Thursday, December 02, 1999

Will Rice go wild again?

49ers receiver has padded stats against Bengals

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Age may be able to stop Jerry Rice, but the Bengals haven't.
(AP photo)
| ZOOM |
        The Bengals certainly have done their part to make Jerry Rice the NFL's all-time greatest receiver. Sunday, the San Francisco star gets what may he his last chance to torment Cincinnati fans.

        Rice, 37, is on the last legs of a career in which he has set 14 NFL records, including most receptions (1,182).

        And with his 49ers (3-8) suffering their worst season in nearly two decades, Rice knows the Bengals (2-10) have a chance for some payback.

        “They're going to be ready and pumped for this game,” Rice told Cincinnati reporters in a teleconference Wednesday.

        The 49ers have dealt the Bengals some of their most numbing defeats ever, including two Super Bowls (1981, '88 seasons).

        There was also the infamous 1987 game at then-Riverfront Stadium, when a young Rice leaped over Bengals rookie cornerback Eric Thomas for a game-winning 25-yard touchdown pass in the final seconds.

        In that one, the Bengals failed to run out the clock in a time-management situation, and San Francisco got the ball back with enough time to win 27-26.

        Reminded of that game Wednesday, Rice laughed before answering.

        “Oh, yeah, I remember that one,” he said. “To be honest, I didn't think we would get the ball back. I think they ran the ball and we stuffed them, and that gave the offense enough time to get on the field and make the play.”

        Then there was Super Bowl XXIII on Jan.22, 1989, in Miami. Rice set Super Bowl records with 11 receptions for 215 yards, and the 49ers won it 20-16 on a last-ditch TD drive and a Joe Montana pass to John Taylor.

        There are no Bengals remaining from that Super Bowl team, but Rice knows it is getting heavy play in Cincinnati this week.

        “Right now, just because things aren't going the way we want them to go, that game is going to come into focus. ... Winning the Super Bowl on the final drive and stuff like that,” he said.

        Rice leads the 49ers with 43 receptions this year but is averaging a career-low 9.6 yards a catch. He made the Pro Bowl in 1998 despite a severe knee injury in 1997 that threatened his career but now finds himself struggling to produce without injured quarterback Steve Young. “It's very unusual, after being spoiled for so many years,” Rice said of his days with Young and Montana. “I'm just going to be very positive and professional and make the best of it.”


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