December 12, 1994


By Thomas George
New York Times

SAN DIEGO -- The San Francisco 49ers are feeling pretty good about themselves right now. They watched the Dallas Cowboys lose Saturday and then strolled into Jack Murphy Stadium on Sunday and dispatched the San Diego Chargers as if this were an easy game of checkers.

You've got black, they've got red -- and they've got all kings.

That must have been how the Chargers felt. They fell behind by 21-0 and then by 31-9 before losing by 38-15. It was ugly and it was convincing. It was San Francisco on offense for most of the afternoon humming to perfection and the defense stout and penetrating.

It was the Chargers losing for the second time in six days and, again, failing to clinch the AFC West division crown.

The 49ers had already clinched the NFC West. Now, with Dallas (11-3) having lost to Cleveland, the 49ers stand alone in the NFC with the league's best record (12-2) and are a step closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

That once belonged to the Chargers. They began the season 6-0 and are 3-5 since. When Natrone Means scored on a bruising 12-yard run up the middle on the first drive of the second half, the Chargers had cut the San Francisco lead to 21-9. The Chargers' 2-point conversion attempt failed.

The 49ers scored on a 22-yard Doug Brien field goal as a quick response and then in the fourth quarter added added a William Floyd 1-yard scoring run. There were only 32 seconds left when the roof, walls and floor caved in.

Deion Sanders nabbed a Stan Humphries pass and ran it back 89 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown. It was over well before that. Sanders just added a touch of spice and flavor.

San Francisco dominated the first half of this game and, in fact, did so for the first 29 minutes 7 seconds. The Chargers finally cracked the spell in the final 53 seconds.

Having lost the ball via an interception at their 29, the Chargers got it back two plays later, with 53 seconds left, on a fumble forced and recovered by end Leslie O'Neal at the San Diego 23. O'Neal stripped Steve Young clean, from behind, in the pocket.

From there, the Chargers used their three timeouts wisely to help complete passes over the middle. That's where the holes were, since San Francisco cornerbacks and safeties played the deep and short out routes tightly to prevent receivers from making catches and running out of bounds and stopping the clock.

Humphries hit for big gains over the middle to Tony Martin for 20 yards and, in the same spot, to Shawn Jefferson for 17. That helped put San Diego at the San Francisco 32. John Carney converted a 50-yard field goal as the first half time expired. Three points for the Chargers.

Problem was, the 49ers already had 21.