SAN FRANCISCO — The Atlanta Falcons spent the week preparing to stop San Francisco quarterback Steve Young and his talented receivers.
The Falcons, however, did not anticipate that Young would join the 49ers receiving corps.
Young passed for three touchdowns, scrambled to set up another score and completed a pass to himself Sunday to help the San Francisco 49ers hold off the Falcons, 37-30.
"I wanted to score," said Young, who caught a six-yard pass after his throw bounced off an Atlanta defender near the goal line. "I wasn't sure if the catch was legal. My first thought was I was going to get penalized."
It was legal--the 49ers' Y.A. Tittle had a similar play in a 1959 game against the Rams--and Ricky Watters scored from the two on the next play to put the 49ers ahead, 23-20, as time expired in the third quarter.
The 49ers (2-1) needed every bit of offense they could muster to withstand a 192-yard rushing effort by Erric Pegram, starting for the injured Eric Dickerson.
It was the most yards gained by a running back against the 49ers, surpassing 181 yards by Chicago's Willie Galimore on Sept. 16, 1962.
Bobby Hebert, in his first start for the Falcons (0-3), matched Young by passing to Andre Rison for three touchdowns.
"They attacked our defense well," said 49er Coach George Seifert, who employed six backs in a defense designed to stop Atlanta's passing.
"There wasn't much to cheer about on defense. We've got to evaluate what we're doing. Thank God we got a great offensive performance today."
Hebert completed 23 of 38 passes for 199 yards. He got the start ahead of Chris Miller after rallying the Falcons from 21 points down in last week's 34-31 loss to the Saints.
Young completed 18 of 22 passes for 210 yards. He also had a pass intercepted for the seventh time in three games.
Watters gained 112 yards in 19 carries and Marc Logan added 57 yards in five carries.
"We couldn't stop them and they really couldn't stop us," Atlanta defensive back Scott Case said. "We're all frustrated. This isn't where we expected to be."
Hebert's second touchdown pass to Rison put the Falcons ahead, 20-16. The 49ers regained the lead when Watters swept left end on the play following Young's pass to himself.
Young twice avoided the rush of Chuck Smith and then caught a pass when it deflected off the chest of Vinnie Clark at the goal line. Young intended the pass for Watters.
"That's a fluke play, really," Clark said. "That play may never happen again. We batted the ball right back to him. He's one of the luckiest players alive, but he's also good."