SUPER BOWL XXIX / SAN DIEGO CHARGERS vs. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS : The Chargers Will Win, Count on It : There Are All Sorts of Reasons--Including That 49er Rap Song--Why San Diego Will Upset the Odds


The parade will be early next week. It will wind from the harbor, through the hills, ending in a stadium named after a sportswriter and made famous by a chicken.

An appropriate venue for a most unlikely team.

The San Diego Chargers, 1994 Super Bowl Champions.

When team members and coaches drive up in open-air convertibles--all except Coach Bobby Ross, who couldn’t figure out how to get his top down--the fans will race inside to laud their heroes.

One by one, the Chargers will take the podium at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium to revel in the second-greatest upset in the football history.


The Chargers’ 24-21 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.

Alex Spanos, years of senseless rage transformed into tears, will ask for forgiveness. Fans will consent, but only if he loses the nerdy glasses.

Junior Seau will announce a new line of surf wear.

Natrone Means, carrying a submarine sandwich, will announce he will not stop eating until July.

Mark Seay will announce that the next person who asks him about the bullet should be ready to dodge one.

Seau will announce a new line of designer sunglasses.

Ronnie Harmon will announce that he is finally talking publicly. Two minutes later, realizing what they have been missing, the crowd will beg him to shut up.

Seau will announce a new line of thongs.

Leslie O’Neal will announce that he wants to turn the insufferable Junior into a surfboard.

Ross will congratulate “the San Francisco 76ers and Coach George Seafirst” on a fine effort, then openly wonder who his team is playing next week.


Nobody said it would be pretty. Nobody said it would be easy.

In fact, nobody even said it would happen.

But it will. Count on it. Remember where you lay the fish that this story will be wrapped in, because you will want to unroll the paper again Monday morning, hold your nose and marvel at our genius.

The Chargers will win today’s Super Bowl.

In a game in which the 49ers are favored by nearly three touchdowns, the Chargers will win by the margin of one of John Carney’s field goals.

It will happen. Count on it.

All of the important factors favor the helpless, hapless, angry, determined, powerful underdogs.

And some of the not-so-important ones too.


The 49ers Cannot Tackle a Power Running Game

Four times this year, an opponent rushed the ball 30 or more times against the 49ers.

Three times, the 49ers lost.

A power running game takes advantages of the tackling weaknesses of 49er linebackers.

A power running game keeps the 49ers’ strength--their quick-strike offense--off the field.

Natrone Means has averaged 4.7 yards per carry in the playoffs. He is stronger in the fourth quarter than in the first, something the 49ers would have discovered if he hadn’t injured his ankle on a touchdown run in the third quarter of their first meeting, a 38-15 victory by the 49ers.

For four quarters the Chargers will pound Means between the tackles and directly at Ken Norton Jr. and Gary Plummer. When Means gets tired, the Charger offensive line, particularly Stan Brock, knows enough to cheat.

“I hold every play, so it doesn’t really matter,” Brock said.

When the 49ers bunch the line of scrimmage to stop Means, Stan Humphries will work slant passes to Tony Martin and Shawn Jefferson.


Unlike AFC losers of past years, this running game gives the Chargers the look of an NFC East team.

And NFC East teams have won this game six of the last eight years.


The Chargers Are Better Under Pressure

Ross’ teams do not make mistakesthey ranked third in the NFL with only 23 turnovers and were assessed only 96 penalties, 13 fewer than the 49ers.

This means it should be a close game. The Chargers are used them. The 49ers are not.

The Chargers have come from behind to win their last four games, including three consecutive victories that were pulled out in the final six minutes.

Six times this season they have pulled off fourth-quarter comebacks.

The 49ers have pulled off only one fourth-quarter comeback this season, and that was against the pathetic Rams.

How will Steve Young feel if forced to bring his team down the field in waning moments for a victory? How will the defense feel if forced to make a big fourth-quarter stop, something they haven’t needed in weeks?

The 49ers don’t know. The Chargers do.


The Chargers Have Some Boys Named Sue

Leslie, Stanley, Junior, Darrien, Alfred, Courtney. Unlikely first names for tough football players, but first names of six Charger starters.


At what age do you think Leslie O’Neal was forced to become tough? Three?

The 49ers’ starting lineup has a Dana, but is otherwise filled with manly names such as Bryant, Derrick, Rickey and, of course, Bart.

You don’t need to be Johnny Cash to figure out who has the advantage here.


The Chargers Have Ronnie Harmon.

Nothing scares the 49er defense more than a running back who can catch passes. And no running back in football is better at catching passes than Harmon.

When 49ers lost to the Kansas City Chiefs this year, the Chiefs’ leading receiver was running back Kimble Anders.

