Monday, September 18, 1989


By Mike Weaver
San Jose Mercury News

If they watched last season's Super Bowl, the 64,087 folks at Tampa Stadium on Sunday should have known what was coming.

Time was running out, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were on the verge of beating the defending Super Bowl-champion 49ers. But in the final 3 minutes, 17 seconds, quarterback Joe Montana engineered a 70-yard touchdown drive that allowed the Niners to pull out a 20-16 victory. The drive ended when Montana scored on a 4-yard run with 40 seconds remaining.

"Joe Montana is the greatest of all time in coming from behind," said the Niners' George Seifert, who is 2-0 in his first season as Bill Walsh's successor as coach. "Our defense kept us in the game until we got it going."

The comeback situation was a familiar one for Montana, who led the Niners 92 yards to a game-winning touchdown in the closing moments of another 20-16 win, over Cincinnati in Super Bowl XXIII.

''A lot of us have been in that situation before," Montana said. "But it's not old hat, and it's not a lot of fun."

It was impressive, though.

After Tampa Bay quarterback Vinny Testaverde hit Mark Carrier with an 18-yard touchdown pass to give the Buccaneers a 16-13 lead with 3:25 to go, a 29-yard kickoff return by Terrence Flagler gave the Niners the ball at their 30-yard line. Then Montana took over.

First, Montana and John Taylor hooked up on a 15-yard pass play. A Montana pass to Tom Rathman went for 15 yards to the Bucs' 40 and was followed by an 11-yard pass from Montana to Jerry Rice.

After Roger Craig was stopped for no gain, Montana hit Rice for what appeared to be a 29-yard touchdown. The touchdown signal was given by one official, but another ruled the pass incomplete. Replay officials agreed that Rice got only one foot down in the end zone, and the touchdown was negated.

No problem. The Bucs were called for holding on the play, giving the Niners a first down at Tampa Bay's 24. After a 4- yard run by Craig and an incomplete pass, Montana hit Taylor for 12 yards and a first down at the 8.

Craig was then thrown for a 1-yard loss, and a Montana-to- Rice pass fell incomplete. On third down, Montana threw a pass out of bounds to avoid a sack. That should have left the Niners in a fourth-down situation and forced them to try for a game-tying field goal, but Tampa Bay defensive back Donnie Elder was called for holding, and the Niners were given a first down at the 4. Montana scored on the next play.

''He's been in that situation so many times that he's relaxed and poised out there," Tampa Bay cornerback Ricky Reynolds said of Montana. "He just makes it happen."

Montana had an option to throw on the winning play but said the passing lanes weren't open.

''They thought I was going to throw, so I just rolled on in," Montana said. Montana ran a similar play early in the fourth quarter and gained 13 yards in a fourth-and-three situation. That run highlighted a drive that got the Niners to the Tampa Bay 1, where they lost the ball on a fumble by Craig -- a play the exemplified the 49ers' difficulty rushing. The Niners gained 63 yards in 30 carries, with Craig the leader at 36 yards in 16 tries.

Montana, in fact, was the Niners' second-leading rusher with 21 yards. He almost didn't get the chance to run in with the winning score, though.

Niners offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren, who calls the team's offensive plays, said he intended to call for a pass to Craig. But Holmgren said Montana initiated a change by signaling reserve quarterback Steve Young with the play Montana wanted to run. Young informed Seifert, who relayed the message to Holmgren in the coaches' booth, and Holmgren approved.

The final drive capped another strong performance by Montana. Despite facing a strong pass rush for most of the game and getting sacked four times, he completed 25 of 39 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown. Rice was on the receiving end of eight of those passes for 122 yards and the touchdown. In the Niners' two games, Montana has thrown for 499 yards and Rice has caught 14 passes for 285 yards and two TDs.

''It was a very disappointing loss because we felt like we should have won," Tampa Bay Coach Ray Perkins said. "But we committed a lot of penalties and breakdowns throughout the game. We beat ourselves and time ran out."

On the downside for Montana, two of his passes were intercepted by Reynolds, and both led to points for the Buccaneers.

The first came early in the first quarter, when Montana was pressured by linebacker Kevin Murphy and overthrew a pass intended for Rathman. After that interception, the Bucs (1-1) drove 64 yards in 11 plays and took a 3-0 lead on a 23-yard field goal by Donald Igwebuike.

The Niners pulled into a 3-3 tie when Mike Cofer made a 47- yard field goal with 12:37 remaining in the first half. Cofer added a 32-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the half to give the Niners a 6-3 halftime lead.

The Bucs evened the score again when Igwebuike made a 44- yard field goal on Tampa Bay's first possession of the third quarter, and Igwebuike gave the Bucs a 9-6 lead with a 37-yard field goal later in the quarter.

The Niners then drove 79 yards to Tampa Bay's 1 before Craig fumbled. When they got the ball back, the Niners scored on a 68-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard touchdown pass from Montana to Rice. The pass was supposed to go to Craig, but he was covered, Rice said. The play also was the one Holmgren had originally intended to call before allowing Montana's request for a run on the game-winner.

''I went in motion because we thought that when I turned up field, their linebacker wouldn't be able to get to Roger," Rice said. "But he stayed with Roger and let me get open."

Montana's second interception came with 6:05 to go. He was throwing to Rice, but the ball hit Tampa Bay strong safety Mark Robinson and bounced to Reynolds. Given the break, the Bucs drove 60 yards in seven plays and took their 16-13 lead when Testaverde, who finished 14 of 35 for 146 yards, hit Carrier with the 18-yard touchdown pass.

From there, everyone in the stadium should have known what was coming.

''They are a team that has done it so many times," Testaverde said. "But it was a sick feeling watching them do it live."


Time Down/ Yard

left Distance line Play

3:17 1st and 10 SF30 Montana passes to Taylor across the middle for 15 yards.

2:49 1st and 10 SF45 Montana rolls right, completes swing pass to Rathman for 15 yards.

2:21 1st and 10 TB40 Montana completes pass to Rice in left flat for 11 yards.

2:00 1st and 10 TB29 Craig runs right for no gain.

1:38 2nd and 10 TB29 Montana throws complete to Rice in left corner of end zone for a signaled touchdown, but video replay reverses call. However, a 5-yard holding penalty on Tampa Bay's Winston Moss gives Niners a first down.

1:31 1st and 10 TB24 Craig runs up the middle for 4 yards.

1:11 2nd and 6 TB20 Montana throws incomplete over Rathman's head along right sideline.

1:07 3rd and 6 TB20 Montana completes pass to Taylor in left flat for 12 yards. Holding penalty on Tampa Bay declined.

1:00 1st and goal TB8 Craig runs sweep right for minus-1 yard. Timeout by 49ers.

:54 2nd and goal TB9 Montana throws incomplete to Rice on quick slant into end zone.

:51 3rd and goal TB9 Montana throws ball away when all receivers are covered, but 5-yard holding penalty on Tampa's Donnie Elder gives Niners another first down.

:46 1st and goal TB4 Montana rolls right for a touchdown.

Totals: 70 yards, 10 plays, 4 runs, 6 passes, 2 penalties