Which San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl Win Tops the List?

Jess LanderContributor IIIJanuary 29, 2013

Which San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl Win Tops the List?

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    If three years ago someone had predicted that the San Francisco 49ers would be playing in this year's Super Bowl, most listeners would have dropped and ROFL'd (rolled on the floor laughing) in their face.

    But here they are. Like colored leggings and denim on denim, Colin Kaepernick and Co. are bringing the '80s back and looking to ignite a new era of greatness. The team that finished a measly 6-10 in 2010, now carries an 11-4-1 regular season record into the Super Bowl, after finishing 2011 with a 13-3 regular season mark.

    Ray Lewis' retirement campaign and Harbaugh sibling rivalry aside, the 49ers have something bigger driving them on Sunday. They have a record to protect.

    San Francisco has gone to the Super Bowl five times; they've never lost. This Sunday, that streak is on the line. As a pump-up for the big game, here's a look back at the five Super Bowl victories that brought about the second California Gold Rush.

    Which one stands out as the greatest Super Bowl victory of them all?

Super Bowl XVI, 1981 in Pontiac, Michigan

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    49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21

    In the 49ers first-ever Super Bowl appearance, future legend Joe Montana led his team to a 20-0 halftime lead. Cincinnati attempted a rally in the second half, but two field goals by Ray Wersching, who hit four on the night, sealed the deal.

    The victory marked an astounding, unexpected comeback as just two years prior, the 49ers finished 2-14 for the second straight season. A dynasty was born.

    Yet far more memorable than the actual Super Bowl was the NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys, which featured a play known fondly in the Bay Area as "The Catch."

    With 68 seconds on the clock, San Francisco trailed by six and needed to convert on a 3rd-and-3 at the Cowboys' 6-yard line. Under pressure, Montana threw a high pass to the back of the end zone, which looked destined to go out of bounds.

    That's when receiver Dwight Clark made an iconic leaping catch to tie the game, and the extra point followed by a staunch defensive effort sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XIX, 1984 at Stanford University

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    49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16

    One for the ages, Super Bowl XIX featured a showdown between two of football's all-time greatest quarterbacks: Joe Montana and Dan Marino.

    But the Red and Gold had one clear advantage. With Stanford—coach Bill Walsh's former stomping grounds—just a stone's throw away from San Francisco, the 49ers practically had home field.

    The 49ers marched in with a 17-1 record and were the first team to win 15 regular season games since the league expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978. The game was hyped up to be shootout between the two quarterbacks, and it looked like the game would play out that way when Miami took a 10-7 lead in the first quarter.

    At the time, nobody would have predicted that Marino would not only go on to lose his first Super Bowl—but that he would lose his ONLY Super Bowl appearance.

    In the second quarter the fog rolled in, and the 49ers went on to take over the game, scoring three more touchdowns before halftime and then 10 unanswered points in the second half.

    Completing 24 of 35 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns, in addition to 59 rushing yards, Montana earned his second Super Bowl MVP honors.

    And though the 49ers were feared for their offense, their defense made its own statement, holding the Dolphins to just 25 rushing yards total, in addition to intercepting Marino twice and sacking him four times.

Super Bowl XXIII, 1988 in Miami

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    49ers 20, Bengals 16

    This rematch from seven years prior was much tighter battle. The 49ers made it to the big game in spite of a 10-6 regular season record and a quarterback controversy between Montana and Steve Young, in which Montana ultimately prevailed.

    It was a strong defensive game, marked by an unfortunate injuries and missed opportunities for both teams. On just the 49ers' third play from scrimmage, 49ers tackle Steve Wallace left the game with a broken ankle and soon after the Bengals Tim Krumrie broke two bones in his leg.

    San Francisco's struggles included a dropped pass on the 2-yard line by receiver Mike Wilson, a 19-yard missed field goal from Mike Cofer (the shortest missed FG in Super Bowl history) and two fumbles in the first half, which concluded in a 3-3 tie.

    In the third quarter, both team's continued to struggle in the red zone, settling for another field goal each to make it 6-6.

    Things finally got interesting when Stanford Jennings received a 49ers kickoff with less than a minute left in the third quarter and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. Yet, San Francisco quickly drove downfield and responded with a touchdown of their own in the opening minutes of the fourth, when, after a near interception, Montana connected with star receiver Jerry Rice to tie the game 13-13.

    When Cofer missed another field goal, this time a 49-yard attempt, the Bengals took advantage and retook the lead, settling for another field goal with 3:20 remaining.

    Enter Joe Cool. Starting at his own 8-yard line, the clutch quarterback drove his team downfield on an 11-play drive capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining. 

    Montana and the 49ers won their third Super Bowl, and it was the last game that Bill Walsh coached in Red and Gold.

Super Bowl XXIV, 1989 in New Orleans

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    49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10

    San Francisco made winning back-to-back Super Bowls look easy.

    In the most lopsided Super Bowl victory to date (and arguably one of the worst to watch), the 49ers absolutely crushed John Elway and the Denver Broncos while also setting the record for the most points a team has ever put up in a Super Bowl.

    Rookie coach George Seifert picked up right where Walsh left off as the 49ers offense proved to be as lethal as ever, gaining 461 yards of total offense and possessing the ball for nearly 40 minutes.

    In his fourth and final Super Bowl, Montana picked up his third MVP, throwing a record five touchdowns, three of which landed in the hands of Jerry Rice.

Super Bowl XXIX, 1994 in Miami

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    49ers 49, San Diego Chargers 26

    The 49ers finally returned to the Super Bowl after losing in the NFC Championship the previous two seasons with Steve Young at the helm. This time it was Young who came out on the other side of a 49ers quarterback controversy, and Montana was traded to Kansas City Chiefs prior to the 1993 season.

    San Francisco possessed a league-best 13-3 record and faced little trouble getting through the playoffs. The Chargers on the other hand, wrote themselves a "Cinderella Story," making it to the postseason despite low expectations and then clawing their way back from halftime deficits in both playoff games to make it to the grand stage.

    As a result, the 49ers were favored by 18 points, and the outcome was unsurprising. Stepping out of the shadow of his predecessor, Young threw his first of six touchdown passes to Rice on just the third play of the opening drive.

    Within five minutes in the first quarter, San Francisco led 14-0. San Diego hung around, getting on the board in every quarter, but could not slow down San Francisco's offense as the 49ers became the first team to win five Super Bowls.

    Rice caught another three touchdowns and Ricky Watters added two TD receptions. Young earned himself the MVP award as the top passer and rusher of the game, and his six touchdowns broke the previous record for most touchdowns thrown in a Super Bowl, set by Montana himself.