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1994 - The Year of the 49ers

Apr 8, 2001 at 12:00 AM

In 1994 the San Francisco 49ers dominated the NFL in every facet of the game. They won their 5th Super Bowl; they had the Coach of the Year, the MVP of the league and the Super Bowl, the Defensive Player of the Year and the Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as ten Pro Bowl players. The 49ers also scored the 4th highest point total in league history with 505 points on their way to a league leading 13-3 record. After going four seasons without making it to the Super Bowl the 49ers were determined to do whatever it took to get there in 1994.

It all started in the off-season, when the 49ers started to bring in a bunch of aging veteran free agents hoping to end their career with a Super Bowl victory. They signed Deion Sanders, Gary Plummer, Rickey Jackson, Richard Dent, Charles Mann, Ken Norton, Tim Harris, Bart Oates and Toi Cook. All of these players made a big contribution to the 49ers in their run to the Super Bowl.

Tim Harris was among the league leaders in sacks, while the addition of Plummer and Norton to the line-backing core gave the 49ers one of the leagues best. Deion Sanders went on to become the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year. With the addition of all of these defensive linemen, the 49ers always had a fresh guy to put in the game during passing situations to rush the QB. Although, it cost the 49ers much money to bring in these free agents, by seasons end with their 5th Super Bowl trophy in hand, it seemed worth it.

Also making large contributions to the 49ers success were first round draft picks Bryant Young and William Floyd. Young was an All-American defensive lineman out of Notre Dame and Floyd was a full back from Florida State. Bryant Young was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1994. William Floyd worked his way into the line-up by the 6th week of the season finishing with 6 touchdowns. Both players had made a huge impact, on a team full of veteran players, in their first season. William Floyd and Bryant Young were quickly becoming known all around the league.

Of course the 49ers “Big Three” on offense made huge contributions in their road to the Super Bowl. Steve Young was the NFL’s Most Valuable Player with a terrific season. Jerry Rice was among the league leaders in catches, yards and touchdowns. Ricky Watters showed off his versatility with over 1,500 combined rushing and receiving yards. Both Young and Rice were named NFL Offensive Player of the Week twice and Young was also named NFL Offensive Player of the Month for November.

Steve Young finished the season with the highest QB rating (112.8) in league history. He completed 70.2% of his passes for 3,969 yards, 35 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He had a 5.1-yard average rushing the ball with 293 yards and 7 touchdowns. It was his 4th consecutive passing title.

Jerry Rice finished the season with 112 catches, 1,499 yards, 13 touchdowns and another 2 touchdowns rushing. It was Rice’s 9th consecutive 1,000-yard season as well as his 9th consecutive Pro Bowl appearance.

Ricky Watters had 877 yards rushing and 719 yards receiving while scoring a combined 11 touchdowns.

With great seasons by all three players, they were all participants in the Pro Bowl. Joining them in the Pro Bowl, from the offense, were Brent Jones, Jesse Sapolu and Bart Oates.

The team leaders on defense were Tim Harris, Ken Norton, Deion Sanders and Merton Hanks. Harris led the team in sacks. Norton had a team leading 79 solo tackles. Merton Hanks led the team in interceptions with 7 and was second on the team with 66 solo tackles. Deion chipped in with 6 interceptions, 3 of which he returned for touchdowns.  

Hanks and Sanders were in the Pro Bowl along with Tim McDonald and Dana Stubblefield. Harris, Norton and Sanders were in their first season with the 49ers. With these players on the defense the 49ers were able to shut down almost any opposing offense. In my opinion this was one of the best 49er defenses ever.

I would now like to take you through a week-by-week synopsis of the 1994 season. This will show that, right from the start of the season, the 49ers were destined to be the Super Bowl winners.

Week 1                   49ers 44   Raiders 14

The first game of the season saw Jerry rice break Jim Brown’s all-time touchdown record by scoring three touchdowns. Rice was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week with 7 catches for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns while adding another touchdown on a reverse. Steve Young threw 4 touchdown passes, two to Rice and two to Pro Bowl tight end Brent Jones. It was great watching Jerry and Steve light up the scoreboard in the first game of the season on a Monday night. The emphasis was on Jerry Rice getting the touchdown record, which he did late in the 4th quarter. It was a great start to the season.

