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ANALYSIS : 49ers Were Too Fast, Too Smart and Too Talented, That’s All

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The most surprising thing about the San Francisco 49ers is the way they make big plays, one after another, and touchdowns, one after another.

How do they do it?

The first 1:24 Sunday was typical of their approach to football. Three 49er plays produced an easy one-touchdown lead en route to an easy 49-26 victory.

It happened that way because their coaches had asked themselves one question about Jerry Rice, the 32-year-old wide receiver who is the key to their offense:

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At Jerry’s age, how can we get him open deep against a Super Bowl defense?

Their answer: Let’s fool the Chargers with draw plays.

So, on the game’s first scrimmage play, they sent fullback William Floyd into the line on a draw, as Rice cooperated in a decoy role.

On second down, following offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan’s game script, 49er quarterback Steve Young threw away from Rice’s side, passing to the other wide receiver, John Taylor, for a first down.

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Next play, the bomb.

As Young faked a handoff, the two San Diego safeties, Stanley Richard and Darren Carrington--sensing a second San Francisco draw in three plays--both crept forward to tackle Floyd. But that was the wrong thing to do. In an instant, Rice was behind them, open deep, for Young’s long pass on a 44-yard touchdown play.

The Chargers never caught up. Their opponent was too fast, too talented, too well coached, and too smart, proving it continuously against a team that never gave up, but never had a chance.

For example, in taking a 14-0 lead, the 49ers showed the rest of the league how to get a halfback open on a pass down the middle, where Ricky Watters, scoring from 51 yards out, came up with a play that few other running backs can make.

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The first requirement for Watters that time was a fingertip catch. Then he was instantly at top speed, and instantly ready to break the two open-field tackles he had to break to get home.

On San Francisco’s next scoring drive, which made it 21-7, the 49ers showed the Pittsburgh Steelers how to execute a fullback-delay pass play up the middle.

Two weeks ago, the Steelers lost the AFC title game to San Diego because their fullback, Barry Foster, was two yards into the end zone when he reached for Neil O’Donnell’s short pass--which was knocked down by Charger linebacker Dennis Gibson.

In Sunday’s Super Bowl, Floyd ran the same five-yard route properly for San Francisco, stopping on the one-yard line, then catching Young’s pass as he fell into the end zone.

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The Steelers don’t spend enough time on offense to run that play correctly. The 49ers do. It is their close attention to detail that makes such seemingly simple plays work repeatedly.

And that’s the way Shanahan coaches.

To begin with, he wasn’t too proud to learn and accept the offense that Bill Walsh developed to get the 49ers’ Super Bowl series under way. But in the last couple of years he has imaginatively built on it.

Today, the 49ers and Dallas Cowboys stand alone in football, well in front of their rivals. Their approaches, however, are different. The Cowboys do it with muscle, the 49ers attack with traps and sweeps and the most sophisticated pass offense in Super Bowl history.

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Two errors: The Chargers could have made it closer in the first half but for some unnecessary gambling by Coach Bobby Ross.

In a 7-0 game, on his first third-and-one situation, Ross gambled unnecessarily with a long pass that fell incomplete. The Chargers’ only chance in this game was to pound the ball with fullback Natrone Means, spinning the clock. By the time they found that out, it was 14-0.

Second, the Chargers thought they could beat 49er cornerback Deion Sanders. They had vowed to attack him, so they did, but by the time they realized that that was a mistake, they were out of it.

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They should have left Sanders alone.


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