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V.J. Lovero-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Throwback: Montana Magic and Terrifying Taylor

May 10, 2024 at 7:15 AM

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On their way to a back-to-back and fourth Super Bowl championship, the San Francisco 49ers had a remarkable Monday Night comeback against division rival Los Angeles Rams. The Rams had beaten the Niners 13-12 earlier in Week 4 when kicker Mike Lansford made a game-winning field goal.

After that divisional loss, the 49ers won eight of their last nine games, including a 34-24 victory over the New York Giants, who won the NFC East with a 12-4 record and earned the second-best record in the NFC.

On a cool 56-degree night on December 11, 1989, the 9-4 Rams had a chance to close within one game of the division-leading 11-2 49ers. The Rams took the opening kick and an early 7-0 lead over the 49ers with a Greg Bell three-yard touchdown run. After forcing the 49ers to punt, Rams quarterback Jim Everett led the team down the field, finishing the drive with a four-yard touchdown pass to Damone Johnson, increasing their lead to 14-0.

LeRoy Irvin intercepted 49ers quarterback Joe Montana on their second drive, but the Rams settled for a Mike Lansford 25-yard field goal, increasing their lead to 17-0.

At the start of the second quarter, the 49ers finally got on the scoreboard with a 19-yard field goal by Mike Cofer, cutting the Rams' lead to 17-3. Both teams traded punts, but the Rams drove down the field to try and increase their lead. However, with a botched field goal attempt, the 49ers took over at their two-yard line. Three plays later, Montana found wide receiver John Taylor on a short slant, and he took it for a 92-yard touchdown reception, shrinking the Rams' lead to 17-10.

The 49ers had a chance to cut into the lead further before halftime, but Rams linebacker Kevin Green sacked Montana inside the Los Angeles 10, and Cofer missed a field goal as the first half expired.

Everett and the Rams came out of halftime, picking apart the 49er defense, finishing their drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to running back Buford McGee, increasing the Rams' lead to 24-10. The 49ers had another chance to cut into the lead as they drove inside Los Angeles' 10-yard line, but Rams defensive back Michael Stewart picked off Montana.

Mike Lansford kicked a 22-yard field goal to increase the Rams' lead to 27-10, and it seemed like they might sweep the 49ers for the season, but tonight was another "Montana Magic Moment."

The 49ers followed the Rams' score with a Montana seven-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Wilson, cutting the home team's lead to 27-17. The Rams regrouped and drove down the field, getting to the 49ers' five-yard line until center Doug Smith had a bad exchange with Everett and San Francisco linebacker Matt Millen was "Johnny on the Spot," recovering the fumble.

Montana then hooked up with Taylor on a slant route, where the third-year receiver took it for a 95-yard touchdown reception, cutting the Rams' lead to 27-23.

The Rams, who had a chance to close in on the 49ers' lead in the NFC West division and sweep them in the season, quickly saw their hopes disappear when the Niners recovered kick returner Ron Brown's fumble at the L.A. 27.

With momentum on their side, the 49ers finished the drive and took a 30-27 lead after Roger Craig scored on a one-yard touchdown run. The Rams had a chance to tie the game or take the lead, but defensive lineman Pierce Holt sacked Everett on 3rd and 9.

With the Rams punting the ball back to the Niners, they ran out the clock and finalized the 30-27 49ers victory.

Montana finished the game with 458 yards passing, three touchdown passes, and two interceptions, while Taylor finished with 11 receptions, 286 yards receiving, and two receiving touchdowns.

The 49ers finished the season 14-2, winners of the NFC West with home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. They also averaged 34.9 points per game and allowed 7.2 points per game over the final five games of the season, including a Super Bowl record 55 points against the Denver Broncos' number-one-ranked defense.

On July 1st, 2021, Taylor told 49ers beat writers he chose to win championships rather than go to another team and be their star receiver.

"My thing was always this: once I get into the league, all I wanted to do is win a championship," Taylor said. "I did not have to be the main receiver. As long as we won the game, that is all I was worried about. As far as having the most passes that game, the most yardage that game, I let that handle itself. My main concern was at the end of the day: did we have a 'W' or an 'L'?"

Despite not having a Hall of Fame career, the other 49er receiver not named Rice, Taylor, would be inducted into the Bay Area Hall of Fame, and fans would go to social media to react to Taylor's induction.

All game stats were brought to you by Pro Football Reference.
  • 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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