Finding his rhythm, Young hooked up with tight end Brent Jones for a 20-yard gain, but poor Jones had his ribs crushed on the tackle and had to come out. No problem. On the next play Young found Jones's sub, Jamie (Spiderman) Williams. Spidey caught two in a row, in fact, and was all set to keep going when a grimacing Jones returned to the huddle, personally reinserting himself into the game. "He John Wayned it there," Young said later.
Truer grit you'll rarely see; Jones's ribs hurt so much he couldn't even take a full breath. Didn't matter; tight end was the specialty of the drive. Two plays later, on a play called Texas, Young hit Jones cutting across the middle with a perfect pass for a 14-yard touchdown. Jones gave the ball a very emphatic spike. Big mistake. "That hurt," Jones would recall later with a wince. Now the score was 20-14, and 10:16 still remained.
Naturally the Saints did the smart thing. They threw three more passes. Two of them fell incomplete, and New Orleans punted. All that took only 1:20.
The Niners nudged the ball only 11 yards on their next possession, but the Saints could nudge it back just 19, and then it was truth time for Young. Four minutes left. Seventy-four yards to go for redemption. He'd lost the big Buffalo game. This was bigger. The fourth-largest football crowd in Candlestick Park history was roaring for satisfaction. As Young would explain later, "It was like [former 49er center] Randy Cross said one time: 'They put the wine coolers away and brought out the good stuff.' " No, this was the hard stuff. Lose this one and the footsteps would be hurting Young's ears.
As long as it was going to be tough, why not make it real tough? Calling the plays himself, running mostly without a huddle, trying to drive an exhausted team and hardly able to hear himself worry, Young faced three third-and-desperate situations. Twice, quick passes to Jerry Rice bailed him out. The third time, Young did a crazy thing. He called his own number.
"The whole huddle," Young said, "just kind of went, Jeez, here we go again. The quarterback's gonna run the ball. Watch out." But run it he did, making haste for the corner and getting the first down with yardage to spare. Sorry, but no way Montana makes that play.
After two carries by tailback Ricky Watters picked up 14 yards and gave San Francisco first-and-goal at the eight, Young went to the only place one could expect to find John Wayne—Texas. Jones, running the same pattern he had scored on earlier, simply cut sooner and was as open as Abilene in the end zone. Young found him.
Jubilation reigned. Jones made another painful spike. A nervous Cofer kicked the extra point. Young had brought the Niners back, to a one-point lead.
But the Saints were not out of it. After the kickoff they needed to go about 40 yards in about 40 seconds to get within Morten Andersen's generous kicking range. Not unthinkable. John Elway gets it done and still has time to go get sandwiches. Naturally the New Orleans coaches stopped coaching dumb at this point. They coached dumber.