They cheered Dan Fouts. They booed Alex Spanos, owner of the team Fouts left behind.
It wasn’t hard to figure out why.
Fouts has his health, a handsome family and a bright future as a CBS-TV pro football analyst. The people who came to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium to see his jersey (No. 14) retired at halftime have pleasant memories of his 15-year career.
The San Diego Chargers he left behind have enough injuries to fill a hospital ward, lack of direction and no immediate future to speak of.
Meanwhile the San Francisco 49ers showed them just how wide the gulf is between a playoff team and a castoff team by trashing the Chargers, 48-10, in rather perfunctory men-against-boys fashion.
“They’re damned good,” Charger Coach Al Saunders said of the 49ers.
San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana--like Fouts, a future Hall of Famer--completed 14 of 22 passes for 271 yards and 3 touchdowns. San Francisco wide receiver Jerry Rice, the NFL’s leading scorer last season, caught 6 passes for 171 yards. San Francisco running back Roger Craig, the NFL’s third-leading rusher, had 87 yards in 17 attempts. San Francisco kicker Mike Cofer kicked field goals of 45 and 32 yards.
Rice caught 2 of the Montana touchdown passes on a 96-yard play in the first period and a 41-yarder in the third. The 96-yarder is the longest in the history of the 49er franchise. And it happened because strong safety Martin Bayless failed to adjust from a three-deep zone to a two-deep zone when the 49ers send their tight end in motion before the snap.
The 41-yarder occurred when Montana caught the Chargers in a blitz that left cornerback Sam Seale one on one against Rice. Seale overran the play and Rice made a leaping catch at the 5-yard line before falling into the end zone.
The 475 yards the 49ers gained are the most against the Chargers this year. The 48 points are also a season high.
“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Charger defensive coordinator Ron Lynn said.
The score was 24-7 after 30 minutes and any doubt about the final outcome disappeared long before the teams returned to the field for the third period. So the 51,484 in attendance chanted, “We want Fouts! We want Fouts! We want Fouts!” before the second-half kickoff.
Instead they got Mark Malone and Babe Laufenberg.
Malone, the starter, completed 17 of 32 passes for 136 yards. But he threw 2 interceptions and gave way to Laufenberg in the final period. Laufenberg, playing for the first time in 3 weeks, connected on 6 of 13 for 43 yards.
This is the same crowd that, moments before calling for Fouts, booed Spanos on three different occasions during halftime. It was not a pretty sight. But it was not unexpected. Charger officials warned Spanos it would happen.
“Crowds always boo authority figures,” said Rick Smith, the Chargers’ public relations director. “The only guy who wouldn’t have been booed out there is the Pontiff.”
Said Charger defensive lineman Joe Phillips: “The fans were booing us, too. And we deserve it.”
The loss snapped a 2-game Charger winning streak and dropped them to 4-9. Which means, in case anybody was still wondering, they are dead in the playoff water. They are 1-5 at home this season and have managed just 3 offensive touchdowns and 48 total points in those games. The 49ers (8-5) won their second in a row.
The 96-yard touchdown pass play to Rice gave San Francisco a 7-0 lead which grew to 14-0 on Craig’s 1-yard dive three minutes into the second-period. Craig’s touchdown came 3 plays after 49er safety Ronnie Lott intercepted Malone’s pass and returned it to the Charger 23.
The Chargers rallied briefly on a 36-yard touchdown run by Malone made possible by an inside fake to Gary Anderson from the shotgun formation on third-and-seven. Instead of handing off to Anderson, Malone executed a beautiful naked bootleg and wasn’t touched until the 2, where he jumped over cornerback Eric Wright.
Moments later San Francisco scored on a 2-yard shovel pass from Montana to Craig. The 49ers added a 7-yard Craig touchdown run in the third period and a 37-yard scoring sweep by Doug Dubose with under 3 minutes left.
Charger kicker Steve DeLine kicked a 23-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.