Best moments in San Francisco 49ers history

Bill Walsh (C) is introduced by <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/sfo/" data-ylk="slk:San Francisco 49ers">San Francisco 49ers</a> president Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. as the 49ers news head coach on Jan. 9, 1979. (AP)
Bill Walsh (C) is introduced by San Francisco 49ers president Edward J. DeBartolo Jr. as the 49ers news head coach on Jan. 9, 1979. (AP)

What are the best moments for each NFL franchise? Yahoo Sports provides our opinion, which you are free to disagree with (and we’re sure you will).

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5. The Catch II

Terrell Owens’ day began with a series of drops and a fumble that set up a Green Bay Packers score. It ended with redemption in the form of the second-most memorable catch in San Francisco 49ers history. With San Francisco trailing playoff nemesis Green Bay by four in an NFC wild card game on Jan. 3, 1999, Steve Young led a last-gasp drive that reached the Packers’ 25-yard line in time for the 49ers to try one throw to the end zone. Young stumbled dropping back to pass but recovered in time to zip a touchdown pass into heavy traffic to Owens, who took a huge hit but held on and then burst into tears on his coach’s shoulder celebrating the moment. The 49ers would go on to lose 20-18 to the Atlanta Falcons in the next round, but The Catch II still ranks as one of the franchise’s greatest plays.

4. ‘Joe Cool’ to the rescue

Three-point deficit. Fourth quarter of Super Bowl XXIII. 3:20 to go. At a time when anyone else in his position would have been anxious, Joe Montana remained impossibly calm. “There, in the stands, standing near the exit ramp,” Montana famously said to tackle Harris Barton in the 49ers huddle. “Isn’t that John Candy?” Then, he led San Francisco 92 yards, throwing to John Taylor for the game-winning touchdown in a 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. The 1988 Super Bowl was the third of Montana’s four Super Bowls and one of his 31 fourth-quarter NFL comebacks. It was also the game that cemented him as “Joe Cool.”

3. The Victory Lap

There were only two credible title threats in the NFL during the early 1990s. Dallas and San Francisco staged a star-laden arms race the likes of which the NFL had never seen before. The apex of that rivalry was the 1994 NFC title game pitting the Cowboys against a 49ers team they beat for the conference championship both of the previous two seasons. This time the 49ers earned the redemption they craved, storming to a three-score first-quarter lead and hanging on for a 38-28 victory. For quarterback Steve Young, the win was so emotional that he celebrated with a victory lap around Candlestick Park. It sent the 49ers to their first Super Bowl without Joe Montana, where Young earned MVP honors in a rout of the San Diego Chargers.

2. Hiring Bill Walsh in 1979

From their inception in 1946 to 1978 – a span of 33 seasons – the 49ers made the postseason five times and won zero championships. That included back-to-back 2-14 seasons in 1978 and ’79. Following the ’79 season, the 49ers hired Bill Walsh. Two years later, they were Super Bowl champs. From 1981 to 1989, they made the playoffs eight times and won three Super Bowls. Walsh had left Cincinnati a few years earlier because, as the story goes, Paul Brown refused to name him head coach of the Bengals. Brown’s refusal ultimately changed the course of NFL history, as Walsh’s success with the West Coast offense has led virtually every other team in the league to install some version of Walsh’s brainchild.

1. The Catch

With under a minute left in the 1981 NFC championship game and upstart San Francisco trailing mighty Dallas by six points, a young Joe Montana delivered the most iconic pass of his storied career. Montana rolled right, back-pedaled away from three Cowboys defenders and lofted a pinpoint touchdown pass to a leaping Dwight Clark in the back of the end zone. The third-down pass didn’t just propel the 49ers to their first championship. It also launched a 14-year dynasty during which San Francisco won its division 11 times and captured five Super Bowl titles.

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