It Goes From Bad to Hearst for the 49ers


The San Francisco 49ers, disguised as the NFL’s best team before Sunday after polishing off 11 losers in a row, were unmasked by the Kansas City Chiefs, and stripped of running back Garrison Hearst for the remainder of the regular season with a fractured collarbone.

The Chiefs, 14th in scoring and matched against the league’s top defense, demolished the 49ers, 44-9, before 77,535 in Arrowhead Stadium, the most points scored by Kansas City since 1985 and the most posted against San Francisco in a regular-season game since 1980.

“We were embarrassed,” San Francisco safety Tim McDonald said. “We couldn’t stop anything. People may prejudge us because of this, but all that matters is what happens at the end of the season and we will have the final answer.”


The 49ers (11-2), looking like a lock to secure the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs after beating on the Rams, Falcons, Saints and Panthers much of the season, were overwhelmed by the Chiefs (10-3), who took a 28-3 lead in the second quarter and forced quarterback Steve Young to the bench in the fourth quarter for his own protection.

“We got our butts kicked,” Young said. “We got punched in the mouth, but that could be a good thing for this team. We have to make something of this experience, this bitter experience, and make it a part of the reason why we go on and become successful.”

With no more games remaining against the hapless likes of the Chargers, Cowboys or any of the cream puffs residing in the NFC West, the 49ers, however, will be required to do something quite extraordinary: beat a team with a winning record.

“We got a little overconfident,” San Francisco cornerback Darren Woodson said, “and they put it to us. Against good teams when it goes the opposite way for you--you get blown out.”

Steve Mariucci, the 49ers’ wunderkid coach, is 0-3 in his last three assignments against opponents with a winning ledger: Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Navy.

“The St. Louis Rams had a winning record when we played them,” Mariucci said. “They were 1-0.”


Details, details, details. The Chiefs had them all going in their favor after guaranteeing Coach Marty Schottenheimer a 10-win season for the ninth time in his 13 years as coach in Cleveland and Kansas City:

* They got four touchdown passes in a game for the first time since 1983.

* They stopped the opposition from scoring a touchdown in the second half for the eighth consecutive game.

* The Chiefs did not allow a sack, but had five of their own, giving them 19 in four games.

* Kansas City scored on cornerback Mark McMillian’s interception return and on a safety with Terry Kirby being tackled in his end zone.

* Kansas City rookie tight end Tony Gonzalez, who played for Mariucci last year at Cal, blocked his second punt of the season and made a two-yard touchdown reception.

* Chief running back Marcus Allen threw his sixth career touchdown pass and notched his 121st career rushing touchdown.

The 49ers, meanwhile, surrendered a season-high 340 yards in total offense and 153 rushing yards, and lost their composure in the second half and began scuffling with the Chiefs, getting hit with two unnecessary roughness penalties.

“I thought we got frustrated and I think the wheels came off a little bit and it snowballed,” Mariucci said. “We just couldn’t seem to stop it.”

The 49ers, facing tough tests against Minnesota and Denver the next two weeks at home, will do so without Hearst, who topped the 1,000-yard rushing mark before suffering a fractured collarbone in the second half while being hauled down from behind on a 45-yard run.

“That’s going to have a huge impact on them,” Kansas City defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said. “He’s made a big difference and has kept the pressure off Steve Young. We came into this game wanting to stop the run and make Steve Young throw the ball.”

That’s what it has come to this season--making Young throw the ball--because he lacks solid protection up front and because his wide receivers do not demand double coverage.

Against the Chiefs, Young took a series of serious hits, including a punishing hit to the back early in the game. Young, pulling away from center but stopping with most everyone else after the 49ers had been whistled for a false start, was drilled from behind by Kansas City linebacker Anthony Davis, who claimed he had not heard the whistle.

“We could talk about this game and the answers will be the same: They were all over us in every way and we didn’t get anything going,” said Young, who downplayed the hit to his back. “The pressure they put on us was steady and distracting, and going down 21-3 gets you out of your game, or the way we have been playing the game.”

The 49ers have been running the ball, and lead the league in ball control, reducing the risk of setting up Young in the pocket or asking him to scramble. But now with Terry Kirby--more of a receiver than a runner--slated to replace Hearst, the 49ers might have to rely more on their air attack.

And if Young is going to have to throw the ball more, then the return of wide receiver Jerry Rice from a knee injury suffered in a season-opening loss to Tampa Bay might be the jump start needed for the 49ers. Rice ran pass patterns with quarterback Jim Druckenmiller throwing the ball before pregame warmups, and made sharp cuts both left and right with no apparent difficulty.

Rice is expected to begin practicing with the team Wednesday with the anticipation he will return Dec. 15 against the Broncos.

“We have to stay the course,” Young said after the 49ers were held without a touchdown for only the second time in their last 109 games--both coming this year. “You have to grit your teeth and go forward. Losing like this was a new experience for many of these guys. But when you look back on it when the season’s over, maybe we’ll say it was good that we got rerouted here in Kansas City and lost, and it helped us play better in the long run.”


One for the Books

Most lopsided 49er losses:

Year: Score (Margin)

1958: Rams 56-7 (49)

1986: N.Y. Giants, 49-3 (46)

1980: Dallas 59-14 (45)

1967: Detroit 45-3 (42)

1965: Chicago 61-20 (41)

1954: Detroit 48-7 (41)

1963: Detroit 45-7 (38)

1955: Cleveland 38-3 (35)

1997: Kansas City 44-9 (35)