49ers 38, Cowboys 20
IRVING, Texas (AP) _ The defending Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers aren’t dead. Just ask the shocked Dallas Cowboys after the crippled 14-point underdogs whipped them 38-20 on Sunday on their home field.
The 49ers, who had lost the last two games, even moved into a tie with St. Louis and Atlanta for the leadership in the NFC West with a 6-4 record. Dallas dropped to 8-2.
This was supposed to be a big revenge game for the Cowboys against the 49ers, who didn’t have quarterback Steve Young for a fifth straight week because of a shoulder injury.
It was a rout, just as many predicted. Only it was the Cowboys who were outplayed and outcoached.
Second-string quarterback Elvis Grbac and wide receiver Jerry Rice devastated Dallas on the game’s first possession.
San Francisco stunned the Cowboys early, much as it did in the NFC championship game when the 49ers built a 21-0 lead in the first 6:25 of the game. The 49ers went on to win 38-28 and eventually defeat San Diego in the Super Bowl.
Rice, the NFL’s career leader in receiving, slipped open behind linebacker Darrin Smith for a slant pass over the middle from Grbac and steamed 81 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game. Rice confused the Cowboys by lining up in the slot and nobody could catch him until safety Darren Woodson tackled Rice at the goal.
Rice had been involved in a pregame exchange of words with the Cowboys’ $35 million cornerback Deion Sanders, a former 49er, who was lost in coverage at times by the clever San Francisco offensive sets. Rice had complained that Sanders took credit for the Super Bowl win. Sanders said Rice was ``ignorant.″
The 49ers struck again 13 seconds later when Michael Irvin fumbled the ball away to Merton Hanks, who scooped it up on the run and dashed 38 yards for a touchdown.
Linebacker Rickey Jackson intercepted a pass off Troy Aikman, the NFL’s top-rated passer, at the Dallas 27 and the 49ers cashed the mistake into a 26-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins, a free agent who was picked up during the week. It gave San Francisco a 17-0 lead with only 4:58 expired.
Aikman was injured on a first quarter sack by Dana Stubblefield. Aikman fell heavily on his left knee. Doctors decided it was a bad bruise and ordered him not to return. Wade Wilson subbed and threw two interceptions before he left with an injury late in the fourth period.
Aikman was 4-of-6 for 29 yards and Wilson was 15-of-26 for 134.
Grbac, who completed 20 of 30 for 305 yards, took the 49ers 82 yards in 13 plays for a 24-0 lead. Grbac hit Rice on passes of 20 and 28 yards before Derek Loville scored on a 1-yard run.
San Francisco answered a 1-yard touchdown run by Dallas’ Emmitt Smith with a 92-yard drive. The key was a 26-yard pass from Grbac to Rice, who had five catches in the game for 161 yards. Grbac found Loville wide open over the middle for 19 yards and a touchdown for a 31-7 halftime edge. A surly crowd booed the Cowboys off the field.
San Francisco had 292 yards offense in the first half. The Cowboys were giving up only 293.6 yards per game.
Besides his two touchdown passes, Grbac also scored on a 1-yard run with 8:40 to play to cap a 72-yard drive.
In the NFC championship game last January, Eric Davis intercepted Aikman’s pass on the third play of the game and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Irvin and Kevin Williams also lost fumbles that turned into 49ers scores for a quick 21-0 lead. It was almost a rerun on Sunday.
Smith ran for 100 yards in 18 carries, but Irvin failed in his quest to set an NFL record with an eighth consecutive 100-yard receiving game, catching four passes for 37 yards. He got small consolation with an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jason Garrett with 4:19 to play.