second shot at its final field goal -- the 49ers (3-5) had just enough offense to back a shocking performance by their defense, which had allowed 150 points in its last four games.
San Francisco managed just 133 total yards with its own miserable offense, but got cohesive play from the same unit that gave up 41 points by halftime last week at Chicago. The Niners simplified their game plan and hung on, stopping Minnesota's final drive with 1:04 left.
"Statistics are important, but they don't say everything about you," linebacker Brandon Moore said. "Nobody is going to come out of the stands and help us win a game. It's going to have to come from us."
Alex Smith passed for just 105 yards and Frank Gore rushed for only 41 as San Francisco hung on for its eighth straight home victory since 1988 over the Vikings (4-4), who'll be shaking their heads all the way back to the Twin Cities after failing to mount any significant offensive attack.
Brad Johnson passed for 136 yards but made three turnovers for the Vikings, whose final drive ended when Troy Williamson dropped an on-target pass on third down before Mark Roman and Shawntae Spencer prevented Bethel Johnson from catching a desperate pass at the goal line.
With just 238 total yards and a host of dropped passes and mistakes, Minnesota showed every negative effect of its injury problems and a short week of preparation after Monday night's loss to New England. But count Johnson among those shocked by the 49ers' sudden defensive acumen.
"They've been thrashed in different areas, and they changed it up, played vanilla, played to their strengths," Johnson said. "If we don't convert on third downs or are not effective on first downs, it's going to cost us and that's what happened."
Nedney hit field goals from 25 and 30 yards before nailing a 51-yarder -- but only after he wheedled another try.
Flags flew during his first attempt, and referee Ed Hochuli initially called a delay-of-game penalty that would have taken San Francisco out of field-goal range. But Hochuli picked up his flag after Nedney vocally explained that the play clock had been reset erroneously, arguing loudly enough to be picked up on Hochuli's microphone.
"I was told that there's an NFL guy up there that runs the clock, but it feels like home cooking to me," Minnesota coach Brad Childress said.
Minnesota's offense was hesitant and muddled. Chester Taylor rushed for 96 yards but couldn't break any big plays, while Johnson followed up his three-interception benching last week with two fumbles while being sacked and another interception on a tipped pass.
After the clubs traded field goals in the first 17 minutes, San Francisco got a break when Marques Douglas bulled through the line and forced Johnson's fumble. Spencer returned it to the 21, but the Niners settled for Nedney's second field goal.
The Vikings finally got a big play when Taylor turned a short pass into a 65-yard touchdown rumble late in the scoreless third quarter -- but Travis Taylor blocked Moore in the back, negating it.
That drive ended in San Francisco territory with Johnson's second fumble, and the Niners drove for Nedney's third score.
Notes: Smith met Joe Montana for the first time before the game on Alumni Day. Montana, who usually shuns such events, even jokingly re-enacted his famous "The Catch" pass to Dwight Clark at halftime. ... Vikings FB Tony Richardson injured his hand, getting X-rays after halftime. ... Ryan Longwell hit a 21-yard field goal in the first quarter for Minnesota's only points.