49ers Come Loaded for Bear, 44-15 : NFC: San Francisco runs up 30-3 halftime lead in the rain, then mops up.
The rains came as fast and furiously as the points for the San Francisco 49ers, but there would be no Noah’s Ark for the Chicago Bears on Saturday, only a sinking feeling that they were in over their heads.
There were 5 minutes 48 seconds remaining in the third quarter, but this NFC divisional playoff game had the feel of an exhibition, with Elvis Grbac and the 49er scrubs dirtying their uniforms in place of Steve Young & Co.
Rookie running back William Floyd had scored three touchdowns, Young had run for one and passed for another and the 49ers were well on their way to securing a 44-15 victory and their sixth NFC championship game appearance in the last seven years.
“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” 49er running back Ricky Watters said. “We have a great quarterback, great receivers, running backs, tight end and offensive line. Watch us play and it’s just a beautiful thing.”
Shaun Gayle generated the only excitement for Chicago with a late smack of Young after the quarterback had dodged linebacker Vinson Smith and scored on a six-yard run to boost San Francisco’s first-half lead to 30-3. Young picked himself up and spiked the ball with gusto at Gayle’s feet, but the Bear safety had no opportunity to react because wide receiver Jerry Rice was in his face.
“Steve just hired me as his bodyguard,” Rice said. “The guy tried to take him out, and we’re not going to tolerate anything like that. Steve Young is the key to our success--we got to take care of him. When I was running to the guy, I noticed John Taylor and Brent Jones were also coming, and then guys were coming from all over the field.”
Rice’s rush on Gayle ignited a brief skirmish, but short of the officials ejecting the 49ers’ entire offensive unit for fighting, the Bears were finished.
“I wouldn’t cheap-shot him,” Gayle said. “I didn’t realize he was already across the goal. No, I didn’t see the spike because I was looking at the angry crowd coming toward me.”
The 49ers, who spent the off-season gearing up to play one team, the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC championship game, teased the Bears by committing an early turnover.
Tight end Jones, who would later catch an eight-yard touchdown pass from Young, fumbled on the 49ers’ opening possession at their 36.
Chicago quarterback Steve Walsh, however, recovered his own fumbled snap on third and eight from the 21-yard line, and the game might as well have been over. The Bears settled for Kevin Butler’s 29-yard field goal, to which the 49ers responded by scoring on six consecutive possessions.
“We were obviously pleased with the first step in this playoff process,” 49er Coach George Seifert said. “We know we now have to crank it up for this next game (against Dallas or the Green Bay Packers).”
The 49ers’ offensive statistics, while not remarkable, were more than enough to handle the outgunned Bears. Young completed 16 of 22 passes for 143 yards, and Rice had four catches for 48 yards. Watters rushed 11 times for 55 yards, and Adam Walker, who had 13 carries during the regular season, closed out the 49ers’ scoring with a one-yard touchdown run.
Floyd, nicknamed “Bar None” by teammates who consider him the best fullback in the league, bar none, scored on runs from the two, four and one.
“I’m having the time of my life, I must admit,” Floyd said. “I’m around a bunch of great guys, and I’m just playing off of them. They elevate my game.”
While San Francisco strolled up and down the field on offense, Chicago went nowhere. After the Bears had been held to 95 yards in the first half, Coach Dave Wannstedt took the ball from Walsh and gave it to Erik Kramer. He generated two fourth-quarter touchdowns, but the 49ers had already served notice to the winner of today’s game between the Packers and Cowboys.
“We have something we didn’t have last year,” Rice said. “We have defense.”
The 49ers were concerned that the Bears would hog the ball, take advantage of turnovers and hang around until the fourth quarter with a chance to win. But San Francisco’s defense limited Chicago to 2.2 yards a carry and Walsh had to pass. Two interceptions later, the 49ers had their rout in progress.
“We sent a message around the league,” linebacker Ken Norton said. “You have to go through the ‘Stick to get to the Super Bowl.”
Walsh and Kramer avoided cornerback Deion Sanders, who, although playing on a muddy field, left without a smudge on his uniform.
“That’s probably a good decision; if I was a quarterback I wouldn’t look that way either,” 49er linebacker Gary Plummer said. “He’s not very good looking.”
Richard Dent, the 1986 Super Bowl MVP for Mike Ditka’s Bears, returned for the 49ers after missing most of the season because of a knee injury, and put a few licks on his former teammates.
“I went to the locker room in the first half to get my knee retaped, came out and the game was really over,” Dent said. “I wanted to go in, but they hid my helmet on the sideline so I couldn’t.”
The 49ers have won 11 of their last 12 games and will play host to the NFC championship game next Sunday.
“When we play as a total team,” Watters said, “I don’t think anybody can beat us.”
Dallas wide receiver Michael Irvin has guaranteed a “three-peat” for his team, but the 49ers wouldn’t bite after dispatching the Bears.
“I think it’s a ploy that was used a year ago and now someone is looking to get some motivation,” center Bart Oates said. “Everyone made a big deal of (then-Cowboy coach) Jimmy Johnson going out on a limb last year, but he wasn’t going out on a limb. He was just putting them in a corner and trying to make it like it’s everybody against us.
“I wouldn’t say it’s desperation, because how desperate can you be with the second-best record in the conference? But I don’t know--maybe it was.”