Tuesday, December 4, 1990

49ERS AT LEAST HALF SUPER

Compiled From News Services

SAN FRANCISCO -- It was billed as ''Super Bowl XXIV 1/2.''

And Monday's much-anticipated National Football League battle between the league's only once-beaten teams, San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants, turned out to be a close game - something that has been uncommon in the real thing.

But there wasn't much excitement, though, until the closing minutes as the 49ers held on to win 7-3.

The key series came when New York picked up 56 yards in eight plays to reach the 49ers' 9 with slightly more than four minutes remaining and San Francicso holding the 7-3 lead. After Giants' quarterback Phil Simms threw three incomplete passes, coach Bill Parcells elected to go for the touchdown on fourth down.

But a pass toward the end zone was batted away by Darryl Pollard, and the 49ers gained possession with 3:55 remaining and ran out all but the final 36 seconds.

After a Barry Helton punt, the Giants took over at the San Francisco 48 with no timeouts remaining. Simms completed two short passes over the middle, but New York had no timeouts remaining and the clock ran. After reaching the 26, Simms spiked the ball with 3 seconds left to stop the clock. But Simms was sacked by Kevin Fagan before he could off a pass into the end zone on the final play of the game.

There wasn't much more excitement in the game than what happened in those sequences. San Francisco's Barry Helton punted nine times, and New York's Sean Landeta punted seven times. The 10 points were the fewest in a game this season - the previous low was 14 in a shutout win by Buffalo over New England two weeks ago.

The only scoring in the game came in a less-than-two-minute span late in the first half.

San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana shook off a slow start with a 23-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 1:30 left in the second quarter. That gave the 49ers the lead 1:56 after Matt Bahr kicked a 20-yard field goal to put New York ahead 3-0.

San Francisco (11-1) controlled the game in the third quarter, but was unable to score. The 49rers held New York (10-2) without a first down the first two times the Giants had the ball, then forced the game's first turnover on the Giants' next possession.

After New York moved past midfield for the first time in the second half, Charles Haley knocked the ball out of Simms' hand and Dave Waymer came away with the recovery after a scramble. But they were unable to convert.

The turnover was just another big play by the 49ers after Montana's slow start.

Montana was able to complete just four of his first 14 passes for 33 yards on 49ers' first four possessions. Cornerback Perry Williams knocked down two passes intended for Taylor and safety Greg Jackson batted down another aimed for Jerry Rice.

Montana finally clicked the fifth time the 49ers had the ball, completing a 31-yard pass to Roger Craig to the New York 28. Two plays later, Montana hit Taylor on a post pattern for the touchdown that capped a 5-play, 63-yard drive.

Montana was 12 for 29 for 152 yards.

The scoring drive answered a 54-yard, 12-play drive that ended with New York scoring the first points of the game. The Giants settled for a 20-yard field goal after having first-and-goal at the San Francisco 3.

New York moved to the 3 with a 23-yard completion from Simms, who finished 14-for-32 passing for 149 yards, to Mark Bavaro and an 11-yard completion to Stephen Baker. He made the catch after the ball deflected off the shoulder of Rodney Hampton.

The Giants' field goal came after San Francisco's Mike Cofer missed a 43-yarder midway through the second quarter.

Three plays after Taylor returned Landeta's punt 8 yards to the New York 38, Harry Sydney's spinning cutback turned a well-defensed screen pass into an 11-yard gain to the Giants' 27.

But the 49ers were unable to make another first down after a holding penalty to Tom Rathman nullified a 17-yard completion from Montana to Craig. Cofer then pulled his kick wide to the left.

The game marked the first time in 21 years that two teams with records as good as the Giants and 49ers have met this late in the season. In 1969, the Los Angeles Rams (11-0) played the Minnesota Vikings (10-1), with the Vikings prevailing.