SAN FRANCISCO, DEC. 20 -- Wide receiver Jerry Rice kept his new NFL records in perspective today following San Francisco's 35-7 triumph over the Atlanta Falcons.

"The most important thing to me is we won," Rice said. "Atlanta was a good team and we needed to win."

The victory ran San Francisco's season record to 12-2 and kept the New Orleans Saints (11-3) a game behind in the race for the NFC West title. Atlanta dropped to 3-11.

Rice caught a 20-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Steve Young in the third quarter to set two NFL marks and touch off a spurt of three touchdowns within 18 seconds. The touchdown reception was Rice's 19th of the season, eclipsing the mark of 18 set by Miami's Mark Clayton in 1984. He also caught a touchdown pass in his 12th straight game, breaking the mark of 11 set by both Elroy Hirsch and Buddy Dial.

Rice scored three times for the fourth time in five games.

"I think it {the record-setting performance} is fantastic," 49ers center Randy Cross said. "But we'd get more excited if he was more excited. He has so much talent and just seems to take things in stride."

Rice was held to but one reception in the first half.

"He didn't get many balls in the first half, but he's relentless," Young said.

"He's always working hard, whether its the first quarter, second quarter or second half. Jerry was patient and worked hard to get the ball in the second half."

Rice opened the scoring on a five-yard reverse for a 7-0 lead. His record-setting 20-yard third-quarter pass from Young put the 49ers ahead, 14-0.

Sylvester Stamps took Ray Wersching's ensuing kick on his 3, cut to the sidelines and outraced the 49ers 97 yards for the score to make it 14-7. Joe Cribbs then returned the Falcons' kickoff 92 yards for a 21-7 lead. It was the third set of back-to-back kickoff returns for touchdowns in NFL history.

Young, starting in place of injured Joe Montana, gave the 49ers a 28-7 lead with a 29-yard scramble for a touchdown with 12:11 left and Young threw a one-yard touchdown pass to Rice with 5:13 left.

San Francisco's defense ran its scoreless streak to nine quarters, intercepted four passes and had four sacks. The 49ers also blocked a field goal.

Young completed 13 of 30 for 216 yards and two touchowns and gained another 83 yards on six carries and scored one rushing touchdown.

Chris Miller, starting his first game, completed 13 of 36 passes for 186 yards and four interceptions.