"75 for 75" is an article series from the 49ers Museum highlighting legendary moments in 49ers history as part of the team's 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.
October 16, 1988
Roger Craig, the 49ers high-stepping running back, was a one-man wrecking crew against the Rams. He rushed more times (248 carries) for more yardage (1,026 yards) and scored more touchdowns (12) against the Rams than any other NFL team he faced.
In Week 7 of the 1988 season, Craig had his finest individual day against Los Angeles at Anaheim Stadium. He nabbed five passes and rushed for an NFL personal best 190 yards while scoring three touchdowns in the 49ers 24-21 victory.
Craig also left an everlasting mark on the football world that day with a 46-yard scoring dash featured on highlight reels around the globe. Craig was at his high-stepping best on the run as he romped over, through and around six Rams defenders on his way to the end zone. The ever-modest Craig later credited the downfield blocking of receivers Jerry Rice, Mike Wilson and John Taylor as the key elements to the run's success.
"Roger Craig made a lot of yardage on his own because he can really accelerate through holes and reads his blocks so well," tackle Harris Barton said in his postgame interview. "But our offensive line got a great deal of satisfaction out of watching our running game today."
After trying to stop Craig for 60 minutes, Rams defensive end Doug Reed had an accurate assessment of San Francisco's top runner.
"There's no best place to hit him," Reed said. "Many people think they can tackle him, throw a good hit on him and not wrap him up. What a mistake. Roger Craig fools everybody in the league when he runs the ball. I think he likes to deliver the message: Roger has come to play."
Craig earned NFC Player of the Week honors for his output, then finished the 1988 campaign as the NFL Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for a career-high 1,502 yards, a 49ers franchise record at the time. He also nabbed 76 passes for 534 yards as the 49ers advanced to the Super Bowl.
Craig seemed to shine brightest when the spotlight was on him. At Super Bowl XIX, he rushed for 58 yards, caught seven passes for 77 yards and became the first player ever to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl as the 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins, 38–16.
At Super Bowl XXIII he made a good case for the game's Most Valuable Player. Craig nabbed eight passes for 101 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals and posted 71 yards on the ground. He also picked up clutch yardage during the fourth quarter drive that led to wide receiver John Taylor's Super Bowl-winning touchdown catch.
A four-time Pro Bowl selection between 1983 and1990, Craig revolutionized the running back position with his unique ability as a runner and receiver. In 1985, he led the NFL with 92 catches and posted a team-high 15 touchdowns. He also was the first NFL player to total over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in a single season. Ironically, as a college running back at Nebraska he caught just 16 passes in three seasons.
Craig refined his physical skill during the offseason in workouts with wide receiver Jerry Rice. Their routine involved running the hilly trails above Redwood City and included a grueling set of sprints that challenged the durability of several noted professional athletes who attempted (and failed) the workout.
A little-known pregame ritual bolstered Craig's inner strength. On gameday, an equipment manager drew a pyramid on each of Craig's legs with model airplane paint.
"The pyramid gave me a sense of power," Craig once said. "I felt I could conquer anything."
And for eight years with the 49ers, he did.