The Man in the Red Cape

Aug 29, 2003 at 12:00 AM


"Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound." Superman symbolizes greatness beyond the reach of most men. To be like Superman is to be more than human, to be able to do the unthinkable. Superhuman feats are rare, but I've been fortunate enough to witness a few of them.

I was only seven when I first started going to 49er games in 1989. From the moment I stepped foot into Candlestick Park and saw the 49ers on the field, I was in awe. Over the next 14 seasons I witnessed more amazing plays than I can remember. Terrell Owens' game-winning catch against Green Bay in the 1998 Wild Card game, Garrison Hearst's 98-yard touchdown run against the Jets on opening day of that same year, just to name a few. I have been lucky enough to see all of these plays. But in 14 years, no play stands stronger in my memory than the one from my first year.

The 49ers were well on their way to a second straight trip to the Super Bowl, with only their division rival, the Los Angeles Rams, in their way. The Rams weren't patsies, though. The 49ers were 14-2 in the regular season that year, but one of their two losses was at home to the Rams, 13-12, during the fourth week of the season. The 49ers later avenged that loss in Los Angeles, defeating the Rams 30-27 to claim the Western Division Title. The Rams offense ranked second in the league, behind only the 49ers, and the two teams jockeyed for power in the NFC throughout the year. It was little surprise that the two teams ended up in the conference championship game together.

The Rams struck first, jumping to a 3-0 lead on a Mike Lansford field goal. After the 49ers offense couldn't answer, the Rams threatened again. With the Rams entering 49ers' territory, Everett faked a reverse that fooled 49ers corner Darryl Pollard. Willie "Flipper" Anderson was left wide open down the sidelines. Everett hurled the pass towards the end zone, with Pollard 20 yards behind the play.

At that moment, every 49er fan held their breath. A 10-0 lead was not insurmountable, but it would give the Rams the confidence they needed to stop the 49ers' dreams of consecutive Super Bowls. A 14-2 season, a Western Division Title, and home field advantage could all wind up going to waste. As the pass fell towards Anderson's hands, the dreams of every 49ers fan were plummeting like Lois Lane falling from a skyscraper.

Then Superman arrived. Faster than a speeding bullet, Ronnie Lott came out of nowhere to break up a sure touchdown, and brought the dreams of every 49er fan back to life. After watching Pollard bite on the fake, Lott came from the other side of the field to make the play. Defensive end Charles Haley pressured Ram quarterback Jim Everett into hanging the ball up, but Lott's presence of mind and quickness to the ball was astonishing to watch. As the ball lay on the field, Flipper Anderson's mouth piece dropped to the ground. His eyes fell. His body sagged. All he could do was stand there. Rams Head Coach John Robinson called it the biggest play of the game. The Rams did not score from that point on. The 49ers defeated the Rams 30-3 that day to win the NFC championship. Two weeks later they won their fourth Super Bowl. It might not have happened.

Superman saved the day.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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