steve young threw a record 6 touchdown passes, and the 49ers became the first team to win five super bowls when they defeated the chargers by a score of 49-26.
(jan 29, 1995) – a few days before super bowl xxix, steve young sat in a suite at the san francisco team hotel and explained why he was smiling. “This is fun now,” he said. “i’m having so much fun. before, i was pushing really hard, trying to get past the criticism and the skepticism and everything else. it just got disgusting. i just had to do things differently.”
So young, the brilliant 49ers quarterback decided to forget about being asked to replace joe montana and started playing for the sake of steve young. “my secret to success,” he explained, “is that i have shown up to work every day no matter what was going on. because you have to go through that. i chose to stay (in san francisco), i chose to play here, i chose to do a lot of things It’s fun to remember that now, but it wasn’t then.”
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young had tried to distance himself from the bitterness he felt over the montana problem, created by everything from joe’s blatant jealousy of any young achievement to the organization’s spring 1993 decision to return young’s job to young. Started Montana even after Young led the league last season in 1992. Montana eventually decided to leave the team and was traded to Kansas City. But even without Joe in a 49ers uniform, Young felt uncomfortable and, in many ways, unwanted in San Francisco. That is, until he stopped fighting the ghost and focused on what he could control.
“I’m a control guy anyway,” he said. “I like being in charge. If linemen gave the signals, I’d probably be a lineman. I realized I couldn’t control a lot of things that bothered me. So I accepted it and moved on.”
now young man was only a few days away from a coronation of sorts. Up until the 1994 season, despite a San Francisco career filled with eye-popping stats (he led the league in passing from 1991 to 1994), he had been criticized for never winning a truly important game. He was especially haunted by back-to-back losses to Dallas in the NFC Championship Game. but things had changed dramatically for him. The 49ers had beaten the Cowboys in the conference title game two weeks earlier, and he knew that if the 49ers could beat San Diego in Super Bowl XXIX, and do so convincingly, he would be seen in a footballing light. different.
The 49ers had done everything they could to help him get past this latest hurdle. In the offseason, they had brought in some veteran free agents to bolster their defense, players like Richard Dent (Chicago), Rickey Jackson (New Orleans), Ken Norton (Dallas), Gary Plummer (San Diego) and Deion Sanders (Atlanteans). It had been the defense, much more than the youngsters’ offense, that fell short in the championship in the 1990s. But to pay everyone off, the 49ers asked several players to accept renegotiated contracts that would free up the money. necessary. And then some of the free agents, like Jackson and Sanders, had to accept one-year salaries far below their actual value. “But I wanted a ring more than anything else,” Jackson said. “After being in the league for so long, it was worth taking a pay cut.” Sanders toured the league, speaking to clubs including New Orleans and Miami, before turning down lucrative long-term contracts to sign with San Francisco.
“I thought the 49ers were the team I had to go to to win a super bowl, and that’s what I wanted,” sanders said. Both the 49ers and Sanders knew he would demand much more than his 1994 salary of $1 million to play for San Francisco in 1995. “Deion won’t lose any money, just remember,” Plummer said. “He will recover in victory endorsements what he lost in salary.”
Some officials from other teams bristled at the 49ers’ liberal use of the new free agency rules, claiming they were trying to buy a title. But Saint Francis did not deny his intention. To beat Dallas, he had to become a better team. and to do it quickly, going the free agency route was the only logical approach. “We wanted to beat the cowboys and win another super bowl,” said 49ers president carmen policy. “It’s the goal that drives this franchise. Anything less will be a disappointment.”
there would be no disappointments. With the youngsters playing brilliantly and the defense holding up adequately, the 49ers defeated the outmatched Chargers, 49-26, at Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium for their record fifth Super Bowl crown. It was the 11th consecutive Super Bowl win for the NFC teams, by an average margin of 22 points. And like many of the games of the previous decade, this one was lopsided and lacking in drama.
but not for the relieved youngsters. he came when he needed it most, completing 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and six touchdowns. he was also the game’s leading rusher, battling for 49 yards on five attempts. His touchdown total broke Montana’s record of five, set against Denver in Super Bowl XXIV, and his passing yardage was the fourth-highest in Super Bowl history. he was named most valuable player and recognized that this was the most important game of his, even if montana still has more rings (four).
