49ers Ultimate Showdown: (No. 1) 1984 49ers 22, (No. 2) 1989 49ers 28/OT

Use your ← → (arrow) keys to browse more stories
49ers Ultimate Showdown: (No. 1) 1984 49ers 22, (No. 2) 1989 49ers 28/OT
George Rose/Getty Images

The first game of the second round pitted the two teams many expected to compete for the ultimate title against one another, but such was the entire impetus behind the bracket format: to allay such a predictable match-up in the finale.

The two teams were both juggernauts and pictures of dominance in the modern NFL. The 1984 team lost one game of 19 overall by only three points and boasted the stingiest defense in the tournament. The 1989 team followed up their dramatic Super Bowl XXIII victory by losing just two games by a combined five points, and breezed through three playoff contests on their way to a rout of John Elway's Denver Broncos in the biggest Super Bowl blow-out in history.

Ultimately it was this post-season dominance that gave the 1989 team the edge in this game. Both teams were supremely talented and undeniably devastating, but the level of dominance exhibited by the 1989 49ers in January dictated the outcome of this contest. They also had a secret weapon that nobody in the NFL in 1984 could ever have imagined, a young wide receiver from Mississippi Valley State University named Jerry Rice. In the first overtime competition of the tournament, the 1989 49ers got the better of the 1984 49ers by the score of 28-22.

Line Score – 1989 49ers 28, 1984 49ers 22/OT

 

QTR 1

QTR 2

QTR 3

QTR 4

OT

FINAL

1989

6

3

3

10

6

28

1984

5

10

0

7

0

22

 

Scoring Summary

QTR

Team

Event

1989

1984

1

1984

Ray Wersching 34 Yd FG

0

3

 

1989

Jerry Rice 17 Yd TD catch from Joe Montana (kick failed)

6

3

 

1984

Safety by Dan Bunz forcing ball out of end zone

6

5

2

1984

Ray Wersching 42 Yd FG

6

8

 

1989

Mike Cofer 36 Yd FG

9

8

 

1984

Roger Craig 17 Yd TD catch from Joe Montana (Wersching kick)

9

15

3

1989

Mike Cofer 27 Yd FG

12

15

4

1989

Tom Rathman 9 Yd TD catch from Joe Montana (Cofer kick)

19

15

 

1984

Freddie Solomon 12 Yd TD catch from Joe Montana (Wersching kick)

19

22

 

1989

Mike Cofer 36 Yd FG

22

22

OT

1989

Jerry Rice 43 Yd TD catch from Joe Montana (no kick)

28

22

 



 

The game started predictably for the 1989 team, with the 1984 team taking the opening kickoff and driving into 1989 territory, ultimately settling for an early field goal of 42 yards from Ray Wersching. Wersching's kick made the score 3-0, with 13:29 still remaining in the first quarter. This was the second time the 1989 49ers had given up an early field goal in the playoffs.

While both teams boasted powerful defenses, both offenses struggled to move the ball effectively. The 1984 team had a daunting pass rush that averaged 6.3 sacks per game in the post-season, while the 1989 defense was full of ball hawks, scooping up post-season turnovers at the rate of four per game. Even Joe Montana, arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game, had extreme difficulty leading two very prolific offensive groups against these defensive units.

However, after the teams had traded punts, 1989 offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren would show the offensive scheming capabilities that would eventually make him a highly regarded Super Bowl Champion head coach in his own right. Joe Montana began to methodically work his way through the 1984 defense, on a drive crafted by his former quarterback coach. He hit Jerry Rice twice for gains of 12 and 14 yards and hit tight end Brent Jones on a key conversion on a third-and-eight play.

After a seven yard run by running back Roger Craig gave the 1989 team a first down in the opposing red zone, they would waste no time getting on the board. When 1984 defensive coordinator George Seifert (opposing himself as head coach of the 1989 squad) dialed up a blitz, Mike Holmgren took advantage with a quick strike from Joe Montana to Jerry Rice in the middle of the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown.

