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"He's the hottest back in the league right now," said Raider inside linebacker Matt Millen, who specializes in stuffing enemy runners. "He's our biggest concern. He's always at top speed."
"Oh, we'll run at them a little, just to show it," Walsh said, "but we're not going to beat them by running early. Maybe later, when they're stirring a bit, but it's just nonsensical to run at that defense right away. Let Millen go all out against a conventional run, and he'll stop it."
The first 49er drive, beginning on the Raider 48 after a short punt, went just four plays, and only one was a conventional run—two yards by Wendell Tyler. The payoff came on a slant-in pass from Montana to Craig that carried 20 yards after the Raider linebackers misjudged Craig's speed and took the wrong angle. Then it was the Raiders' turn, and back they came, putting together their longest drive of the day, from their own eight to the 49er seven, where Chris Bahr kicked a field goal. It gave the Raiders hope and fortified their new concept of offensive football: Flood the zones, throw to people underneath, pick away and take what you're given—a switch from their old drop-back-and-wait style of longer routes and quicker strikes.
The Raiders went long when the defense invited them to. The 49ers have been toying with Buddy Ryan's Chicago Bear 46-Defense this year: Come hard with eight men in close, and leave your cornerbacks unprotected. Three times they tried it, and on each occasion the Raiders went deep on them. The results were two long completions to rookie wideout Jessie Hester and a ball that Jim Smith dropped in the end zone. A TD would have tied the score at 10-10 late in the first half. Instead, the 49ers drove back for a field goal, and when the second half opened L.A. was down 13-3, playing catch-up with a banged up offensive line.
Late in the third quarter the 49ers put together one of their classic drives—nine plays for 80 yards. Their running game had gone nowhere, but with the Raider defense sagging slightly, it suddenly picked up. The 14-yard touchdown was scored by Dwight Clark, who has been almost a forgotten man in the 49er offense this year. It was patented Montana-to-Clark, a sight adjustment in which Clark, the wide man in a double-wideout slot formation, fought his way through traffic, ducked inside and got a perfect shot from his quarterback.
So the 49ers are back on the beam, while deep gloom has settled over the Raider camp. Their dink offense was effective in piling up stats ( Plunkett was 23 for 34 for 258 yards) and time of possession. But it hasn't produced points.
"If you're going to dink the ball around like that," 49er cornerback Ronnie Lott said, "you'd better dink it to guys who are going to do something."
Now the Raiders don't even know which quarterback will be doing the dinking.