SAN FRANCISCO — Jerry Rice outscored the Raiders on Monday night. He ran for one touchdown, caught passes for two more and became the greatest touchdown-maker in NFL history, passing Walter Payton, passing Jim Brown and leaving the Raider defense in bits and pieces, like so much Rice-a-Roni.
Kept in the game with San Francisco already cruising by 23 points so he could score his record-breaking 127th pro touchdown on prime-time TV, Rice and the 49ers really rubbed it into the Raiders' faces. Rice went long for a 38-yard pass from Steve Young with 4:05 to play, a historic catch that meant absolutely nothing to the game.
Winning Coach George Seifert said, "We were all privileged tonight to see one of the great moments in football history, what Jerry Rice did. I think the man is obviously the greatest wide receiver to play the game."
Said Rice, "I really don't deserve the credit myself. Joe Montana, Steve Young . . . there were so many guys who helped me. I love the game and look forward just to coming out every week. All I want to do is have fun on a football field."
For Rice, who owns this city now that Montana works elsewhere, the pass all but certified his status as the greatest to play his position.
For the Raiders, all it did was make a bad situation worse.
Their own passing game was not sharp in the season opener. Rice accounted for more receiving yardage (169 yards) than Raider quarterback Jeff Hostetler did passing yardage (168). Hostetler also had to watch teammate Napoleon McCallum be carried off on a stretcher and went to the sidelines himself in the fourth quarter because an injury to him would have been the night's final insult.
As for the Raider defense, whatever individual bright spots they might see on highlight films this week must be weighed against the fact that they surrendered 44 points in their season opener, the most points a Raider team has given up since the 51 scored by Buffalo in the playoff game of Jan. 20, 1991.
Losing any game to the 49ers is hardly humiliating. Losing a season opener to anybody is not fatal--look at Dallas, which opened last season 0-2. But losing like this, by 30 points, on a Monday night, when the Raiders are usually at their best, will have repercussions. People will think twice now before shouting to the world that the Raiders will be representing the AFC come Super Bowl Sunday.
Rice, who knows something about getting to Super Bowls, ran his way into the record books with a demonstration of his versatility.
And he's only 31. He'll score more.
With his three touchdowns, Rice surpassed Brown's long-standing record of 126. It was a record that Brown owned for 29 years, and one that did not seem likely to be threatened by a wide receiver.
But this is no ordinary wide receiver. Rice is the man who dominated Super Bowl victories every bit as much as Montana did, only to get shortchanged on much of the credit. While Montana's face was plastered on billboards and magazine covers coast to coast, Rice's remained recognizable mostly in the Bay Area and in the minds of enemy defensive backs.
This was the 22nd time Rice has caught two touchdown passes in one game, and his 30th multiple-touchdown game. (He once had five in one night.)
The first one Monday was a beauty. Rice flagged down a long pass from Young on a play that covered 69 yards. Lionel Washington and Patrick Bates, trying desperately to keep up, did not. When Washington made one last desperate lunge, knocking Rice off-balance, the receiver wobbled and stumbled and still kept his balance, running into the end zone while Washington was run into by Bates.
He was a human highlight film again. About all the Raiders could do to counterattack was go to Rocket Ismail, who made one very nice Rice-like catch and run to within a yard of a touchdown. Otherwise, these were not the usual Raiders. They very rarely threw long, and the 30-yarder to Ismail was the longest completion by Hostetler all night.
The 49ers kept feeding them Rice, Rice and more Rice. They sprang him on a reverse, a 23-yard run in the fourth quarter that tied Brown's record. Teammates mobbed Rice in the end zone and, with 12:15 to play and San Francisco ahead, 37-14, it was presumed Rice's night was over.
It was not. Keeping the Raiders at bay even though injuries to guard Ralph Tamm and tackle Harris Barton wiped out the right side of their line, the 49ers sent their starters back onto the field to get Rice his record. And, with 4:05 remaining, he got it, leaving cornerback Albert Lewis clawing at him helplessly from the ground.
"Getting this record at home, in front of everybody here, means a lot to me. That's why I wanted to go back out there," Rice said. "It didn't have anything to do with the Raiders. It was just a good opportunity to do it right here in front of real 49er fans. I'd like to give a game ball to every one of them."
Said Young, his quarterback: "Tonight you saw why Jerry Rice is the best there is. I'll tell you, it's a priviledge just to throw the ball to see how he catches it."
No. 1 With a Bullet
With his three touchdowns against the Raiders Monday night, San Francisco's Jerry Rice became the leading touchdown-maker in NFL history. The top 10:
Player Yrs Rush Rec Ret TD *Jerry Rice 10 7 120 0 127 Jim Brown 9 16 20 0 126 Walter Payton 13 110 15 0 125 John Riggins 14 104 12 0 116 *Marcus Allen 13 92 21 1 114 Lenny Moore 12 63 48 2 113 Don Hutson 11 3 99 3 105 Steve Largent 14 1 100 0 101 Franco Harris 13 91 9 0 100 Eric Dickerson 11 90 6 0 96