The 49ers have, for a vast majority of their history, been an offensive-minded football team. From the time of their first coach, Buck Shaw, through all the great quarterbacks in their history, the better 49er teams were known to move the ball.
Because of that, many 49er fans came to believe that the team was never out of a game. There was always the chance of one play leading to a turnaround.
Of course, it seems inherent to NFL culture that any team that had a pretty quarterback and threw first rather than ran was a “soft” team. Jerry Glanville, the former coach of the Atlanta Falcons, once said that, “if it wasn’t for that quarterback, you’d like to play them twice a week.” That is, the Niners didn’t hurt you.
There was also something else to the 49er credo—innovation. Shaw and then Frankie Albert and even Dick Nolan were coaches who advanced the game with their strategies. Then, Bill Walsh took it to another level with the West Coast offense.
Maybe that’s why San Francisco fans look back on the team’s success in the 1980s and ‘90s as a team that broke standards and challenged theories, where excellent players became Hall of Famers due to a system that unleashed rather than harnessed their talents.
Or, maybe it was just more fun than a 14-10 game in some black-and-blue division game. What follows are seven of the team's most memorable games that had the fans on edge.