"75 for 75" is an article series from the 49ers Museum highlighting legendary moments in 49ers history as part of the team's 75th Anniversary celebrations in 2021.
January 20, 1985
Future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks Joe Montana and Dan Marino squared off at Stanford Stadium in Super Bowl XIX and the 49ers signal caller walked away with the Most Valuable Player trophy.
This was Montana's game from the start. He threw for 331 yards, ran for 59 yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the 49ers 38-16 win over the Miami Dolphins. Two of his scoring passes went to Roger Craig and a third to Carl Monroe. Montana also found the end zone on a six-yard run.
The 49ers scoring barrage began in the first quarter with Montana leading a 78-yard, eight-play drive. He capped it by gracefully floating a pass to Monroe, who seized it in-stride at the 15 yard line and sprinted to the end zone to complete the 33-yard play. In the second quarter, Montana found Craig on scoring passes of eight and 16 yards.
"All week, all we heard was 'Miami, Miami, Miami'," Montana told the press. "That motivated us. We felt we had more tools than Miami—passing, running, a great defense—and we wanted to prove it."
Indeed, Montana's offense displayed a stunning ability to move the ball as they stormed out to a 28-16 halftime advantage. The 49ers finished the game with 537 total yards, a Super Bowl record at the time, using a balanced attack that featured 336 yards passing and 211 yards rushing. Yet, it was the 49ers defense that took control of the game.
After Marino completed nine of his first ten passes and the Dolphins took a 10-7 first quarter lead, 49ers defensive coordinator George Seifert made some adjustments. He went to a 4-2-5 "elephant" defense, and inserted rookie safety Jeff Fuller at linebacker alongside Keena Turner. The move gave the 49ers two mobile linebackers and helped shut down Marino's feared passing attack which set records during the regular season with 5,084 passing yards and 48 touchdown passes.
"It all started from up front, with the line," Turner said. "Once they got pressure on Marino, he couldn't wait as long to throw, and we could do a better job of coverage."
Defensive pressure rattled Marino throughout the game. During the regular season, he suffered just 13 sacks. During Super Bowl XIX, he was brought down twice by defensive tackle Dwaine Board, while defensive end Gary "Big Hands" Johnson and nose tackle Manu Tuiasosopo each recorded one sack.
"You could see him getting rattled out there," said Johnson. "Marino would throw away passes or he would talk more than usual to his linemen. We could see we were getting to him."
The 49ers also shut down Miami's running attack allowing just 25 yards on the ground and forcing Marino to throw 50 times. Two of his passes were picked off with defensive backs Eric Wright and Carlton Williamson each posting an interception.
Montana completed 24 of his 35 throws for 331 yards and no interceptions. Wendell Tyler led all running backs with 65 yards on 13 carries, while catching four passes for 70 yards. Craig gained 58 yards on the ground and recorded seven receptions for another 77 yards. Tight end Russ Francis nabbed five passes.
"Joe will never say it, but it's understandable that with all the talk about Marino he would like to do well," said Dwight Clark, who picked up 77 yards on six catches. "The talk pushed him. I know I am prejudiced, but he is the best quarterback around today, no question."
The Super Bowl victory capped a magical season for the 49ers, who won an NFL record 18 games (15 regular season and three playoffs) and played all their postseason matches in The Bay.