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Roger Craig's Historic Season



It was Ring Night, a night where the San Francisco 49ers were celebrating all of their triumphs from the year before, highlighted by their pasting of the Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl. Running back Roger Craig had been a huge factor in that game, scoring three times while giving Miami headaches all night long. At the time, the fullback was seen as a real up-and-comer in the National Football League. He could block, he could catch and he could run, the ultimate trifecta of any great running back.


Watching from the sidelines was his coach Bill Walsh. He saw how Craig moved and how he made the whole offense hum just as well as his quarterback Joe Montana. But Walsh knew that he could squeeze even more out of his talented fullback and he approached him at the party with a suggestion. He needed 1,000 yards from Roger Craig in 1985. Like any good soldier, Craig obliged without question or complaint. But in the back of his mind a question lingered that would only grow louder as the months progressed: did he want those yards in rushing or receiving?


As he prepared for the upcoming season, Roger Craig decided that it would be best to attempt both. That way, his much-respected coach wouldn't be disappointed. So Craig trained harder than he ever had before that offseason, shedding body fat by eschewing his beloved nightly sweets while running and lifting like a madman, preparing his body for the demanding grind of an NFL running back.



The 49ers first traveled to Minnesota where they would ultimately lose by a touchdown. However, Roger Craig provided all of his team's points, gaining 78 yards and scoring a touchdown on the ground while catching seven passes for 72 yards and two more touchdowns.


They returned home to windy Candlestick the following week. Perhaps the chill in the air gave Craig the momentum that he needed to rush for 107 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries while adding another 77 yards through the air on six receptions. The Raiders seemed to have him figured out the following week in the venerable Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, holding him to just 34 yards on the ground. However, he did find a way room to maneuver against their pass defense while he added 61 yards and a touchdown in a 34-10 49er beatdown of their hated rivals.



Back to San Francisco they went, but the 49ers were unprepared for what was waiting for them. All game long, the Saints stifled the dual-threat abilities of Roger Craig holding him to just 37 yards on the ground (with a touchdown) and 24 yards through the air. In the end, they slowed the game down just enough to eke out a 20-17 upset.


With their shoulders slumped from defeat, the 49ers traveled to Atlanta, hoping to right their wrongs. Roger Craig kicked of a tremendous receiving performance with a 46-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter. It would be the first 46 of 167 yards on 12 receptions. However, with the Falcons constantly catching wind as Craig ran circles around them through the air, Walsh and Joe Montana elected to give the ball to veteran running back Wendell Tyler for ground control as Craig only carried the ball three times for 15 yards in the 38-17 victory. The strategy worked as Tyler gained 85 yards on 17 carries, scoring a pivotal touchdown.


The 49ers lost badly to the Bears the following week as Craig was limited to just five total touches for the afternoon, racking up 42 yards on the ground and 14 through the air. The 49ers continued their losing ways in Detroit, losing by two as Roger Craig was much more of a factor than in the previous week, carrying the ball 16 times for 80 yards and a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to end the game and adding six receptions for 43 yards.


Determined to right their wrongs, the 49ers traveled to Anaheim to take on their nemesis, the Rams. Roger Craig opened the scoring with a 14-yard dash into the endzone in the first quarter and ended the half with an exhilarating 35-yard touchdown reception. All in all, he gained 63 yards on the ground and 132 yards on just six receptions.



The 49ers returned home to face the woeful Eagles the following week and never let up the whole game, winning handily 24-13. Craig was resourceful all game long, gaining 91 yards on the ground and 76 yards through the air.


The following week in Denver was a defensive slugfest that resulted in a 17-16 San Francisco defeat. But despite the loss, Roger Craig continued on his trek to 1,000/1,000, gaining 117 well-earned yards on the ground and 21 yards through the air. The 49ers continued on back home and defeated the Chiefs 31-3. Craig had a good game, rushing for 55 yards and receiving 70 more while beginning the second quarter with a one-yard plunge into the endzone.

The 49ers remained home and welcomed the Seahawks with open arms, defeating their future nemesis 19-6. It was a typical day at the office for Roger Craig, rushing for 54 yards on 15 carries while catching six passes for 76 yards. The 49ers next traveled to Washington D.C. where they demolished the Redskins 35-8 while Craig rushed for 61 yards and received ten more.



The 49ers returned home where they lost to the Rams by a touchdown. Despite the loss, that night belonged to rookie Jerry Rice who caught 10 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown. Up until then, he had had a rough transition to the NFL, getting used to the nuances of the complicated West Coast Offense. But from then on, he was on a path to football immortality. Meanwhile, Roger Craig rushed for 56 yards and gained 41 through the air while adding a one-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter, getting closer to that exclusive 1,000/1,000 mark


The 49ers next traveled to New Orleans where they defeated the Saints handily 31-19. Craig was even on the ground and the sky that day, gaining 88 yards on the turf and 82 in the air while adding a 15-yard touchdown run to end the game as the cherry on top of an impressive performance.


Entering the regular season finale, Roger Craig was 22 yards on the ground and 34 yards through the air from permanently entrenching himself as the first ever to gain 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. At home in Candlestick Park, Roger Craig embraced the moment and hoped to earn that mark in front of his adoring fans.


On paper, the 49ers were above and beyond the better team. And they proved it, winning 31-16 while Ronnie Lott broke a finger that would eventually be amputated. Meanwhile, Roger Craig finished off his 1,000/1,000 campaign by rushing for 72 yards and receiving 50 more. He sparked a mini-comeback by scoring the first touchdown in the second half, giving the 49ers a 17-16 lead that would soon balloon into a convincing win.


Although the 49ers lost the next week at New York to bounce them from the playoffs, Roger Craig enjoyed one of the best seasons at that time. For the year, he rushed 214 times for 1,050 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 92 passes for 1,016 yards and six touchdowns to cap his first Pro Bowl season. Since that remarkable season, only two others have joined one of the most exclusive clubs in the NFL: Marshall Faulk and Christian McCaffrey.



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