Super Bowl XXIX (Chargers vs. 49ers): An Ultimate Recount of the Game

Today we have Super Bowl XXIX, which was held on January 29, 1995, at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida, between the first-time AFC champion San Diego Chargers and the four-time NFC and Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers. If you’re looking for the full story of this 1994 season, pick up my Nifty Nineties book and you’ll learn more than you ever wanted to know about that year and the rest of the nineties.

As always, we have a pop quiz, and then homework at the end of the episode. The pop quiz question for today is this: which player was the first to win three consecutive Super Bowl rings? The answer will come at the end of the podcast.

Prelude to Super Bowl XXIX

The San Francisco 49ers had been oh so close to making the Super Bowl the last two seasons, losing in the NFC Championship Game to Dallas each time. Steve Young won league MVP in 1992 before the Niners’ heartbreaking loss at home to the Cowboys. Then Joe Montana was traded to Kansas City, and Young had a monkey on his back.

The only way to get that monkey off his back was for him to win the Super Bowl. In the second game of the season, Young faced Montana’s Kansas City Chiefs with all the pressure in the world on him to prove that he was better than his predecessor. Instead, the Chiefs beat the Niners 24-17, keeping the pressure on him.

Three games later, Young got benched in an embarrassing 40-8 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The 49ers dropped to 3-2, and they looked to be in trouble. But that’s when San Francisco went on a ten-game winning streak, including a 42-3 win over Atlanta where newly acquired defensive back Deion Sanders got into a fight with Falcons receiver Andre Rison. The 49ers beat Dallas on the way to a 13-3 record, earning the #1 seed in the NFC.

After an easy 44-15 win over Chicago in the divisional round, San Francisco faced old nemesis Dallas for the NFC title. This time, the 49ers got three turnovers in the first quarter and scored three touchdowns, going up 21-0. They led 31-14 at halftime, though Dallas cut their lead down to ten points in the fourth quarter. The 49ers held on to win, 38-28, and they advanced to their fifth Super Bowl.

Young threw for just shy of 4,000 yards, putting up 35 touchdown passes as opposed to just ten interceptions for a stellar passer rating of 112.8. He was also the team’s third-leading rusher, going for 293 yards on the ground and rushing for a team-high seven touchdowns. He was named league MVP for the second time in three years.

Running back Ricky Watters led the team in rushing with 877 yards while catching 66 passes for 719 yards. He scored 11 touchdowns overall. Fullback William Floyd, the best fullback “Bar None” as his nickname said, ran for 305 yards and six touchdowns. Tight end Brent Jones caught 49 passes for 670 yards and nine touchdowns, and receiver John Taylor had a solid year with 41 catches for 531 yards and five touchdowns.

But we haven’t even gotten to Jerry Rice yet! He finished one receiving yard shy of 1,500, catching 112 balls, scoring 13 times, and posting a yards-per-catch average of 13.4. He also was on the verge of setting every career receiving record in the books. It is truly amazing that the stats he put up were regarded as ho-hum thanks to the ridiculous standard he had set for himself.

On the other side of the ledger were the San Diego Chargers. They got off to a hot start, winning their first six games. Then, they went into a slump, losing five of their next eight. They finished the season with two victories, including one on Christmas Eve over the Steelers to finish off an 11-5 season which got them the #2 seed in the AFC.

The Chargers barely beat Miami 22-21 to advance to their first AFC Championship Game since 1981. Against the #1-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chargers scored a late touchdown to take a four-point lead, then made a goal-line stand with the Steelers on their 3. After a fourth-down incompletion, the Chargers held on to win, 17-13, to advance to their first Super Bowl in franchise history.

San Diego was led by head coach Bobby Ross, who ran this offense through running back Natrone Means. Means ran for 1,350 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Chargers had only one other rushing touchdown this season besides his 12. Quarterback Stan Humphries went over 3,200 yards, but his touchdown-to-interception ratio was just 17:12.

The Chargers had three good ball-catchers, but no standout ones – receiver Mark Seay, running back Ronnie Harmon, and receiver Tony Martin, who each caught 50 or more passes. Receiver Andre Coleman had a big year returning kicks, bringing back two for touchdowns on his way to nearly 1,300 yards of kickoff returns.

Super Bowl XXIX: First Quarter

The 49ers won the coin toss and elected to receive. As 18-point favorites, the Niners seemed to be in charge of this game from the very start. In fact, you could say the game was over the minute they won the coin toss. The Chargers got called for a facemask penalty on the return, putting San Francisco at the 41 to begin.

