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What if the 49ers faced the Bills in Super Bowl XXV?

Mar 1, 2023 at 7:00 AM

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On September 13, 1992, the San Francisco 49ers and the Buffalo Bills played in one of the best football games of all time, known as the "No Punt" game. In this game, both starting quarterbacks, Steve Young and Jim Kelly, combined for over 852 yards passing, and three touchdowns apiece.

At the end of the game, both teams combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense, and the Bills won 34-31 during the Week 2 matchup.

These two teams had a chance to make history two years prior in Super Bowl XXV, but the 49ers season ended when Joe Montana was injured by New York Giants defensive end Leonard Marshall and Roger Craig fumbled late in the fourth quarter, which prevented the 49ers from getting a chance for a three-peat against the the eventual AFC champion Bills.

The Anger Management Productions Podcast recently discussed this "What If..." scenario, and co-host Aaron Donnell said the 49ers would have won because

"49ers head Coach George Seifert and our defense would have figured out a way to slow down and stop the Buffalo offense," The Anger Management co-host said.

"Also, besides the Bills front of Smith, Bennett, Talley, etc... Who would slow down Rice, Taylor, Jones, and Craig [the original Thurman Thomas]? Montana would have sliced that defense up. If Montana couldn't go, then Young would have played. It would have been interesting, and the game would be closer. With Montana, the Niners win by 10, if not more. With Young, it could swing either way because he can get out of the pocket and cause trouble for their defense because Young would run around."

The good thing about the show is it's about a mutual respect. However, Aaron, as much as I respect you, I have to shoot down your points and then some.

Point 1: The K Gun Offense

For those who do not know, the K Gun offense was spearheaded by quarterback Jim Kelly, and he ran it to perfection. Kelly, fifth in MVP voting that season, was a surgeon on the football field.

Buffalo Bills receivers Andre Reed, James Lofton, and second-year wideout Don Beebe are not Eddie Brown, Cris Collinsworth, Ricky Nattiel, Vance Johnson, and Mark Jackson. 49ers cornerbacks Don Griffin and Darryl Pollard would have had a long day covering that trio.

Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott is an intimidating force in the secondary, but Reed was a physical receiver who made highlights bumping off of defenders when going across the middle, and Lofton, in his 12th year, still showed he was a deep threat.

The 49ers had the second-ranked defense and had 44 sacks during the season, but the Bills offensive line, led by center Kent Hull, allowed the fifth fewest sacks with just 27. They would have run up and down the field against an aging Niner secondary. Running back Thurman Thomas would have given San Francisco's linebackers fits because he was the ultimate mismatch out of the backfield.

During the regular season, Thomas had over 1,829 total yards and 13 total touchdowns. During the playoffs, the third-year running back had an impressive 544 yards of total offense and added four touchdowns.

Linebackers Bill Romanowski, Keith DeLong and Matt Millen were not athletic or fast enough to keep up with Thomas out of the backfield, who, much like Roger Craig in Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense, was the player who made the K-Gun offense "go."

Point 2: What the Giants did right

In the 1990 season, the 49ers run game was nonexistent. The leading rusher was rookie Dexter Carter with 460 yards.

The Giants had the right game plan against the Bills, which was to keep the ball out of Kelly's hands and keeping the the K Gun offense from getting into any rhythm by controlling the clock with 41 minutes of possession to the Bills' 19 minutes.

Giants running back Otis Anderson carried them to the promised land with 21 carries for 102 yards, and second-year running back Dave Meggett added 48 yards on nine carries. The Giants started Jim Hostetler because Phil Simms was injured during a Week 15 regular-season loss to the Bills and allowed their running game and defense to win the game.

Point 3: Who was going to start at QB for the Niners?

Joe Montana wasn't going to play after his back was injured by Marshall in the NFC Championship Game. This is not Madden or NFL 2K5. He was not going to play. The Super Bowl was played at "The Big Sombrero" (Tampa Stadium) a week after the NFC Championship Game, and the G.O.A.T, who would not play again for two years, would have been ruled out.

This means Steve Young would have received the start.

Then-49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren loved that they traded for Young in 1987 and had him as their second-string quarterback, but this guy was not 1992 MVP-level Steve Young yet. He was uncomfortable playing in a conventional drop back QB style and was too quick to take off rather than go through his progressions.

The 49ers, with their inept running game and second-string quarterback, would have been in trouble going into the biggest game of the year against a top-rated Bills defense led by Defensive Player of the Year Bruce Smith.

49ers receivers Jerry Rice and John Taylor would have given Bills cornerbacks Kirby Jackson and Nate Odomes the business, but their defensive front seven would have caused Young to make some crucial mistakes.

Despite their 14-2 record, the 49ers had many of their blemishes exposed in the NFC Championship Game and would have limped into the Super Bowl, while the Bills were clicking on all cylinders.

The 49ers would have lost Super Bowl XXV and would have been robbed of their three-peat.

  • Written by:
    Sports has been my first love since I was 12 years old. At one point I wanted to play football professionally. I started to take photography as a hobby in my teenage years but this was when I followed sports. I started to listen to sports radio, I found my true calling and it was to be a sports talk show host. Though I follow football and basketball, I started to have a new love of cultures around the world. After graduating from San Antonio College in 2018, I worked for the Castroville News Bulletin before going to A&M San Antonio to get my communications degree. Since I have written for the Ranger of San Antonio College, the News Bulletin and the Mesquite of Texas A&M San Antonio, I met many people and went to a lot of events. My major milestone was being in the press box of the San Antonio Commanders game for the Mesquite and being apart of a press conference with the Medina County Sheriff and other local news outlets. When I am not doing anything, I like to watch old cartoons on the DC Universe, play video games such as Mega Man and the Mass Effect series. I have also created Youtube channel called "Anger Management" with my friend Aaron Donnell.
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