Monday, Sept. 12, 1994

Vintage Montana bests Young's 49ers

By Tom Maloney
San Diego Union-Tribune

KANSAS CITY -- In the wake of stories about supposed acrimony, bitter jealousy and backstabbing, Joe Montana and Steve Young settled things on the football field yesterday.

What emerged was a spellbinding, hard-hitting NFL game, won by the Kansas City Chiefs, 24-17, on the new natural grass at Arrowhead Stadium.

The quarterbacks shook hands beforehand, wished each other luck, and proceeded with the duel. In anticipation, the second-largest crowd in Chiefs franchise history, 79,907, jammed the roads to the stadium three hours before game time.

Montana, who led the 49ers to four Super Bowl wins before going to the Chiefs last season, looked in vintage form with passes ranging from lobs to bullets, completing 19-of-31 for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

If Jerry Rice had been on his side, who knows how the stats might've been inflated? Willie Davis led seven Chiefs receivers with 59 yards receiving, but he let two possible TD passes of 30-plus yards slip through his fingers.

"In a lot of ways, the master has more to teach the student," said Young, Montana's understudy with the 49ers before taking over the starting role.

Young went 24-for-34 for 271 yards and a TD, but turnovers were fatal for San Francisco (1-1). Under siege from a defense led by fleet linebacker Derrick Thomas, Young lost one fumble and threw two interceptions -- mistakes sure to renew debate about his performance in big games. A fourth turnover, a fumble by John Taylor, killed what could have been agame-tying, or winning, drive for San Francisco.

"In a game of this nature, it's not an easy thing to be the guy on the short end," said Montana, whose team is off to a 2-0 start. "But just look at (Young's) passing and his winning record. He's having a great career with them. I know exactly how he feels."

With two starting offensive linemen out because of injuries and another hurt in the first half, Young became a sitting duck for Thomas (three sacks, safety) and defensive end Neil Smith. Young emerged with a strained knee, the extent of damage to be determined today. In evidently worse shape is 49ers defensive end Richard Dent, carted away in the fourth quarter with a knee injury.
Meantime, Montana, in his 16th season, dodged trouble as though propelled by 21-year-old legs.

"It was strange to learn the game from someone -- literally -- and then to see him on the other side of the field," Young said. "But that wasn't a negative thing. It was just emotional. Both teams laid everything on the line."

The Chiefs scored first, Montana lofting a play-action pass to center/occasional tight end Joe Valerio on fourth-and-goal from the 1. San Francisco came back with consecutive TDs, for a 14-7 lead.

Urged by the jet-engine-like decibels pouring from the stands, the Chiefs defense began asserting itself. Thomas sacked Young in the end zone from the blind side, cutting the margin to 14-9 in the second quarter.

From that point, consecutive San Francisco series ended like this: missed field goal from 42 yards, punt, interception, interception, fumble.

Montana led consecutive TD drives to start the second half, completing 5-of-7 passes for 53 yards.

"He's still Joe. Still Joe," said 49ers cornerback Eric Davis. "Everyone knows that."

Keith Cash caught an 8-yard TD pass to cap an eight-play, 57-yard drive and J.J. Birden got wide open for a two-point conversion pass. After Charles Mincy returned an interception 31 yards to the San Francisco 17, Marcus Allen bulled over from the 4 for what proved the winning margin.

"I compared (beating San Francisco) to competing against my neighbor growing up," Montana said. "He was my best friend. It was never more exciting than to beat him, because he knew me as well as I knew him."