December 27, 1994
VIKINGS CAPTURE TITLE
MINNEAPOLIS -- Only the Minnesota Vikings had something to gain from Monday night's final regular season game.
They got what they needed: A tough defensive performance and the NFC Central championship.
Rookie Dewayne Washington returned a fumble for a touchdown and John Randle had two of the Vikings' three sacks in a 21-14 victory over San Francisco, snapping the 49ers' 10-game winning streak.
"It feels great," said cornerback Anthony Parker. "We wanted to win the Central Division, that's the bottom line. But we let it slip away from us too many times, and it was important for us to finally get it."
The Vikings (10-6) already were assured a home playoff game on Sunday. But Minnesota, which failed to clinch the title 10 days ago at Detroit, finally sealed its second division crown in coach Dennis Green's three years against the hottest team in the NFL, though Steve Young and Jerry Rice played little more than a quarter.
The Vikings did it without Warren Moon, the Pro Bowl quarterback who sat out with a knee injury. They won it with their most inspired defensive performance in weeks against a San Francisco offense that played without many regulars besides Young and Rice.
Minnesota now will play host to Chicago in a first-round playoff game Sunday.
The game meant nothing to the 49ers in the standings. San Francisco (13-3) is guaranteed home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and will take next weekend off.
Coach George Seifert gave many regulars extra time off Monday, and he started with Young and Rice, who left after connecting on a 6-yard touchdown that tied the game 7-7 on the second play of the second quarter.
"We like to run, we're like thoroughbreds, and when George pulls the reins in guys are ticked," said Young, who still set two NFL records in his brief appearance. "Guys don't want to be held back, but we understand. We'll get mad and take it out on the next opponent."
Young surpassed Joe Montana's passer rating of 112.4, set in 1989, with a 112.8. Young also eclipsed Ken Anderson's NFL record for completion percentage, set in the 1982 season at 70.55, with a 70.7.
Young completed 12 of 13 passes before leaving early in the second quarter along with Rice. He hit on 325 of 460 passes this season. His 35 TD passes broke Montana's team record of 31.
Young's TD total included the 6-yard pass to Rice on the second play of the second quarter to tie the game. That gave him the highest rating for a season.
San Francisco, which has won 11 NFC West titles in the past 14 years, started without four regulars, including defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield and tight end Brent Jones, both Pro Bowl players who are injured.
Young and Rice were the first 49ers to leave. Running back Ricky Watters left at halftime. Rice agreed with Young that it was hard to leave so early.
"That's why I hate games like this," Rice said. "I felt I was just getting into a groove."