Steve Young and San Francisco's offense were finally shut down -- by the most unlikely opponent, the lowly Buffalo Bills.
Rob Johnson overshadowed his counterpart, completing 19 of 27 passes for 254 yards and one touchdown to lead the Bills to a 26-21 victory Sunday.
The 49ers (3-1) entered the game ranked first in the NFL in rushing, passing and total offense, but were held to just 56 yards passing and 105 total yards in the first half. Their second-half comeback ended when they couldn't recover the onside kick after Young had hit J.J. Stokes with a 21-yard TD pass with 1:03 left.
"Three turnovers in the first half and all those penalties," Young said. "That first-half is almost like you want to just go back out and call a do-over. Even the onside kick, one last gasp to win it, we were offsides. It just wasn't meant to be."
The Bills entered the contest with just one victory in their last 10 games, worst in the league over that span, but they dominated the suddenly mistake-prone 49ers from the beginning.
"Everyone counted us out from the start," Bruce Smith said. "There were many doubters and that's all right. In life you're going to have people that don't respect you. But San Francisco is a good football team, a great football team. They're the best offensive team in the league right now."
The Bills (1-3) wasted no time in taking advantage of San Francisco's secondary, which was without Marquez Pope. They came out picking on cornerbacks Darnell Walker and Antonio Langham, who struggled against Buffalo's passing attack even though it was missing its top receiver, Andre Reed.
Johnson found Eric Moulds for a 50-yard reception on th game's first play and Buffalo took a 3-0 lead on Steve Christie's 24-yard field goal 2:30 into the game.
Johnson had 164 yards passing in the first half, 87 of them to Reed's replacement, Kevin Williams.
Garrison Hearst's fumble late in the first quarter gave Buffalo the ball on the 49ers 30 yard-line and Antowain Smith's 6-yard scoring run made it 10-0.
| Kevin Williams caught a 50-yard pass to open the game and the Bills never looked back. (AP) |
Another San Francisco miscue, a fumble by kickoff returner R.W. McQuarters, put the Bills in San Francisco territory again. Johnson took advantage tossing a 5-yard touchdown to Quinn Early for a 17-0 advantage.
After getting down to the 49ers 1-yard line on their final possession of the first half, the Bills had to settle for Christie's 19-yard field goal with three seconds left for a 20-0 halftime lead.
San Francisco had 12 first-half penalties and set a franchise record with 22 penalties for 178 yards in the game.
"It's unbelievable to have that many penalties in a game," said Buffalo coach Wade Phillips, who got his first win as the Bills head coach. "I thought our guys played tremendous and our defense was all over the field making plays."
After Christie's third field goal of the game made it 23-0, Young finally got San Francisco on the board. A 33-yard reception to Jerry Rice set up a 47-yard touchdown pass to fullback Marc Edwards. Young connected with Rice on a 2-point conversion, cutting the deficit to 23-8.
Irv Smith's 9-yard touchdown reception from Young made it 26-14, but San Francisco was unable to convert on the 2-point conversion. Young's TD pass to Stokes ended the 49ers scoring.
Young finished 22-of-38 for 329 yards, his fourth straight game with more than 300 yards passing. The Buffalo defense held Hearst to 28 yards rushing. He entered the game averaging 127 yards rushing per game.
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