“I always felt like I was playing against the past,” Young said afterwards. “Honestly, I’ve distanced myself from all of (the Montana comparisons). I did it a couple of years ago. I want my performance to stand out for me and my teammates. You don’t do the team a favor when you talk about it that way. “
but even with young’s contribution, the entire super bowl event was a bust. the preparation for the game began with a groan and did not get louder. Of the 29 Super Bowls, this one easily became the least expected, the least controversial, the least desired. The problem: No one could generate much hope that San Diego had any chance of winning. even the shippers, who talked bravely all week, never really seemed convinced that they were better than san francisco.
the expected duel was pittsburgh-dallas or pittsburgh-san francisco. The Steelers built the best record in the AFC thanks to an aggressive, blitz defense that performed like no other in the league. At least the Steelers would have offered a different look for an AFC team after four years of watching Buffalo’s no-huddles offense crumble against superior NFC opponents.
but the steelers ruined everything by failing to dominate the chargers in the afc championship game. Despite home court advantage and a great passing day from quarterback Neil O’Donnell, Pittsburgh lost the lead, and ultimately the game, on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Stan Humphries with less than six minutes left. for the end. Then O’Donnell had a last-second pass attempt knocked down in the end zone to dash Pittsburgh’s dream. Suddenly, San Diego was in the Super Bowl despite leading both of its playoff games by less than six minutes total. of such things, long shots are made.
This was a franchise on an unexpected streak. General manager Bobby Beathard, who built the Redskins’ Super Bowl clubs in the 1980s, took over in San Diego in 1990, a year after leaving Washington. Two years into his regimen, Beathard fired coach Dan Henning and hired Bobby Ross, who won a national title at Georgia Tech but was not considered a top-priority NFL coaching candidate. But Ross proved to be a tireless worker and organizer and, in Beathard’s opinion, “the best judge of talent of any coach I’ve ever met,” including Joe Gibbs, who was hired by Beathard to trade to the Redskins in the early 1990s. 1980.
beathard and ross led the chargers to the 1992 afc west title. but the club fell to 8-8 in 1993 and, after bringing in 10 new starters and 22 overall personnel changes, was not expected to compete in 1994. But the shippers proved resourceful and mature beyond expectations. They spent the year recovering from unlikely deficits behind the betting game of Humphries and a flexible but often consistent defense devised by veteran coordinator Bill Arnsparger. This was an NFC East type team, built around great linemen, a great running back (means natrone), and a controlled passing game.
still, the chargers lost to san francisco, 38-15, in december in a game that could have been considerably more lopsided. And San Francisco was on a hot streak, winning 12 of its last 13 games (including two playoff contests) and averaging more than 31 points per game for the season. the 49ers’ 505 regular-season points were the fourth-highest in league history.
“In all my years in football, it’s the most impressive offense I’ve ever seen,” said Hank Stram, coach of Super Bowl IV winner Kansas City and noted offensive innovator.
And of course, the 49ers were coming off a 38-28 victory over Dallas in the NFC Championship Game, which many considered to be the “real” Super Bowl.
The result was an unbalanced betting line. he started with 19 points, grew in some quarters to 20 or 21, then dropped to 18 as the game got closer. But somewhere San Diego had to have some hope. so he trotted out joe namath, the one with “the guarantee”. Before Super Bowl III, Namath boldly predicted that his American Football League boosters would beat the highly favored National Football League colts. his jets were 18 point underdogs when namath spoke.
“everyone was talking about the point spread, how big it was,” namath said. “hey, we were there to win the game.” When Namath proved correct (the Jets won, 16-7), the NFL’s supposed dominance deflated. and now namath is probably remembered as much for his prognosis as for his great ability to play. “I’m pleasantly surprised that ‘the guarantee’ is so fondly remembered,” he said.
