Monday, October 16, 1989


By Mike Weaver
San Jose Mercury News

The 49ers answered another fourth-quarter wake-up call Sunday.

After allowing the hapless Dallas Cowboys to stay with them for three quarters, the Niners awakened in time to earn a 31-14 victory at Texas Stadium.

Although the Niners (5-1) were 14-point favorites against the Cowboys (0-6), the teams were locked in a 14-14 tie to start the fourth quarter before the Niners took control, winning with a fourth-quarter rally for the fourth time this season.

The victory left the Niners 5-0 on the road and moved them to within a half-game of the first-place Los Angeles Rams in the NFC West. The Rams play at Buffalo tonight.

''They did exactly what they have been doing all year," Dallas Coach Jimmy Johnson said of the Niners. "They did the things they had to do to win in the fourth period."

And the Cowboys offered some help along the way throughout the game. Some of Dallas' low moments:

* In the third quarter, Dallas dominated, controlling the ball for 12 minutes, 13 seconds to 2:47 for the Niners, yet each team scored one touchdown in the period. The Niners got theirs by returning a blocked field-goal attempt for a touchdown. The field goal would have given the Cowboys a 10-7 lead.

* With 9:14 left in the game, Dallas quarterback Steve Walsh, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 285 yards, threw an interception in Dallas territory to set up the Niners' go-ahead score -- Jerry Rice's 8-yard TD reception.

* With Dallas trailing 21-14, Roger Ruzek missed a 48- yard field-goal attempt and the Niners countered with Mike Cofer's 31-yarder.

Niners quarterback Steve Young, who started in place of injured Joe Montana and completed 13 of 18 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns, had trouble defining the reasons for the Niners' run of comebacks.

''When we get to the fourth quarter, it just seems like we all of a sudden start making big plays," said Young, who rushed for a game-high 79 yards in 11 carries. "I really can't explain it. We just have a lot of heart."

The slow-starter image is one the Niners would like to shed, however.

''I don't know what the problem is, but we've got to play better in the first half. This is nuts," said Niners running back Roger Craig, who rushed for 61 yards and a touchdown in 18 carries.

Niners tight end Brent Jones, who caught a 36-yard touchdown pass, said the Niners were stalled by ill-timed penalties and poor execution early in the game.

''I don't think we were flat," Jones said. "We just had some unfortunate penalties and missed some assignments. Then everyone got frustrated, and we had to correct that at halftime."

Niners Coach George Seifert said he was concerned at halftime, when the score was 7-7.

''I almost got the impression that we were just thinking, 'Don't worry; we'll get this done.' " he said. "That's not the way you can approach any ballgame." Steve Wallace and Johnny Jackson helped ignite the Niners in the third quarter. Wallace blocked a 43-yard field-goal attempt by Ruzek and the ball bounced to Jackson, who returned it 62 yards for a touchdown to give the Niners a 14-7 lead.

''I was going in the game thinking that maybe a big play would turn it around for us," Wallace said.

Wallace, who has been replaced as a starter at left tackle by Bubba Paris, said he had noticed a flaw in the Dallas line when the Cowboys kicked an extra point earlier in the game. Wallace said he was able to go between center Dave Widell and right guard Crawford Ker to block the field goal.

''I noticed a little crease," Wallace said. "I thought if I could get off the ball quick enough, I could get to it."

Wallace said Matt Millen and Bruce Collie helped to clear a path by moving Widell and Ker out of the way.

Jackson, who scored his first NFL touchdown, said the play came at just the right time for the Niners.

''Dallas had momentum," Jackson said. "We needed something to get us going." Wallace said the Niners may have taken the Cowboys too lightly.

''They're a good team," Wallace said. "They've just had some bad breaks."

Although the Cowboys avenged Jackson's score with a 1-yard touchdown run by Darryl Clack, they were victimized by one of those bad breaks on the second play of the fourth quarter, when Niners safety Tom Holmoe intercepted a pass by Walsh and returned it 23 yards to Dallas 20. The interception led to an 8-yard touchdown pass from Young to Rice, who beat Dallas cornerback Everson Walls to help the Niners take a 21-14 lead.

After Ruzek missed the 48-yard field-goal attempt with 9:45 left, Cofer hit his field goal to put the Niners ahead 24-14 with 4:57 remaining. Craig scored on a 1-yard run with 1:57 to go.

The first quarter ended in a scoreless tie, but the Niners took a 7-0 lead when Jones caught his touchdown pass on the third play of the second quarter. Jones said Young called an audible at the line of scrimmage to take advantage of man-to- man coverage, and Jones beat Dallas linebacker Jack Del Rio for the score.

''It was a great audible and a picture-perfect pass," Jones said.

The Cowboys pulled into a 7-7 tie when Walsh hit Kelvin Martin with a 32-yard touchdown pass with 21 seconds left in the first half.