S.F. starts super, ousts Bears, 44-15 Home field more than just an edge for Steelers, 49ers

January 08, 1995|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Sun Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — TC SAN FRANCISCO -- Don't mess with the 49ers.

That was the message Chicago received after the fourth San Francisco touchdown in the 49ers' 44-15 NFC divisional playoff rout of the Bears in the muck of Candlestick Park yesterday, and one the victors hope reached Dallas.

For all the telestrator talk about San Francisco's offense and its glitzy free agents like Deion Sanders, it's a workmanlike team that has a nasty side, particularly when its quarterback is threatened.

Less than a minute before halftime, Steve Young faked a pass left, took off for the end zone, and sent linebacker Vinson Smith diving at air on a 6-yard scoring run that made it 30-3. Two yards into the end zone, Young was decked by cornerback Shaun Gayle.

The 49ers reacted angrily.

Before Young could spike the ball, Jerry Rice had sprinted 20 yards from one corner of the end zone and got in Gayle's face. After a minute or so of tag-team wrestling, first-year fullback William Floyd threw 285-pound defensive end Alonzo Spellman to the ground.

Don't mess with Young, and don't mess with the 49ers' drive to the Super Bowl.

"I was excited that our team is really together," Young said. "I've got a sense that people don't care whose name is in the headlines tomorrow. I've got a sense that we're letting other teams know they can't do something like that in our place."

San Francisco will be the host of the NFC championship next Sunday. Whether it's a shot at retribution against Dallas, which beat the 49ers en route to its two Super Bowl titles, or a meeting with upstart Green Bay, it doesn't matter to the 49ers.

"As long as we're in the attack mode, we can overcome anything," running back Ricky Watters said. "It doesn't matter who we're playing anymore, we're playing for ourselves. We're playing for perfection."

For three quarters, until coach George Seifert pulled Young, the 49ers were close to Watters' desired standard against a Bears team that got the benefit of the doubt when it was made a 17 1/2 -point underdog.

In the regular season, the 49ers had the NFL's best record and its most productive offense of the 1990s, while the Bears were actually outscored. The 49ers have nine Pro Bowlers, the Bears none, the first playoff team so unrecognized in 16 years.

4 Chicago did accomplish something recently that San Francisco couldn't. The 49ers' 10-game win streak was stopped in the regular-season finale at Minnesota, where the Bears posted an upset win last week, and Chicago's momentum continued for one minute yesterday.

All-Pro tight end Brent Jones lost a fumble at the 49ers' 36-yard line on the second play, but the 49ers' defense limited Chicago to a field goal, and San Francisco never looked back.

The 49ers answered with a 13-play, 68-yard drive that used 11 running plays and more than seven minutes, the first of six straight possessions in which they scored.

The defense, on Merton Hanks' interception and 31-yard return and a fake punt by Chicago that went nowhere, set up the two touchdowns that blew it wide open in the last five minutes of the first half.

Floyd, a first-round draft choice out of Florida State who rushed ,, for six touchdowns in the regular season, had three yesterday, on runs of 2, 4 and 1 yards. Young, the NFL's Most Valuable Player who broke Joe Montana's record for quarterback rating, threw for only 143 yards, but completed 16 of 22.

"They [the 49ers] played like the team they are, the best in football, record-wise," Bears coach Dave Wannstedt said. "It's tough to win when the other team doesn't punt in the first half."

The 49ers, who had a 20-6 edge in first downs at the half, toyed with the Bears. On Floyd's second touch down, which made it 20-3, he spun off linebacker Dante Jones at the 2 and backed his way into the end zone. On fourth-and-11 at the Bears' 33 with four minutes to go, Rice had a five-yard cushion on an 18-yard reception from Young.

Young moved San Francisco 70 yards to a touchdown on its first possession of the second half, then took a seat. That made it 37-3, and the Bears resorted to a tackle-eligible pass to defensive lineman Jim Flanigan to get their first touchdown.

Before the game began, Bears quarterback Steve Walsh was sprinting -- not throwing -- on the sidelines. Chicago was limited to 39 yards on 18 rushes, and Walsh couldn't move the Bears through the air either. He was replaced in the second half by Erik Kramer, whose 161 yards passing were as meaningless as they get.

"We knew coming in we had to play a perfect game, but we just weren't able to do that," Kramer said.

Maybe Dallas, or Green Bay, or Pittsburgh, will be able to do that against the 49ers.

"The next team that comes into this stadium is going to be outstanding," Seifert said. "We're going to have to turn it up a notch."

Which will be nothing to mess with.

NFL PLAYOFFS

YESTERDAY

* Pittsburgh 29, Cleveland 9

* San Fran. 44, Chicago 15

TODAY

* Green Bay at Dallas, 12:30 p.m., chs. 45, 5

* Miami at San Diego, 4 p.m., chs. 11, 4

NEXT SUNDAY

CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS

* AFC: Miami or San Diego at Pittsburgh, chs. 11, 4

* NFC: Green Bay or Dallas at San Fran., chs. 45, 5

JAN. 29

* Super Bowl, at Miami, 6 p.m., chs. 2, 7

TITLE TOWN

The 49ers advanced to the NFC title game for the third consecutive year and the fifth time in the past six years with

yesterday's victory over the Bears:

Season Opp. ... ... ... ... ... ... Result

1988 at Chicago ... ... ... ... ... W, 28-3

1989 L.A. Rams .. .. .. ... ... ... W, 30-3

1990 N.Y. Giants .. ... ... ... ... L, 15-13

1992 Dallas ... ... ... ... ... ... L, 30-20

1993 at Dallas ... ... .. .. .. ... L, 38-21

1994 ... Dallas or Green Bay

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