In keeping with the namath principle of disrespect, the shippers talked in the days leading up to the game about how they were better than anyone thought. and wondered what they had to do to get people’s attention.
“We’re happy to be big losers,” tight end Alfred Pupunu said. “There’s no pressure on us. If we lose, we were supposed to lose. But if we win, we shock the world.”
Defensive end Leslie O’Neal was bold enough to say that the Chargers “believe we can win. I wouldn’t have come here and wasted time if I didn’t feel like we can go out there and win this game.” “They have a good team, we have a good team. The bottom line is we have to make plays to beat them. My biggest concern is that we go out there and make as many mistakes and make as many holes as we can.” don’t go out.”
And the chargers would be loose? “I don’t feel any pressure,” he said means, “and no one else does either. At the beginning and even at the end, no one gave us credit. They just looked past us. But now we’re here, and we’re not happy just being here.” We’re here to win the game.”
some of the porters went deep sea fishing to relax, and ross, who thinks a good time is stopping at the corner store for ice cream, promised he would slowly lower his team, getting them ready properly.
“I won’t use the point spread as motivation,” he said, “but the players know what’s going on. I’m not sure it’s disrespectful, but you have to wonder why people don’t give us more credit because of what we’ve done. we didn’t come here just to play. we came here trying to win the game, knowing we’re playing a great team.”
That great team had to handle the pressures of expectations. Young, coach George Seifert, even Sanders, the prime-time man, all had strong reasons for wanting to win this game. “If we don’t win, we’re going to have to live with the disappointment and all the questions about how we could have screwed it up,” center Bart Oates said. “I don’t think we go into this game taking it lightly. When you get this far, skipping the super bowl would be ridiculous.”
oates was one of 15 current or former professional bowlers for the 49ers. This was a serene, extremely talented veteran club that had taken on a new personality with the addition of flamboyant Sanders and rookie fullback William Floyd and maturing running back Ricky Watters. San Francisco had always reflected the cool, professional approach developed by Bill Walsh, who built the franchise into a Super Bowl-caliber club. But Sanders is in the entertainment business, not just gaming. “I want to give the fans their $200 worth,” he said, referring to the price of Super Bowl tickets. that’s why he’s prime time. “I saw what running backs and quarterbacks were making and I saw what cornerbacks were making and prime time was born,” he said. “I had to do something to get attention.”
As Sanders brought his flash and end zone dance to the 49ers, Seifert slowly loosened his grip on the players’ emotions. “This season has been more fun for everyone than I can remember,” Seifert said. “i found deion to be nice. but this was a team that knew what they wanted to accomplish and did it in a good way. they had a goal in mind from the start. with this team, nothing less than a super bowl was enough.”
not even sanders did anything controversial before the game. The only unusual occurrence came early, when 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice casually mentioned that he might retire before the ’95 season. Rice explained that he always considers retiring after every season, but talking about it in front of 2,000 reporters tends to make it more important. The next day, Rice realized that it would be better to modify his statements. “I won’t retire,” he said, which ended the argument.
in fact, rice played san diego like he could last another decade. despite a cold, and despite a slightly separated shoulder held in the second quarter, Rice was as brilliant as ever. he caught 10 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. He now holds career Super Bowl records for yards (512), receptions (28), and touchdowns (seven). “One-armed Jerry Rice is better than any two-armed catcher in the league,” Young said.
rice and young quickly proved to san diego that this was not going to be a game where surprises were made. To have any chance of winning, the Chargers had to keep San Francisco from getting ahead early. otherwise they would not be able to control the ball with their running game. his goal was to stay young and sharp off the field, take time off the clock and stay close, hoping to benefit from turnovers. Instead, San Diego was met with his worst nightmare, first by missing the coin toss and having to kick, then by having to keep the 49ers from hitting fast.
on the third play of the game, san francisco sent rice through the center of the chargers defense. Young said San Diego, which normally plays in a two-depth zone, was on a new defense, with four defensive backs spread out in a line across the width of the field. It was a lineup designed to prevent long passes, but Rice still got behind the safeties and scored the 44-yard touchdown. Only 84 seconds had passed and San Francisco was already up 7-0.
