"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 22, 1989
After kicker Jim Breech booted a 40-yard field goal to give the Bengals a 16-13 lead with just over three minutes to play at Super Bowl XXIII, Cincinnati receiver Cris Collinsworth paced nervously on the sideline. He tried to ignore the celebratory hugs and high-fives of his teammates. He had seen Joe Montana work his wizardry in the clutch. Collinsworth was afraid he might see it again.
"Are you guys nuts?" Collinsworth recalled saying peevishly. "I knew there was too much time left on the clock for Joe Montana."
During a timeout break, the 49ers assembled under their own goal post 92 yards from paydirt. Montana maintained his unflinchingly calm demeanor as several over-amped members of the 49ers offense looked to their leader for guidance and composure.
Montana then motioned toward the stands and pointed out popular actor and comedian John Candy who was munching on a handful of popcorn.
"That loosened things up for us," said right tackle Harris Barton.
Seconds later, Montana began the breathtaking march that resulted in wide receiver John Taylor's only reception in Super Bowl XXIII. He connected on five passes for 52 yards moving San Francisco to the Bengals 35 yard line. On first down from there, with 1:36 to play, the roaring crowd made it difficult to call signals and Montana fired a pass out of bounds to collect himself. It was his only incomplete pass on the final drive.
Two more completions, one each to Jerry Rice and Roger Craig, moved the 49ers to the 10 yard line with 34 seconds to go. Taylor recalled what happened next.
"It was a play where Roger Craig was supposed to come in motion to the left but Roger went right," Taylor said. "Roger, Jerry and myself were the three options. We figured they (Bengals defense) would jump Roger and Jerry. I'm just going to go behind them, but then I broke back across like a skinny post and the pass was right there."
Taylor and Montana made it look easy. With 34 seconds remaining, Montana found Taylor on a crossing route and fired a 10-yard scoring strike. It capped one of the most dramatic championship game finishes in NFL annals, lifting the 49ers to a 20-16 victory and their third Super Bowl championship.
John Taylor will be inducted into the Edward J. DeBartolo Sr. 49ers Hall of Fame in 2021.