Super Bowl XXIV
Date: January 28, 1990
Opponent: Denver Broncos
Score: SF 55, DEN 10
Super Bowl MVP: Joe Montana
The grand finale of the "team of the 1980s" culminated in one of the most dominant Super Bowls ever played and the greatest championship in the storied history of the San Francisco 49ers.
The 49ers had already won three Super Bowl titles entering the 1989 season, including one the year before. They had established themselves as an NFL dynasty and were poised to take another shot at the championship.
Yet the before the season even began, head coach Bill Walsh retired, leaving behind a legacy that still resonates today. He had turned a floundering franchise into a dynasty and won three Super Bowls in the process.
Fortunately, Walsh was able to tab 49ers' defensive coordinator George Seifert as his successor and all the pieces remained in place for San Francisco to return to the Super Bowl once more.
In a season that saw the 49ers go 14-2, San Francisco once more enjoyed stellar performances by star players Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.
Montana threw for 3,521 yards and 26 touchdowns against eight interceptions, giving him a 112.4 quarterback rating. At the time, it was the highest single-season passer rating in NFL history and led to MVP honors.
Rice complemented Montana's efforts by leading the league with 1,483 receiving yards on 82 receptions and 17 touchdowns.
The offense was running on all cylinders, ranking first in the league in both points and yards gained. The defense was also spectacular, ranking third that year in points allowed and hauling in an impressive 21 interceptions over the course of the season.
The combined units gave the 49ers the best scoring differential in the league at 11.8 points per game.
San Francisco made the playoffs again in 1989, marking its seventh consecutive appearance and fourth straight division title. It easily defeated both the Minnesota Vikings and Los Angeles Rams en route to Super Bowl XXIV against the Denver Broncos.
Denver had an impressive year of its own, going 11-5 over the course of the regular season and enjoying the top-ranked defense in points allowed.
The Broncos were able to knock off both the Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns in the playoffs on the road to their fourth Super Bowl appearance.
Future Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway led the offense, yet had struggled with his consistency over the season. While he did throw for 3,051 yards and 18 touchdowns, he also had a completion percentage of only 53.6 percent—the lowest since his rookie season. He also matched his 18 touchdowns with 18 interceptions.
Fortunately for Denver, as NinersNation.com revisits, its defense was able to carry the team for much of the regular season, thanks to stars like Karl Mecklenburg and Simon Fletcher.
Nonetheless, the Broncos' top-rated defense looked to thwart the 49ers' dominant offense in a game that was set to be a showdown for the ages.
As 49erswebzone.com writes, Denver safeties Dennis Smith and Steve Atwater vowed before the game to make San Francisco's receivers pay for every reception. "We are going to beat Rice and [John] Taylor up a bit. They really haven't been hit a lot in the playoffs. But when they catch a ball against us, they are going to remember it."
However, the game started off well for San Francisco, with the 49ers scoring first on a 66-yard drive, ending with a 20-yard pass from Montana to Rice.
Denver was able to cut into the early lead with a 42-yard field goal, making it 7-3. On Denver's next possession, though, a costly fumble turned the ball over to San Francisco and it never looked back. Three unanswered touchdowns gave the 49ers a 27-3 lead by halftime.
Elway struggled during the second half, throwing two interceptions that eventually resulted in two 49er touchdowns courtesy of Montana. The 49ers' quarterback finished the game with 297 passing yards and five touchdowns.
The Broncos' lone touchdown came in the third quarter on a three-yard rush from Elway.
The story was completely dominated by Rice, Montana and the 49ers. At game's end, San Francisco walked away with a 55-10 victory and its fourth Super Bowl championship. Montana would receive his third Super Bowl MVP award and it was well-deserved.
San Francisco's 55 points broke the previous Super Bowl scoring mark of 46 points by Chicago in Super Bowl XX. The 49ers scored touchdowns on four of their six first-half possessions.
While the offensive show once again highlighted the 49ers' dominance, their defense also deserves plenty of credit, forcing four turnovers and allowing only 108 passing yards.
Ronnie Lott, one of San Francisco's defensive stars during the season and the game, championed his team's efforts and pointed out just how great the 49ers had become.
"[We are] as good as any Super Bowl winner. I knew we were great, but I didn't think we were going to be this great. No question, this is the most talented 49er team I've been on."
Indeed, San Francisco was great, rolling over Denver on the road to one of the most lopsided Super Bowl victories in NFL history. Furthermore, the game forever cemented the legacy of the 1989 49ers as the greatest team in franchise history.
One may think that winning four Super Bowls over the course of a decade would get old. Of course, if Montana had his way, he would never tire of it.
After the game, Montana said, "Each Super Bowl becomes more precious. The more, the merrier. They are all sweet, and this was the sweetest yet. It was so much fun, we couldn't wait to get back onto the field."
How could anyone argue with that?
San Francisco was the team of the decade and it put its endorsement on the phrase by showcasing itself in the most dominant Super Bowl performance in franchise history.
Its offense was top-caliber. Its defense was stellar. The coaching was impeccable. Everything about this team screamed elite.
The 49ers would go on to win another Super Bowl five years later. Another quarterback would be calling the plays, though. It would be a dominant win as well, but not quite as impressive as San Francisco's victory in Super Bowl XXIV.
This win was one for the ages and gives credence to the notion that the 1989 49ers were the greatest team in San Francisco history.
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