The day Jerry Rice surpassed the NFL record for touchdowns
Rice finished with three scores against the Raiders to break Jim Brown’s mark
Quarterback Steve Young went under center on Sept. 5, 1994. The San Francisco 49er dropped back, dipped and faked a handoff to running back Ricky Watters. He continued to drop back, tapped the ball with his right hand and then heaved it toward the end zone and wide receiver Jerry Rice, who was covered by Los Angeles Raiders cornerback Albert Lewis.
The ball was underthrown, but Rice stopped short to pull it out of the air at the 1-yard line as Lewis’ momentum carried him too far. He tucked it into his stomach with two hands, and as he took a hit from free safety Eddie Anderson, fell across the goal line and into NFL history books with his 127th career touchdown.
Rice came into the first Monday Night Football game of the season with 124 total touchdowns, two short of Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown’s NFL record of 126. Rice surpassed Brown’s mark with his third touchdown of the game with four minutes and five seconds left in front of 68,032 fans at Candlestick Park and the national television audience.
“They told me they were going to give me one last shot, and I took advantage of it,” Rice told the Baltimore Sun. “I’m very fortunate. So many guys helped to put me in this position: Joe Montana, Steve Young, so many other quarterbacks, Harry Sydney.
“I was really so happy to get it done. When I caught that last ball, so much pressure just left my body.”
San Francisco quickly worked to get Rice on the board. On the 49ers’ fourth play of the game, he lined up wide left at the San Francisco 31-yard line.
Rice took Raiders cornerback Lionel Washington inside, blew past him, caught the ball at the Los Angeles 30 and outran safety Patrick Bates for a 69-yard touchdown. That score moved the wide receiver past Hall of Famer Walter Payton on the all-time touchdowns list.
Rice finished the first half with four receptions for 96 yards and the touchdown. The 49ers ended just one first-half possession without a score.
San Francisco took a 23-14 halftime lead. Neither team scored in the third quarter, but the 49ers finished with 21 points in the final frame. Rice’s historic touchdown made it 44-14.
“It was [head coach] George [Seifert’s call],” Young, who threw for four scores, told the Sun. “Hopefully, the Raiders will understand we wanted to do it at home.
“I think the whole team is proud of being a part of something that’s really football history. I’m a little overwhelmed by the whole thing.”
Said Seifert to The Washington Post: “The man is obviously the greatest wide receiver ever to play the game.”
Ironically, the score that tied Rice with Brown was a running play. He took the ball from Watters and swept around the right side as he scorched the earth and sped downfield, breaking Anthony Smith’s attempt to bring him to the ground. The defensive end had no realistic shot of preventing Rice from reaching his final destination — the end zone — on a 23-yard reverse that put the 49ers ahead, 37-14, with 12:15 remaining in the game. Rice tied Brown with the seventh rushing touchdown of his career.
“Jim Brown, I believe, was the greatest of all time,” Rice told The Washington Post. “No one thought a receiver would be able to break a record like that. We just don’t get the ball in our hands that often.”
Much ado was made coming into the game about the Raiders, whose wide receivers had built quite the reputation for their quickness and speed. By night’s end, Rice made sure everyone in the stadium and at home knew he remained one of the league’s greatest threats on the outside. He finished with seven catches for 169 yards and two scores, along with the rushing touchdown.
“I was a little amused that everyone was talking about the Raiders’ speed at receiver and saying nothing about me and John Taylor,” Rice told The New York Times. “Well, the old guys still have it. Maybe we made a few points clear tonight.”