Monday, September 28, 1992


Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- The San Francisco 49ers scored about half of their customary 31 points Sunday night. But that was enough to give them a victory over the New Orleans Saints and put them in their accustomed position alone atop the NFC West.

It was accomplished in all sorts of strange ways and despite a first-quarter call that appeared to take a touchdown from the 49ers, who had scored 31 points in each of their first three games this season. And the 49ers got a scare at the end -- Bobby Hebert got the Saints to the San Francisco 2 in the final minute before a holding penalty against Derek Kennard and an interception in the end zone by Eric Davis preserved the victory.

Steve Young, the NFL's second-leading passer entering the game, led the way for San Francisco. He rushed for 67 yards in seven carries, including a 26-yard scramble that set up his team's touchdown.

Mike Cofer, who had made only three of seven field goals entering the game, was three for three, hitting from 26 and 42 yards in the fourth quarter to break a 10-10 tie and outkicking the Saints' Morten Andersen.

And David Whitmore, a 230-pound linebacker-like strong safety whom other teams try to catch in mismatches, picked off Hebert's pass at his 18 late in the third quarter just when the Saints seemed prepared to take the lead. The 49ers then drove 74 yards to set up Cofer's go-ahead field goal.

The game was tied 10-10 at halftime, after San Francisco lost a possible touchdown on its first possession.

After Don Griffin recovered a fumble by Wesley Carroll at the New Orleans 40, the 49ers drove to the 2. Then Young, who was 17 of 25 for 187 yards, hit Jerry Rice in the flat and Rice struggled for the goal line, reaching for the line as he was tackled.
The ball came loose, went into the end zone and Les Miller recovered for the Saints, although replays showed Rice appeared to lose the ball after he was down. Head linesman Aaron Pointer said otherwise, ruling the ball was loose before Rice hit the ground.

''That was a touchdown,'' Young said. ''I've suddenly become a fan of the instant replay.''

The Saints, uncharacteristically throwing on first down, then went 80 yards in eight plays with Hebert, who was 25 of 41 for 267 yards, hitting Eric Martin over the middle on third down from 11 yards out.

But San Francisco came right back with its own 80-yard drive, featuring Young's 26-yard third-down scramble to the 1. Tom Rathman dived in to tie it.