"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 3, 1999
Third-year 49ers receiver Terrell Owens was having a forgettable day.
Three Steve Young passes had slipped through his hands during the 1998 Wild Card Game with Green Bay, including one that led to a Packers fumble recovery. With 1:56 remaining, quarterback Brett Favre connected on a 15-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Antonio Freeman to give the Packers a 27-23 lead. As time ticked away, Owens yearned for a chance at redemption.
"I looked at the clock, and it was ticking," Owens said. "I wanted to beat Green Bay so bad."
The classic quarterback battle between Young and Favre had already featured seven lead changes. Tight end Greg Clark provided the 49ers two touchdowns on scoring passes from Young, while Wade Richey booted three field goals.
When the 49ers took over at their own 24 yard line after the kickoff, Young went to work. Scorning the run, he completed six of eight passes in moving the 49ers to the 25 yard line. Facing a third-and-three with eight seconds on the clock and no timeouts, the 49ers season rested on one last play.
The roar from the 66,506 fans at Candlestick Park was deafening as coach Steve Mariucci dialed up a passing route called "Three Jets All Go." Wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Chuck Levy lined up on the left. Wide receiver J.J. Stokes split to the right with Owens in the right slot.
Owens ran a go route, faked to the outside then cut back toward the goal post. Young dropped back, stumbled and almost fell to the turf, then fired a spiral between three flailing Packers. Owens hauled in the dart, took a crunching hit and rolled into the end zone.
"Anytime there's a chance for me to get the ball over the middle, I'm tough enough to take it," Owens said. "I was just happy that I caught the ball. I had a rough day."
Owens held onto the football when it mattered most and refused to let go. He jogged to the 49ers sideline clutching the ball, hugged Mariucci and sobbed tears of joy.
Young later claimed his stumble on the drop back allowed him to move out of sight of the Packers defense for a split second and give him time to spot Owens down the middle.
"That touchdown pass put him right up there with Marino, Montana, Elway, all the greats,'' Rice said of Young. "I'm happy for him to get this weight off his shoulder. He's a great leader and a great quarterback and he showed that today."
Owens had the redemption he sought. The 49ers pulled out an improbable 30-27 Wild Card win to stay alive in the playoff race.