Tuesday, December 29, 1992

MONTANA LEADS 49ERS TO WIN OVER DETROIT

Associated Press

Joe Montana returned, rust and all, Monday night to the San Francisco 49ers after nearly two years of injuries, operations and anxious waiting. And he led them to 17 second-half points in a 24-6 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Greeted by a standing ovation at Candlestick Park when he entered the game at the start of the third quarter, Montana hit his first couple of short passes and survived his first big crunching blows against the Detroit Lions.

He even scrambled a bit, running 8 yards for a first down on third and 5 from his 11. But he couldn't put any points on the board in his opening quarter as the 49ers clung to a 7-6 lead achieved by starter Steve Young.

Montana threw over Jerry Rice's head on one play and was off target on another, but he showed no lack of confidence even if his accuracy was a bit off.

He also showed no hesitation in throwing long, testing the elbow that has undergone several operations. He completed seven of nine passes in the quarter for 47 yards.

The 49ers, champions of the NFC West, have a bye in the first round of the playoffs, so the game meant nothing in the standings for them.

Young's 18-yard pass to Rice and a pair of 23-yard passes to Brent Jones set up a half-yard TD plunge by reserve running back Marc Logan, filling in for injured Tom Rathman.

The touchdown with 3:14 left in the half wiped out a 6-0 Detroit lead on two long field goals by Jason Hanson - a 44-yarder in the first quarter and a 50-yarder in the second.

The 49ers had a chance to boost the lead, but Mike Cofer missed a 40-yard field goal attempt with seven seconds left in the half.

Hanson's first field goal capped Detroit's 67-yard march over the opening nine minutes and gave the Lions a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.

Barry Sanders, Detroit's career rushing leader, spearheaded the 17-play drive with 29 yards on the ground. The drive began on Detroit's 8 after a holding penalty negated Brett Perriman's 56-yard kickoff return from 4 yards deep in the end zone.

Quarterback Andre Ware kept the drive going when it appeared stalled at San Francisco's 31 with fourth down and 8 to go. Ware dropped back to pass, then tucked the ball in and ran 10 yards for the first down. Four plays later, Hanson kicked the 17th field goal in his last 18 attempts.