A Christmas day meeting of the two highest-scoring teams in the NFL turned into a mistake-prone, low-scoring affair as the Houston Oilers beat the San Francisco 49ers 10-7 for their 10th straight victory.

Houston (11-4), second to San Francisco in scoring, got just enough offense to overcome three turnovers and remained in the race for the coveted homefield advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.The 49ers (10-5), who failed to score with Steve Young at quarterback, had a 13-game regular season home winning streak end. They already have clinched the NFC West title and a first-round playoff bye.

San Francisco, which scored 55 points in last week's victory at Detroit, was held scoreless until Amp Lee's 8-yard touchdown run with 12:11 remaining. It capped a 12-play, 73-yard drive directed by Steve Bono, who relieved Young with 3:33 left in the third quarter.

There was no immediate explanation for the removal of Young, who was 15-of-29 for 178 yards before leaving. He was intercepted twice and fumbled to set up a Houston score.

The Oilers also had turnover problems and Warren Moon had to leave the game with just under seven minutes left with bruised ribs. He was replaced by Cody Carlson.

Moon had a touchdown pass but was off target much of the day, completing 11-of-26 for 158 yards. He was also intercepted three times, twice by cornerback Michael McGruder, whose second interception came with Houston on the move again midway through the third quarter and looking to take control of the game.

McGruder returned the interception 15 yards and San Francisco took over at its 30.

After a 5-yard scramble by Young, he completed a 22-yard pass to Amp Lee and a 32-yard throw to Jerry Rice to the Houston 11. The drive stalled, however, and Mike Cofer's 24-yard field goal was blocked by Eddie Robinson.

Houston twice blunted San Francisco drives with end-zone interceptions and led 10-0 at halftime, cashing in Young's fumble for a 7-yard touchdown pass from Warren Moon to Ernest Givins. Al Del Greco added a 24-yard field goal.

Rookie Blaine Bishop, starting in place of injured safety Bubba McDowell, sacked Young on a blitz and forced the fumble, recovering at the San Francisco 18. Three plays later, Moon found Givins for the score.

Moon matched Young with two first-half interceptions but San Francisco was unable to capitalize.

View Comments

Cornerback Don Griffin thwarted a Houston march when he stepped in front of Haywood Jeffiries to intercept Moon's pass and give San Francico possession at the 49ers 29 with 1:56 left in the second quarter. But after a gain of 17 on a pass to Tom Rathman, Young threw three incompletions and the 49ers turned the ball over on downs.

The 49ers' opening possession ended in a missed 47-yard field goal try by Cofer. San Francisco got the ball back when McGruder intercepted Moon's pass at the Houston 39 midway through the first period.

Young guided the 49ers to a first down at the 8 before being picked off in the end zone by Steve Jackson when he tried to force a pass to Brent Jones through double coverage.

The second time, San Francisco had advanced to the Houston 19 when Young's throw to a well-covered Rice was intercepted at the goal line by Cris Dishman.

Join the Conversation
Looking for comments?
Find comments in their new home! Click the buttons at the top or within the article to view them — or use the button below for quick access.