Reality deals Chargers a harsh truth

January 30, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

MIAMI -- Harsh realism was the bitter antidote to the dream-filled aspirations of the San Diego Chargers as they went crashing down with what translated into overwhelming annihilation, exasperation and humiliation.

The Chargers were so overmatched in their hour of Super Bowl pain, certainly not pride, that they should have considered withdrawing from the premises before time elapsed so they could get an early start home.

The San Francisco 49ers proved to 74,107 on-the-scene eyewitnesses and a worldwide television audience that the Chargers were a mere facsimile of what qualifies for a championship team. Sad to relate, the Chargers had no chance, which meant the Super Bowl, despite its importance, was to some extent another woeful dud.

But if you want appreciation for a classic football operation, then savor the 49ers for the way they handled themselves and quickly destroyed the Chargers in the "San-San" Super Bowl, an all-California contest that was so one-sided the final result, 49-26, is grossly misleading. It had the spectators, at $200 a ticket, leaving early and possibly resulted in television viewers turning off their sets in disturbing numbers.

The pitch-and-catch routine of quarterback Steve Young and wide receiver Jerry Rice couldn't be stopped. There should have been two most valuable players selected, but Young got the prize and there's no reason to quarrel with the choice.

"I told him I was happy for him and this is something he would never forget," said a gracious Rice as he congratulated Young on his performance. "We kept hugging each other on the sideline the game ended and I told him, 'Hey, man, I love you. You deserve this. Enjoy it because you will never forget it.' "

The smooth left-hander was able to throw six touchdown passes, more than anyone has been able to do in the 29 Super Bowls played to date. In fact, Young came within one of equaling the mark for a regular-season game, which is seven, and held by Sid Luckman, Y. A. Tittle, Adrian Burk, George Blanda and Joe Kapp.

Had slingshot Steve been record-oriented he could have pitched for more scores. But after putting up 49 points, he threw only one more pass in the last 14:49, giving way to backup Elvis Grbac as the game wore on to its expiration.

The 49ers are something to behold, a veritable speed machine. Young and Rice are exceptional batterymates, an opinion that would be valid in any era of professional football.

Rice knows how to get open, can catch the ball in almost any position and, while going about his efforts, set an all-time Super Bowl career reception count by what he was able to add to his total (now at 29) yesterday when he pulled in 10 for 149 yards and three touchdowns.

The brilliance of Young and Rice merely epitomizes the overall competence of a 49ers team that is endowed with enormous talent and breathtaking efficiency. Center Bart Oates said flat-out: "This team will be remembered as one of the best that has ever been assembled."

It's not likely he'll hear much in the way of arguments. Oates said all the 49ers realized that Young was fighting the shadow and reputation of Joe Montana, who had quarterbacked the previous Super Bowl triumphs.

"Steve mentioned on the sidelines that he was 'going to take this monkey and pull it off his back,' " added Oates. This was in reference to the years of understudying Montana and the constant comparisons that continued unrelenting.

The 49ers, as a unit, play a game that overmatches the rest of the NFL now that they have been in five Super Bowls and won them all. You leave wondering if it's the personnel or the system that puts them in such an elite category.

It's a combination of both, to be sure, and Young's demonstration of short and long passing certainly gives him an identity that allows him now to challenge his predecessor, Montana, as a tactician extraordinaire.

As to having a pure passing touch, Young is close to Montana when he was at the top of his game. However, from the dimension of a runner, Steve is far better. Both are rollout types but Young is harder to tackle when he takes it upon himself to head for the wide-open spaces.

From a team concept, the 49ers are the first to be in five Super Bowls and come away with a victory on each endeavor. And, one of their players, linebacker Ken Norton, son and namesake of the former heavyweight boxing champion, is the only man to have played on three straight winners, made possible by the fact he was with the Dallas Cowboys in the two previous Super Bowls.

Early on, Young found the Chargers' defense inviting and vulnerable enough to throw down the middle of the field and, thank you very much, availed himself of the opportunity. Rice split two defensive backs as though he was slicing through soft butter. The spiral from Young was lined with whistling velocity and picture-book accuracy.

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