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NFL Playoff Recap (Green Bay-San Francisco)

Posted: Sun January 3, 1999 at 11:43 p.m. EST


SAN FRANCISCO (Ticker) -- Sweet revenge!

Steve Young rifled a 25-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Owens between two defenders with three seconds left to lift the San Francisco 49ers to a 30-27 victory over the Green Bay Packers in perhaps the most exciting NFC wild card game ever played.

The win was especially sweet for Young, Owens and the 49ers, who were knocked out of the playoffs each of the last three years by the Packers by a combined score of 85-41.

"We went down the middle and T.O. (Owens) made the play to win the game," said Niners coach Steve Mariucci. "It is one of the big catches in the history of the organization. In some ways we got a monkey off our back. The way it happened makes it all that much more exciting."

It appeared the Niners were on their way to yet another bitter loss to Green Bay when Brett Favre hit Antonio Freeman with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 1:56 left, capping an 89-yard drive and giving the Packers a 27-23 lead.

But Young marched the Niners 76 yards in nine plays, completing 7-of-9 passes to five different receivers. With the game on the line, he threaded the winning pass to Owens between safeties Pat Terrell and Darren Sharper.

"It was a good throw," Young said, in quite an understatement. "In that situation, it had to be right in the spot. Fortunately, it was."

"It was the perfect throw and Owens held onto it after he got hit by two defenders," said Packers coach Mike Holmgren. "Give them all the credit."

It was sweet redemption for Owens, who had four drops and a fumble in the game before finishing with three catches for 73 yards. His TD catch gave Young his first win in nine career games against the Packers.

"I knew I let the team down early, but the guys stuck behind me," said an emotional Owens, who left the field holding the ball and with tears streaming from his face. "Steve made the perfect throw and the middle was open."

The final drive featured yet another controversial play which may have been reversed if instant replay was in place. Jerry Rice had been held without a reception until he caught a six-yard pass from Young, but appeared to fumble the ball as he was being tackled. The referee signaled that Rice was down, but replays showed the ball trickled out of Rice's hands before he hit the ground.

"They told me from upstairs that it was a fumble," said Holmgren, who is a proponent of replay but voted against possibly implementing it for the playoffs this year. "I wish they would have called that. Then the game would have been over."

"If that was a fumble on the last drive, I'd hate to think we lost a game on a play like that," said Favre. "That would be sad. But nothing against the referees. They try like we do. But that (replay) would level the playing field."

It turned out to be a record-tying catch for Rice, giving him a reception in 22 straight postseason games, equaling a record set by Drew Pearson of the Dallas Cowboys.

The 49ers (13-4) visit the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional playoffs on Saturday. The teams split a pair of games during the season, with each winning at home.

Holmgren, a 49ers assistant for six years, was 5-0 against his former team until today. Afterwards, he praised Mariucci, one of his former assistants with the Packers.

"I look at Steve as one of my guys," said Holmgren. "He's done a marvelous job here."

Ironically, there have been rumors swirling in the Bay area that Mariucci may not be retained as Niners coach and that the team would pursue Holmgren, who would leave the Packers for the opportunity to become the coach-general manager with another organization. Holmgren dismissed those reports as "ridiculous" this week.

Mariucci was the surprise choice as 49ers coach in 1997 to help San Francisco end its frustration against the Packers. He served as quarterbacks coach under Holmgren from 1992-95. But last year, the 49ers fell to the Packers, 23-10, in the NFC championship. It is Mariucci's only loss in 19 home games.

This time, Young's throw to Owens and the running of Garrison Hearst enabled the Niners to finally end the Green Bay jinx. Held to 12 yards on eight carries in last year's NFC title game loss to Green Bay, Hearst produced 128 yards on 28 carries.

Young completed 18-of-32 passes for 182 yards and three TDs, including a pair to tight end Greg Clark. He also threw a pair of interceptions.

"That last drive, I didn't want to be impatient," said Young. "I knew I had plenty of time."

The Niners started the winning drive on their own 24 with 1:50 left and all three timeouts remaining.

Young immediately hit J.J. Stokes with two passes for 26 yards to move the 49ers to midfield. After a three-yard pass to fullback Marc Edwards, the Niners called their first timeout with 52 seconds left.

Following an incompletion to Stokes, Rice made his first catch of the game and then lost the ball, but was ruled down by the officials. With 27 seconds left, the Niners called another timeout.

