With a win in hand, tying one of the NFL's longest-standing records Monday night was enough for Jerry Rice. But the San Francisco 49ers' coaches had other ideas.
Rice, who went to the sideline to celebrate after tying Jim Brown's record for career touchdowns, was sent back out in the game's final minutes and broke the record with TD No. 127 as San Francisco beat the Los Angeles Raiders 44-14."They told me they were going to give me one last shot, and I took advantage of it," Rice said.
Rice scored three times, the last a leaping 38-yard reception from Steve Young with 4:05 to play as Raiders defender Albert Lewis was shadowing him.
They were the first touchdowns by Rice in four games against the Raiders and they moved him past Brown as the league's touchdown leader.
"I really just wanted to win this football game," said Rice, who nevertheless was relieved to get the record out of the way.
"I'm very fortunate," he said. "So many guys helped to put me in this position - Joe Montana, Steve Young, so many other quarterbacks, Harry Sydney," Rice said.
Sydney, a former running back, threw a scoring pass to Rice on an option play in 1987.
"I was really so happy to get it done," Rice said. "When I caught that last ball so much pressure just left my body."
He immediately was surrounded by teammates as they celebrated the record.
Lewis could only give credit to Rice's amazing ability.
"I was too busy running to see the ball," Lewis said. "I lost the ball in the lights. It was underthrown, but he made a good adjustment to come back and get it and he held on to it. I don't know how he did that. He made a great catch and caught us sleeping."
With the game in hand late in the fourth period, Rice thought he was done for the night but was called back onto the field by his coaches.
With Rice's record in hand, the 49ers eliminated a potential distraction as they prepared to play Montana and the Kansas City Chiefs for the first time since Montana's 1992 departure from San Francisco, the team he took to four Super Bowls in the 1980s.
"It was George (Seifert's) call," said Young, who threw for four scores. "Hopefully, the Raiders will understand we wanted to do it at home.
Rice, who has 120 touchdowns receiving, tied Brown when he ran 23 yards on a reverse for his second touchdown of the game earlier in the fourth quarter.
Ricky Watters started the play by sweeping left. Rice came from the opposite direction, took the handoff from Watters and went around the right side and broke into the clear for the touchdown.
The score was set up by Dennis Brown's interception of Jeff Hostetler at the Raiders 36.
Rice finished with seven receptions for 169 yards.
"He's a great receiver and he made a lot of great plays. We weren't able to slow him down," Raiders coach Art Shell said.
Jim Brown had held the touchdown record since the running back retired from the Cleveland Browns in 1965.
Young was 19-for-32 for 308 yards and four touchdown passes, the first and last going to Rice.
Brent Jones caught Young's other touchdown passes, the second an 8-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter.
San Francisco's new-look defense, which has seven new starters, also made an impressive debut, effectively preventing the Raiders' fleet corps of wide receivers from becoming much of a factor.
"They were determined not to let us go deep on them," Shell said.
Rice's first touchdown and Doug Brien's first field goal helped San Francisco take a 23-14 halftime lead. Brien, who kicked a 33-yard field goal with three seconds left in the second quarter, also made a touchdown-saving tackle of Raghib Ismail to stop his first-quarter kickoff return at 51 yards.
Rice got his 125th career touchdown on the bomb from Young, streaking past Lionel Washington and Patrick Bates. He gathered in the pass about the 30, stumbled when Washington dived at his ankles but maintained his balance and raced the rest of the way into the end zone untouched for a 7-0 lead.
Jones scored on a 15-yard scoring pass to put San Francisco up 14-0.
After the 49ers went up 20-7 on a plunge by Rickey Watters, the Raiders answered when Napoleon McCallum capped a five-play 54-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run with 3:07 left in the second quarter.
McCallum was hurt midway through the hird quarter when his leg was twisted as he was tackled after a run. A preliminary report indicated he dislocated his left knee. He was taken from the field on a stretcher and went to a local hospital for treatment.
Career Touchdown Leaders
The career touchdown leaders in the National Football League (x-active):
Name Rush Rec. Ret. Total
1. x-Jerry Rice 7 120 0 127
2. Jim Brown 106 20 0 126
3. Walter Payton 110 15 0 125
4. John Riggins 104 12 0 116
5. x-Marcus Allen 92 21 1 114
6. Lenny Moore 63 48 2 113
7. Don Hutson 3 99 3 105
8. Steve Largent 1 100 0 101
9. Franco Harris 91 9 0 100
10. Eric Dickerson 90 6 0 96