Scouting Report Superbowl Xxix

January 29, 1995|By Mike Preston

OFFENSE

The 49ers have one of the most prolific offenses in pro football history and averaged 118.6 rushing and 260.2 passing yards per game. They have Steve Young, Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones. Enough said.

San Diego has to have a balanced offense to be successful. Natrone Means leads the Chargers in rushing behind an offensive line that is bigger than the 49ers' defensive line, but also has been bothered by injuries. Chargers quarterback Stan Humphries has a great arm for the long ball, but he has been inconsistent on short stuff.

* Edge: 49ers

DEFENSE

The 49ers' defense is not as good as some people think. San Francisco has weaknesses, but the 49ers disguise them well. Cornerback Eric Davis is the weak link in a secondary that has allowed 218.8 passing yards per game, but he gets coverage help from free safety Merton Hanks. Cornerback Deion Sanders doesn't like to hit, so the 49ers have compensated with strong safety Tim McDonald coming hard for run support. The 49ers' outside pass rush from ends Dennis Brown, Tim Harris and Rickey Jackson is overwhelming at times.

San Diego has strong defensive linemen in Reuben Davis, Shawn Lee, Chris Mims, Leslie O'Neal and John Parrella. Linebacker Junior Seau is in a class by himself. But the Chargers allowed 228.6 passing yards a game and allowed an average quarterback -- the Steelers' Neil O'Donnell -- to throw for more than 300 yards in the AFC championship game.

* Edge: 49ers

SPECIAL TEAMS

A close look at the 49ers' kickoff return team shows why they scored so quickly this season. They averaged 21.4 yards on kickoff returns, but the Chargers were better with a 24.1 average. Darrien Gordon averaged 13.2 yards on punt returns, and the 49ers' Dexter Carter averaged 8.4, and is more prone to fumble. The Chargers' John Carney is the better of the two place-kickers.

* Edge: Chargers

KEY MATCHUP

Chargers guards Joe Cocozzo, Joe Milinichik (if he starts) and center Courtney Hall vs. 49ers defensive tackles Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield and inside linebacker Gary Plummer. San Diego feels it can run inside at this triangle.

THREE THINGS EACH TEAM MUST TO DO TO WIN

Chargers: Establish running game to control clock; keep 49ers from turning short passes into long gains; force turnovers, especially early.

49ers: Keep pressure off Young; stop the Chargers' running game; defense the long pass.

INJURY REPORT

Chargers: DT Shawn Lee (knee) is probable.

49ers: S Dedrick Dodge (Knee) is doubtful. G Derrick Deese (ankle), DE Richard Dent (knee), CB Tyronne Drakeford (abdomen), LB Antonio Goss (knee), LB Kevin Mitchell (hamstring) are probable.

OUTLOOK

If there is one coach who can beat the 49ers, it's San Diego's Bobby Ross. He has the perfect game plan. He's going to challenge Sanders with passes and use two tight ends to try to power-rush the 49ers. Ross will use reserve running back Eric Bieniemy to try to change the pace of the game. But the Chargers will need some help with turnovers from the 49ers. It won't happen. The 49ers have too many athletes to offset Ross's game plan.

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