Bringing down the house
Broncos blow out 49ers to finish regular season at 11-5
Updated: Sunday December 24, 2000 1:57 PM
DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Broncos said goodbye to Mile High in fitting fashion, with one of the best games in their history.
In the 52-year-old stadium's finale -- barring a home playoff game -- the Broncos scored on six consecutive possessions Saturday to rout the San Francisco 49ers 38-9.
Next fall, the Broncos move into a $364 million stadium under construction adjacent to Mile High.
"Today's effort was almost a perfect game," head coach Mike Shanahan said. "Our defense was fired up from the first play. Gus played well and carried himself with poise."
Frerotte, who twice had to be helped from the field with minor injuries, said the win was "what we needed for our last game of the season, to go into the playoffs with a lot of momentum and to go into the playoffs playing as a team again. We're on our way."
The playoff-bound Broncos (11-5) stayed in contention for the AFC West title. If Oakland loses to Carolina on Sunday, Denver would win the division title and be assured of a home playoff game. If Oakland wins, Denver is a wild-card and plays on the road.
Wide receiver Rod Smith said the Broncos chose a "great way to close it out -- maybe. We might have one more game here. Hopefully, we can have another little party like this again. This place is always going to be special."
San Francisco (6-10), which had won four of its previous five games, averted a shutout when Wade Richey kicked a 44-yard field goal with 9:04 left. Jeff Garcia, who eclipsed the 49ers' season passing record of 4,170 yards set by Steve Young in 1998, later threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Stokes.
"The game got out of hand," San Francisco head coach Steve Mariucci said. "They are a better team than we are right now. We made a lot of progress this year, but we see exactly how far we still have to go. This was a little bit of a reality check."
All in all, it was a record-setting day.
Denver receivers Ed McCaffrey and Smith finished with 101 and 100 receptions, respectively, becoming only the second NFL tandem to reach that level. Detroit's Herman Moore and Brett Perriman accomplished the feat in 1995.
McCaffrey's 101 catches broke the club record of 100, set by Lionel Taylor in 1961.
Anderson's two rushing touchdowns gave him 15 for the season, tying Cincinnati's Ickey Woods (1988) for the second-most by a rookie in NFL history.
Saturday's game also likely was the last game in a San Francisco uniform for record-setting receiver Jerry Rice, who wants to play another season but probably will do it for another team because of the salary cap.
After the game, Broncos fans cheered Rice as he headed for the locker room and shouted "Jerry! Jerry!"
After a scoreless first quarter, the Broncos scored on three consecutive possessions to take a 17-0 halftime lead.
Griese, returning to the lineup after missing the previous five games because of a separated throwing shoulder, lasted just five plays. On a short pass, Griese was slammed to the turf by defensive tackle Brentson Buckner, landing on his shoulder and leaving the game.
Frerotte relieved and eventually led Denver to its first score, Jason Elam's 20-yard field. Denver's 88-yard scoring drive included five penalties against San Francisco totaling 66 yards.
On Denver's next series, Frerotte was shaken up on a sack and left the game, and Griese returned to hand off to KaRon Coleman, who juked his way around the left side for a 24-yard scoring run with 7:33 left in the half. Griese did not play again, however.
Thanks to intimidating tactics by Denver linebacker Bill Romanowski -- who shoved receiver Stokes after a reception and leveled Garcia just after the quarterback released a pass -- a San Francisco drive stalled at the Denver 30, and Richey was wide right on a 48-yard field goal try.
"As a defense, we felt like we had to come out with an attitude," Romanowski said, "and that's what we did."
Denver responded with a 61-yard touchdown drive. Frerotte, back in the lineup, completed a 15-yard pass to Byron Chamberlain, and Anderson ran the final yard.
McCaffrey's 25-yard TD catch early in the third quarter was his 101st, breaking Taylor's record set in the Broncos' second season.
Notes: Griese's shoulder did not pop out, but it was unclear if he can play next week. ... Garcia finished the season with a club-record 4,278 yards passing. ... The 49ers lost S Zack Bronson with a sprained right ankle, LB Winfred Tubbs with a sprained right knee and DT Cedric Killings with a sprained neck. ... The Broncos, who allowed 424 total yards including 264 rushing to Kansas City last week, limited the 49ers to 192 total yards. ... San Francisco had limited its previous five opponents to an average of 12.2 points. ... Denver has won seven of its last eight games.