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Niners put it all together, Bills flounder

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- There was no looking ahead by the San
Francisco 49ers. Instead, they stared straight at the woeful
Buffalo Bills -- with impressive results.

Garrison Hearst rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown, and Ahmed
Plummer had two of San Francisco's four interceptions to lead the
49ers to their first shutout of the season, a 35-0 victory over the
Bills on Sunday night.

Next week's showdown with the St. Louis Rams looms so large that
49ers coach Steve Mariucci admitted his team might have been
tempted to think past Buffalo. But his young team gave Mariucci
another reason to praise its maturity with overwhelming
performances on both sides of the ball.

"It was one of the more dominating games we've had around here
in a while," said Mariucci, who wore an ice pack on his left shin
after a sideline run-in with Jeff Garcia.

During their implausible run to a tie for the NFL's best record
at 9-2, the 49ers specialized in escaping from trouble. They've
already matched an NFL record with four overtime games, and they
had only one win by more than 10 points.

But against bumbling Buffalo (1-10) on a typically blustery
night on Candlestick Point, the young 49ers pounded the Bills. It
was the 49ers' biggest win since a 45-10 victory at Washington on
Sept. 20, 1998.

Despite taking several hard hits, Garcia had another outstanding
game. He was 19-of-27 for 189 yards and two TDs, completing his
first nine passes before hitting Tai Streets for his first career
TD and Terrell Owens for his league-leading 13th score of the
season.

"We hit him in the mouth, and he was fogged, but his toughness
showed through," Bills coach Gregg Williams said. "That was the
only point where we were physical enough to match up with that
team. We weren't good enough."

J.J. Stokes, a forgotten man on San Francisco's offense for much
of the season, had eight catches for 68 yards. Hearst had another
steady game, while fullback Fred Beasley scored his first TD of the
season.

Moreover, the 49ers' offensive line was simply overwhelming.
Even Paul Smith, the 49ers' fourth-string running back, got his
first NFL touchdown with 3:08 remaining after the Bills' fourth
turnover.

"Those guys up front are the keys to it all," Hearst said.
"Tonight, they just took control and smashed people."

Plummer, the rising star at cornerback on the 49ers' young
defense, made a team-best seven tackles and picked off two passes
by Alex Van Pelt. The Bills' quarterback was 21-of-38 for 168 yards
and four interceptions, a real turnaround after back-to-back
300-yard passing games.

The Bills did very little right in their sixth straight loss,
though much of their ineffectiveness could be attributed to the
49ers' fired-up defense.

Larry Centers got his 750th career reception, but he also was
Buffalo's leading rusher with 14 yards; Eric Moulds had seven
catches for 55 yards, but the 49ers limited his effectiveness.

San Francisco's defense set up the 49ers' second TD midway
through the second quarter. As Lance Schulters leveled Van Pelt on
a safety blitz, Plummer stepped in front of Moulds and tipped the
ball out of the receiver's hands to himself for an exceptional
interception.

"It's good that we learned to play while we're ahead," said
Plummer, who has four interceptions in the past two games and seven
on the season. "We don't want to keep our habit of playing from
behind. It's too tough."

Three plays later, Garcia took his third straight hard hit, but
he delivered a 23-yard TD pass to Streets.

Owens scored on a 17-yard TD pass late in the third quarter,
capping a 68-yard drive.

Game notes
Hundreds of fans couldn't park near 3Com Park because of
flooding in the stadium's parking lots. ... Bills TE Jay Riemersma
suffered a concussion. ... Shayne Graham, the Bills' latest choice
to solve their kicking woes, badly missed a 49-yard field goal
attempt at the halftime gun. San Francisco's Jose Cortez missed a
short field goal, had another blocked and shanked a kickoff. ...
The Niners are off to their best start since 1997, when they went
11-1 in Mariucci's first year.

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