Floyd ran for four, and Taylor caught a pass in San Diego territory for a first down. Young then fired over the middle to Rice for a 44-yard touchdown in which the Chargers’ defensive backs were way out of position. It was the fastest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history, coming only 84 seconds into the game. The 49ers were only the second team in Super Bowl history to score a touchdown on the game’s opening drive; Miami in Super Bowl VIII was the other.

The Chargers couldn’t match that touchdown. In fact, they went three-and-out, and San Francisco got the ball back at their 21. Young threw a seven-yard pass to Floyd, then he scrambled for 20 yards. Next, he went play-action to Watters after a fake to Floyd. Watters hauled it in, broke a tackle, and went in for a 51-yard touchdown. The 49ers were up 14-0 in the blink of an eye, not even five minutes into the game.

But to their credit, the Chargers didn’t fold immediately. Humphries ran for a first down and passed one to Harmon for a first down in San Francisco territory. Next, Harmon ran for another first down to the 25. Means carried it three straight plays, getting a first down and moving the ball inside the 10. Sanders got called for pass interference in the end zone, and that gave the Chargers the ball at the 1. Means plowed in for the touchdown, and the Chargers made it 14-7 at the end of one quarter.

Super Bowl XXIX: Second Quarter

Young began the next drive with a 19-yard pass to Rice over the middle. The 49ers then ran a reverse, which Rice took off the right side for a first down to the Chargers 41.

Taylor made a spectacular catch for a first down at the 30, and Young cut the distance between the Niners and the end zone in half on a scramble. Young got another first down on a sneak, then he threw to Floyd over the middle for a five-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.

Rice was apparently injured on that reverse, and he came out of the game and went to the locker room. Meanwhile, defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield sacked Humphries, and the Chargers had to punt again. With Rice out with an injury, the Niners offense didn’t look as strong, and they ended up punting as well. The Chargers went nowhere for a second possession, and 49ers fullback Adam Walker got a hand on the next punt. A good bounce for San Diego gave the 49ers the ball only at midfield.

Rice came back into the game, and Young got a first down on a pass to Jones. Next, Young found Rice over the middle for another first down. Taylor caught a short pass, then Rice hauled one in and made a nice move to get to the 15. A few plays later, Young threw to Watters on the left side for an eight-yard touchdown, and the 49ers lead ballooned to 28-7.

The Chargers at least tried to make a game of it. Humphries threw to Seay for a first down at the 45, then receiver Shawn Jefferson ran a reverse to get into San Francisco territory. Running back Eric Bieniemy caught a screen and went down to the 13, which set up a field goal. Kicker John Carney made a 31-yard field goal, and the Chargers pulled within 18.

Young attempted to lead the 49ers downfield for more points. He threw to Jones and Rice for first downs, and Watters got the ball as far as the 29 before San Francisco had to settle for a field goal try. Perhaps the only weak link in the 49ers roster was their kicker, Doug Brien. He missed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide to the right and short.

Humphries threw a nine-yard pass to Jefferson, then the Chargers called timeout with 24 seconds left. Two plays later, Humphries went for the home run ball to Martin. He was intercepted by defensive back Eric Davis in the end zone, on a play that almost certainly be ruled an incompletion today. Davis clearly did not have possession of the ball long enough. Nevertheless, it stood, and the 49ers went into the locker room with a 28-10 lead.

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    Super Bowl XXIX: Third Quarter

    The Chargers started the second half with a three-and-out. Young got the ball back at his own 38 and immediately threw for a first down to Rice. After defensive end Raylee Johnson picked up a sack of Young, the quarterback found Rice over the middle for another first down to the 32.

    Taylor caught one for another first down, as the 49ers moved the ball down inside the 10. Watters then burst for a nine-yard touchdown run, scoring a Super Bowl record-tying third touchdown. The 49ers now led 35-10.

    Humphries and the Chargers went nowhere again. Floyd started the new San Francisco drive with a nine-yard catch, before running for a first down on the next play. A pass interference call gave the 49ers another first down. Next, it was Watters running off the right side for a first down. Young scrambled for another new set of downs, then he fired over the middle to Rice for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 42-10.

    On the most exciting play of the entire game, Andre Coleman returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. It was tied for the longest kickoff return in Super Bowl history with Fulton Walker’s return in Super Bowl XVII. (It wouldn’t last long.) The Chargers then did something no team in Super Bowl history had done before – they went for two. In the first year of the two-point conversion, Humphries converted the very first one in a Super Bowl with a pass over the middle to Seay to cut it to 42-18.