Week 2                  49ers 17   Chiefs 24

This was an interesting game as it was against, former starting QB, Joe Montana. Steve Young threw a touchdown pass to Brent Jones and full back Marc Logan scored a touchdown, but it was typical “Montana Magic” in the 4th quarter that gave the 49ers their first loss of the season. In the first half it looked like Steve Young would end up getting the best of Montana, but in the second half, Montana led the Chiefs on two long touchdown drives.

Week 3                 49ers 34     Rams 19

This was a game that Steve Young won nearly single handedly. He threw touchdown passes to Jerry Rice and John Taylor while scoring two touchdowns of his own on the ground. He completed 31 out of 39 passes for 355 yards. Watching Young in this game really made me realize that the 49ers had truly become his team. Steve was in control right from the start of the game.

Week 4                 49ers 24   Saints 13

This game was the first in which Deion Sanders started as a 49er and he made his presence felt with an interception returned for a touchdown. Steve Young and Jerry Rice continued their great seasons by hooking up for two touchdowns. The 49er defense came up with game saving interceptions by Merton Hanks and of course Deion’s that ended in a touchdown.

Week 5                 49ers 8   Eagles 40

Philadelphia dominated the 49ers in all phases of this game. With the game already out-of –hand in the third quarter, Coach Seifert pulled Steve Young out of the game. Steve did not want to come out and started a tirade on the sideline that proved to be the turning point in the season for the 49ers. This game served as a wake up call for the 49ers. They realized that if they came in to a game thinking they were invincible that it would backfire on them.

Week 6                49ers 27    Lions 21

The 49ers fell behind 14-0 early in this game, but then their defense took over leading them to victory. Merton Hanks had an interception that led to a touchdown. Running backs Ricky Watters and William Floyd each had touchdowns and Steve Young threw a touchdown pass to Nate Singleton. Floyd’s touchdown was one of the most impressive short yardage plays I have seen as he carried several players into the end zone with him.

Week 7               49ers 42      Falcons 3

Deion Sanders and his return to Atlanta, where he played before joining the 49ers, overshadowed this game. He added to the excitement by getting into a fight with ex-teammate Andre Rison as well as scoring on an impressive interception return. Steve Young, coming off of one of his worst games, completed 15 of 16 passes for 4 touchdowns. Ricky Watters caught two of Young’s passes for touchdowns and Tim McDonald added a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Deion’s interception was the highlight of the game as he high-stepped all along the Atlanta sideline. The 49er defense forced 6 turnovers including McDonald’s fumble recovery.

Week 8               49ers 41    Buccaneers 16

In a game dominated by the 49er defense and running backs, Ricky Watters rushed for over 100 yards and 2 touchdowns and William Floyd and Marc Logan each scored touchdowns. Also back-up QB Elvis Grbac threw a touchdown pass to Ed McCaffery.
With the game well in hand the 49ers gave playing time to many of their second string players.

Week 9               49ers 37    Redskins 22

This was a game in which the 49ers dominated in all phases. Brent Jones scored on the longest touchdown catch of his career. Jerry Rice scored on a reverse. Tim McDonald returned an interception for a touchdown and Dexter Carter added a touchdown on a kick off return. It was exciting to see the 49ers score on offense, defense and special teams in this game. They were firing on all cylinders in this one.  

Week 10             49ers 21    Cowboys 14

In what has become one of the NFL’s best rivalries, Steve Young and Merton Hanks were the biggest contributors on this day. Steve Young threw touchdown passes to Jerry Rice and Brent Jones and scored on a rushing play as well. Merton Hanks saved the day with 2 key interceptions ending long drives by Dallas. The 49ers had marked this game on their schedule as one they had to win. They were able to extract a little revenge for the two consecutive losses in the NFC Championship.

Week 11             49ers 31    Rams 27

This turned out to be one of Jerry Rice’s best games ever. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for catching a team record 16 passes for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns. Every time the 49ers needed a big play Steve Young just looked for Jerry and he was able to come up with it. John Taylor also caught a touchdown pass giving Young another game with 4 touchdown passes. Young completed 30 of 44 passes for 325 yards. This was one of the best games of the season as both teams did everything they could to win the game. In the end the Rams just couldn’t keep up with Rice and Young.