In their other two losses, to the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, barely half of the completions they allowed were to wide receivers.

And what do you think was the Dallas Cowboys’ main weapon during their two-year domination of the 49ers? Short passes to Emmitt Smith.

In two of the Chargers’ last three games, Harmon was their leading receiver, catching 13 passes for 142 yards.


The 49er defense is designed to put pressure on the passer with four quick linemen while taking away the deep pass with a variety of zone coverages.

There is nothing in that playbook that can solve the likes of a quick, 207-pound running back, grabbing a ball three yards across the line of scrimmage and running either around or over you.

“If you don’t pay attention,” 49er cornerback Toi Cook said of the Chargers’ Harmon-ized offense, “they will definitely get you.”


The Chargers Have Reggie White

The backup defensive lineman has seven tackles in his career, but a heck of a memorabilia collection.

His mailbox regularly contains football cards, posters and fan letters addressed to the “other” Reggie White, the All-Pro defensive end for the Green Bay Packers.

The field has always been his escape, or so he thought until last season, during the week of practice before the Chargers played host to the Packers.


White was assigned to the scout team, which simulates Packer plays during drills. The man White was assigned to impersonate? Reggie White.


The Chargers Have Better Special Teams

How fitting that in a season during when rules changes turned kickoffs and punts into game-breaking plays, a special teams guy could win a Super Bowl.

That guy could be Charger punt returner Darrien Gordon, who ranks second in the league with 13.2 yards per return and two touchdowns.

Or it could be Charger kick returner Andre Coleman, who ranks second in that category with a 26.2-yard average and two touchdowns.

The 49ers’ Dexter Carter isn’t even in the top 10 in his conference in kickoff returns (23.0), and ranks only eighth (8.4 yards) in the NFC in punt returns.

Then there are the kickers, whose comparisons are simple.

Doug Brien, the 49er rookie, has never made a big kick in his life.

Has the Chargers’ Carney ever missed one?


Superstitions Don’t Win Super Bowls

Ten superstitions followed by 49er Coach George Seifert.

1--Before putting on his socks, he blows on them.

2--Before putting on his shoes, he shakes them.

3--He refuses to step on any emblem on any field.

4--He will conduct post-practice interviews only with his back to a wall. When the team trained in Tempe, Ariz., before the NFC championship game, the interview session was delayed until such a wall could be found.


5--He has worn the same windbreaker all season.

6--He blows three times into every Lifesaver before putting it into his mouth.

7--He will not change his game pants when the team is winning. He was recently on such a hot streak with one old pair that he even shunned the sponsors who pay to have the 49er coaches wear their pants.

8--He once wore the same gray coaching sweater for six years.

9--He avoids walking through certain doors in the team’s training complex.

10--After his team got hot earlier this year in their throwback uniforms, Seifert petitioned the league to change its policy and allow the 49ers to wear the uniforms the rest of the season, even in the Super Bowl.


The Chargers Are Not Afraid of the Slant Pass

From their push up the middle to the toughness of their secondary, the Chargers are one of the few teams that can stop the 49ers’ trademark slant passing game.

The one in which Jerry Rice catches a ball five yards past the line of scrimmage and runs 60 yards for a touchdown?

The 49ers worked this to perfection in the earlier meeting between the two teams, with Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones combining on 245 yards and two touchdowns.

But, as in virtually every other aspect of that game, the Charger defense has changed since then. Players who were hurting are sound, including Seau, Rueben Davis and Chris Mims. Confidence has been built.

The Chargers will overwhelm aging center Bart Oates, who needs the sort of help that weakens the entire offensive line. The Chargers’ defensive front averages 6 feet 4 and 299 pounds and is as quick and big as any the 49ers have faced.


“I think they haven’t seen big guys like us before, and I’m not sure they can block us,” Davis said. “If we can just get a little hand on Steve Young now and then. . . .”

With pressure on Young, they will then bring five guys--three linebackers, two cornerbacks--to the middle of the field to work on the short passing game.

If Seau stops taking silly chances and stays in his zone more--he was beaten badly by Jones in the earlier meeting--the strategy will work.


The Traditional Rap Video Jinx

The Chargers claim they were given the incentive to upset the Steelers for the AFC championship after Steeler players, before the game, scheduled a taping session for a Super Bowl rap video to be held after the game.

So what do the 49ers do?

After Tuesday’s photo day at Joe Robbie Stadium, running back William Floyd and defensive end Todd Kelly lead a group of players in a rap song near midfield.

The title? “Flip Side.”

Which is what the Chargers must be feeling like today. Which means the 49ers will be mighty surprised when that wax is turned.