49'ers have no trouble making point

Monday, September 25th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

IRVING – Who needs Joe Montana or Steve Young when you have Jeff Garcia?

Who needs a young Jerry Rice when the old one can still find the end zone?

And what about Charlie Garner? Did Ricky Watters or Roger Craig ever run better for this same franchise?

The San Francisco 49ers are supposed to be a shell of the teams that won five Super Bowls in the '80s and '90s. You wouldn't have known it during their 41-24 thrashing of the Cowboys on Sunday.

With Garcia throwing four touchdown passes, Rice and Terrell Owens each catching two touchdown passes and Garner rushing for a team-record 201 yards, the 49ers looked like one of their old highlight films.

"How do you spell relief?" 49ers coach Steve Mariucci cracked, referring to his team's 0-3 record coming in.

The 49ers' onslaught wasn't a complete surprise. Despite losing 14 of its previous 15 games, San Francisco was ranked sixth in the NFL in offense after three games. And the Cowboys had allowed 41 points in their previous home game, a 41-14 loss to Philadelphia.

But the ease with which the 49ers carved up the Cowboys' defense undoubtedly stunned a Texas Stadium sellout crowd.

Mixing the run with play-action passes, the 49ers rolled up 439 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per play. They punted once – after their opening possession – then scored on seven of their next eight possessions to take a 41-17 lead with 4:05 remaining.

On their most damaging scoring drive, the 49ers went 98 yards and chewed up 9:35 of the third and fourth quarters. The drive culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Garcia to Rice, putting the 49ers ahead, 34-10, with 14:15 remaining.

Garcia, a little-known free agent when the 49ers signed him last year, played a virtually mistake-free game. He didn't throw for a lot of yardage – 178 on 16 of 26 completions – but he kept putting points on the board.

"He ran the ball well [a career-high 43 rushing yards], didn't have a turnover and checked it down when he should have," Mariucci said. "We kept him on the move quite a bit, and he made some big plays."

Garner, an eighth-year man out of Tennessee who began his career with Philadelphia, made the offense go. He consistently added yardage after breaking through the line of scrimmage by spinning off of tacklers or changing direction.

Garner's 201-yard effort eclipsed the 49ers team record of 198 yards set by Garrison Hearst against Detroit in 1998. And it was the second 200-yard effort by a running back against the Cowboys in four games, following Duce Staley's 201 yards in the season opener against Philadelphia.

"We saw what Philly was able to do them, and we felt we could run the football on them, and that's what we were able to do," Garner said. "We didn't come in this game thinking we were going to lose. We came in with a mission, and we accomplished it."

Rice recovered from two early drops, including one that would have gone for a touchdown, to beat Phillippi Sparks for a 68-yard touchdown in the third quarter and a 5-yard touchdown in the final period.

On the long touchdown, he coasted to the end zone after Sparks fell down.

"We collided a little bit," Rice said. "I wanted to try to stick [Sparks] on the post, and I broke his cushion pretty good. We collided just a little, and I was able to keep my balance after that. Jeff put the ball out there and I just went to it."

The 49ers' effort will be remembered most for its exclamation points – two post-touchdown spikes at the Cowboys' midfield star by Owens.

Owens scored on a 3-yard pass in the second quarter and a 1-yard pass in the final quarter.

"I'm an emotional guy," Owens said. "I'm physical, and that's what I try to bring to the game. I was basically out there trying to help our team win."