Tuesday, December 12, 1989

49ERS RALLY TO BEAT L.A.,
WIN DIVISION

Associated Press


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Joe Montana made a slight change in his normal routine. He made John Taylor his playmate Monday night instead of Jerry Rice. Taylor responded with a record-breaking performance that spurred the 49ers to their sixth NFC West title in seven years.

Montana and Taylor combined on 92- and 95-yard touchdown passes for the 49ers, who twice rallied from 17-point deficits to beat the Los Angeles Rams 30-27, ending a four-game winning streak by the Rams.

''Those two big plays, Montana to Taylor, were obviously devastating,'' Rams coach John Robinson said. ''But we knew we never had the game in hand, not against this team. We knew that the team that played the full 3 hours and 15 minutes would win, not the team that played three hours.''

The 49ers, who trailed 17-0 after 13 minutes and 27-10 early in the fourth quarter, got the winning score on a 1-yard run by Roger Craig with 3 minutes 12 seconds left. It gave the 49ers a 12-2 record and clinched not only the division title but the home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The Rams fell to 9-5 and still need to win twice to gain a wild-card playoff berth.

Despite the heroics by Montana, who completed 30 of 42 for 458 yards and Taylor, who caught 11 for 286 yards, the game turned on two Rams turnovers in the fourth quarter.

The first came with the Rams leading 27-17, with a first down at the San Francisco 5.

Jim Everett fumbled the snap and Matt Millen recovered at the 4. On the first play, Montana found Taylor with a short pass over the middle and he sped along the right sideline for the score. They had combined on a 92-yarder in the second quarter two plays after the Rams, ahead 17-3, failed on a fake field-goal attempt.

Mike Cofer missed the extra point after the second Montana-to-Taylor touchdown, leaving the score 27-23.

Ron Brown fumbled the kickoff and the 49ers' Keith Henderson recovered at the 27. Six plays later, Craig went in for the winning score.

''The team that won was the team that could come back from mistakes,'' Robinson said, noting that the 49ers had almost 150 yards in penalties. Both teams made enough mistakes to lose, but we made the mistakes at the end.''

Before the late Rams mistakes, it was the 49ers who self-destructed.

Montana, intercepted only twice all season, threw two interceptions Monday night, one leading to a Mike Lansford field goal and the other stopping a drive that had reached the Los Angeles 5.

The 49ers also had nine penalties for 145 yards, including pass interference penalties of 42 and 36 yards and two consecutive penalties that set up another Lansford field goal.

Los Angeles, which had to come from 11 points down with four minutes left to beat Dallas and 14 points down in the last three minutes to beat New Orleans, started fast Monday night, jumping to a 17-0 lead in the first 12 minutes. Greg Bell ran 4 yards for a touchdown, Everett threw 4 yards to Damone Johnson to make it 14-0 and Lansford kicked a 35-yard field goal after Leroy Irvin's interception.

The 49ers, who had won seven of their last previous road games against the Rams, cut it to 17-10 with the help of a 10-point turnaround that included an aborted fake field goal by the Rams and the 92-yard touchdown pass from Montana to Taylor.

That comeback was halted by a series of mistakes at the end of the half, when penalties nullified first what would have been the tying touchdown and then a 49-yard field goal by Cofer, who earlier had hit from 19 yards.
That gave the Rams momentum and they took it, scoring just 4:32 into the second half on Everett's 13-yard pass to Buford McGee. After Michael Stewart's interception of a Montana pass that deflected off Roger Craig, Lansford hit a 22-yard field goal that made it 27-10. That drive was aided by two consecutive penalties for 30 yards against Charles Haley.

Then the San Francisco comeback began.

The 49ers went 64 yards in six plays, the last of which was Montana's 7-yard pass to Mike Wilson with 10:04 left.

The Rams came right back, helped by a 36-yard pass interference call against Darryl Pollard. But Everett fumbled the ball on what was supposed to be a rollout and the 49ers recovered. On the next play, Montana and Taylor struck again.

Entering the game, Montana led the conference - and the league - with a passin g rating of 116.1, with Everett second in the NFC at 90.6.