Sunday, January 13, 1991

MONTANA, DEFENSE LEAD 'FRISCO

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO -- As usual, Joe Montana could put the football in the end zone. Mark Rypien couldn't, which is wh y the San Francisco 49ers are one step closer to an unprecedented third successive Super Bowl victory.

Passing for 274 yards and two touchdowns while Rypien was throwing three interceptions, Montana led the 49ers past the Washington Redskins 28-10 Saturday. The victory put the 49ers in next Sunday's National Football Conference title game against the winner of Sunday's game between the Chicago Bears and New York Giants.


Either team will have its work cut out to keep the 49ers away from Tampa, Fla., and a chance to become the first team to win three successive Super Bowl games and five overall.

''When it comes to the playoffs, we have the players who can turn it up another notch and make the big plays,'' said the 49ers' Jerry Rice, who had a 10-yard touchdown catch among his six receptions Saturday.

The biggest plays were made by the defense and by Montana, the National Football League's Most Valuable Player each of the last two seasons and a three-time Super Bowl MVP. Montana was particularly sharp in the first half, when he completed 11 of 13 passes for 192 yards on three touchdown drives that gave the 49ers a 21-10 halftime lead.

The job was completed by the 49ers' defense, which yielded 441 yards but made the plays when it had to. The 49ers stopped the Redskins inside the 20 without a point three times in the second half as Rypien made the mistakes that Montana didn't, even though Art Monk had 10 catches for 163 yards.

''Even though we had the lead, we always had the feeling we had to come up with the big play,'' said coach George Seifert, whose 49ers got two end-zone interceptions and another for a touchdown by nose tackle Michael Carter. ''The interceptions in the end zone were paramount.''

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs agreed.

''We were on the verge of scoring, but they made some great plays,'' he said. ''If we could have gotten even, we could have hammered it out.''

Rypien said: ''We've been having trouble within the 20 the past few weeks. Their defense just played us tighter, and we couldn't get anything accomplished.''

Indeed, Rypien was 27 of 48 for 361 yards. But he also threw those three interceptions, all in the second half.

The last came with 57 seconds to play. Charles Haley deflected the ball, and it was picked off by the 295-pound Carter. He lumbered 61 yards for the final touchdown.

''I tried to think of Carl Lewis and keep my knees up,'' said Carter, the silver medalist in the shot put in the 1984 Olympic Games.

Earlier, Johnny Jackson's interception stopped a third-quarter drive to the San Francisco 7, and an interception by Darryl Pollard in the end zone ended a drive to the 15 with 12:07 to play. Rypien threw the ball right at Pollard with no Redskin near it.

''Jackson's interception was the biggest play of the game,'' 49ers linebacker Matt Millen said. ''They got down there three times and couldn't put the ball in. We knew they could move the ball, but we knew our offense could score.''

Three minutes later, the 49ers stopped the Redskins again on fourth down after Monte Coleman's interception put Washington at the 19. It was Montana's first interception in 180 passes in five playoff games.

Montana was 22 of 31. He threw TD passes of 10 and 8 yards to Rice and Mike Sherrard, respectively, in the second period before leaving with 40 seconds to play after being hit on the jaw by the Redskins' Jumpy Geathers.

''When you play a team like that, they're going to get their share of big plays,'' Montana said. ''But we're going to get ours.''

Particularly the way Montana was throwing.

The pass to Rice was drilled precisely through two Redskins and a 47-yarder to Brent Jones that set up the third score was threaded perfectly over Andre Collins on a rollout as Montana dodged two rushers.

The Redskins scored the first time they had the ball, on Rypien's 31-yard connection with Monk, who turned Pollard around. That capped a 74-yard, eight-play drive.

But the 49ers came right back with their own 74-yard, eight-play drive, one that included a 15-yard roughness call on Darrell Green, who threw down Rice after a 10-yard completion. Tom Rathman scored from the 1 to end the drive.

Chip Lohmiller's field goal with 36 seconds to go in the first quarter made it 10-7 Redskins.

Then the 49ers went 80 yards to take a 14-10 lead 3:52 into the second quarter. The TD came on Montana's 10-yarder to Rice, who snatched the ball from between two Redskins. The score was set up by a 28-yard gain on an option pass to Brent Jones from Harry Sydney.

Montana then put on another show, with precise passes through coverage to Roger Craig for 32 yards and to Jones for 47 before he hit Sherrard with an 8-yarder that made it 21-10 with 6:31 to play in the half. It capped an 89-yard, five-play drive and was the first catch in 10 weeks for Sherrard. He missed the last nine games because of a broken ankle.