There was no better place than the Superdome for Jerry Rice to make his 1,000 career reception. After all, many of his milestones have come against the New Orleans Saints.
The 49ers receiver, who entered the game three catches shy of his 1,000th catch, made the milestone reception when he grabbed a 9-yard pass from Steve Young with 11:47 left in San Francisco's 24-17 victory over New Orleans on Sunday night."Everytime you see him, it's a piece of history," said Saints wide receiver Haywood Jeffires, a 10-year veteran. "He's the kind of player that now you're going to watch him set record after record after record while the rest of us just hang back with our mouths open."
Saints players have been hanging back watching Rice make history against them for much of his 12-year career.
Rice caught a team-record 60th touchdown pass against the Saints in 1989. He caught his 500th career pass against New Orleans in 1991, and became the NFL's career leader in receiving yards against the Saints in 1995.
Rice caught a 36-yard touchdown pass, set up another San Francisco TD with his milestone catch and recovered an onside kick that sealed a 24-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
On Rice's milestone catch, officials at first signaled touchdown when Rice caught the ball. It would have been his second of the night, but the ball was marked at the 2-yard line. Young sneaked in on the next play to put the 49ers (7-2) up 24-14 with 11:31 remaining.
New Orleans (2-7) got a field goal to get within seven with 2:16 left, and after Rice recovered the onside kick, the Saints held and got the ball back with a minute left. But they got no closer than the San Francisco 44.
Art Monk, who retired last year, is second on the career list with 940 catches.
Rice had one catch for no gain in the first quarter and made a 36-yard TD catch in the second period. He now needs only four more points to become San Francisco's career scoring leader.
"I ran out of superlatives for him about three years ago," Young said. "The fact that he has 1,000 receptions is a sign of what this team has done."
Rice is the NFL's career leader in catches, receiving yards (15,864), receiving touchdowns (151) and total touchdowns (162).
"Over my career, the ride has been excellent," said Rice. "This was a great achievement and I'm thankful to have the guys on this team put me in the position to get that record."
The loss gave Rick Venturi, named the Saints interim coach after Jim Mora's sudden resignation, a 1-11 record as a head coach. Venturi was 1-10 as the Colts' interim head coach in 1991.
San Francisco appeared to have scored in the first quarter when Rice, who scored on a reverse in the first game against the Saints this season, took another reverse 50 yards into the end zone. A penalty wiped out the score, however, giving the 49ers a first down on the 22. An incompletion and a reception for no yards by Rice stopped the 49ers and a 34-yard field goal by Jeff Wilkins made it 3-0.
Wilkins put the 49ers up 6-0 with a 35-yard field goal 1:56 into the second quarter. San Francisco had to settle for the field goal after driving to the 12. The drive stalled when Wayne Martin sacked Young for a 5-yard loss and Eric Allen knocked the ball away from Rice in the end zone.
It was one of six New Orleans sacks in the game as New Orleans obviously targeted Young, who was knocked out of last week's game with a concussion.
Young completed 12 of 23 passes for 149 yards.
The Saints got their first touchdown on a 1-yard run by Ray Zellars, the first rushing touchdown the 49ers have allowed since the 14th game of last season. The score was set up by a 57-yard kick return by Tyrone Hughes and a 31-yard reception by Michael Haynes.
Rice's second reception of the game was a 36-yard touchdown to cap a 76-yard San Francisco drive. Young scrambled in for the 2-point conversion to put the 49ers up 14-7 at the half.
Wilkins' 27-yard field goal - his third of the game- with 1:11 left in the third quarter put the 49ers up 17-7. The field goal came after Dedrick Dodge intercepted Everett's pass and returned the ball 26 yards, giving the 49ers first down on the 30. The Saints defense, which pressured Young all game, then got a sack and two incompletions to force the field goal.
The Saints came back quickly as Everett hit Haynes with a 50-yard touchdown. It was Haynes' 400th career reception and Everett's 199th touchdown pass and made it 17-14.