Tuesday, December 24, 1991

BEARS BATTERED BY 49ERS

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers, out of the National Football League playoffs for the first time since 1982, took out their frustrations on the Chicago Bears.

In 10 years as the Chicago Bears coach, Mike Ditka never had taken a beating this bad.

All he could do was watch, grimace and work his wad of gum as the San Francisco 49ers rolled to a 52-14 win Monday night that handed the NFC Central Division title and a first-round bye in the playoffs to Detroit (12-4).

''I don't know how much longer I'll coach but I have a great memory,'' said Ditka, Chicago's coach since 1981, miffed over what he considered overkill by the 49ers.

''Life goes on,'' Ditka added. ''We play Sunday against Dallas. We either resurrect ourselves or get creamed in the playoffs.''

Quarterback Steve Young did most of the damage. He threw three touchdown passes, two to Jerry Rice, and ran for another score as San Francisco matched the club's scoring high. The Bears, who came in with the third-ranked defense, allowed more points than they had in 26 years - including a late score when the 49ers passed their way down the field.

''I think everybody understands Bill Musgrave is a backup quarterback who was in there just trying to get some throws in,'' San Francisco coach George Seifert said. ''Prior to that, I don't think there was any evidence to support us running up the score.''

Musgrave, a rookie making his National Football League debut, threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sherrard with 2 minutes 7 seconds remaining, the game's final score.

The loss by the Bears (11-5) in the league's regular-season finale prevented them from gaining a seventh division title in eight years. Chicago held a tie-breaking edge over Detroit but needed to win Monday night to match the Lions' record.

Instead, the Bears must play host to Dallas in a wild-card game Sunday.

As for the Bears' momentum heading into the playoffs quarterback Jim Harbaugh said, ''I'd say it came to a screeching halt.''

Young, starting after a six-week absence caused by torn knee ligaments, had touchdown passes of 3 and 69 yards to Rice and a 2-yarder to Jamie Williams as the 49ers rocketed to a 24-0 halftime lead. Young added a 2-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter.

In the previous nine games, the defense-minded Bears held the opposition to 17 points or fewer.

San Francisco (10-6) finished the year with six successive wins but missed the playoffs despite the surge. The 49ers were eliminated a week ago when New Orleans beat the Los Angeles Raiders to clinch the final NFC playoff spot.

''I can't imagine we're not going to the playoffs with the way we're playing,'' said Young, who completed 21 of 32 for 338 yards and wound up winning the league's passer rating title.

He overhauled Washington's Mark Rypien and Buffalo's Jim Kelly with his performance Monday night, his first start since suffering torn left knee ligaments Nov. 3 at Atlanta.

Chicago, whose club record for points allowed in a game was 53 in 1955, was outgained 355-134 in the first half.

The 49ers scored on their first possession as Williams, normally a blocking tight end, caught his first touchdown pass since 1987.