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49ers Year-by-Year: 1995

After two weeks off for a variety of reasons (most of which involved needing to devote my time to studying for my first test in more than two years), the Year-by-Year makes a triumphant return. 1995 was one of those awesome, sucky seasons. If you love reading about when the team was really, really good, then this one is for you. If, on the other hand, you're a glutton for punishment, then step on up! You'll get both here.

Also, I think that after 49 (!!!) of these things, I finally have the hang of this. Pleas, enjoy reliving the 49ers' 1995 season with me.





Opponent's Record:

Sept. 3

@ New Orleans Saints

W: 24-22



Sep. 10

Atlanta Falcons

W: 10-41



Sept. 17

New England Patriots

W: 3-28



Sept. 25

@ Detroit Lions

L: 24-27



Oct. 1

New York Giants

W: 6-20



Oct. 15

@ Indianapolis Colts

L: 17-18



Oct. 22

@ St. Louis Rams

W: 44-10



Oct. 29

New Orleans Saints

L: 11-7



Nov. 5

Carolina Panthers

L: 13-7



Nov. 12

@ Dallas Cowboys

W: 38-20



Nov. 20

@ Miami Dolphins

W: 44-20



Nov. 26

St. Louis Rams

W: 13-41



Dec. 3

Buffalo Bills

W: 17-27



Dec. 10

@ Carolina Panthers

W: 31-10



Dec. 18

Minnesota Vikings

W: 30-37



Dec. 24

@ Atlanta Falcons

L: 27-28




Jan. 6

Green Bay Packers

L: 27-17



Head Coach:
George Seifert

Key Losses: HB Ricky Watters, FB Marc Logan, CB Deion Sanders, K Doug Brien

Key Additions: CB Marquez Pope, K Jeff Wilkins, DL Junior Bryant, T Kirk Scrafford, WR J.J. Stokes

The offseason following 1994 was a very busy time for the NFL. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue had been busy from the time he succeeded Pete Rozelle in the position, and this offseason would be one of his biggest. Since the AFL-NFL merger decades before, one of the defining characteristics of the NFL had been its growing popularity and swift expansion. Having already settled the league's television deals in previous seasons, Tagliabue turned his eye back toward expansion, bringing in two new teams to Carolina - the Panthers - and Jacksonville - the Jaguars.

On top of the expansion, the football-rich city of Los Angeles suffered two major setbacks. It had long been a question of whether or not Los Angeles was enough of a football town to support an NFL franchise, but even with those questions the city had been home to two teams for a number of years. Both teams, the Rams and the Raiders, moved, leaving Los Angeles without even one NFL franchise for the first time in decades. The Rams moved out to St. Louis, and the Raiders returned to their original home in Oakland.

For the defending Super Bowl champion 49ers, the offseason was relatively quiet - relative, that is, to their wild and crazy offseason a year earlier. Following the Super Bowl, the 49ers lost both offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan and defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes. Despite offering Shanahan an extremely lucrative contract that would guarantee him the head coaching position in 1997, he turned the team down to become the head coach for the Broncos. Ray Rhodes became the head coach for the Eagles. The two were replaced by Mark Trestman on offense and Pete Carroll on defense.

But the 49ers core of players went largely unchanged. The two biggest losses occurred when Deion Sanders left for Dallas (to be replaced in free agency by Marquez Pope) and when Ricky Watters left for Philadelphia (a position the 49ers would struggled to fill). On top of a quiet free agency period, the 49ers had one of their quietest drafts in an extremely long time. They only made four selections that year, the most notable of which would be defensive lineman Junior Bryant.

And with that, all eyes turned to the regular season. The 49ers were clear favorites to run away with their division and again contend for the championship. During the first three weeks, they did not disappoint. After edging out a win over New Orleans in week one, they steamrolled the Falcons and the Patriots behind a defense that was playing with extreme cohesion under Pete Carroll and an offense that efficiently exploited the many strengths of stars Steve Young and Jerry Rice.

Then, going to Detroit to play the winless Lions, the 49ers got caught sleeping against an inferior opponent. Almost too afraid of Barry Sanders, the 49ers were victimized through the air, and had to resign themselves to the loss as they watched kicker Doug Brien's last-second 40-yard field goal attempt to tie the game collide with the right upright and ricochet away from the goal post.

