Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ESPN Classic [Print without images]

Friday, January 19, 2001
Updated: January 16, 9:55 AM ET
Joe Cool drives 49ers to title

By Larry Schwartz
Special to ESPN.com

Jan. 22, 1989

The San Francisco 49ers trail the Cincinnati Bengals by three points in Super Bowl XXIII with 3:10 left when Montana spots - no, not an open receiver - but a personality. "There, in the stands, standing near the exit ramp," Montana says to tackle Harris Barton. "Isn't that John Candy?"

After locating the comedian in the stands, Joe Cool is all business. He hits 8-of-9 passes, accounting for 97 yards. (While the 49ers start on their own eight, they have to gain 102 yards because of a penalty). Montana hyperventilates during the drive, but doesn't panic and gets his breath back. "It's like the soldier taking two in the belly and still finishing in charge," says Bill Walsh, coaching his final game with the 49ers.

The last pass by Montana, who completes 23-of-36 for a Super Bowl record 357 yards, is a bullet - a 10-yard bulls-eye to John Taylor in the end zone with 34 seconds left at Miami's Orange Bowl. It gives the 49ers a 20-16 victory, their third Super Bowl triumph in the eighties.

"It took 23 years, but the Super Bowl was finally super," says 49ers guard Randy Cross. "It was a game you can look back on and say, 'Now, that was a game.'"