It’s Not Going Rice’s Way but 49ers Still Win

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Jerry Rice complained about the San Francisco 49ers’ erratic play, and offered to jump start the offense.

Instead, it was Terrell Owens who provided the spark.

Owens turned a short Steve Young pass into a 79-yard touchdown in the first quarter of San Francisco’s 31-7 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night.

However, the win was costly for the 49ers, who lost star defensive tackle Bryant Young for the rest of the season when he suffered a broken leg midway in the fourth quarter.


Replays showed the Young’s leg bent backward as he collided with linebacker Ken Norton Jr. as they closed in for a tackle. Young was wheeled off the field on a gurney.

“It was an awful injury,” 49er Coach Steve Mariucci said. “Bryant’s a tough guy. If anybody can make it back from an injury like that, he can--but not this year.”

The victory clinched a 16th consecutive winning season for the 49ers (9-3) and kept them a game behind first-place Atlanta in the NFC West.

The Giants (4-8) started fast but then faded, as they often have this season after winning the NFC East last year. Kent Graham had a 48-yard completion to Ike Hilliard on their first play and three plays later, Gary Brown went up the middle for an 11-yard touchdown.

But the Giants, with the second-lowest ranked offense in the league, couldn’t keep it going against the 49ers, who fell behind for the seventh time in nine games.

Owens, who had five catches for 140 yards, turned a short flat pass from Young into a touchdown with 2:39 left in the first quarter to pull the 49ers into a 7-7 tie.

Owens, now perhaps the 49ers’ most dangerous receiver instead of Rice, blew past Conrad Hamilton near the line of scrimmage and pulled free of Sam Garnes’ grasp at the 30.

“I gave ‘em a little juke here and there to get free,” Owens said.

After being held to three catches for 27 yards in last week’s 31-20 victory against New Orleans, an exasperated Rice said he felt left out of the offense and implied San Francisco could reverse its sluggish starts by throwing more passes his way. He had three catches for 25 yards against the Giants.

49er running back Garrison Hearst ran for 166 yards in 20 carries to go over 1,000 yards rushing for the second consecutive season. He scored the game’s final touchdown with a 70-yard run.