NFL Nation: Ton Brady

Best 49ers Team Ever: 1989

June, 24, 2010
Notable players: QB Joe Montana, QB Steve Young, WR Jerry Rice, WR John Taylor, RB Roger Craig, FB Tom Rathman, TE Brent Jones, G Guy McIntyre, FS Ronnie Lott, OLB Charles Haley, DE Pierce Holt, DE Kevin Fagan, OLB Keena Turner, LB Matt Millen.

[+] EnlargeJoe Montana
Andy Hayt/Getty ImagesJoe Montana and the 49ers were at the height of their success during the 1989 season.
Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers had multiple teams worthy of consideration as the best in franchise history. I'll take the one that outscored its opponents 126-26 during the postseason, including 55-10 over the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl. Denver led the NFL in scoring defense that season.

The 1989 team featured the 49ers' offense at the peak of its powers.

Joe Montana averaged 9.1 yards per attempt with 13 starts that season. The figure for three-game starter Steve Young -- 10.9 yards per attempt -- was even more ridiculous. Drew Brees set a career high at 8.5 yards per attempt last season. Tom Brady's average was 8.3 during his historic 2007 season. Dan Marino was at 9.0 in his 1984 career season. None could match the 49ers' top two quarterbacks during this special season.

This was the first 49ers team of the 1980s without Bill Walsh, but offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren was still there, as were nearly all of the team's iconic offensive players from the decade. Tight end Brent Jones emerged as a starter. Roger Craig topped 1,000 yards rushing. Fullback Tom Rathman caught 73 passes. Montana set a career high for passer rating at 112.1, completing 70.2 percent with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Rice caught 17 touchdown passes while averaging 18.1 yards per reception.

The defense was typically overlooked except by those forced to play against it. John Elway completed only 10 of 26 passes for 108 yards and two interceptions against the 49ers in the Super Bowl.

"Their defense doesn't get enough credit," Broncos coach Dan Reeves said afterward. ''I can't say enough about them.''

Walsh later regretted retiring. This team made it easy to see why.

Most impressive win: Having already touched on the Super Bowl victory, let's focus on the victory that delivered the NFC West title to San Francisco that season. Montana passed for 458 yards, including 286 to receiver John Taylor, and the 49ers twice overcame 17-point deficits to edge the division-rival Rams, 30-27, on the road.

Transcending Walsh: This 49ers team became the only one in NFL history to win back-to-back Super Bowls with different head coaches. The change from Walsh to George Seifert might have actually helped this team, at least for a season. The offensive-minded Walsh left the defensive-minded Seifert with a veteran offense trained to function at a high level without much big-picture help. Holmgren took the best of what Walsh taught him and made it even better with his own tweaking. In that sense, the 1989 team might have gotten the best of what Walsh and Holmgren had to offer. Montana was also at his best. He never enjoyed a finer season.

Honorable mention

1984: This was the team that knocked off Marino in the Super Bowl after the quarterback shredded defenses for a then-record 48 touchdown passes. This was a great 49ers team with a franchise-best 15-1 record, but the best group in 49ers history needed to include Rice, I thought. He arrived the next year.

1994: Proponents of this team will point to a defense featuring Deion Sanders, Rickey Jackson, Ken Norton, Merton Hanks, Eric Davis, Tim McDonald, Bryant Young and others. They'll point to Young's record six touchdown passes against the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl.

1948: Let's save some recognition for one of the early 49ers teams. This one outscored opponents by more than 17 points per game on its way to a 12-2 record. Frankie Albert put up modern-day numbers with 29 touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and a 102.9 rating.

Quick Take: Ravens-Colts

January, 10, 2010
Three things to know about Saturday’s Ravens-Colts divisional playoff game:

1. We might learn a bit about the meaning of momentum. The Colts shut it down the last two weeks, sacrificing a shot at a perfect regular season with losses against the Jets and at Buffalo and finishing 14-2 before enjoying a bye.

Bill Polian insists that momentum means nothing as teams enter the playoffs.

While his team has none, the Ravens will come in riding high after the franchise’s first win over New England, a 33-14 wild card shocker at Gillette Stadium. Will we see rested hosts or rusty hosts?

On Nov. 22 in Baltimore, the Colts won 17-15. The Ravens were all field goals that afternoon and will head to Indianapolis knowing they won't stand a very good chance if they aren't able to finish drives with touchdowns in their second chance.

2. Peyton Manning will be working against a pass defense that can be suspect. The Ravens secondary was excellent Sunday in New England. But it’s without the injured Fabian Washington and doesn’t rate as a deep group.

As Baltimore jumped quickly to a big lead against the Patriots, the Ravens saw Tom Brady throw 19 incomplete passes, intercepted him three times, sacked him three times and held him to 157 passing yards. It certainly helped their cause that Brady’s favorite target, Wes Welker, was lost to a knee injury in the regular season finale.

It will be difficult for them to match that effort at Lucas Oil Stadium against the quarterback who just won his fourth MVP award and has a solid and complete stable of pass targets with Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, who had six catches for 108 yards in the first meeting.

Scouts Inc.’s Matt Williamson thinks Manning will shred the Ravens’ pass coverage.

3. The Colts will have to prove, again, that they are capable of slowing a physical run game. Ray Rice ran for 159 yards at Gillette Stadium and the Ravens totaled 234 in the first-round win. If Baltimore is to spring an upset, it will likely have to be fueled by its rushing offense again.

The Colts were 24th in rush defense this season, but held Baltimore to 98 yards and 3.2 yards per carry just before Thanksgiving.

The Ravens' big, physical offensive line will look to pave the way for the backs and keep Joe Flacco safe against the Colts' smaller, quicker and more athletic defensive front. If Indy can get Flacco in third and long, they’ll be pleased to let Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis do their thing.