San Francisco 49ers: 2014 Memorable Plays

Joe MontanaAP Photo
Score: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27
Date: Jan. 10, 1982
Site: Candlestick Park

The fans got it right picking The Catch.

Was this really a choice?

That is no disrespect to Joe Montana hitting John Taylor to win the Super Bowl in 1989 or to Steve Young and Terrell Owens hooking up with The Catch II to win a 1998 playoff game. Those were the two other finalists in our 49ers most memorable plays feature this week.

Fine, stunning, unforgettable plays. Both of them.

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However, in reality, The Catch is the only choice for the top play in 49ers history. It might be the most memorable play in NFL history.

Whether you were alive or not in 1982, you know this play. You can see Dwight Clark jumping into the sky over Everson Walls to snag Montana’s desperate heave right now, can’t you?

It is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history. This play represents so much more than what it simply was at the moment. It didn’t just surge the San Francisco 49ers into their first Super Bowl -- it changed the course of NFL history.

It was the beginning of a dynasty. It was the arrival of Bill Walsh and Montana as NFL legends.

It knocked the Dallas Cowboys off their perch for a bit. It ignited one of sports' greatest rivalries.

Like all things great, The Catch’s impact was great and long lasting. There is no other play like it in 49ers history. It began the history of the 49ers in a lot of ways, and it certainly defined it.

There was no other choice.

49ers' top plays: Catch II

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
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Terrell Owens BRUCE GORDON/AFP/Getty Images
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This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in San Francisco 49ers history. Yesterday, we covered the throw from Joe Montana to John Taylor to win Super Bowl XXIII, and Monday we reviewed "The Catch." Please vote for your choice as the 49ers’ most memorable play.

Score: 49ers 30, Packers 27
Date: Jan. 3, 1999 Site: Candlestick Park

The Catch will always be The Catch.

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Which is the most memorable play in 49ers' history?

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Montana to Clark will forever be The Catch in the NFL for every fan, no matter who they root for.

However, for 49ers fans, there was another catch. Young to Owens. It instantly became The Catch II.

The play itself didn’t have the immediate or future impact as the original catch did. But in its own right, the Catch II remains an iconic moment in the 49ers’ rich history. Other than the 49ers’ five Super Bowl victories and The Catch, it is difficult to imagine a more emotional postseason moment in franchise history.

It involved two wildly different historic figures in team history. There was Steve Young, a beloved Hall of Fame quarterback. Then there was also Terrell Owens. Owens was regarded in San Francisco like he was regarded everywhere in his career -- talented but not worth the trouble.

Yet, the 49ers were happy to have him on this day. It wasn’t a perfect day for Owens, only a perfect ending. He started the day with four drops, including one in the end zone. But when Young needed Owens most, he was there.

The Packers took a 27-23 lead with 1:56 to go. The 49ers had to go 76 yards to win. The drive culminated on a 25-yard pass from Young to Owens. The play was unlikely. Owens was completely unreliable that day. Young went to him while he was tightly covered by two Green Bay defensive backs at the goal line -- with the season on the line.

Yet, Owens found a way to secure the ball, leaving the Packers standing in the end zone in disbelief.

Owens ran to his coach, Steve Mariucci, and collapsed into his arms, sobbing like a newborn. It’s a memory etched in the minds of 49ers fans everywhere -- just like Dwight Clark leaping into the heavens to bring down The Catch.
John TaylorRob Brown/Getty Images
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in San Francisco 49ers history. Yesterday, we covered "The Catch," and tomorrow, we will feature "The Catch II." Please vote for your choice as the 49ers’ most memorable play.

Score: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
Date: Jan. 22, 1989 Site: Joe Robbie Stadium

We know which play Uncle Buck would vote for.

Any play that wins a Super Bowl in the final seconds deserves to be on a list of the most memorable plays of a franchise.

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Which is the most memorable play in 49ers' history?

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    81%
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    11%
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That brings us to Joe Montana and John Taylor.

Taylor was a solid complement to Jerry Rice, yet he wasn’t a star. However, he has place in 49ers lore because of one play.

The 49ers’ chances of winning their third Super Bowl in three attempts in the 1980s appeared to be a long shot, as the Bengals were on the doorstep of a stunner because of great defense. The 49ers' stellar offense and legendary quarterback were shut down -- until it mattered.

After the Bengals took the lead on a field goal with 3:20 remaining, the 49ers took over at their own 8-yard line.

With a daunting task facing his team, Montana famously started the drive by pointing out comedian John Candy to his teammates on the jumbo screen. It was classic Joe Cool. Relaxed and calm, Montana completed eight of nine passes on the 11-play drive, during which two plays at a time were called.

The winner was a 10-yard touchdown pass from Montana to Taylor with 34 seconds left. It was the first time a quarterback drove his team the length of the field for the winning touchdown in the final minute of a Super Bowl.

The catch was Taylor’s first of the game. Rice had 11 catches in the game. The Bengals were expecting the ball to go to Rice all the way.

Rice ran an out route. Taylor sprinted past the Bengals' linebackers, inside of a safety and to the back of the end zone, where he had a laser waiting for him.

It was time for the 49ers to design another Super Bowl ring, and it was another chapter in the career of one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history.
Joe MontanaAP Photo
» VOTE HERE » NFC Plays: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

This is one of three nominations for the most memorable play in the San Francisco 49ers' history. On Tuesday, we will feature Joe Montana's throw to John Taylor to win Super Bowl XXIII and Wednesday, The Catch II. Please vote for your choice as the 49ers’ most memorable play.

Score: 49ers 28, Cowboys 27
Date: Jan. 10, 1982 Site: Candlestick Park

How could this play not be on this list of candidates for the best play in 49ers' history?

It is one of the most iconic plays in NFL history.

SportsNation

Which is the most memorable play in 49ers' history?

  •  
    81%
  •  
    11%
  •  
    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 46,202)

Say "The Catch" to any football fan and they will know what it is. Mention it to a 49ers’ fan and see that person erupt into unbridled glee. The Catch may have happened 32 years ago, but it is fresh in the minds of all 49ers fans, even fans who weren’t alive yet.

Everyone knows The Catch.

Montana to Clark.

It changed everything.

With the upstart 49ers trailing America’s Team 27-21 with 58 seconds to go, the home crowd was both buzzing and a collective nervous wreck at once. It was third-and-3 from the Dallas 6-yard line.

Even though the game was in the final minute, Bill Walsh had options. He could have gone for a first down or he could take two strikes at the end zone. Walsh wanted pay dirt.

When Joe Montana took the snap, the play was sprint right option. The initial option was receiver Freddie Solomon, but Solomon, already with a touchdown in the game, was blanketed.

Montana was being hotly pursued by three Dallas defenders and was backpedaling like a crooked politician. It appeared he was either going to be sacked, which would have been disastrous, or he was going to go out of bounds and create a fourth-and-long.

Suddenly, Montana whipped the ball. It looked like it was going to be out of the end zone. But then Dwight Clark jumped into the San Francisco heavens. Clark out jumped Dallas cornerback Everson Walls and came down with the ball, and the 49ers had their first trip to the Super Bowl.

The 49ers became a dynasty, and The Catch poured fire on what would become one of the NFL’s fiercest rivalries.

Last December, when Candlestick Park was closed, The Catch was celebrated. But make no mistake, it is celebrated every day in San Francisco.

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