    The 49ers went three-and-out, but the Chargers couldn’t respond. Tight end Alfred Pupunu caught a pass one yard short of a first down, and on fourth down, Ross chose to go for it. Means tried running to his right, then all the way back to his left, but he couldn’t get away from the Niners defense. They swarmed to him and tackled him for a loss, and the Chargers turned it over on downs.

    Super Bowl XXIX: Fourth Quarter

    Watters ran the ball a few times, getting the ball down to the 7. Young threw a touchdown pass to Rice to the left side, and the 49ers got to exactly 49 points, a fact that thrilled me as a child. Moreover, Young set the record with six touchdown passes in a single game, and Rice tied his own record with three touchdown receptions in one game. The 49ers led 49-18, and Young could get that monkey off his back.

    The Chargers made things interesting when it came to the 18-point spread. First, Humphries threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Martin while 49ers head coach George Seifert was being drenched in Gatorade. Pupunu caught a two-point pass to make it 49-26. Then the Chargers got the ball again in the final minute, and ABC announcer Al Michaels began to get excited.

    He gave some not-so-subtle hints that lots of people were interested in how the final seconds would go down. But there was no bad beat here. Humphries’s final pass went out of the end zone, and the 49ers won it, 49-26.

    Super Bowl XXIX: Aftermath and Awards

    Steve Young was named MVP of this game, and there’s no arguing it. He threw for 325 yards, ran for 49 yards to lead all rushers, and set two records – most touchdown passes in a game (six) and most rushing yards by a quarterback (49).

    There’s just no way to pick anyone else. As a second-best award, I’d give it to Rice for his ten catches for 149 yards and three touchdowns – all marks that would have won him MVP in any other Super Bowl. But for this one, Young got that monkey off his back in a big way, and he tightly squeezed that Lombardi Trophy after the game in sheer relief.

    The best player on the losing team was kickoff returner, Andre Coleman. He set a Super Bowl record for most kickoff return yards with 242, and he scored on the record-tying 98-yard kickoff return. There wasn’t a single Charger player who really excelled on this day besides him.

    If I were to give out a Least Valuable Player award, it’d probably go to Humphries, since he was the quarterback. He completed less than half his passes and was picked off twice. But really, the Chargers had no chance in this game. He wasn’t the only reason his team lost; the Chargers were just so inferior to San Francisco that they never had a chance from the coin toss.

    The biggest play of this game was Young’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Rice on the game’s opening drive. After that, it was over. The 49ers had the game in the bag from that very early start. The Chargers just could not compare to them. As for the biggest play, you don’t remember, how about Rice’s reverse in the second quarter? It helped set up a touchdown, then it backfired in that Rice was injured on the play.

    The 49ers then failed to score on their next possession. So, in a weird way, it was the biggest play of the game in that it swayed the game in both directions. But ultimately, Rice came back into the game, and the rest was history.

    The best player you don’t remember is probably defensive back Tim McDonald. He was a very solid player for the 49ers over the years, and he made a lot of big plays in playoff games. He may not have had a starring role in this Super Bowl, but he definitely deserves recognition for his play.

    He was part of a defense that included linebacker Ken Norton Jr., who had won the last two Super Bowls in a row with Dallas. That made him the first player in Super Bowl history to win the big game three consecutive years, and that is the answer to today’s pop quiz question.


    For these more recent Super Bowls, I’m having a harder time finding books focused on the teams involved simply because they didn’t happen all that long ago. I recommend for this time you to read The Sporting News’ Complete Super Bowl Book, which came out after this Super Bowl.

     It has all the information you’d ever want to know on the first 29 Super Bowls and even a little on the pre-Super Bowl NFL championships.

    Next time, for the third time in Super Bowl history, it’s the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys! One of these teams will join the newly minted San Francisco 49ers as five-time Super Bowl champions. And they’ll do it down in the desert, in the first Super Bowl to take place in Arizona. My website is, you can find all of my books there. Until next time, so long!

    Lombardi Memories is a show that takes you back in time, into January or February, to the greatest one-day spectacle in all of sports. This is the every-other-Tuesday podcast that looks back at each and every one of the 50-plus Super Bowls and tells the story of who won and why.  Tommy A. Phillips is your host on this Super Journey.  He’s an author of multiple NFL books.  You can purchase below.

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