Each highlight, which fans voted on from a list of 25 nominations, will be memorialized at a home game in 2013, continuing on Sunday, when the 49ers host the Carolina Panthers. 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. 4.
The 66,506 in attendance at The ‘Stick could be forgiven for having their doubts. The 49ers and The Faithful had suffered five straight defeats to the Green Bay Packers – the very familiar Green Bay Packers – in the years leading up to Jan. 3, 1999.
The Bill Walsh-trained Mike Holmgrem was using a San Francisco-like playbook on the Packers sideline and against his familar counterpart, Steve Mariucci.
“It was like playing ourselves,” quarterback Steve Young told 49ers Studios recently.
And it was starting to follow a similar script. The team’s NFC Wild Wildcard game was tied at 10, 17 and 20. Then the Packers grabbed a 27-23 lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass from you-know-who to wide receiver Antonio Freeman.
“Brett Favre took the lead late in the game on the same play that Joe (Montana) threw to Dwight Clark for The Catch,” Young said of the ‘Q8’ or ‘Sprint Right Option’ call. “Against us, they’re using our plays in Candlestick in the playoffs to take the lead – that was biting.”
The feeling didn’t last. Not long after Young and the 49ers offense retained possession, they found themselves at the Packers 25-yard line and with eight seconds left on the clock.
“We scratched our way down the field and really got down to where it’s all-go, last play,” Young said. “We had this cat-and-mouse game with Darren Sharper and LeRoy Butler, the two safeties for the Packers. The three of us, all game long, looking ‘em on, looking ‘em off, trying to pull ‘em and push ‘em in different places.”
So when Young snapped the ball and his center, Chris Dalman, stepped on his foot and caused him to trip, there was a fortuitous side effect.
“They lost sight of me, and I came up and looked and there was this big hole that shouldn’t be there,” Young said. “I’m sure people got fired for that, and Terrell was such a big kid that I just threw it in. It was a great throw and a great catch, but it was open – it wasn’t like it was a hail mary, good-luck-to-us. It was designed. We moved safeties and threw it in.”
As then 49ers broadcaster Joe Starkey would recall saying on the air, Owens “hadn’t hung onto his fingers all day.”
“He’d had four drops,” Starkey told 49ers Studios recently. “He was the goat of the day because he even missed a touchdown pass alone in the end zone (earlier in the game). He’d had this trouble of hanging onto the ball... And suddenly on a bullet pass over the middle, two defenders on him, he hangs onto the ball, breaks out in tears, goes over to hug Steve Mariucci. It was as dramatic an ending as you will ever see in a football game.
“I was like everyone else completely stunned that it worked. It was the last chance of the game, and I do tend to be an emotional announcer and make a lot of noise when good things happen, so I just started screaming ‘Owens, Owens, Owens.’”
Young, for his part, was as elated. He’d finally bested Favre and the enemy Packers.
“I just remember feeling, ‘This is the greatest moment,” Young said. “It was our nemesis – that made it even sweeter.”