And in eight plays on the final drive, including one bootleg for a first down, Young advanced the Niners to the Buffalo 29. But on third-and-nine Mike Lodish, a backup noseguard, slipped through the 49er protection and pressured Young into throwing incomplete. It was up to Cofer, who, in addition to missing the 33-yarder at the outset, had barely made a 24-yarder when the ball caromed in off the left upright. This time his 47-yarder went wide right, just as Scott Norwood's had in the Bills' one-point loss to the Giants two Super Bowls ago. Poetic justice of a much lesser sort.
"Today the defense should have apologized to Steve Young," Walter said.
Who were the heroes of this Buffalo victory? Well, Kelly, of course, and an offensive line that held off the rush and gave him time to go to his second and third reads, to watch his wideouts break their crossing patterns and shed the coverage—to do, in fact, pretty much what he wanted to, a luxury denied him in the last Super Bowl, in which the Washington Redskin pass rushers poured in on him.
The best pass rusher the 49ers had, Charles Haley, is in Dallas now, traded before the season began because he was just too hard to handle, the coaches said. His replacement is former Packer Tim Harris, a sturdy chap but nowhere near the force coming around the corner that Haley was. The Niners could have used another cover guy on Sunday. Merton Hanks, a second-year pro, had to take Reed, lined up in the slot, and it was a mismatch. San Francisco needed Darryl Pollard, a cornerback who was coming back from a broken ankle and having a pretty good camp before he got cut because he wouldn't accept a $200,000 pay reduction. He's in Tampa Bay now.
Budget-trimming, fiscal responsibility—these are new things in San Francisco, and they will stand 49er owner Eddie DeBartolo in better stead with the Edward J. DeBartolo Corporation in Youngstown, Ohio. But on this frantic afternoon they didn't work too well.