49ers Ultimate Showdown: (No. 3) 1994 49ers 27, (No. 6) 1981 49ers 21

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49ers Ultimate Showdown: (No. 3) 1994 49ers 27, (No. 6) 1981 49ers 21
George Rose/Getty Images

The results are in for Game Three of the San Francisco 49ers Ultimate Showdown Tournament and despite the closest game thus far, we still do not have an upset. This was the only game of the first round to feature two Super Bowl Champion opponents, and they had remarkably even records. Both were 13-3 in the regular season and 16-3 overall.

Furthermore, they had exactly the same opposing winning percentage. This led to a very closely-contested matchup, but ultimately the 1994 team, with their historically prolific offense, move on to the second round, 27-21.

Line Score – 1981 49ers 21, 1994 49ers 27

 

QTR 1

QTR 2

QTR 3

QTR 4

FINAL

1981

0

7

7

7

21

1994

10

7

10

0

27

 

Scoring Summary

QTR

Team

Event

1981

1994

1

1994

Jerry Rice 37 Yd TD catch from Steve Young (Brien kick)

0

7

 

1994

Doug Brien 34 Yd FG

0

10

1981

Dwight Clark 14 Yd TD catch from Joe Montana (Wersching kick)

7

10

 

1994

William Floyd 4 Yd TD rush (Brien kick)

7

17

3

1994

Doug Brien 36 Yd FG

7

20

 

1981

Dwight Hicks 42 Yd Fumble Rec. Return TD (Wersching kick)

14

20

 

1994

Ricky Watters 27 Yd TD catch from Steve Young (Brien kick)

14

27

4

1981

Freddie Solomon 44 Yd TD catch from Joe Montana (Wersching kick)

21

27

 

The 1994 49ers had one of the most prolific offenses in the history of the league and they had a knack for jumping out to leads, especially in big games.

This one was no different.

Dexter Carter received the opening kickoff and returned it 27 yards from the six-yardline, setting up the 1994 49ers with excellent field position at their own 33. The ever-aggressive Mike Shanahan, offensive coordinator for the 1994 team, wasted no time getting his high-powered offense moving.

Steve Young hit wide receiver John Taylor for 15 yards over the middle, followed that with a scramble for 12 yards, and then found tight end Brent Jones in the flat for a short completion, which the Pro-Bowl TE stretched for an eight-yard gain.

The three-play flurry set the 1994 team up with a second-and-two scenario at the opposing 32-yarline, but disaster nearly struck when linebacker Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds beat his blocker on a blitz and put pressure on Young as he was handing the ball off to fullback William Floyd. The pressure from Hacksaw caused a bad exchange and scramble for the loose ball, but tackle Harris Barton would recover for the 1994 team, falling on the ball at the 37.

Instead of simply trying to move the chains, Shanahan decided to go with an early roll of the dice and dialed up a deep isolation route to Jerry Rice. Rice beat the coverage on the play, and Steve Young found him open down the right sideline for a 37-yard touchdown catch. Doug Brien added the point after to make the score 7-0 in favor of the 1994 team.

The two squads would trade punts on ensuing possessions before Joe Montana finally found a rhythm and began to move the 1981 49ers downfield. The 1981 squad was hampered against their 1994 counterparts by the fact that while the innovative West Coast Offense of Bill Walsh awed many opponents in 1981, by 1994 it had become so commonplace in the NFL that the 1994 defense was tremendously well-prepared to face it.

The 1981 49ers drove 42 yards on six plays before free safety Merton Hanks intercepted a Joe Montana pass intended for TE Charle Young, ending the drive for the 1981 team.

The 1994 49ers took back over at their own 36-yardine. An eight-play drive highlighted by a 22-yard Ricky Watters run off right tackle bogged down with a brilliant defensive stand from the 1981 squad just outside the red zone. The 1994 squad would settle for a 34-yard field goal from Doug Brien, to make the score 10-0 with 4:23 to play in the first quarter.

The 1981 team would show resolve, opening scoring in the second quarter when Joe Montana hit WR Dwight Clark for a 14-yard touchdown down the left sideline. That play capped a nine-play drive which included a key eight-yard scramble by a young, spry Joe Montana on third down to keep the drive alive.

