- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Wideout Jerry Rice can't shake the nightmare of the second loss, which came three weeks after the first. "That Hail Mary—it's constantly on my mind," he says, referring to the last-second touchdown play that gave the Falcons a 17-14 win in Atlanta. "If we'd won that game, there's no telling what type of position we'd be in now."
Imagine, Glanville—probably the league's No. 1 connoisseur of violence, high-risk offense and defense, and general mischief—gets the goat of the cerebral Niners, not once but twice in the same season. "The 49ers call us the Boom Box," says Glanville, "because they can hear us over there [in the other locker room]. We play songs and dance before we come out. They're over there sitting, staring into their lockers. They said, 'How could the Boom Box beat us twice?" Well, isn't that special?"
What causes San Francisco players like tight end Jamie Williams to shudder a bit isn't so much the way the Falcons play as much as the way they think. "They play hard, but it's as if Glanville is giving them some type of spiritual sense," says Williams. "He's like an evangelist, and they're like his followers." And, should the Falcons fail to win the division, Williams adds, "I hope Glanville doesn't put cyanide in their Gatorade and tell them all to drink it, because some of those guys just might do it."
Indirectly, Glanville, through the play of his notoriously violent defense, gave rise to the spiritual leader of San Francisco's stretch drive—Bono. In the teams' second meeting, Young suffered a torn knee ligament when he was tackled by two Falcons on a scramble. Enter Bono, a seventh-year pro who had become resigned to life on the San Francisco sideline. He threw what Rice still calls "the winner." a 30-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 53 seconds to go. But then the 49ers gave up the Hail Mary, with the Falcons' backup quarterback, Billy Joe Tolliver, throwing the bomb to Michael Haynes, who caught the ball with amazing case—none of the three San Francisco defenders around him even tipped it.
Stunned as they were when they left Atlanta, the Niners nonetheless had gotten a shot of confidence from their third-string quarterback. The next week, recalls Rice, "We watched the game him and said, 'Wow! Look at this guy stand in the pocket, read the defense, take the shot, deliver the football.' "
In Bono, the 49ers found someone they could count on, like Montana, rather than someone who forced them to guess what he might do next, like the scrambling Young. Bono would hang in the pocket, looking at a second, third or even fourth receiver and giving his primary pass catchers, Rice and Taylor, time to ad-lib. Linemen liked knowing where Bono was. Receivers liked that Bono knew where they were. Why, this guy was like...like Joe!—a compliment that is worn like a medal of honor by any quarterback. "It's almost as if he's been a starter his entire career," says Rice. Actually, before Bono took over for Young, his only other pro starts had come in three games as a replacement player for the Pittsburgh Steelers during the players' strike in 1987.
The Minnesota Vikings drafted Bono out of UCLA in the sixth round in 1985, but they released him in '86. After his fleeting glory during the strike, Pittsburgh let him go after the '88 season. The 49ers brought him into camp as a free agent the next season, and he won the job that until this season was one of the least taxing in the NFL—the one behind Montana, the league's best quarterback, and Young, the league's best backup. Bono played in one game, completing four of five passes, in the '89 and '90 seasons combined.
His baptism by fire was a 10-3 loss to the Saints at the Superdome on Nov. 10, back when the New Orleans defense was still a tidal wave, but he hasn't been beaten as a starter since. On the way to his third and fourth straight wins, he delivered dramatic, game-winning touchdown passes, first in the rematch against the Saints on Dec. 1 (47 yards to Rice with 1:36 left) and then against the Seahawks (15 yards to Taylor with 1:08 remaining). "He may not look exactly like Joe Montana or move exactly like Joe Montana," says tackle Steve Wallace, "but he gets the job done exactly like Joe Montana."
While astride the meteor, Bono maintained one thought: "This could all end at any time." And it did last Saturday.
After a glorious start against the Chiefs—he had fired three TD passes to put San Francisco ahead 21-0—Bono had to leave the game with a sprained left knee in the third quarter. On the play before Bono's third scoring throw, Kansas City outside linebackers Derrick Thomas and Chris Martin shoved 49er tackle Harris Barton, who landed on Bono's left foot and fell back against his knee. Although still not fully recovered from his own knee injury, Young came in and worked off the rust as San Francisco went on to win 28-14.