January 22, 1989 – San Francisco 49ers 20 vs. Cincinnati Bengals 16 – Super Bowl XXIII**
Location: Joe Robbie Stadium; Miami Gardens, Fla.
Favorites: 49ers -6.0
MVP: Jerry Rice
The 49ers 10-6 record in 1988 was less dominant than their previous Super Bowl runs. However, blowout wins in the postseason against the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears showed that San Francisco was still the class of the NFC.
The 28-3 win at Soldier Field to beat the Bears in the NFC Championship game set up a Super Bowl XVI rematch against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Cincinnati was now led by All-Pro quarterback Boomer Esiason, who threw for 3,572 yards and 28 touchdowns that season.
Super Bowl XXIII began unassumingly. Neither side found the end zone in the first half, and four field goals had the game tied at 6 points a piece in the third quarter. It turned out to be the Bengals special teams who provided the game's first touchdown. Stanford Jennings ran back a kickoff for a 93-yard touchdown moments after 49ers kicker Mike Cofer tied the game with a field goal.
San Francisco responded swiftly. The 49ers needed only four plays to travel 85 yards to tie the game at 13. The scoring drive was capped by Jerry Rice's 14-yard touchdown catch from Joe Montana at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
The teams traded defensive stops before the Bengals retook the lead on Jim Breech's third field goal of the game.
View the best photos and moments from the San Francisco 49ers third Super Bowl victory.
Trailing 16-13, San Francisco got the ball back at its own 8-yard line with 3:20 remaining. While "The Stop" took center stage in Super Bowl XVI against the Bengals, Montana led what became known in franchise history as "The Drive" in Super Bowl XXIII.
Modest completions of eight yards to Roger Craig, seven yards to tight end John Frank and seven yards to Rice began San Francisco's march down the field at Joe Robbie Stadium. Rice and Craig would catch two more passes each as the 49ers reached the Bengals 10-yard line with 0:34 left on the clock.
On 2nd-and-2 from Cincinnati's 10, Montana found wide receiver John Taylor in the left side of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The score sealed a 20-16 win as San Francisco became the first NFC team to win three Super Bowls.
With 11 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown, Rice also became the 49ers first Super Bowl MVP not named Joe Montana.
The win marked Bill Walsh's third Super Bowl victory and would prove to be his final game as San Francisco's head coach. Walsh's legendary career would later be honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio and within the 49ers organization.
Walsh on his memories before kickoff of Super Bowl XXIII:
"I walked out on the field prior to the game by myself and got a little emotional thinking, 'This could be it. This could be my last game.' I do take some pride that I didn't talk to the team about possibly retiring. I didn't want to tug on their sentiments, 'Win one for the Gipper' or something. The players win the game for each other, not for a coach or an owner."
Walsh on "The Drive":
"That was Joe Montana at his best."
Walsh on overcoming adversity in the regular season to win another Super Bowl.
"1988 established the 49ers as a dynasty, and it came the hard way. We salvaged a struggling season to make it a championship season. Super Bowl XXIII means an awful lot to me."
Craig on Walsh's retirement:
"Bill, he shocked me, man. When he retired, that killed me inside. A part of me died. I was hurt by it. I was going to miss a great coach but a friend as well. We got to be really good friends, almost like father and son."