Tuesday, September 11, 1990

NINERS NIP SAINTS 13-12

Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- You can rock Joe Montana. You can sock Joe Montana. You can chase him down and toss him around.

But you don't give him the ball with any time left in a close game in the National Football League.

The New Orleans Saints learned that lesson well Monday night. They sacked him six times, chased him all over the Superdome, then watched as he drove the 49ers 60 yards in the final 90 seconds for a 13-12 victory. It was a stumbling but successful start to San Francisco's quest for a third consecutive Super Bowl.

''It's like fighting a rattlesnake. Give him enough time and he'll turn around and bite you,'' Saints wide receiver Eric Martin said.

The 49ers, who have seen it before, couldn't have agreed more.

''Give Joe Montana the ball with less than two minutes left and 80 percent of the time he'll win the game for you,'' San Francisco fullback Tom Rathman said in what might be a summary of his quarterback's Hall of Fame-caliber career.

Montana's heroics - aided by Roger Craig, Jerry Rice and John Taylor - took place at the sight of one of Montana's greatest triumphs, the 55-10 victory over Denver last January that made the 49ers the first team in a decade to win two consecutive NFL titles.

Midway through the fourth quarter, New Orleans forced Mike Cofer to try a 55-yard field goal, which fell a couple of yards short.

But the Saints, who themselves self-destructed - two John Fourcade passes were intercepted inside the San Francisco 25 - couldn't move, either. The 49ers used their timeouts and on third down, instead of running the ball to keep the clock moving, Fourcade tried to hit Brett Perriman deep.

The ball went long, the clock stopped, and the 49ers and Montana got the ball back at their 19 with 1:30 remaining.

On the first play, Montana hit Taylor for 25 yards, his longest completion of the game. On a third-down play Montana hit Craig for 11 and on the next play Rice for 20.

Then Montana casually threw the ball away to stop the clock, Cofer trotted on to the field and kicked the ball through the uprights he had missed three previous times. There were nine seconds remaining.

''It's disappointing to play as hard as we did and then lose the game,'' New Orleans coach Jim Mora said.

Montana, under pressure all night from linebackers Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling and a group of interchangeable linemen, finished with 26 completions in 43 attempts for 210 yards.

Andersen had field goals of 41, 39, 28 and 32 yards, but they weren't enough as Fourcade finished 12 for 34 for 186 yards.