Monday, Oct. 10, 1994

Rookie Floyd leads 49ers to comeback

By Clark Judge
Knight-Ridder Newspapers

PONTIAC, Mich. -- Their defense was horrible. Their offense was horrible. And their quarterback was hurt.

Sound like anyone you know?

One quarter and one series into yesterday's game with Detroit and the San Francisco 49ers weren't just down by two touchdowns, they were down to looking like the deadbeats who got drilled by Philadelphia 40-8 last week.

But that's when something remarkable, something totally unlike the 49ers, happened: Rookie fullback William Floyd started shaking all over, and, presto, just like that, the 49ers were off and running to a 27-21 victory in front of 77,340 disgruntled fans at the Pontiac Silverdome.

Floyd, who scored two touchdowns in his first pro start, keyed a run of 27 unanswered points that sent the 4-2 49ers to their fifth straight win over Detroit (2-4), kept them tied with Atlanta for first in the NFC West and may have silenced critics who were howling only seven days earlier.

"We just wanted to keep the fans at home on the edge of their seats," tight end Brent Jones said. "But we really took it to the outer limits on this one."

In coach George Seifert's six seasons as head coach, the 49ers have lost five regular-season games by more than a touchdown -- and each time after those defeats they have won.

But yesterday, they did it the hard way, spotting the Lions 14 points and nearly losing quarterback Steve Young. Young, who has been hammered all season, limped off the field with 4 minutes, 40 seconds left in the first period after he was sandwiched between linebacker Broderick Thomas and defensive end Robert Porcher. When he returned for the 49ers' first series of the second quarter, the 49ers were down 14-0 and dangerously near another disaster.

"When Steve went down, I thought: `Can anything else happen to us?' " Jones said. "It just seems like things haven't exactly gone our way."

Maybe on other days. But on this afternoon, the 49ers recovered quickly, with Young -- who finished 19-of-25 for 152 yards and one touchdown -- leading the 49ers to touchdowns on three of their next four possessions as they took a lead they never lost.

Not only did their offense perk up, but the defense that was riddled for 157 yards in the opening two series and looked Barry, Barry bad, revived, too -- holding Detroit to 19 yards on its next four series and containing running back Barry Sanders.

Sanders, the league's leading running back, had 95 yards rushing and one touchdown, but he ran for only 30 in the second half. It was the first time in four games he did not run for 100.

No possession was more important than the 49ers' first of the second quarter, when, down 14-0, they covered 63 yards in four plays, with Floyd scoring on a one-yard plunge over right guard.

After scoring, Floyd celebrated by doing the hippy, hippy shake in the end zone, pumping his fists as he pumped up running back Ricky Watters, teammates and almost everyone, it seemed, but Seifert.

"There's a time and place to celebrate," said the button-downed Seifert.

One series later, the 49ers were celebrating again, with Watters scoring on a four-yard run after Floyd toppled linebacker Chris Spielman with a monstrous block. Score: 14-14. The 49ers were never headed.