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49ers Year-by-Year: 1994

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Please enjoy this recap of the San Francisco 49ers' 1994 season. This season doesn't need much of an introduction, so I won't spend a lot of time introducing it. Please, just enjoy:





Opponent's Record:

Sept. 5

Los Angeles Raiders

W: 14-44



Sept. 11

@ Kansas City Chiefs

L: 17-24



Sept. 18

@ Los Angeles Rams

W: 34-19



Sept. 25

New Orleans Saints

W: 13-24



Oct. 2

Philadelphia Eagles

L: 40-8



Oct. 9

@ Detroit Lions

W: 27-21



Oct. 16

@ Atlanta Falcons

W: 42-3



Oct. 23

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

W: 16-41



Nov. 6

@ Washington Redskins

W: 37-22



Nov. 13

Dallas Cowboys

W: 14-21



Nov. 20

Los Angeles Rams

W: 27-31



Nov. 28

@ New Orleans Saints

W: 35-14



Dec. 4

Atlanta Falcons

W: 14-50



Dec. 11

@ San Diego Chargers

W: 38-15



Dec. 17

Denver Broncos

W: 19-42



Dec. 26

@ Minnesota Vikings

L: 14-21




Jan. 7

Chicago Bears

W: 15-44



Jan. 15

Dallas Cowboys

W: 28-38



Jan. 29

N: San Diego Chargers

W: 49-26



Head Coach:
George Seifert

Key Losses: G Guy McIntyre, DT Ted Washington, DE Kevin Fagan, LB Mike Walter, LB Bill Romanowski, CB Don Griffin, K Mike Cofer, QB Steve Bono, LB Keith DeLong, FB Tom Rathman

Key Additions: FB William Floyd, C Bart Oates, T Derrick Deese, DT Bryant Young, LB Ken Norton, Jr., LB Gary Plummer, LB Lee Woodall, DE Ricky Jackson, CB Deion Sanders, K Doug Brien, HB Derrick Loville, CB Tyrone Drakeford

1994 was the 75th anniversary of the NFL. This was mostly an unheralded event, but every uniform was adorned with a special 25th anniversary patch. This was also the year that the Phoenix Cardinals changed their name to the Arizona Cardinals.

Around the NFL, it was widely agreed that the 49ers and the Cowboys represented two of the top teams in the league, but after two consecutive playoff losses to Dallas, popular opinion was starting to flag on the 49ers. There were many questions about the quality of their defense, and whether or not it would be good enough to actually support a successful overall program - even to support one of the most dynamic offenses in the league.

For the 49ers and their fans, frustrations were reaching a head. Once again, the team was showing the signs of age around the edges. A 10-6 season in 1993 was more than easy to read as the start of a decline. With Steve Young as the starter, the 49ers had failed to make the playoffs once, and lost twice to the Cowboys - a team that represented so much of the team's history of success and failure. To be staring up at them was like taking a blow to the gut.

The aims of the offseason were clear: rebuild the defense to beat the Cowboys. Even the Super Bowl was a second thought when it came to Dallas. If the 49ers could beat Dallas, the Super Bowl would be a cakewalk.

But to do that, they would have to deal with the salary cap. Carmen Policy sat down with George Seifert to make a list of targets. Among these were Ken Norton, Jr., Gary Plummer and Ricky Jackson. The cost of acquiring these players would call for some difficult and even drastic moves to clear enough cap room. Bill Romanowski was traded. Steve Bono was traded. Tom Rathman, Don Griffin, Guy McIntyre, and Ted Washington were all let go.

But the 49ers got their men. Every key player they targeted on defense was signed, not to mention Pro Bowl offensive lineman Bart Oates and tackle Derrick Deese.

Even better, the 49ers had one of the best drafts that they had seen since Seifert had taken over head coaching responsibilities from Bill Walsh. This one draft netter the team players like Bryant Young, William Floyd, Doug Brien, and Lee Woodall - many of who came in and made an immediate impact on the field.

