In a season that was more like a long magic carpet ride than "Battle of the Behemoths," the 1994 San Francisco 49ers stood head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL. When football purists have conversations and debates about the NFL's "Greatest Teams of All-Time," the 1994 49ers will always be brought into conversation.
The season did not get off to such a nice start for the 49ers. After impressive wins against the Los Angelas Raiders, Anaheim Rams, and New Orleans Saints, the 49ers would loose games against the Joe Montana led Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Eagles leaving them at (3-2) on the season.
During the 40-8 thumping at the hands of the Eagles, 49ers Head Coach George Seifert pulled quarterback Steve Young from the game which made Young visibly irate on the side lines. From Young's yelling, you could tell that he didn't want to be taken out of the game and felt that he was abandoning his teammates.
In Week 6 of the season, the 49ers were playing the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football and were loosing 21-7. Young was continuously sacked by a ferocious Lions defense that was not letting up one bit forcing Young into crawling at times off the field.
With the Eagle game still fresh in his mind from the previous week, Young mustered everything in his 6'2" body and willed the 49ers back to an improbable 27-21 come-from-behind win.
From there on, the 49ers would take off winning their next four games setting up a Week 11 showdown with the Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys with the NFL's best record at stake.
Behind Young's two touchdown passes and one rushing, the 49ers handled outlasted the Cowboys 21-14, which would turn out to be a prequel to the NFC Championship game which the 49ers ended up also winning 38-28 advancing to the Super Bowl.
Awarded his second Most Valuable Player Award in three years, Young was the orchestrator of the 49ers offensive band. Young led all quarterbacks in touchdown passes (35), passer rating (112.8), and completion rating (70.3).
Young was a surgeon on the field who technically took apart opposing defenses which made him the most dangerous passer that season. Like a great entertainer, Young would save his best performance for last.
In Super Bowl XXIX, Young had a game for the ages against the San Diego Chargers. Young was 24-of-36 passing for 325 yards and a Super Bowl record six touchdowns that turned into a 49-26 49ers victory giving the organization its fifth Vince Lombardi trophy.
If Young was Sonny Bono, than Jerry Rice was Cher. Rice was the engine that kept the train moving for the 49ers that season. Rice would lead the NFL in both receiving yards (1,499) and yards per game (93.7).
During the 49ers first game of that season which was televised on Monday Night Football, Rice had one of his best games hauling in seven catches for 169 yards while scoring two touchdowns and rushing for another. Those touchdowns moved Rice into first place in the NFL record book with 127 career touchdowns.
Defensively, the 49ers was star-studded with key free agent pickups like former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Ken Norton Jr., New Orleans Saints linebacker Ricky Jackson and Chicago Bears defensive end great Richard Dent providing the 49ers much need veteran leadership. Gary Plummer, a former San Diego Chargers linebacker, signed also adding depth.
Combine the talents of those veterans with rising star like defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield, and the drafting of Notre Dame brickwall Bryant Young and West Chester linebacker Lee Woodall, the 49ers were tough and physical up front.
It wouldn't be until the signing of former Atlanta Falcon cornerback Deion Sanders that would make the 49ers unstoppable.
The 49ers were well aware of Sanders's persona as a "me" player who had disregard for authority. As a member of both the Falcons and the Atlanta Braves, Sanders was once harshly criticized for playing a football game in Miami earlier in the day, and then taking a charter flight to Pittsburgh so he could play in the Braves' playoff game.
As most football experts thought that it would be too risky for the 49ers to sign Sanders, it would be a risk that would pay off big for both the 49ers and Sanders.
During that championship season, Sanders put fear in the heart of the opposing quarterback. Typically lined up against the opposing team's best receiver, Sanders finished the season with six interceptions (returning three of them for touchdowns) while compiling 303 interception return yards and took home NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Sanders joined a secondary that included cornerback Eric Davis, and safeties Merton Hanks and Tim McDonald that finished tied for best in the NFL with 23 interceptions. All but Davis was voted as starters for the NFC at Pro Bowl that season.
The 1994 San Francisco 49ers will go down as my favorite all-time NFL team for the simple fact that this team was on a mission to prove the football world wrong.
Many football prognosticators picked the Cowboys to repeat as Super Bowl champions, and believed that 49ers could not get over the hump from loosing the two previous NFC Championship games.
For this squad, anything short of a Super Bowl would've be considered a failed season in each players mind. With a collection of stars, the 49ers made winning look so beautiful.
Record: 13-3; NFC West Champions; NFC Champions; Super Bowl XXIX Champions.
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