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On Oct. 2, 1981, the 49ers were 2-2 and struggling. They tried to jump-start their season by dealing for a pass rusher who was angry because his team wouldn't pay him what he wanted.
On Monday, almost 10 years to the day after that acquisition, the Niners were 2-3 and struggling. They tried to jump-start their season by dealing for a pass rusher who was angry because his team wouldn't pay him what he wanted.
If the trade for Packer linebacker Tim Harris turns out to be half as good for San Francisco as the deal for Charger defensive end Fred Dean was 10 years ago, you can count on the 49ers making the playoffs for the ninth straight season. Dean was 29 when the Niners got him, and he gave them 40 sacks and fine all-around play for five seasons, including two that ended with Super Bowl victories.
Harris, a holdout who was acquired for a second-round pick in the 1992 draft and a second-or third-rounder in '93, should combine with Charles Haley to give San Francisco the best pair of pass-rushing outside linebackers in the league. Harris had 40 sacks over the past three seasons, and Haley had 38 in the same period. Both are 27, and both have exceptional speed and quickness.
With linemen Michael Carter, Kevin Fagan and Pierce Holt, the Niners have the scariest defensive front west of Philadelphia. "I'm not sure Tim's the impact player Fred was," says veteran linebacker Matt Millen, now with the Redskins. "Fred was one of those guys who, when he went on the field, you knew he was going to do something. But adding Tim will make that defensive front unbelievable."
Better still for the Niners, by landing Harris they shored up one weakness without having to give up their 1992 first-round pick—a bargaining chip in the stakes for disgruntled Bronco running back Bobby Humphrey, who would solve another San Francisco headache. Against the Raiders, the 49er backfield-by-committee once again ran with sporadic effectiveness. After five games, Keith Henderson is the team's top rusher, with 176 yards.
If the Niners need a boost now, the Raiders needed one just as badly on Sunday, following a dreadful performance in a 21-17 loss to the Falcons the week before. There was a festive air for the 49er game at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where for the first time in memory, scalpers didn't have enough tickets. A crowd of 91,494 watched the L.A. offense continue to sputter. These Raiders will have to win with defense, because they can't depend on the offense with Jay Schroeder (.479 completion percentage) at quarterback. Four field goals by Jeff Jaeger accounted for L.A.'s points.
Safety Ronnie Lott, who moved from the 49ers to the Raiders under Plan B in the off-season, tutored L.A. cornerbacks Lionel Washington and Terry McDaniel in the fine art of blanketing Niner wide-outs Jerry Rice and John Taylor, who together were averaging eight catches, 151 yards and two touchdowns per game this season. So what happened? Rice was shut out until the fourth quarter, and he and Taylor totaled five catches for 80 yards and had no touchdowns.