A week later the 49ers redeemed themselves with a convincing victory over a miserable Giants team, but fans were rewarded for the victory with an ominous announcement following the game as Steve Young revealed that his throwing shoulder had been bothering for three weeks at that point.

He would play the next game, but his shoulder would remain a major issue as the Colts punished him behind the line of scrimmage. With the sore shoulder severely disrupting his timing, Young couldn't pull the team away and the 49ers again found themselves watching the fate of their game fly through the air on the last-second field goal attempt of Doug Brien. Again, he missed, and the attempt essentially sealed his fate with the team. After losing two games on Doug Brien's foot, the 49ers would try Tony Zendejas for a few games before deciding finally on Jeff Wilkins for roughly the last third of the season.

At this point, though, the team's kicker was the least of their problems. Steve Young's shoulder had been battered in the loss to the Colts, and even though he had played through the pain for weeks to that point, it finally sidelined him. It would up to Elvis Grbac to hold the fort until Young was healthy enough to return.

At first, it looked like Grbac would do more than simply hold the fort. He efficiently dissected the Rams while going 11/14 for 119 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 44-10 drumming of St. Louis. He wouldn't fare so well the next two weeks, though, as the 49ers lost the next two without breaking 10 points in either game. Even worse, the 49ers lost fullback William Floyd for the season during this stretch - and with him virtually their entire running game. In the same game, Brent Jones went down with an injury that also looked serious, but that wouldn't ultimately keep him from playing. With those two losses, the 49ers found themselves a game away from .500 traveling, of all places, to Dallas to face the 8-1 Cowboys.

Playing again without Steve Young, the 49ers were heavy underdogs entering the game. However, the playing field was evened in the middle of the first quarter when Dana Stubblefield sacked Troy Aikman, sending him out of the game with what appeared to be a severely bruised knee. From that moment on, all bets were off. Behind a stifling defensive effort that included a Merton Hanks fumble return for a touchdown, a fantastic showing from Rice who had over 150 receiving yards and a touchdown, and what was easily the best game of Elvis Grbac's young career (20/30, 305 yards, 2 touchdowns), the 49ers got out to an early lead and never looked back.

Grbac continued his strong play the next week against Miami as Young was held out yet again, but Young was healing well and his return would not be delayed by his backup's sudden brilliance behind center. After defeating Miami in week 12, the 49ers got their star back and simply steamrolled every team that got in their way for the next four weeks. But with the division and a first-round bye wrapped up by the final week, they gave a little ground and took a last minute loss to the Falcons to round out the season.

They would have a chance to rest in the first round of the playoffs, and wouldn't play again until January 6, 1996 - when Brett Favre, Reggie White, former 49er coach Mike Holmgren, and rest of the Green Bay Packers came to town.

The Packers came into the game with a near desperate approach. Mike Holmgren had spent the week prior to the matchup rewriting his team's entire offensive vocabulary, afraid that the 49ers would recognize his familiar terminology on the field. On defense, the Packers brought a package that was born of equal fear and desperation - a highly uncommon 3-8 set. They could theoretically afford to stack the secondary to protect against Jerry Rice, Brent Jones, and John Taylor because of both the 49ers' second-rate running game and Reggie White's inherent ability to be disruptive at the line of scrimmage in any situation.

The moves worked like a charm.

For the 49ers to compete with the well-prepared Packers, they needed to take advantage of Green Bay's potentially weak three-man front on the ground to break up the Packers' entire defensive plan. As it would turn out, starting running back Derek Loville would manage a mere 5 yards on 8 carries for the day. The 49ers fell behind early, unable to answer for more than a quarter of Green Bay scoring drives. The game was out of hand well before halftime, and only a staunch defensive effort in the second half kept the score so much as respectable. With no other real choice, Steve Young attempted 65 passes on the day, trying to punch holes in a defense that had been outfitted to resist him. It was a hopeless effort. The 49ers were outcoached, outgunned, and outplayed. And by the end of the game, they were out of the playoffs altogether.

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