Owens caught a 79-yard touchdown pass from Steve Young and Garrison Hearst ran for 166 yards in 20 carries to go over 1,000 yards rushing for the second straight season as San Francisco beat the New York Giants 31-7 Monday night for their 15th straight regular-season home win.
But the win was costly. The 49ers lost star defensive tackle Bryant Young midway through the fourth quarter to a right leg injury. Replays showed the leg bent backwards as he collided with linebacker Ken Norton Jr. as they closed in for a tackle. He was wheeled off the field on a gurney.
"That's a devastating blow to our team," said Young. "Bryant Young is the man. We're going to have to close ranks and keep marching ahead."
Said Owens: " It was kind of somber in the locker rom. Every week we have adversity and we have to overcome it."
The victory clinched a 16th consecutive winning season for the 49ers (9-3) and kept them a game behind first-place Atlanta in the NFC West with four remaining.
The Giants (4-8) started fast but then faded, much like they have this season after winning the NFC East last year. Kent Graham had a 48-yard completion to Ike Hilliard on their first play and three plays later, Gary Brown bolted 11 yards up the middle for a touchdown.
New York, with the second-worst offensive ranking in the league, couldn't sustain its advantage against a 49ers team that fell behind for the seventh time in nine games.
Owens, who finished with five catches for 140 yards, turned a short flat pass from Young into a score to pull into a 7-all tie with 2:39 left in the first period.
The fleet Owens, now perhaps the 49ers' most dangerous receiver, blew past Conrad Hamilton near the line of scrimmage and pulled free of Sam Garnes' grasp at the 30. Suddenly, he was running free down the left sideline and into the end zone.
"I gave'em a little juke here and there to get free," Owens said.
After being held to three catches
| Jerry Rice finished with just three catches for 25 yards. (AP) |
"He's fine. He knows we're all working together to win a championship," Young said. "Next week, he might catch 15."
The 49ers opened the game with a no-huddle for the first time this season and Young went to Rice several times early. Near the end of San Francisco's third series, Young tried to force the ball to a double-covered Rice near the goal-line and Carlton Gray knocked it away.
"There were plenty of balls thrown his way," Owens said. "We just didn't take advantage. If we come out with a win, we're happy and he's happy."
Owens' touchdown reversed a sputtering offense that had led to just two missed field goals by Wade Richey.
But the 49ers didn't take the lead for good until they put together a 90-yard drive that Young finished with a 1-yard scoring pass to Irv Smith for a 14-7 halftime lead.
San Francisco added another score on Terry Kirby's 7-yard run midway through the third quarter and Richey kicked a 39-yard field with 10:07. Then Hearst sealed things with a 70-yard TD run with 3:09 left.
But before that, he became the first 49ers bacsince Roger Craig (1988-89) to rush for 1,000 yards in successive seasons and now has 1,105 yards for the season.
Notes:Monday night's game was the first one Dwight Clark missed in 19 years with the 49ers as a player and front-office executive. He left the team Monday for a job with expansion Cleveland.
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved