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Quest for Six: NFC Championship

Posted Jan 18, 2013

When the 49ers invade the Georgia Dome on Sunday in Atlanta, it will mark the 14th conference championship in the franchise’s proud history.

San Francisco has reached the NFC Title game in back-to-back years for the first time since making three straight from 1992-94. In order for the 49ers to try to improve on their perfect 5-0 record in Super Bowls, they’ll need to knock off the top-seeded Falcons for the sixth NFC Championship in franchise history.

San Francisco’s Faithful fans are encouraged to join the #QuestforSix as San Francisco tries to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Bay Area.

49ers.com is also proud to bring you a flashback to the five 49ers victories in past NFC Championship games following the 1981, 1984, 1988, 1989 and 1994 seasons.

1981 – 28-27 vs. Dallas Cowboys

The 1981 NFC Championship game can be summed up in two words: The Catch.

Joe Montana started to write his legend as one of the NFL’s greatest quarterbacks during his first full season as a starter. The 25-year-old quarterback led the 49ers to the playoffs for the first time since 1972 and showed his poise under pressure in the fourth quarter of the 28-27 win against the Dallas Cowboys.

In a back-and-forth affair that featured six lead changes, Montana and company took over at their own 11-yard line with 4:54 to go. The Cowboys had scored 10 points to start the fourth quarter, taking a 27-21 lead on a 21-yard touchdown connection between quarterback Danny White and tight end Doug Cosbie.

San Francisco marched all the way down to the Dallas 6-yard line with about a minute to go, when third-year coach Bill Walsh relayed one of the most famous play calls in franchise history, “Sprint Right Option.”

Montana received the ball from under center and bootlegged to his right before a couple of Dallas defenders got in his face. The 49ers quarterback lofted a pass to the back right of the end zone over the outstretched hands of 6-foot-9 Ed “Too Tall” Jones and receiver Dwight Clark made the iconic leaping catch with 51 seconds left.

Thirty-one years later and “The Catch” still stands as one of the greatest moments in football history. The 28-27 victory propelled the 49ers into Super Bowl XVI, where they defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 26-21 to win the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy.

1984 -- 23-0 vs. Chicago Bears

By the mid-1980s, Montana and Walsh had helped the 49ers become a perennial NFL powerhouse. San Francisco become the first team in league history to win 15 games in 1984, and is still the only team in franchise history to go 15-1.

The matchup versus the Bears marked the third NFC Championship game in the four seasons for the 49ers, who suffered a tough 24-21 defeat to Washington in 1983. But the star-studded 49ers, who featured 10 Pro Bowlers, left no doubt this time around.

Ray Wersching kicked a pair of chip shot field goals for San Francisco in the first half, giving the 49ers a 6-0 lead at intermission. The stifling defensive effort carried into the second half, as Bears quarterback Steve Fuller finished 13 of 22 for 87 yards and an interception.

San Francisco eventually made it 13-0 with a 9-yard run from Pro Bowl running back Wendell Tyler before Montana threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Solomon and Wersching tacked on another field goal to close out the scoring. The 23-0 victory is one of six shutouts in NFC Championship history and sent the 49ers into Super Bowl XIX, where they beat the Miami Dolphins 38-16.

1988 – 28-3 at Chicago Bears

In Walsh’s final season as a coach, the 49ers sent him off with a victory in Super Bowl XXIII over Cincinnati following a dominating effort at Soldier Field in the NFC Championship game.

The 28-3 victory over the Bears marks the only NFC title game road victory for the 49ers in franchise history. In a twist, current San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh was on the sidelines as a backup quarterback behind Jim McMahon.

San Francisco was eager to rebound from three consecutive one-and-done outings in the playoffs from 1985-87. After defeating the Minnesota Vikings 34-9 in the Divisional Round to play Chicago, the 49ers made quick work of the Bears.

Jerry Rice stole the show in his first NFC Title game action, catching a pair of first-half touchdown passes from Montana to help pace the 49ers to a 14-3 halftime lead. Montana added another 5-yard touchdown to John Frank in the third quarter before current 49ers running backs coach Tom Rathman capped off the scoring with a 4-yard rushing score.

Walsh would call it a career after the 49ers claimed a 20-16 comeback victory against the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII two weeks later. It marked the third World Championship in Walsh’s 10-year run as a Hall of Fame coach.

1989 – 30-3 vs. Los Angeles Rams

Walsh was out of the game, but Joe Montana still had one more Super Bowl run left in him.

Under the guidance of first-year coach George Seifert, who was a part of Walsh’s staff for the previous 10 seasons, the 49ers went 14-2 in the regular season to earn the top seed in the NFC. San Francisco won three lopsided victories in the playoffs to earn the fourth Lombardi Trophy of the franchise’s rich history, claiming a 55-10 win vs. Denver in Super Bowl XXIV.

The 49ers entered the NFC Championship on the heels of a 41-13 thrashing of Minnesota and kept the momentum going against Los Angeles. Montana was nearly perfect, going 26 of 30 for two touchdowns, while Roger Craig added another rushing score and Mike Cofer converted three field goals as the 49ers scored 30 unanswered points to close out the game.

The San Francisco defense was nearly impenetrable against the Rams, who managed just 26 rush yards on 10 carries. The 49ers duo of Craig and Rathman, meanwhile, combined for 157 yards and a touchdown.

1994 – 38-28 vs. Dallas Cowboys

The Steve Young-led 49ers entered the 1994 NFC Championship game with revenge on the mind. The Cowboys were the two-time defending Super Bowl champs, knocking out San Francisco in the NFC Title game along the way following the 1992-93 seasons.

But current 49ers radio commentator Eric Davis set the tone early in the game, when he intercepted a Troy Aikman pass and ran it back to the end zone for a 44-yard score.

San Francisco would go on to build a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and led by at least 10 points for the rest of the contest. The 49ers eventually picked off Aikman three times, while Young accounted for three touchdowns in the franchise’s first championship run without Walsh or Montana.

Young was named Super Bowl XXIX MVP two weeks later, when he threw for a record six touchdowns in a 49-26 win against the Chargers, giving the 49ers an unprecedented five Super Bowl title.

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