“On that particular play, a guy snuck in, broke through and took us by surprise,” Chargers safety Stanley Richard said.
then, after a quick punt from san diego, the 49ers were at it again. this time, they released running back Watters down the middle. he was wide open when he caught a young pass, then broke up tackles from both safeties before finishing the 51-yard throw with 10:05 remaining in the first quarter. This drive had required just 113 seconds and now San Francisco led, 14-0. no one had ever scored 14 points faster in super bowl history.
“It wasn’t coverage, it was miscommunication in the back,” san diego cornerback darrien gordon said of the second touchdown. Young faked a run to Floyd, drawing linebackers, and the corners had to worry about Rice and John Taylor running down the sidelines. who stretched out the field and opened things for the waters.
“The one thing we didn’t want to do was fall behind early, and that’s exactly what happened,” Mean said. Richard stated, “We knew exactly how good they were, but our problem was that we made a lot of mistakes, and when you make mistakes like that and give up big plays, you’re definitely going to lose.”
the chargers tried to stay close. They put together an impressive 13-play, 78-yard drive, using the midfielder’s run and a pass interference call against Sanders at the 1-yard line to set up a scoring-per-half drive with 2:44 remaining in the first quarter. Now, San Diego needed to make a great defensive position on San Francisco’s ensuing possession. Instead, the 49ers marched 70 yards in 10 plays, with Young connecting a 5-yard pass to Floyd to cap the drive. With 13:02 left at the half and the 49ers ahead, 21-7, it was obvious San Diego wasn’t going to win.
and things got worse for shippers. Missed passes, stupid penalties and an ineffective running game (ie a 1,350-yard rusher in the regular season gained just 33 yards) combined to leave San Diego almost passive. An eight-yard pass to Watters late in the second period was followed by third-quarter touchdowns from Watters (on a nine-yard run) and Rice (on a 15-yard pass from Young) to put San Francisco ahead, 42 -10 . The only suspense was whether Young could break Montana’s touchdown mark. His sixth score came with 13:49 left, on a seven-yard throw to, that’s right, Rice.
arnsparger, the veteran coordinator, was stunned. “We were in man coverage, zone coverage, blitz coverage, but they literally beat us at everything we did~ he said. “There was nothing we could do on the sidelines.”
high school coach willie shaw said it was like “coming out of a slaughterhouse. we came out alive.”
ross said he thought his team was ready. “We couldn’t stop them,” he said. “We didn’t play things right in our secondary. Their efficiency and execution is something very special.”
seifert, who has been overshadowed by walsh despite an impressive coaching record, called the win “wonderful job by the coaching staff and all the players. i don’t know if it was that easy. san diego did a wonderful job , but (the 49ers) just picked up the ball and ran with it.”
seifert’s 49ers scored the most points (131) in postseason history, breaking the montana 49ers record (126) in 1989. their least productive day came against dallas, when they had to settle for 38 points. It was an efficient, effective, machine-like performance by a club far too talented for their AFC opponent.
for young, 33, the moment was worth celebrating. “It was hard to face (the montana challenge), and some days I wasn’t sure I was doing very well,” she said. “You know the standards I had to meet. That’s why this is one of life’s most precious moments, to finally get there. Critics? To hell with them. Go with someone else for a change.”
oates knew what he meant. “Steve made the side comment that he was going to take this monkey and shake it off,” Oates said. “He said he had had it too long.”
How many athletes have actually adequately replaced a talent like Montana?
“It’s the most difficult achievement in sports,” said mike allman, director of player personnel for the seattle seahawks. “You don’t just follow a legend and do well.”
but at least during this game, young didn’t care which player he had to follow. this was her moment and she was enjoying every second.
* sports news article