If the 1989 49ers had an Achilles’ heel, it was place kicker Mike Cofer. Cofer was one of the worst kickers to play on a Super Bowl Championship team, and 1989 in particular was not one of his proudest seasons. He missed two extra points in the regular season, and then two more in the post-season, including one in the Super Bowl; the only blemish on a day which saw the 49ers beat the Broncos 55-10.

The excitement of the newfound lead for the 1989 team was quickly stifled when Mike Cofer's point after attempt sailed wide of the uprights, leaving the 1989 49ers up 6-3 with 7:12 remaining in the first quarter.

Defense would play predominately for the remainder of the quarter, as George Seifert continued to dial up heavy pressure on Joe Montana and the 1989 offense, and near-miss interceptions by strong safety Chet Brooks and corner back Don Griffin kept the 1984 passing game at bay.

A late punt from Max Runager was bobbled by wide receiver John Taylor, putting the 1989 offense in a tough spot, with a first down on their own five yard-line with just 0:07 to play in the first quarter. The 1984 version of George Seifert would go for the jugular, dialing up another blitz and hoping for a sack of Joe Montana and a safety. The plan worked, but not as he intended.

Blitz pressure from linebacker Riki Ellison forced a muffed exchange between Joe Montana and full back Tom Rathman. RB Roger Craig scrambled quickly after the ball and dove for it in the end zone to prevent a defensive touchdown. Pressure from LB Dan Bunz would push Craig off the ball, however, and the ball rolled out of the side of the end zone for a safety. The 1984 defense had brought their team back within one point at 6-5 as the first quarter expired.

The 1984 49ers would ride the momentum of the safety on the ensuing drive, charging across mid-field before the 1989 defense finally tightened up and kept them from crossing the 30-yard line. A 42-yard field goal by Ray Wersching put the 1984 team back in the lead by a slim 8-6 margin with 13:49 to play before the half.

Defenses would again sway to the forefront, as Joe Montana and the 1989 offense continued to see heavy pressure. Nose tackle Manu Tuiasosopo and LB Fred Dean broke through for sacks. Free safety Ronnie Lott added an interception for the 1989 defense, jumping in front of a pass intended for WR Freddie Solomon.

Later in the quarter, a pass over the middle to WR Renaldo Nehemiah was met by a fierce hit from FS Ronnie Lott, forcing a fumble that was recovered by corner back Darryl Pollard. Pollard returned the interception to his own 47 yard-line, giving the 1989 team a key opportunity.

Passes to WRs John Taylor and Jerry Rice got the 1989 49ers into field goal range and a 36-yard field goal from Mike Cofer restored the 1989 team's one-point lead at 9-8 with 3:46 to play before half time.

Bill Walsh would not be denied a half time advantage, however, orchestrating a beautiful drive which frustrated the 1989 defense.

Short passes to RB Roger Craig and WR Dwight Clark set up longer strikes to WR Freddie Solomon and TE Russ Francis. The drive culminated with a swing pass to RB Roger Craig which went for 17 yards up the sideline for a touchdown. The Ray Wersching extra point gave the 1984 49ers a 15-9 lead with under one minute to play before half time. Mike Holmgren's offense could not muster an answer before the final gun.

After the 1984 defense showed initial vulnerabilities on the opening drive of the second half, the third quarter would again become an exhibition of defensive prowess.

The 1989 team took the opening drive down-field on passes to Jerry Rice and John Taylor and runs by Roger Craig. A dropped pass by WR Mike Sherrard may have been the only thing that prevented a touchdown, ultimately forcing the 1989 offense to settle for a 27-yard Mike Cofer field goal.

Defense dominated the rest of the third quarter. Each team came away with a turnover, as SS Chet Brooks tallied an interception against Joe Montana and LB Fred Dean forced a Wendell Tyler fumble which was recovered by LB Keena Turner.

The 1984 team got the best scoring opportunity. A methodical drive crossed mid-field with completions to WR Dwight Clark for eight yards and RB Roger Craig for 12 yards, setting up a long field goal try. The 49-yard field goal attempt was partially tipped at the line of scrimmage, however, and the score remained 15-12 in favor of the 1984 team as the third quarter came to a close.