Week 12            49ers 35   Saints 14

Steve Young threw 4 touchdown passes, one each to Brent Jones, Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Nate Singleton. The 49er defense turned in another dominating performance. This was another 4 touchdown game for Steve Young, yet another great performance by the best QB in the game during the early 90’s. Watching Young throughout the season was really great, as a 49er fan, since he just kept getting better as the season went on.

Week 13           49ers 50    Falcons 14

In another overall dominating performance by the 49ers, Steve Young threw for two touchdowns and ran for another. Back up running back Adam Walker also scored on a short run. Over the years, Atlanta has become a team the 49ers totally dominate and this was just another one of those games. The 49er offense and defense just never gave the Falcons a chance to be in the game.

Week 14            49ers 38    Chargers 15

Steve Young was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns. Brent Jones and John Taylor were on the receiving end of Young’s touchdowns and Deion Sanders added a touchdown on an interception return. This was an impressive win over the team that would end up as the AFC representative in the Super Bowl. Deion was so far ahead of everyone else on the field during his interception return that he started high stepping before midfield.  

Week 15            49ers 42   Broncos 19

Steve Young threw for another 3 touchdowns. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 350 yards. Ricky Watters caught 2 touchdowns. Jerry Rice caught a touchdown pass and William Floyd added a rushing touchdown. Both of Watters’ touchdowns were impressive short catches that he turned into long touchdown runs. This was another game in which the 49er offense was unstoppable. As a fan, watching the 49er offense dominate each game in this fashion was incredible.

Week 16           49ers 14    Vikings 21

With a first round bye in the playoffs already wrapped up, the 49ers gave their second string players most of the action in a game that did not mean much to them. Steve Young, only playing in the first half, completed 12 of 13 passes and a touchdown to Jerry Rice. Elvis Grbac added a touchdown pass to Ed McCaffery.

NFC Divisional Playoff            49ers 44   Bears 14

The 49ers showcased their rookie full back, William Floyd, in this game. Floyd scored 3 touchdowns on short runs. Steve Young threw for one touchdown and ran for another. The 49er defense held Chicago to 247 total yards. Brent Jones caught a touchdown pass. Gary Plummer tied a post-season record with 13 tackles. Tim Harris had 2 sacks and both Eric Davis and Merton Hanks had interceptions. This game showed that the 49ers were going to continue their outstanding play throughout the playoffs. The Bears were unable to accomplish much at all, even after switching to a different QB in the second half.

NFC Championship                  49ers 38   Cowboys 28

In what many people were calling “The Real Super Bowl” the 49ers took advantage of 5 turnovers by Dallas and an inspiring performance by Steve Young to lead them to victory. Steve Young threw for only 155 yards, but he threw for 2 touchdowns and added another touchdown on a spectacular short run. Ricky Watters, Jerry Rice and William Floyd all scored touchdowns. On defense, Eric Davis led the way with an interception return for a touchdown and a forced fumble, which Tim McDonald recovered. Ken Norton added 10 tackles against his old team and both Rhett Hall and Tim Harris had 2 sacks. Deion Sanders also added an interception and 5 passes defensed. Rice’s touchdown came just before halftime putting the game out of reach at 31 to 14. After the game Steve Young was so elated he could be seen running a victory lap around the stadium.

Super Bowl                        49ers 49   Chargers 26

This was Steve Young’s game to finally step out of the shadow of Joe Montana. He did so, in an MVP performance, by completing 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and a record 6 touchdowns while leading all rushers with 49 yards. Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters both scored a record-tying 3 touchdowns and William Floyd added another touchdown. It was another dominating performance by the 49ers. After the game, in a very memorable moment, Steve Young asked for someone to take the monkey off his back, which teammate Gary Plummer did by reaching his hands out and using a throwing motion and then said, “It’s gone forever.” This game was the picture perfect finish to an amazing season for the 49ers.

After reviewing this synopsis of the season you should see that 1994 was truly the year of the 49ers. Aside from being beaten by Joe Montana and the Eagles, the 49ers dominated the entire season. For me, as a 49er fan, the 1994 season was one of the most memorable. It was great for me to see long time veteran players like Gary Plummer and Rickey Jackson finally get to the Super Bowl and win it. I was also very glad to see Steve Young finally win the Super Bowl, that so many had doubted he had the ability to do.  Overall the 1994 season belonged to the San Francisco 49ers and their fans. I for one will hold memories of the 1994 season in my memory bank for a long time.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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