At 4:08 p.m., the bell tolled for Dave Krieg, the Seattle Seahawks, and the NFL fumble record.
Krieg dropped back, saw no one open and scrambled. Thirteen yards later, San Francisco linebacker Tim Harris came from behind to chop the ball loose. Safety Johnny Jackson recovered at the 49ers' 49-yard line.
It was Krieg's 107th career fumble, breaking the record he shared with Dan Fouts, the former San Diego Charger quarterback who had been cracking jokes lately about how Krieg was about to assume the all-time fumble throne.
After yesterday's bobble, San Francisco ran the final 43 seconds off the clock to win 24-22, drop the Seahawks' record to 6-8 and all but mathematically eliminate Seattle from the playoff race for a third straight year.
When reporters asked Krieg if he was aware that his fumble had set a record, he replied:
In the next breath, he said the four words he considered more important: "We lost the game."
Krieg said he hadn't thought about the record before the game, adding "And I'm not thinking about it now."
Krieg, who never ducks reporters after losses or mistakes, said he didn't know who caused the fumble and wasn't particularly interested in finding out.
It came as the veteran quarterback tried to move the Seahawks into field-goal position. He had gained a first down but said he never considered sliding to go down safely before he was stripped of the ball by San Francisco's Tim Harris.
"If there's nobody in front of you, there's no point in sliding," Krieg said.
The record fumble wasn't one of the "soap-dish" drops that have popped from his undersized hands during his 12-season career. There was nothing blooperish about this one, his fourth in the past four games (all recovered by opponents). This one was a full-combat fumble by a field general trying to make something happen.
Actually, it was his second fumble of the game but the first didn't count because it was during an extra-point attempt. As the place-kick holder, he muffed the snap on the extra-point try after Seattle's opening touchdown drive. John Kasay didn't get the kick off.
"I just fumbled it," said Krieg, who has had to answer fumble-record questions before. He set the NFL single-season fumble record with 18 in 1989, the season in which he fumbled six times (second on the all-time list) against Kansas City.
The record-breaking fumble was Krieg's second big fourth-quarter mistake in two weeks. Against Kansas City, Krieg threw an off-balance interception deep in Chiefs' territory that had the Seahawks' majority owner, Ken Behring, grimacing and talking disgustedly on the sideline.
That is the same Behring who heartily endorsed the drafting of quarterback Dan McGwire in April.
With the Seahawks clinging to the remote chance of making the playoffs, Krieg, 33, may get another start Sunday in Atlanta. But once the Hawks are eliminated, Krieg's future as starter this year and in the future is uncertain.
His fumble won't go down as the only big offensive mistake yesterday. On two occasions, he overthrew Tommy Kane in the end zone before the Seahawks settled for field goals. On another occasion, James Jones, who scored his first touchdown since 1986 when he was a Detroit Lion, fumbled on the first play in the second half. That miscue led to a San Francisco touchdown.
But what had the Seahawk defense grumbling about the offense for a second straight week was the inability to get a first down in the final four minutes.
"Some things just happened that shouldn't be," said defensive tackle Tony Woods. "We (the defense) shouldn't be on the field. All we needed was first down, and we couldn't get it."
The Seahawks took the lead 22-17 with 6:15 to play on John Kasay's 38-yard field goal, then followed by intercepting quarterback Steve Bono twice, with Joe Cain and Eugene Robinson coming to the rescue, and still lost.
The Seahawks ran three plays and punted on each possession after an interception. They ran off tackle on first and second down on both series. On the first third down, Krieg threw an incompletion to Brian Blades. On the other third-down play, San Francisco snuffed a draw play to John L. Williams for a 2-yard loss.
Rick "Bootin' " Tuten then got off his worst punt of the season, 21 yards, to set up the 49ers' 56-yard winning drive capped by a 15-yard pass to John Taylor, who beat cornerback Patrick Hunter.
The Seahawk defense came up with five turnovers - two interceptions of Bono and three fumbles - and still lost.
How aware is the offense that the defense is upset?
"They know," said Woods. "Everybody knows. It's not like there is some big secret." ---------------------------
ALL FUMBS -- Seattle's Dave Krieg yesterday became the NFL career leader in fumbles. The leaders and the seasons they played:
Dave Krieg 107 1980 - Dan Fouts 106 '73-87 Roman Gabriel 105 '62-77 Johnny Unitas 95 '56-73
-- Krieg set the NFL season fumble record in 1989 with 18, the same year he tied ex-St. Louis Cardinal Sam Etcheverry for second place on the single-game chart with six fumbles against Kansas City.