Dec. 11, 1989: 49ers 30, Rams 27
By James Weiner
ABC Sports Online

With 3:30 left before halftime in Anaheim on Monday, Dec. 11, 1989, the 49ers were wondering if the Rams had their number. The 49ers had lost the last two games to the Rams, both at Candlestick, and were trailing this one 17-3 with the Rams threatening to extend the lead.

 
  Joe Montana and John Taylor celebrate after a score in Super Bowl XXIII. Months later, they were a part of a record-breaking Monday night.

The Rams' drive stalled at the 49ers 4-yard-line, and Mike Lansford lined up for a 21-yard field goal. The kick was never attempted. Instead, holder Pete Holohan took the snap and ran but was tackled inches short of the end zone. The stop opened the door for one of great individual performances in Monday Night Football history.

On a team that boasted three of the greatest offensive weapons ever to play the game -- Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig -- it was the 49ers' second receiver, John Taylor, who almost single-handedly turned the game around as well as the karma of the two franchises.

With the 49ers pinned back to their own 8, Rams cornerback Clifford Hicks attempted to jam Taylor at the line of scrimmage. Instead, Hicks fell. Montana immediately threw to the open Taylor, who then outran safety Vince Newsome down the sideline. Jerry Gray, the Rams other cornerback, had the angle on him, but Taylor managed to weave his way into the end zone behind the excellent blocking of Rice. The 92-yard touchdown cut the Rams lead to 17-10.

The Rams rebounded in the second half. Jim Everett threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Buford McGee and Mike Lansford added a 22-yard field goal to boost the Rams' lead to 27-10 with 13:34 left.

Montana responded by leading the 49ers on a six-play, 66-yard drive, culminating with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wilson to cut the lead to 10. Everett and the Rams marched right back aided by a 36-yard pass interference penalty on 49ers defensive back Don Griffin. But, at the San Francisco 4-yard line, Everett fumbled the snap and 49ers linebacker Matt Millen recovered.

On the next play, Montana threw short again to Taylor. Taylor traversed across the field, picking up blocks and eluding tacklers along the way, then sped 96 yards down the opposite sideline for a touchdown. Once again it was Rice's block that sprung Taylor loose. After a missed extra point, the 49ers had closed to 27-23.

Rams return man Ron Brown fumbled the ensuing kickoff and 49ers backup fullback William Henderson recovered. Craig then scored on a 2-yard run with 3:42 left to cap the comeback.

Taylor's final statistics: 11 catches, 286 yards and two touchdowns. Montana's: 30-of-42 for 458 yards and three touchdown passes.

"Taylor beat us, not Montana," the Rams' Gray told reporters after the game. "One of those passes should have gone for five yards and the other should have gone eight, and if they do, the game is totally ours."

Taylor had played the role of hero before. The previous January in Super Bowl XXIII against the Bengals, Taylor caught Montana's game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass with 34 seconds left to give the 49ers a 20-16 victory.

"A lot of people think a good wide receiver such as Jerry is just a good receiver," Taylor said after the game. "But both of us just love to block, too ... I was just trying to get the least punishment possible. I just caught the ball and I was trying to go to daylight. I was fortunate to find it."

The win gave the 49ers the NFC West title, home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and San Francisco then went on to crush the Denver Broncos 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV.

 
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