NEW ORLEANS — Between them, they scored 30 of the 49ers' 55 points. Or, to look at it another way, 30 of the 48 scored by non-kickers. They were San Francisco's R & R Men, and they certainly did not add up to any rest and recuperation for the Denver Broncos.
Jerry Rice, R Man No. 1, is the wide receiver, a star in the National Football League; the league's most valuable player in 1987, as a matter of fact. In Super Bowl XXIV, he was expected to be a star; supposed to be, assuming his quarterback, Joe Montana, didn't come down with any debilitating pregame diseases, which would have made this game about even.
So with Montana feeling quite well, thank you, while making a whole section of the country a Rocky Mountain low, Rice scored three touchdowns, on pass plays of 20, 38 and 28 yards. On the last two catches, he was so open it made him nervous.
"You have to really focus on those," he said. "You're kind of surprised, kind of looking around for somebody to be in your face."
Denver fans would have settled for somebody, namely a defensive back, to be in the same time zone with Rice.
Tyrone Braxton, one of the Denver defensive backs getting a good view all afternoon of the back of Rice's jersey, said, "He's a good receiver, but I wouldn't say he's the best we've seen."
That, of course, not only raised questions about Braxton's perspective, but also his eyesight.
Tom Rathman, R Man No. 2, is a blocking back. He is not a star in the NFL, and has never been near the MVP trophy, except perhaps to look at it in Rice's trophy case.
In Super Bowl XXIV, Rathman was expected to be what he has pretty much been since the start of his career with the 49ers: a T-formation version of the single-wing blocking back. He is the plow that clears the driveway for star running back Roger Craig. Where Rathman goes, Craig follows, but Craig carries the ball with him.
Last week, in the midst of the super hype of Super Week, somebody asked Rathman whether he dreamed of scoring a touchdown in the game. It was a very fair question, because Rathman had scored only two touchdowns all year, one by passing and one by rushing. The 49ers frequently talk about spreading their offense around to everybody. Well, when it comes to scoring time, they spread it around to Craig, Rice and John Taylor, the other wide receiver.
So, when Rathman answered the question, he did so lightly.
"I just want them to throw me a bone once in a while," he had said.
So Sunday, when he was reminded of that statement, he laughed and said, "Yep, and I'm munching on that old bone pretty good right now."
Rathman munched on the highly chewable Denver defense for scoring runs of one and four yards. He rushed for 38 yards in 11 carries and caught four passes for 43 yards. Like Rice, he did pretty much what he was supposed to do, except, in one flashy moment, when he did more.
That occurred with the 49ers driving for their third touchdown, in the second period. It was one of those long drives in which Montana treats the other team like it is celery and he is a paring knife. He chopped the Broncos up in 14 plays, but he found himself in a tight spot on third and 10 at the Bronco 12-yard line. Under some rare pressure, Montana spotted Rathman over the middle and zipped the ball in his direction. But it was behind Rathman; for a perfectionist like Montana, it was very badly thrown.
But Rathman, who caught an amazing 73 passes in the regular season and nine more in the two playoff games leading to the Super Bowl, reached behind him like a parent in the front seat of a car, keeping his youngster from rolling out the back door. With one hand, he caught the ball, got to the three and finished the drive three plays later with a one-yard plunge.
"We practice that, Roger and I," Rathman said. "If you watch us before the game, we are always over there, trying to catch the ball with one hand. Never know when it might be necessary."
Somebody told Rathman that Montana threw his hands to his head in disgust at his bad throw and then in amazement at it being caught. Rathman said, "Well, he came over to me afterward and said 'good catch.' He is so precise with everything he does that it was rare for him to throw a pass like that. I think it really bothered him.
"That's why I call him vintage. Yes, vintage, he is."
When it was over, and the devastation of Denver was complete, San Francisco's R & R Men had gained some special spots in the Super Bowl's big R Book.
Rice had set records for most touchdown receptions in a career with four and most touchdown catches in a game with three. He had also tied records of touchdowns scored in one game with three; of games with 100 yards-plus in receptions with two, and consecutive games with 100 yards-plus on receptions with two.
Rathman had tied a record with rushing touchdowns in a game with two.
Well after the game had ended and the interviewing wave had calmed a bit, the R & R Men, off in separate corners of the massive interview area, each had a chance to be a bit philosophical.
Rathman said: "Today, the only thing that could have beaten the 49ers was the 49ers."
And Rice said: "I'm looking forward to a third time."
With that, they each headed for the locker room, and soon, for some well-deserved off-seasonR & R.