The fourth quarter would prove to be an exciting finish, as both teams made pushes to wrest control of the game. Joe Montana led the 1989 offense down-field early in the quarter thanks mostly to heavy use of a mass-protect scheme employed by Mike Holmgren to counter the 1984 pass rush. The drive would culminate in a nine-yard touchdown reception by FB Tom Rathman on a screen pass. Mike Cofer connected on this point after, making the score 19-15 for the 1989 49ers with 12:46 to play in regulation.

The 1984 team would respond two drives later, as a methodical drive brought them deep into 1989 territory. FS Ronnie Lott nearly came away with his second interception of the game, which would have ended the threat, but the ball glanced off the finger tips of his out-stretched hand and fell harmlessly to the turf. Joe Montana took advantage of the second chance, finding WR Freddie Solomon on a crossing route for a 12-yard touchdown. Ray Wersching's point-after restored a three-point lead at 22-19 with 5:32 to play.

After trading possessions, the 1989 team had one final chance to tie or take the lead. Mike Holmgren crafted one more drive, with the fullest intent of winning the game in regulation. Rushing had been a difficult task all game long, as both teams had stellar defensive fronts. Holmgren used Bill Walsh's own West Coast offense against him, with Joe Montana reeling off short passes to running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers, effectively neutralizing an aggressive pass rush with quick release passing.

Once the drive crossed the opposing 30-yardline, Holmgren began to take shots at the end zone. The 1984 defense stood tall, with CB Ronnie Lott and FS Dwight Hicks knocking down potential game-winning touchdown passes on first and second down. A pass to TE Brent Jones failed to move the chains on third down, and the 1989 team was forced to settle for the tying field goal. Mike Cofer connected from 36 yards out to tie the game at 22.

Just 0:45 seconds remained in regulation, and a short return by Carl Monroe on the ensuing kick-off meant the game was destined for overtime.

The 1984 49ers won the coin toss and had visions of a quick score to propel them to the final game, but the 1989 team was not about to oblige.

Both defenses stood tall, showing the strength they had exhibited throughout the game. Neither offense could break past the 50-yardline, leading to five consecutive punts and returning the ball back to the 1989 offense at their own 26-yardline with just 2:43 remaining in the first overtime.

The drive started much like the preceding overtime campaigns, with Joe Montana flushed out of the pocket on first down, and forced to throw the ball away. A counter run by RB Roger Craig netted five yards on second down and then WR John Taylor stretched a short pass into a 14-yard gain on third down.

Three more plays led the 1989 offense across mid-field for the first time since the end of regulation, but with a first down on the opposing 47-yardline, they still sat well beyond the range of a Mike Cofer game-winning field goal.

Pressure from a blitzing Keena Turner on first down forced an errant pass from Joe Montana to sail out of bounds. Roger Craig gained four yards on second down, setting up third-and-six from the 43-yardline.

George Seifert was desperate for his 1984 defense to keep the 1989 offense from converting for a first down and beginning to broach the perimeter of Mike Cofer's field goal range. On third down, he called for a seven-man blitz, leaving the 1989 wide receivers in man coverage against his defensive backs.

The 1989 back field picked up the blitzing defenders, giving Joe Montana just enough time to get a strong throw away. FS Dwight Hicks was playing up to prevent a short pass from leading to a first down. This left Jerry Rice one-on-one with CB Ronnie Lott. Rice was just coming into his prime in a Hall of Fame, all-world career, while by 1984, Ronnie Lott had begun to lose a step at corner back, showing the vulnerabilities that led to his move to free safety in 1985.

The end result was a 43-yard touchdown pass from Joe Montana to Jerry Rice, with Ronnie Lott chasing him just one step behind down the sideline. An exciting end to an epic game. The final score read 28-22 in favor of George Seifert and the 1989 team.

The 1989 team moves on to the championship game, awaiting the winner of a match-up between the No. 5 1988 49ers and the No. 3 1994 49ers. Surprised by this outcome? Check out additional analysis and justifications on my blog soon!

Load More Stories

Follow San Francisco 49ers from B/R on Facebook

Follow San Francisco 49ers from B/R on Facebook and get the latest updates straight to your newsfeed!

San Francisco 49ers

Subscribe Now

We will never share your email address

Thanks for signing up.