DOOMSDAY IN S.F.
Dec. 23, 1972
Backup quarterback Roger Staubach won the Cowboys’ starting job for good after rallying Dallas with 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to shock the 49ers 30-28 in a first-round NFC playoff game. Staubach threw a touchdown pass to Billy Parks with 1:40 to play, then the Cowboys recovered a muffed onside kick. After a 21-yard scramble, Staubach threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ron Sellers with 52 seconds to play to give Dallas the lead.
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Dec. 7, 1980
In his rookie season, quarterback Joe Montana helped cement his “Joe Cool” nickname by leading the 49ers back from a 35-7 halftime deficit against the New Orleans Saints. Montana ran for one second-half touchdown and threw for twoscores in the 49ers’ 38-35 overtime victory. The 28-point deficit was the largest ever overcome in an NFL regular-season game.
Jan. 10, 1982
Montana rolled out, backpedaled, pump faked and found Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone to give the 49ers a 28-27 victory over the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game. Two weeks later, the 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win their first Super Bowl, beginning a stretch of five championships in 14 seasons.
Jan. 20, 1991
The 49ers had a 13-12 lead over the New York Giants – and possession in Giants territory – minutes from going to their third consecutive Super Bowl. But running back Roger Craig fumbled, New York recovered and drove to set up Matt Bahr’s 42-yard field goal as time expired to give the Giants the 15-13 victory. It was the final dagger in a game in which Montana was injured and the 49ers bade farewell to Craig and Ronnie Lott.
Dec. 28, 1992
After missing all of the 1991 season and 15 games in 1992, Joe Montana played in the second half of a 24-6 victory over the Detroit Lions in a Monday night season finale. Montana completed 15 of 21 passes for 126 yards, including touchdowns to Brent Jones and Amp Lee. With Steve Young set as the starting quarterback, it was Montana’s final appearance in a 49ers uniform.
RICE PASSES BROWN
Sept. 5, 1994
Against the Raiders on “Monday Night Football,” Jerry Rice scored three touchdowns to break Jim Brown’s NFL career record of 126. Rice’s third touchdown came late in a blowout win, with Rice and Young combining to make history in front of a national TV audience. Rice finished his career with 208 touchdowns.
YOUNG BEATS COWBOYS
Jan. 15, 1995
After losing to the Cowboys in the NFC title game the previous two seasons, Young broke through to shed the label of regular-season wonder in the 49ers’ 38-28 win over Dallas in the NFC Championship Game. The 49ers went on to beat the Chargers for their fifth Super Bowl title, led by Young’s six touchdown passes.
THE CATCH II
Jan. 3, 1999
With three seconds left, wide receiver Terrell Owens soared in a crowd and came down with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Young as the 49ers beat the Packers 30-27 in an NFC wild-card game. The catch left Owens in tears and helped the 49ers end a streak of five losses to the Packers, three in the playoffs.
GARCIA RALLIES 49ERS
Jan. 5, 2003
The 49ers were down 38-14 in the third quarter of their NFC wild-card game before a furious comeback against the Giants, capped by Jeff Garcia’s 13-yard touchdown pass to Tai Streets for the go-ahead score with a minute left. The 49ers won 39-38, and the game ended in controversy. Giants long snapper Trey Junkin botched the snap on a potential game-winning field-goal attempt, and no penalty was called on what appeared to be interference on a desperation pass that fell incomplete. It was the second-biggest comeback in NFL playoff history.
SMITH BEATS SAINTS
Jan. 14, 2012
After years of being the scapegoat, quarterback Alex Smith rallied the 49ers twice in the fourth quarter to defeat the New Orleans Saints 36-32 in an NFC divisional playoff game. Smith scored on a 28-yard end-around run to put the 49ers up 29-24. After New Orleans regained the lead with a quick touchdown, Smith directed an 85-yard drive and won the game with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Vernon Davis with nine seconds to play. It was the first time an NFL team scored twice to take the lead with less than three minutes left to win a playoff game.