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49ers 14, Eagles 0

December 30, 1996

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ They copied the offense, stole the 49ers’ best runner and turned San Francisco’s defensive coordinator into their head coach.

But the Philadelphia Eagles could not clone Steve Young and Jerry Rice, and that proved to be their downfall in a 14-0 wild-card playoff loss Sunday to the 49ers on a mucky field pounded by heavy rains and 62 mph wind gusts.

Young ran 9 yards for a touchdown, a play on which his ribs were bruised so badly he retreated to the locker room for painkilling shots, and later threw a 3-yard scoring pass to Rice.

His counterpart, Ty Detmer, had a tough playoff debut. He threw two interceptions near the 49ers’ goal line and was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a hamstring injury.

``We played very effective mud football today,″ Young said. ``I don’t care about what the stats say, we played an effective ballgame. The defense comes up with some big plays and we go home with a 14-0 win.″

Actually, the Eagles (10-7) are the ones going home. The 49ers (13-4) will get out of the rain by training in Arizona for a few days, then heading to Green Bay for an NFC divisional playoff on Saturday.

By winning on what San Francisco coach George Seifert dubbed ``the swampy tundra of Candlestick,″ the 49ers said they showed they won’t be intimidated by the cold at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field.

``They always talk about the soft, fair-weather California boys, but we took a step toward proving we could play in inclement weather,″ said 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer, a San Francisco Bay area native. ``We did it today in a driving rain. Now let’s see if we can do it in a driving snow.″

The game was a battle of near mirror-image teams. Six players on the Philadelphia roster are former 49ers, and Eagles coach Ray Rhodes was an assistant on all five of San Francisco’s Super Bowl championship teams.

When he moved to Philadelphia last season, Rhodes brought along the 49ers’ offensive scheme and their top runner, Ricky Watters.

But Watters, making his first return to San Francisco since his somewhat acrimonious parting as a free agent in 1995, was held to 57 yards on 20 carries Sunday and the 49ers’ defense stiffened when it had to.

``They know us and we were very familiar with them. But a couple of plays made the difference,″ said Philadelphia tight end Jimmie Johnson. ``It’s very unfortunate we were able to move the ball up and down the field at will and not come away with any points.″

The Eagles dominated the first half, holding the ball for 19 of the 30 minutes and holding the 49ers to 92 total yards while collecting nearly twice that many themselves.

But Detmer’s second-period interceptions undermined the Eagles.

The first, by Marquez Pope, came with Philadelphia at the San Francisco 7. Detmer was trying to throw the ball away, but hung it in the wind.

The second, by defensive end Roy Barker, came with 43 seconds left in the half and the Eagles at the San Francisco 5.

Gary Anderson also missed a 40-yard field goal attempt for the Eagles in the first half.

Meanwhile, Young led San Francisco on a 74-yard drive that he capped with a quarterback draw on which he bounced off three tacklers to reach the end zone. It was the only drive of the first half on which the 49ers made a first down.

Young’s ribs were so sore he could hardly pass on the 49ers’ next series, so he trotted to the locker room for ``what seemed to be a couple dozen shots of Novocain.″ He never missed a snap.

In the third quarter, Young led the 49ers on a 61-yard drive that culminated in Rice’s scoring catch. The highlight of the drive, a 36-yard passing play, was an awesome one-handed catch by Rice on which he somehow stretched his left hand out and snatched the ball.

Young finished 14-of-21 for 161 yards, as well as 11 rushes for 65 yards to lead all runners. Rice had four catches for 50 yards.

Detmer, knocked out on a Bryant Young sack, was 14-of-21 for 148 yards. His replacement, Mark Rypien, went 5-of-12 for 77 yards and an interception as Philadelphia was shut out for the first time in a postseason game.

``This was not a good game for Ty and I think everyone knows that,″ Rhodes said. ``The turnovers in the red area, you can’t do that. You can’t leave that area without any points.″

The 14 combined points were the fewest ever in a wild-card game.

The 49ers earned a rematch of last year’s divisional playoff, which Green Bay won 27-17 in San Francisco. The 49ers also lost 23-20 in overtime at Green Bay this October, but Young missed that game.

Young, listed as questionable for Saturday’s game at Green Bay, was to have X-rays on his ribs today.

San Francisco safety Merton Hanks said this is the time of year when the 49ers are toughest.

``We’ve all been here before. We have guys with Super Bowl rings and we understand what it takes to get back there,″ he said. ``It will be difficult to count us out.″

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