49ers Crush Giants, 44-3; Watters Rushes For 5 Tds San Francisco Deftly Mixed Passing And Running. New York Failed With Its Grind-it-out Offense.

Posted: January 16, 1994

SAN FRANCISCO — What had been billed as an offensive battle of the ages - the high-tech computerized 1990s vs. the high-topped, leather-helmeted 1890s - turned into a one-man record show yesterday at Candlestick Park.

The undisputed star was San Francisco's Ricky Watters, a running back whose football career began on the black-topped playgrounds of Harrisburg.

All Watters did was lead the 49ers to a 44-3 playoff rout of the New York Giants and set an NFL playoff record by rushing for five touchdowns along the way.

An exuberant, second-year back given to constant movement and more frequent chatter, Watters rushed for 118 yards on 24 carries and bolted through the Giants' overwhelmed defense for his fifth touchdown before the end of the third quarter.

He also caught five passes for 46 yards as the Niners' big-play offense rolled for 413 yards and an average of 6.4 yards per play. Watters clearly upstaged Rodney Hampton, the Giants' primary weapon in a grind-it-out attack born in the game's Paleolithic era. Hampton carried the ball seven times for 12 yards - or 151 fewer than he managed in his team's victory over Minnesota a week ago. He had a couple of receptions for 11 yards.

Watters, in contrast, electrified the 67,143 who formed the largest 49ers home crowd in history as he busted into the end zone on a pair of 1-yard smashes, and two more from 2 yards each sandwiched around a 6-yard stop-and-go cutback that exhausted his repertoire for spiking the ball. He only found out about the scoring record, by the way, when a teammate informed him of it in the locker room after the game.

"The offensive line played great," Watters said. "I still can't believe we were able to run as well as we did. Today was our day, and I'm just hapy with the outcome. Lawrence Taylor complimented me. He said, 'You're running your butt off; keep it up!' When someone like him says that, you've got to feel good."

Taylor, one of the top linebackers in NFL history, confirmed yesterday that he is retiring after 13 seasons with the Giants.

"I think it's time to pretty well call it quits," he said. He added that he had made the decision some time ago, although he had avoided making it official until yesterday.

Watters' five touchdowns highlighted a strange game that produced not one touchdown pass. Befuddled and generally inept, the Giants gave up another 49ers touchdown when Marc Logan ran for 2 yards early in the fourth quarter and got hearty congratulations from Watters.

"We're like brothers in the backfield," Watters said.

As for the Giants' old-fashioned offense, the one that led in the regular season in rushing and time of possession, it managed a 25-yard field goal just before the first half ended, and a host of blunted drives that never came close to another score.

Trailing by 23-0 before halftime, the Giants were forced to junk their usual rushing tactics for a vain game of catch-up. They managed 41 yards rushing and 194 total yards.

"There was no question who was the best team out there today," Giants coach Dan Reeves said. "I'm disappointed we came in and played this way. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth. They took the running game away from us. We didn't play up to our capabilities, but the 49ers had a lot to do with that."

Before the Niners (11-6) closed the game with backup players and ended any further playoff hopes for the Giants (12-6), San Francisco's devastating mix of the pass and the run, graced by superb blocking, had turned the game into a laugher.

The defense also chipped in by twice intercepting Phil Simms, who spent a miserable afternoon trying to shake off four sacks and avoid further pressure.

Indeed, before Watters scampered 2 yards to score his third touchdown of the first half - on each of them he was virtually untouched - the Niners gave every indication that they meant to make amends for their anemic finish to the regular season, when they lost three of their last four starts.

They hardly looked like the same team in boosting their lead to 23-0 before halftime. That's when Watters finished a spectacular 92-yard drive that took the 49ers more than five minutes.

The 49ers struck immediately with an 80-yard drive that started with the opening kickoff and was virtually flawless in its execution.

The Niners' Steve Young connected on his first four passes, hurting the Giants most with a 31-yard pass that John Taylor caught off a crossing pattern for a first down at the Giants' 38-yard line.

Behind solid protection, Young threw a 12-yard pass to Jerry Rice before Watters hammered the final 10 yards, scoring on a 1-yard smash behind Tom Rathman's block.

The 49ers' efforts and the lack of an effective pass rush by the Giants were a deadly combination.

So were Watters' rushing and pass-catching.

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