The start of the season was not particularly encouraging. The huge turnover on defense had created a unit that was missing an identity and a leader and, to add to the team's troubles, the offensive line was racked with injury early on, opening Steve Young up to significant abuse.

After splitting the first two games of the year, one a painful loss to Joe Montana's Chiefs, the 49ers signed the final piece of their defensive puzzle: Deion Sanders. After this, they pulled themselves together to defeat their next two - albeit inferior - opponents. It wasn't until, at 3-1 and playing the Eagles at home, that the season began to take on a new atmosphere.

Simply put, the Eagles crushed the 49ers. The beating was so bad that George Seifert removed Steve Young, again hounded by the opposing pass rush, from the game just to ensure that he wouldn't get injured trying to lead an impossible comeback. Randall Cunningham threw for nearly 250 yards and two scores while Charlie Garner ran wild from the Philadelphia backfield. The 49ers' defense, still struggling to cohere, had no response.

But perhaps the most important thing to come out of the game was Young's reaction to being pulled. Never one to wear his heart on his sleeve, and rarely outspoken, Young exploded the decision, openly yelling and cursing at his coach on the sideline in front of every cameras in the stadium. The single act sent a ripple through the entire team. Though still banged up, the 49ers put their struggles behind them and rallied off four consecutive victories, none of them particularly close.

And this was all simply a precursor to the November 13 matchup against the Cowboys. This was the game that had been circled on the calendar from the day schedules had been announced. This was a game that everybody assumed was a playoff preview. For November football, the stakes could not have been higher.

The first half of the game was an exercise in frustration. Steve Young, Jerry Rice, and co. were completely blanketed by the Cowboys defense and were lucky to get into halftime with the seven points they did get. As the game wore on, though, The 49ers began to wear Dallas down by constantly moving Steve Young out of a somewhat porous pocket. Even more importantly, the defense seemed to truly gel for the first time all year. The 49ers might have been struggling to answer Dallas' defense, but the Cowboys had no answer for the 49ers'. For the first time in what seemed like an eternity, the 49ers emerged from a confrontation with the Cowboys as the victor.

After that, the rest of the schedule was almost too easy altogether, and the 49ers didn't lose again until the final week of the season, when the backups played most of the game.

Even the first round of the playoffs didn't stop the 49ers. More likely than not, nothing could have stopped them from making it at least as far as the NFC Championship game, just to get another shot at Dallas. And after manhandling the Bears, they got that chance.

Where the two teams' first meeting had been a hard-fought defensive battle, the 49ers came into this game with a crucial advantage: they knew they could win. And they went out to prove it. Fast. Almost before the first quarter had even gotten started, they had returned an interception for a touchdown, thrown for a touchdown, and run for a touchdown. Every aspect of their game was in synch, and the Cowboys looked rattled.

Dallas did its best to keep the game close, but it would be to no avail. The closest they got the entire game was within 10 points. After the win, Steve Young ran a victory lap around the stadium. He was - the 49ers were - going to the Super Bowl.

As it so happened, the 49ers faced another team that they had faced during the regular season: the San Diego Chargers. In their first matchup, the 49ers hadn't had much trouble with the Chargers. Not many people thought they would have much trouble this time either.

It didn't take long to see which way the game would go. On the third play, Rice found Young for a 44-yard touchdown, the fastest in Super Bowl history. They quickly extended that lead on their next drive, and never looked back. The Chargers were a good team, but they simply could not cover the 49ers in the secondary. Young, Rice, and Watters ran wild on San Diego, and the Chargers had no chance of staying with the 49ers in a shootout. The ensuing rout would end 49-26.

Young enjoyed what was perhaps the best season of his professional career. He set a new NL record for quarterback rating in a season. He won the league MVP. And, most importantly, he started and won a Super Bowl, finally emerging from the ever-present shadow of Joe Montana.

Historical Thing:

Give it time. Your patience will be rewarded.

Primary Resources:

Glenn Dickey, San Francisco 49ers: The First 50 Years. Turner Publishing Inc. 1995