The extra point by Ray Wersching drew the 1981 team back within a field goal at 10-7 with 10:54 remaining before halftime.

After once again exchanging punts, the 1994 49ers got things going again with a beautifully balanced 12-play drive, starting from their own 17-yardline. Ricky Watters picked up 27 yards on the ground on the drive and Jerry Rice had a key 13-yard catch over the middle. The drive culminated in a red zone possession ultimately capped by a four-yard rush from FB William Floyd for the touchdown. The Doug Brien point after staked the 1994 49ers to a 17-7 lead with 4:47 to play before halftime.

A missed block on the ensuing kickoff led to a long field for the 1981 team on the next possession, as they started out at their own seven-yardline. True to form, Joe Montana rallied his offense and Bill Walsh orchestrated a grinding drive deep into 1994 territory.

The 1981 team seemed all but certain to be poised to draw back within three before halftime, but when WR Mike Shumann stumbled on his route, 1994 cornerback Deion Sanders showed great anticipation by jumping the route for an interception, which he returned to his own 31-yardline with only 0:52 remaining before the half.

Mike Shanahan was never one to run out the clock, but when consecutive pass attempts failed to materialize into another scoring chance, the 1994 49ers took a knee on third down and headed to the half up 17-7.

The second half did not exactly start as the 1981 49ers would have hoped. They made some progress on their opening drive, with Joe Montana completing passes to Dwight Clark and Freddie Solomon, but the drive bogged down near mid-field and they were forced to punt.

The 1994 team took the ball 71 yards on the ensuing drive before being forced to settle for another field goal after a strong defensive stand by the 1981 team. The 36-yard field goal from Doug Brien kept the score within two touchdowns at 20-7 with 11:12 remaining in the third quarter.

A key sack by rookie defensive end Bryant Young on Joe Montana ended the next drive by the 1981 offense, forcing another punt.

Steve Young led the 1994 offense on another drive, getting out close to mid-field before the tide of the game took a sudden turn. A pass in the flats to WR Ed McCaffrey was completed for a short gain, but a hard hit by CB (yes CB) Ronnie Lott jarred the ball loose and FS Dwight Hicks scooped up the ball and returned it 42 yards for a touchdown. Ray Wersching’s point after made the score 20-14 with 6:32 remaining in the third quarter.

The 1994 49ers would not let the score get any closer. They drove for a quick touchdown on the next drive, with Steve Young hitting Ricky Watters for a 37-yard touchdown. Doug Brien made the score 27-14, and it looked like the 1994 team was ready to put the game away late in the third after forcing another punt.

The 1994 team stormed down the field, but a dropped pass by TE Ted Popson disrupted their rhythm. After a short gain from Ricky Watters, Keena Turner broke through on a blitz and sacked Steve Young to take the 1994 team out of field goal range. They would punt the ball back to the 1981 team as time expired, and the kick bounced out of the end zone for a touchback.

The 1981 team, which managed five come-from-behind victories that year, including the dramatic and now iconic NFC Championship win over Dallas, tried to work their magic. Joe Montana got them halfway there, when he capped a seven-play drive with a brilliant 44-yard touchdown connection to WR Freddie Solomon, who beat CB Eric Davis on the play. Ray Wersching drew the 1981 squad back within six points at 27-21 with still 12:57 remaining in regulation.

Defense would rule the day much of the rest of the game, as neither team managed to cross the opposing 40-yardline.

The 1981 team would get one last chance with 3:42 to play. Amos Lawrence returned a punt to his own 46-yardline, nearly breaking it for the tying score. Joe Montana led the team downfield and set them up with a red zone opportunity at the 17-yardline with 1:49 to play.

A swing pass to RB Bill Ring yielded only two yards, setting up second-and-eight. Bill Walsh decided to go for the score, and Joe Montana threw a pass into the end zone for a seemingly open Freddie Solomon. Eric Davis would redeem his earlier miscue, however, charging in front of Solomon to intercept the ball for a touchback.

The 1994 49ers ran out the clock to win 27-21, moving  on to the second round to face the winner of Game Four.

Stay tuned for the final first round matchup soon, and check out additional commentary on this game on my blog soon!

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