Niners strike gold
Young stuns Packers with amazing TD pass in final seconds
Posted: Monday January 04, 1999 01:09 AM
It left him in tears.
Owens, who had four drops and a fumble earlier, leaped in a crowd to catch Young's 25-yard touchdown pass with three seconds remaining, giving the San Francisco 49ers a 30-27 NFC wild-card victory over the Green Bay Packers.
"I just looked at the clock and it was ticking, ticking, ticking," Owens said. "I wanted to beat Green Bay so bad. Any time there's a chance for me to get the ball over the middle, I'm tough enough to take it.
"I was just happy that I caught the ball. I had a rough day. I let the team down in the beginning, but they all encouraged me to keep my head up."
The victory ended San Francisco's run of five straight losses to the Packers, including the last three playoffs, and to their head coach, former San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren.
"It was the worst thing that could happen, but as athletes and coaches we have to learn to live with this," said Holmgren, who may have coached his last game for the Packers; he may leave to take a coach-GM job elsewhere.
"I don't know how they scored," Holmgren added. "I guess I'll look at the film some day. The ball goes down the middle and you don't think that ball is going to be caught, ever."
Owens, in a reception rivaling Dwight Clark's fabled catch to beat Dallas for the 1981 NFC championship, snagged the ball amid three defenders. They immediately leveled him, but it was too late.
"It's a great thing, an emotional thing," Young said. "That play will be attached to 49ers' lore for a long time. I'll always remember it."
So will a lot of others, including Owens, who was in tears as he hugged Mariucci on the sideline after the touchdown.
"He was frustrated because he dropped a couple passes," said Mariucci, who beat his former team for the first time in three games. "I told him to keep playing and have a short memory. When he caught that TD, he became a little emotional."
"I felt we had them," Favre said. "But Young, he's a great player, I didn't think they'd go down easy.
"Anybody who watched that game has to think it's the greatest game they've ever seen. The great players make big plays in big games. They made some and we made some."
The 49ers (13-4) travel to Atlanta next Saturday. The Falcons displaced the 49ers as NFC West champions.
The loss could mark the end of an era for the Packers (11-6), denied in their bid to be the first NFC team to reach three straight Super Bowls.
"I guess stunned would be a good word," Freeman said. "I'm not sure if guys are feeling anything right now. I'm still numb."
Retiring defensive end Reggie White, the league's top career sacker, also played in his final game. He and his teammates were upset about a non-call on an apparent fumble by Jerry Rice on the winning drive.
"Absolutely," Packers safety LeRoy Butler said of whether it was a blown call. "But he's Jerry Rice and I can't comment on the referees, or I will get fined."
Then Owens came through.
"We've been waiting to be in a game with them," Young said. "We've always been out of it early against them. We wanted to get the football with just a chance to score and win the game. That's all we asked for."
Young, beating the Packers for the first time in nine tries, completed 18 of 32 passes for 169 yards, 76 on the final drive. He also had touchdown passes of 1 and 8 yards to tight end Greg Clark, who had just one scoring catch during the season. Young, harried all game and often appeared out of sync, threw two interceptions.
Favre was 20-for-35 for 282 yards and had touchdowns of 2 and 15 yards to Freeman, but also threw two interceptions, his first postseason turnovers against the 49ers.
Garrison Hearst, giving San Francisco a viable running game for the first time in its four playoff meetings with the Packers, gained 128 yards. Dorsey Levens rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown for Green Bay, but also had a costly fumble.
Green Bay also got field goals of 23 and 37 yards from Ryan Longwell and San Francisco got field goals of 34, 48 and 40 yards from Wade Richey.
Extra PointsCharles Haley, brought out of a two-year retirement Saturday and pressed into service by San Francisco, pressured Favre into his first interception. ... It was the Packers' first opening playoff loss in six games under Holmgren. ... Favre has thrown a touchdown pass in 10 straight postseason games, tying him with Joe Montana and Ken Stabler for the second-longest streak. ... Mariucci has gone 18-1 at home, including playoffs over the past two years. His only loss was to Green Bay in last January's NFC championship game.
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