Facing a 3rd-and-4 at the Green Bay 41, Young hit running back Terry Kirby with a nine-yard pass. Hearst then caught a seven-yarder from Young before the Niners called their final timeout with 14 seconds left.

Young looked down the right sideline for Stokes, but the pass was nearly intercepted by cornerback Craig Newsome with eight seconds remaining. On the next play, Young fired the winning TD to Owens.

Favre suffered his first loss against the Niners in six games. He was 20-of-35 for 292 yards, two TDs and two interceptions. Freeman caught both scoring passes and finished with four receptions for 75 yards.

"I tip my hat, it was a great play at the end by Steve and Terrell Owens," said Favre. "I thought we had them. It was a tough loss."

Dorsey Levens rushed for 116 yards on 27 carries, including a two-yard TD late in the second quarter that gave Green Bay a 17-10 halftime lead.

The Packers were trying to become the first NFC team to reach three straight Super Bowls. The only AFC teams to accomplish the feat were the Buffalo Bills, who went to four straight from 1991-94 and the Miami Dolphins from 1972-74.

"I thought we had a chance to make a run (at the Super Bowl)," said Favre. "We were just starting to get healthy."

Green Bay defensive end Reggie White, the NFL's all-time leader with 192 1/2 career sacks, played the final game of his legendary 14-year career.

"The Lord has blessed my career," said White. "It's time to give my family a lot more of me. I was honored to play with this team."

The 37-year-old White holds the record with 13 consecutive Pro Bowl selections and was named to the NFL's 75th anniversary team.

After Wade Richey kicked a 40-yard field goal to give San Francisco a 23-20 lead with 6:12 left, Favre threw what appeared to be a costly interception when cornerback Darnell Walker picked off a pass intended for tight end Tyrone Davis at the Green Bay 43 with 6:12 left.

The Niners took over, but Owens dropped what would have been a first down catch on a 3rd-and-9 play. San Francisco was forced to punt and the Packers took over at their own 11 with 4:19 remaining.

With the San Francisco defense keying on Freeman, Favre surprised the Niners with a 47-yard bomb down the left side to rookie Corey Bradford to the San Francisco 31. On the next play, Favre again hooked up with Bradford on a six-yard pass.

Two plays later, Levens went off right tackle for 10 yards to the San Francisco 15 at the two-minute warning. On the next play, Favre lofted a pass in the end zone for Freeman, who raced by Walker.

The 49ers committed a turnover on their first possession when Sharper forced a fumble by Owens after a catch and Terrell recovered at the Green Bay 47. The Packers cashed in with a 23-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell 5:34 into the game.

The San Francisco defense then created a turnover which set up its first touchdown. Levens fumbled after he was hit by safety Merton Hanks and defensive end Chris Doleman recovered at the Green Bay 19.

Three plays later, Young hit Clark with a one-yard TD to give the Niners a 7-3 lead with 4:10 left in the first quarter.

The Packers responded with a nine-play, 62-yard scoring drive, capped by Favre's two-yard TD pass to Freeman four seconds into the second quarter. Levens keyed the drive with 48 yards on five carries and caught two passes for 12 yards.

Richey kicked a 34-yard field goal midway through the quarter to tie the game at 10-10. After a 19-yard punt return by R.W. McQuarters, Hearst rushed three times for 28 yards to set up the field goal.

With the help of two unnecessary roughness penalties against Doleman and Roy Barker worth 30 yards, the Packers drove 83 yards in seven plays to the go-ahead TD late in the second quarter.

The Niners outscored Green Bay, 10-0, in the third quarter to take a 20-17 lead.

Linebacker Lee Woodall returned an interception 17 yards to the Green Bay 33 after pressure from defensive end Charles Haley forced Favre to rush the throw. Haley, who retired two years ago due to back problems, signed with the Niners on Saturday.

Five plays later, Young hit Clark with an eight-yard scoring pass to tie the game at 17-17 with 9:02 left in the third quarter.

The Niners broke the tie when Richey kicked a 48-yard field goal with 2:12 left in the quarter. The key plays in the drive were a 24-yard run by Hearst and a 17-yard pass interference penalty on Packers cornerback Tyrone Williams.

Longwell's 37-yard field goal 3:09 into the fourth quarter capped an 11-play, 60-yard drive and tied the game at 20-20. The drive was highlighted by a 33-yard pass from Favre to Henderson.

© 2000 Sportsticker Enterprises, LP

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