Monday, November 13, 1989


The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- Definition of a bad day in the NFL: When your quarterback's kicking provides the only highlight.

That was the fate of the Atlanta Falcons and emergency field-goal kicker Chris Miller on Sunday, who learned in a 45-3 trouncing by the San Francisco 49ers just how far their rebuilding plan needs to progress.

''Atlanta proved that we could take a team that's down and keep them down,'' 49ers offensive tackle Bubba Paris said.

Joe Montana passed for three touchdowns, two to Jerry Rice, and ran for a fourth. Roger Craig topped 100 yards rushing for the first time in nine weeks as the 49ers won for the sixth time in a row, with their most lopsided victory margin in two years.

Besides the usual heroes, linebacker Charles Haley and rookie running back Keith Henderson -- playing his first game -- joined the fun by romping in for touchdowns in a sloppy game that had seven fumbles.

''It was real weird. It was a funny day,'' Montana said. ''It was like the Keystone Kops.''

The victory, combined with the New York Giants' loss to the Los Angeles Rams, gave the 49ers (9-1) sole ownership of the NFL's best record. Their lead over the Rams in the National Football Conference West remained at three games.

''I think we finally arrived as far as putting all four quarters together and being dominating and executing well,'' Craig said.

Craig, who had seven 100-yard games last season, ran for his second this season with 109 yards on 17 carries against the NFL's second-worst rushing defense.

''This game could have been a real letdown for us if we had come in nonchalant and not really worrying about the Atlanta Falcons,'' he said.

The Falcons (3-7) are winless in six road games, having scored just 80 points. They were outgained 515 yards to 192 and scored only on Miller's 25-yard field goal after an injury to Paul McFadden.

''I wasn't pleased with anything that went on out there,'' Falcons coach Marion Campbell said. ''It hurts us to go through this.

''The 49ers are a great football team. I haven't seen this football team better.''

The 49ers put the game away in a ragged first half, taking a 28-3 lead at intermission. Montana lost two fumbles and threw two passes that should have been intercepted but still had 230 passing yards. He completed 16 of 19 passes for 270 yards before leaving in the third quarter.

He opened the scoring on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, then hit Rice on a 39-yard catch-and-run scoring play and John Taylor from 2 yards in the second quarter.