Before the 49ers move on from Candlestick Park, their home since 1971, to Levi’s® Stadium in Santa Clara, in 2014, the time is right to trek back. Steve Young piloting – and then celebrating – a 38-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the 1994 NFC Championship Game lands at No. 7 on Candlestick Park’s Top 10 Greatest Moments, presented by SAP.
Each ensuing highlight, which fans voted on from a list of 25 nominations, will be memorialized at a home game in 2013. This continues on Sunday afternoon, when the 49ers host the Indianapolis Colts. The piece of history will also be pictured on each game ticket for the final season at The ‘Stick.
It’s time to celebrate No. 7.
SEE: PHOTOS FROM 1995
Three years running in 1994, Steve Young had led the NFL in quarterback rating. He had not, however, won the so-called big game.
That changed on Jan. 15, 1995, when he celebrated his three touchdowns and his first NFC West Championship victory over the 49ers nemesis Dallas Cowboys by circling the confines of Candlestick Park. It was obvious during his “Victory Lap,” as it has come to be known, that Young was at east with himself and the fans postgame.
Turns out, he was in-game too.
"I've come to grips with the chip on my shoulder," Young told Rick Telander, then of Sports Illustrated, at the time. "There have been a lot of hurdles, a lot of hoops to jump through. It's like I've been chasing after a rabbit at a dog track. But a year ago someone said, 'Do you realize what you've done? You've done something nobody else has.'”
Before his finished a fourth straight season leading his peers in QB rating throughout the league – and won his first Super Bowl – Young had to beat Dallas.
“They were our thorn in our side,” Young’s teammate, defensive tackle Bryant Young (unrelated) told 49ers Studios recently. “We had to bring our A-game against these guys. We did play them in the regular season – we had beat ‘em – but we knew anything could happen in this game. So it was important for us to take it up another notch.”
The man blocking Young’s blindside recalled the same thing.
“I can remember guys talking about it’s not going to be anymore (saying), ‘How ‘bout them cowboys,” left tackle Steve Wallace remembered. “We kept elevating our play, and we had tremendous respect for (Dallas).”
That showed on the field. The 49ers eventual 38-28 win didn’t come easy, despite how well their quarterback played.
Young passed for 155 yards on 13 completions, including two touchdown tosses. He would remember his 28-yard scoring toss to one Jerry Rice, which gave San Francisco all the points it would need to win and even before halftime.
"I had to throw away a lot of square-outs and intermediate routes," Young told Telander and SI. "Their defensive backs were squatting on (49ers receivers). So on that pass to Jerry, maybe they thought they could pick off something underneath. But, I mean, we had to throw it into the end zone."
Young’s three-yard touchdown rush in the third quarter – he carried the ball 10 times for 47 yards overall – provided insurance against the Cowboys, who scored 21 second-half points to draw closer.
When the game was in hand, Wallace, the offensive lineman, would see Young tear up when he huddled the offense and called a kneel-down late in the fourth quarter.
“He played his butt off that day,” Wallace said. “That’s the day that put him in the Hall of Fame.”
Young, of course, wasn’t thinking that. When he started his jog around The 'Stick, he was celebrating one very big victory.
“He was very excited, just ran around the whole stadium – you couldn’t stop him,” Bryant Young said. “He had people trying to pull him to the side and stop him for interviews, but he was so excited… Just to share that moment with the fans was important to him.”