Spot On: A Look Back at Super Bowl XXIX
Russell S. Baxter
Spot On: A Look Back at Super Bowl XXIX
By Brandon Fazzolari
Special to Pro Football Guru
It has been 25 years since the San Francisco 49ers last won the Super Bowl. With the Niners on the brink of bringing home their sixth Lombardi Trophy, let’s take a look back at the circumstances surrounding their fifth.
The Team of the '80s
The 49ers were undoubtedly the team of the 1980s. They continued their stellar play into the ’90s but had yet to win the Super Bowl. In 1990, they were stunned by the Giants in the NFC championship game. In 1991, Steve Young took over as starting quarterback. And while posting some of the best statistics ever seen, Young failed to defeat the Cowboys, his boyhood team, in consecutive NFC championship games in 1992 and ‘93. But in 1994, it would prove to be Young’s season.
Deion Sanders, arguably the finest cornerback the NFL has ever seen, was a key acquisition to an already fine defense. The defense also added Richard Dent, Toi Cook, Tim McDonald, Ken Norton, Rickey Jackson and Gary Plummer (all Pro Bowl players from other teams). They had two other young stud defensive linemen in Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield who would serve as fixtures on the Niners’ defense for a decade. And, finally, Merton Hanks and Eric Davis manned the defensive backfield. Since San Francisco was a dynamic offensive team, Coach George Seifert’s focus was to build a defense that could slow Emmitt Smith and the Cowboys’ offense. It worked.
On offense, the 49ers once again had the top-ranked unit in the league. Simply put, Jerry Rice was the best player in the NFL. But, it was not all sun and roses early in the season. In Week 2, the Niners lost to Kansas City, 24-17. Who played quarterback for the Chiefs that day? Joe Montana. In Week, 5, the 49ers were pulverized by Philadelphia by the unreal score of 40-8 and Steve Young, the 1994 NFL MVP, was benched. And he was mad enough to let Coach Seifert have it! This proved to be a turning point for the 49ers as they marched through the rest of the season devastating the opposition.
In fact, San Francisco won their next 13 meaningful games posting ridiculous numbers along the way. Young was smart, fast, strong, and accurate. None of those things would have mattered if he lost to Dallas again. In 1994, he didn’t. The 49ers defeated the Cowboys during the regular season by a score of 21-14. They would meet again. Thus, the stage was set for the real Super Bowl of the 1994 season: the NFC Championship game.
The Niners came out with their pants on fire. Eight minutes in, the score was 21-0! Dallas received the kick and Troy Aikman threw a pick. Then, Michael Irvin fumbled. Then, Kevin Williams fumbled. Dallas had to be wondering what kind of nightmare they were in. But, like the Cowboys of that era always did, they battled back. They got within 10 late in the fourth. Aikman went deep and Sanders had very tight coverage on Irvin, but a flag was not thrown. San Francisco prevailed and was on to their fifth Super Bowl. There would be a new champion!
The San Diego Chargers?
Their opponent was the San Diego Chargers. Bobby Ross and his ’93 Chargers finished 8-8. So, coming into the ’94 season there weren’t very lofty expectations in San Diego. However, the Chargers started 6-0 and established themselves as a serious contender in a weak AFC. Although San Diego endured a midseason slump, they did enough to get a No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Their offense was built around their powerful running back Natrone Means and underrated quaretrback Stan Humphries. On defense, they had the fantastic linebacker and future Hall of Famer Junior Seau. The Bolts did just enough to edge Miami in a thrilling divisional round game. San Diego trailed 21-6 at the half. But, a safety and a Means’ TD cut the lead to 21-16. Then, Humphries hit Mark Seay for a go-ahead score. Dolphins’ kicker Pete Stoyanovich badly missed a fied goal at the buzzer. So, the Chargers were on to Pittsburgh to play the highly-favored Steelers.
In the conference championship game, the Chargers again fell behind. This time they trailed 13-3 late in the third quarter. But, Humphries hit on two 43-yard touchdown passes; one to tight end Alfred Pupunu and the other to wide receiver Tony Martin. The Steelers led by Neil O’Donnell, marched right down the field only to be thwarted on a fourth and goal on a PBU by linebacker Dennis Gibson. Miraculously, the 1994 San Diego Chargers would play in Super Bowl XXIX.
The game was tough to watch for Chargers’ fans. San Francisco came out of the gates flying. It took them seven offensive plays and five minutes to compile a 14-0 lead. The Chargers held on to the ball over the next several minutes and scored to cut the lead to 14-7 on a Means’ plunge.
But the 49ers came right back scoring touchdowns on two of their next three possessions and for all intents and purposes, the game was over. In the second half, the Niners continued the onslaught. They went up 42-10 before Chargers’ kick returner Andre Coleman took one back for a score. The final was 49-26. Steve Young passed for 325 yards and a Super Bowl-record six touchdown tosses. He also ran for 49 yards. Indeed, it was his day in the sun.
Brandon Fazzolari (@DrSuperBowl) is a lifelong Buffalo Bills fan and a Vegas sports reporter for Vegas the Network.