NEW ORLEANS (CBS / AP) — Jerry Rice has chosen his sparkly Super Bowl ring, one of three he owns, to wear for Sunday’s big game.
And with good reason.
It’s the one from the 1990 championship, when the San Francisco 49ers whipped the Denver Broncos 55-10 in the Superdome, the most lopsided score of any Super Bowl.
Rice wouldn’t mind seeing that happen again when the 49ers play the Baltimore Ravens and try to win their sixth Super Bowl. Another rout wouldn’t be bad, either. After all, it’s been a while since the Niners made it this far. The last time was the 1995 game, and he had a big hand in that one, too.
“That’s a long time, man,” the Hall of Fame receiver said. “It just puts everything in perspective about that dynasty. We were able to win back-to-back and win so many Super Bowls. I’m surprised that it’s taken 18 years to get back here, but at least we have a chance to go out there and win No. 6. I think that’s incredible to win five Super Bowls.”
Rice remembers plenty from the last one, when he caught three of Steve Young’s six touchdown passes in beating the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Miami.
Rice started the game with a 44-yard reception from Young and finished with 10 catches for 149 yards.
On the third play from scrimmage at the Chargers 44, Rice beat a linebacker and split safeties Stanley Richard and Darren Carrington to catch Young’s pass at the 15 and eased into the end zone.
Young completed 24 of 36 passes for 325 yards and no interceptions while running for 49 more yards to capture MVP honors, showing the world he was finally out from under the long shadow of Joe Montana, who led the franchise to its first four Lombardi trophies.
“I remember everything about it. I remember everything about every Super Bowl, every play, and being in different scenarios where I knew I had to make a play to help my team win,” Rice said. “You don’t forget stuff like that.”
49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman credits late Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh for establishing a preparations blueprint that remains to this day — from offseason activities to training camp and from the regular season to Super Bowl week. Rathman won two Super Bowls with San Francisco as a player.
“It’s a tough place to get to,” Rathman said. “Obviously, coaching 15 years, I felt we would have been here by now. We had an opportunity last year but we didn’t come through. But we took that step and we went through the door this year. The bottom line is we have to go out and win this game. I can’t imagine being in this game and not winning it. The 49ers are 5-0 at this stage in Super Bowls and hopefully we can make it 6-0.”
That will be up to the current crop of Bay Area stars, led by second-year pro Colin Kaepernick, a lanky tattooed play-caller who presents a stark contrast to his clean-cut Hall of Fame predecessors, Montana and Young.
In terms of skills, Kaepernick has a little bit of both famous QBs in him. Like Young, Kaepernick has a strong arm and can scramble. Like Montana, he can read defenses and put just the right touch on his passes.
“Joe had skinny legs. Steve could run the ball. I think you’ve seen a combination of both those guys,” Rice said. “You’ve seen the strong arm. He doesn’t hold onto the football. He throws a tight spiral with a lot of velocity but he can also get outside the pocket and get away from you.”
It pained former 49ers greats to watch the down years of the past decade — the span before Jim Harbaugh came in as a first-year coach and got his team within a game of last year’s Super Bowl. The Niners ended an eight-year stretch without a playoff berth or winning record, then lost 20-17 in overtime to the New York Giants in a mistake-filled NFC championship matchup.
In November, Harbaugh switched quarterbacks, sitting starter Alex Smith for the mobile Kaepernick, and the 49ers began to thrive running the pistol offense.
“Jim went all in,” Young said. “There’s this bridge now that they can have success, get more confidence, go to the Super Bowl.”
And there’s no better place for No. 6 than the site of one of their greatest triumphs.
“It’s like old home week,” said 49ers CEO Jed York, the nephew and godson of the five-time championship owner, Eddie DeBartolo Jr.
“I just think we had players who played well in the big game,” Rice said. “My best football that I played, I think, happened in the playoffs and in the Super Bowl. I think it’s the same with these players. I think that’s why we’ve had so much success over the years — being able to keep your composure and being able to execute under pressure. I see the same thing with this team.”
Rice insists he could still play today — even at 50 — and give the Niners 10 to 20 plays.
“I would love to catch a ball from this guy because he has such a strong arm and the ball is up on you so fast it gives you the opportunity to do something with it,” Rice said of Kaepernick. “I’m just going to live through these guys and wish them the best.”
Rathman, for one, is betting on the Walsh work ethic one more time.
“I don’t know if it’s luck. I don’t know if it’s preparation. I don’t know if it’s schematic the way you schedule your practices, the way you meet,” he said. “I think that has something to do with it. I think Bill Walsh had a great idea of how to get it accomplished, and I think a lot of people have followed that book.
“We’ll see if it works this time,” he said. “I’ve got to believe it will.”
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