Sunday, January 7, 1990


By Jeff Gordon
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

SAN FRANCISCO -- Bubba Paris knew the San Francisco 49ers had more than a prayer against the Minnesota Vikings here Saturday afternoon.

Paris, the (at least) 300-pound 49ers tackle, led his team's pregame invocation. Then he led an offensive line charge that destroyed the Vikings 41-13 in a National Football Conference playoff game.

''I could tell this was going our way before the game,'' Paris said. ''I got to lead the pregame prayer. It was like we had one spirit ready to come onto the field.''

The Vikings were of one spirt, too - they were too-friendly ghosts.

''We knew it was going to be a tough game, but we just weren't up to it,'' Vikings defensive tackle Keith Millard said.

''We were never in the game,'' Vikings coach Jerry Burns said. ''They dominated -- offense, defense, special teams.''

The 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship game here next Sunday. They will play the winner of Sunday's Los Angeles Rams-New York Giants game.

Saturday's game was even more one-sided than the score. The 49ers earned more Team-of-the-Decade consideration as they walked through the vaunted Vikings defense.

''We could never pick up the rhythm of their offense,'' Burns said. ''They came off the ball, their backs ran hard and our tackling was shoddy at best.''

First-year 49ers coach George Seifert had his team masterfully prepared.

''Overall, this was a fine offensive effort,'' Seifert said. ''We got a tremendous job by the offensive line against such a great pass rush and a fine defense - it's just a hell of an accomplishment by the offensive line.''

Remember, the Vikings defense had been ranked No. 1 in the National Football League all 16 weeks of the regular season.

But quarterback Joe Montana solved it almost effortlessly, completing 17 of 24 passes for 241 yards and four touchdowns.

''When you get the time I had, and with the guys I have to throw to, good things are going to happen,'' Montana said.

He was neither intercepted nor sacked. Indeed, Montana was seldom even harried by an attacking defense, which recorded 71 sacks in the regular season.

''It's been insinuated that we're the worst offensive line in the league, but I think zero sacks today speaks for itself,'' guard Bruce Collie said.

''We ran the ball, so we were able to take something out of their pass rushers,'' Paris said. ''Even though they have a quick, fast team, they don't have a big, strong team.''

The Vikings hadn't allowed a rusher 100 yards all season, but 49er Roger Craig reached triple digits on his first carry of the second half. He finished with 125 yards and one touchdown.

''They have the type of team that pass rushes a lot,'' Craig said. ''We had to take advantage of that . . . with a lot of trap plays and counters. The offensive line did a great job. I had some lanes I could see and run through. After that, it's elementary.''

Offensively, the Vikings produced just two long Rich Karlis field goals, from 38 and 44 yards, and a touchdown run of 3 yards by Rick Fenney with less than six minutes left in the game - long after the outcome had been decided.

Perhaps this was a fitting end to a tumultuous Vikings season. The organization has seemed in disarray since its unhappy flight home from here last year after taking a 34-9 playoff pasting.

The Vikings managed to win the NFC Central title with a 10-6 record, but they seemed badly prepared for this playoff game.

''It's been a season of ups and downs,'' Vikings tight end Steve Jordan said. ''They only thing that's been consistent is our inconsistency.''

After actually taking a 3-0 lead midway through the first period, the Vikings allowed 27 consecutive points.

Only mistakes slowed the 49ers. Craig fumbled at the Minnesota 9 and Mike Cofer missed 31-yard and 32-yard field goal attempts and an extra-point try. Otherwise, the final score might have been 55-13.

The 49ers offense was beautiful to watch. Consider some of its highlights:

Wide receiver Jerry Rice slipped behind the Vikings line and caught a 7-yard pass, then he pivoted and ran 65 more yards to a touchdown. Vikings linebacker Mark Dusbabek, starting in place of injured star Mike Merriweather, had a shot at him downfield but Rice cut inside him.

''That's what we were worried about all week long,'' Burns said. ''When they drop the ball off to their backs or throw turn-ins to the receivers, the key was our tackling.''

After lining up on the right side, tight end Brent Jones ran a quick slant to the left on a second-and-goal play from Minnesota's 8. When Montana rolled right in search of a secondary target, Jones went into the end zone, turned right and dragged Dusbabek along the back line toward the right corner - where Montana found him.

''I'm surprised he saw me,'' Jones said. ''He rolled pretty far right, and I was coming back late. But I guess anything Joe Montana does shouldn't come as a surprise.''

Montana froze Vikings left defensive end with a pitch fake, then bootlegged right around him to complete a 14-yard pass to running back Tom Rathman in the right flat. That set up Montana's 13-yard touchdown pass to Rice to close the first-half onslaught.

The game was over at the half. Burns replaced quarterback Wade Wilson with Tommy Kramer, then Rich Gannon and he pretty much shelved Walker.

Kramer's highlight was hitting 49ers safety Ronnie Lott in stride for his interception and 58-yard touchdown return early in the fourth quarter.

Gannon hit 49ers cornerback Tim McKyer for an apparent touchdown interception return - but McKyer collapsed untouched with a groin pull at the Minnesota 4 after running 41 yards with the ball.

''Great players don't make a great team,'' Burns said. ''I'm still trying to get cohesiveness in our outs. Obviously, we're disappointed.''