MIAMI - The first hug was from quarterback coach Gary Kubiak. Then came several players, including the veteran guard, Jesse Sapolu, a monster embrace from the owner, Eddie DeBartolo, and finally Jerry Rice, with a brotherly clinch. All for Steve Young, finally Master of his Universe, the conqueror of the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX at Joe Robbie Stadium, 49-26.
Young earned Most Valuable Player honors last night with a game that was emblematic of the way he's played the past three seasons. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and six touchdowns - the latter, fittingly, broke Joe Montana's record of five touchdown passes.
Young also led everyone in rushing, with five carries for 49 yards.
With Young at the helm, the 49ers ripped through the postseason, totaling 131 points in three games. And Young finally can enjoy the silence of the naysayers who said he would never measure up to Montana.
VICTORY LEAVES YOUNG SMILING
"I can't describe the feeling," said Young, whose smile muscles should be aching today.
"You know, I really wish that anyone who ever played football could feel this."
Young was so good that neither Jerry Rice, who had 10 catches for 149 yards and three touchdown receptions, nor running back Ricky Watters got a single MVP vote.
It was another blowout for the National Football Conference, which has won 11 straight Super Bowls against the AFC. It was also a redemption of sorts for Coach George Seifert, who now has two Super Bowl championships, continuing the legacy of his predecessor, Bill Walsh. The 49ers have an NFL-record five Super Bowl victories.
`ONE OF THE GREATEST'
"The way (Young) played, he's got to be one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time," Seifert said. " . . . We're fortunate, I'm fortunate, that I've been a part of an organization that had two of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
"Joe Montana was phenomenal and he set the standard. And Steve Young is talented enough and worked hard enough that he could maintain the standard. And we're indebted to Joe and all the other great 49ers that have been part of this organization, because they established this thing."
And it was a triumph of the 49ers' philosophy on hiring players. They brought in talented free agents Rickey Jackson, Toi Cook and Deion Sanders, who deferred big paydays for the chance to win a title.
"They have a ring now, and I'm very emotional," Rice said. "I haven't really controlled myself, because I wanted this one so bad. And as the final seconds ticked off, I found myself with so much emotion."
Clearly, the Chargers got into a contest with the wrong opponents.
"This is not what I thought," said Leslie O'Neal, Charger defensive end. "I worked my whole life to get to this point, and I know you can say we went to Super Bowl XXIX. But it didn't look like there was two teams playing out there. It looked like it was just one team."
The 49ers shredded the Chargers' secondary in the first half, when they scored touchdowns on their first three possessions.
"I don't know if we were awestruck or what," Charger Coach Bobby Ross said. "Right from the opening kickoff . . . they put us in poor field position. Maybe some of it was youthfulness; over-eagerness, maybe we were a little surprised by the quickness of the 49ers. We should not have been; we played them twice," once in preseason and once at the end of the regular season.
MONTANA'S RECORD BROKEN
The only drama in the second half was whether Young would break Montana's record. He tied it with a 15-yard crossing pattern to Rice with 3:25 left in the third, and after the Chargers' Andre Coleman took a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown, he drove San Francisco 32 yards for his history-setting throw.
Fittingly, it was a slant. To Rice, with 13:49 left.
And the 49ers had delivered. They'd spent the millions on guys such as Ken Norton, who won his third straight championship after coming over from the Dallas Cowboys in free agency.
Norton's "coming in and getting that third ring is the kind of message that we want to deliver the rest of the league as far as free agency," team president Carmen Policy said. "I don't think what other owners think matters. Because you know what? We won the Super Bowl."