Talk to Steve Young about running the 49ers' two-minute drill, and his eyes light up. "You know how confident Pete Rose must have felt batting in the ninth inning with a 9-1 lead?" Young says. "That's how I feel in our two-minute offense."
Seven times during the '90s, San Francisco has finished among the top 10 in scoring in the last two minutes of each half; last year the Niners were second, with 90 points. (The Saints had 97.) SI watched Young practice one of these double-time marches during training camp in Stockton, Calif. It was interesting to see what developed when a small clock in the end zone started ticking down from 2:00. The defensive intensity shot up. Young, previously blas�, became animated. "The only way this drill works," Young says, "is if both sides play like it's a game."
Starting from his own 20, Young hit fullback Tommy Vardell and wideout Mark Harris for a total of 14 yards, then found Jerry Rice on a crossing pattern for another first down. Three incompletions followed. Fourth down. "Got 'em now!" screamed free safety Merton Hanks. But Young saved the drive with a 12-yard crossing route on the numbers to Harris.
Forty yards and 40 seconds remained. On second-and-10, Young gave Rice a knowing look at the line. "White 90! White 90!" Young shouted. "Set!" Rice sprinted 22 yards and cut sharply to the middle. The throw was perfect, but at the last instant cornerback Darnell Walker flicked it away.
Needing a first down, Young threw a 10-yard incut to tight end Greg Clark "Time! Time!" Young yelled with 19 seconds to play. From the 30, he dumped to running back Charlie Garner, who got out of bounds after just a three-yard gain. Only 12 seconds remained; Young had to go for it He lofted a pass into the corner for the 6'4" Harris, who plucked it over the 5'8" Walker's head.
Touchdown. The clock read 0:05. "Playing quarterback's like trying to catch a tiger: You never quite catch it, but that doesn't stop you from trying," Young said later. "Going 80 yards in two minutes is one of the real challenges. You can get yards, but can you score?"
Young can. Consistently.