Sunday, December 20, 1992
NINERS SWEAT OUT VICTORY
The blowout never materialized, and neither did Joe Montana.
Coming in as 20-point favorites, the San Francisco 49ers struggled to a
21-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday. Though the win
wasn't pretty, it was just what the 49ers (13-2) needed to clinch their
sixth National Football Conference West title in seven years and the home-field
advantage through the NFC playoffs.
"If we'd have gone out there and beat them 40-0, we'd have thought
we were world champions before we even got to the Super Bowl," 49ers
tackle Steve Wallace said. "Now we know we have work to do. But we
have to feel good about still getting the win out of it."
Steve Young, Montana's stand-in for the past two seasons, threw for all
three of San Francisco's touchdowns. He had two scoring passes to Jerry
Rice and one to John Taylor as the 49ers, after missing the playoffs last
season, return as the top seed in the NFC this year.
"To have won the game says something about our club," fullback
Tom Rathman said. "Clinching the division and the home-field advantage,
that's a plus. But we need to get better, no question about it."
Montana, activated Friday after spending nearly all of the past two seasons
on injured reserve with elbow problems, watched from the sidelines as the
club's third, or "emergency" quarterback. There had been a chance
he could see his first action in nearly two years if the 49ers had taken
a big lead, but the game was tight all the way and Young played throughout.
With Tampa trailing by seven, the Bucs were in position to tie it up again
after a 12-yard run by Reggie Cobb gave them a first and goal at the San
Francisco 3 with five minutes remaining. But Cobb then lost 4 yards on a
sweep and Testaverde threw three incompletions.
Tampa Bay (4-11) got the ball back at its 37 with just under a minute left
and moved to the San Francisco 35 on three completions. But Testaverde's
desperation pass on the final play was batted down in the end zone by Dana
"We played them right down to the wire," Tampa coach Sam Wyche
said. "That was a whale of a football game, and it took everything
they had to win the game."
The Bucs used a 15-play, 80-yard drive ending in Cobb's 1-yard touchdown
run on fourth down with 14 minutes 7 seconds remaining to tie the game at
But the 49ers quickly went back in front as Young threw his third TD pass
of the day and second to Rice. He again beat single coverage by Ricky Reynolds
for a 30-yard score with 11:24 left that stood up as the winner.
"This was a time to measure our performance," said Cobb, who rushed
for 90 yards on 21 carries. "We want to finish strong, and we played
well against one of the best teams in the league. . . . When we get our
rhythm going, we can play with anybody."
Young's second scoring pass, a 32-yarder to Rice, gave San Francisco its
first lead at 14-7 with 10:59 remaining in the third quarter. Rice got a
step on Reynolds, and Young threaded a pass to him in the corner of the
Young finished with 270 passing yards, completing 18 of 31 throws. Rice
caught seven for 118 yards.
"This year was awesome. As far as our regular season goal - we accomplished
it," Young said. "Now the playoffs will be like scaling a mountain,
and we're going to try to reach the summit."
Young added he wasn't threatened by the activation of Montana. "I think
Joe's return is great. I was inspired," he said.
Tampa Bay took San Francisco by surprise with a first-quarter flea flicker
to go up 7-0 before Young threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to Taylor and the
teams settled for a 7-7 tie at halftime.
On San Francisco's final second-quarter possession, Young moved the club
to the Tampa Bay 5 but fumbled when sacked by Mark Duckens and Keith McCants
recovered to stop the threat.
Tampa Bay's trick play began as a run to Gary Anderson, who started off
tackle and then abruptly tossed the ball back to Testaverde. Hall had come
up to play the run, leaving Anthony McDowell all alone down field. Testaverde
hit him for a 51-yard scoring play.