75 for 75: Team of the 80s

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"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.

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January 28, 1990

Super Bowl XXIV was billed as a showdown in New Orleans between hot shot quarterbacks Joe Montana and John Elway, but it was Montana who stole the spotlight.

Denver was appearing in its third Super Bowl in four years after the 1989 season, but the 49ers quickly got the upper hand. On San Francisco's first possession of the game, Montana methodically guided the club 66 yards in ten plays and capped the drive with a 20-yard scoring strike to receiver Jerry Rice. The 49ers never looked back. Montana added touchdown passes to tight end Brent Jones and Rice again as San Francisco cruised to a 27-3 halftime lead.

The intermission failed to slow down the 49ers. Pete Fountain was still packing up after his halftime jazz show when Montana was at it again. He fired touchdown darts to John Taylor and Rice in the opening five minutes of the third quarter and suddenly San Francisco held an insurmountable 41-3 cushion.

"In the fourth quarter we might have taken our foot off the gas a little," center Jesse Sapolu recalled. "Montana threw five touchdown passes in the first three quarters. He could have thrown for two or three more."

Montana finished his virtuoso Super Bowl performance by completing 22 of 29 tosses for 297 yards and five touchdowns. To the surprise of no one, he earned his third Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award. Rice hauled in three scoring passes among his seven receptions and 148 receiving yards. Fullback Tom Rathman rambled for 38 yards and two touchdowns while catching four passes for 48 yards. It goes without saying that Montana's masterpiece won the admiration of his teammates.

"You judge the greatest players by how they perform in the biggest games," Sapolu said. "Joe Montana put up incredible numbers in four Super Bowl wins. He went head-to-head in the Super Bowl against two Hall of Fame quarterbacks (Elway and Dan Marino) and the 49ers came out on top both times. That shows you the greatness of Joe Montana."

San Francisco's defense also played an important part in the victory, allowing the Broncos just 167 yards of offense and forcing four turnovers. Elway was hounded throughout the game, completing just 10 passes for 108 yards with two interceptions. Defensive end Danny Stubbs posted two sacks, while defensive linemen Kevin Fagan, Pete Kugler, Don Griffin and Larry Roberts each recorded one quarterback takedown. Defensive back Chet Brooks and linebacker Mike Walter each picked off a pass.

The 49ers established Super Bowl records against Denver for points scored and margin of victory in the 55-10 blowout. It was a sweet victory for rookie head coach George Seifert. The San Francisco native brought his hometown team its fourth Super Bowl victory in nine years, and he did it despite a few sleepless nights prior to gameday. The highly superstitious skipper arrived in New Orleans without his lucky blue sweater and anxiously sweated through a week of practice before an express mail package arrived with the charmed pullover prior to game time.

Super Bowl XXIV victory cemented the 49ers legacy as the "Team of the 1980s," and one of the greatest dynasties in NFL history.

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