49ers 30, Rams 3
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Joe Montana added a near-perfect Sunday to his near-perfect season.
With near-perfect defensive help, the man Coach George Seifert calls ″the trigger″ put the San Francisco 49ers one game away from joining the Pittsburgh Steelers as the dominant team of the Super Bowl era.
Montana and the 49ers rolled over the Los Angeles Rams 30-3 for their second straight NFC championship.
″We were overwhelmed,″ acknowledged Rams coach John Robinson, who split two close games with the 49ers in the regular season. ″Their defense was ferocious and their offense is the most dominant, ball-control team I have ever seen.″
Now, come Jan. 28 against the AFC champion Denver Broncos in New Orleans, the 49ers will try to become the first team since the Steelers in 1979 and 1980 to win two straight NFL titles and the only other team to win four Super Bowls. Before they were even out of the showers, they had been installed as 10-point favorites.
″There was extra pressure to come back and repeat,″ Montana said. ″Then we had some injuries, and to battle through that and to get to this position says something about the heart of this ball club.″
Montana got his slice of playoff history a game early Sunday.
After an MVP season in which he set a record for quarterback efficiency rating, Montana completed 26 of 30 passes for 262 yards, 156 of them in a 21-0 second quarter that blew away the division rivals who had split with San Francisco during the season.
Two of those scores came on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Brent Jones and an 18-yarder to John Taylor with 9 seconds left in the half that was the crusher - it gave the Niners a 21-3 halftime lead.
They were his 30 and 31st post-season TD passes, breaking a record set by Terry Bradshaw of those four Steelers teams.
″Joe just keep getting better and better,″ said Seifert, a San Francisco native who in his first year as Bill Walsh’s successor led the team to a 14-2 record. ″His skills and leadership improve every week. He’s the trigger man.″
″The receivers were able to find the holes and I was able to get it in there,″ said a typically modest Montana.
Roger Craig, who rushed for 93 yards, ran 1 yard for a touchdown and Mike Cofer added three second-half field goals. The defense, meanwhile, had three interceptions against Jim Everett and the LA passing attack that had bedeviled the 49ers in the past. Everett, the NFL’s third-ranked passer in the regular- season, completed 16 of 41 for 141 yards and was under pressure all day.
″I like to win this way,″ said safety Ronnie Lott, who had one of the interceptions. ″I live for these kinds of games. Because then you can go out and tee off on people. It’s especially good when it’s a playoff game.″
The Super Bowl offers several intriguing elements.
Start with Montana against Elway, reigning MVP against the MVP of two seasons ago.
The Broncos, 37-21 winners over the Cleveland Browns in the AFC championship game, are the only team the 49ers didn’t beat in the 1980s. They played three times, Denver winning twice by a field goal and once by one point.
While the 49ers try to emulate the Steelers’ success, the Broncos will be trying to avoid matching the negative record of four Super Bowl losses in four tries set by the Minnesota Vikings.
Denver will be trying to end a string of five straight NFC victories.
″We’ll show up,″ promised Broncos coach Dan Reeves.
And there will be the quest by Seifert to become only the second first-year coach to win a Super Bowl. Baltimore’s Don McCafferty did it the 1971 Super Bowl, but Denver’s Red Miller failed in 1978.
Unlike the two earlier Rams-49ers games this season - a 13-12 LA victory and a 30-27 come-from-behind win by the Niners - this one between the two arch-rivals was over early.
In fact, it was nearly a mirror image of San Francisco’s 41-13 win over Minnesota a week ago in which the Vikings scored the first three points, then were blown away by a three-touchdown second quarter.
This time, it was the Rams who got off to a 3-0 lead, then got put away in the second quarter, capped by a drive similar to Montana’s famous ones of the past. He hit eight of 10 passes for 90 yards in a march that with penalty yardage actually covered 105 yards and gave the 49ers a 21-3 lead at halftime.
″We came out to play hard and have fun,″ Everett said of the Rams, who traveled almost 18,000 miles on three straight trips to the East Coast just to get this far.
″It sure didn’t look like much fun.″
It wasn’t. Twin threats Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson combined for just three catches and 32 yards and were never really in the game.
″We were never in synch,″ said Anderson, who averaged 26 yards per catch in the regular season but had just one catch for 14 yards Sunday.
The Rams entered the game with six wins in their last 10 games at Candlestick and started like they might make it seven in the one that counted the most.
But the team the Rams called ″the big kid on the block,″ the team that had kept them from the NFC West title in all but one of their last six playoff seasons, was just too good. About the only trouble they had was with the turf made slippery by two days of rain that stopped them on their first possession.
The Rams got off well, taking a short punt by Barry Helton to midfield, them moving the the 49ers’ 6-yard-line in 10 plays. But on third and goal the defense forced Everett to throw the ball away, and Los Angeles had to settle for Mike Lansford’s 23-yard field goal.
San Francisco moved on its second possession, but Brent Jones fumbled after a completion, guard Guy McIntyre picked it up and fumbled again and Larry Kelm finally got the ball for the Rams. But their drive stalled after Everett hung the ball too high for a wide-open Flipper Anderson, and Ronnie Lott got over to knock it away at the 5.
That set up an 89-yard, 13-play drive that put San Francisco up 7-3. Montana was 5-for-5 for 67 yards on the drive and capped it by finding Jones wide open over the middle from the 20 for the score 3:33 into the second period.
Tim McKyer, in Seifert’s doghouse most of the season, set up the next score when he picked off a pass that deflected off first Henry Ellard and then teammate Don Griffin and took it 27 yards to the Rams’ 27.
Five plays later, Craig went in from the 1 to make it 14-3.
Then came the killer, an 87-yard, 14-play drive capped by Montana’s 18-yard TD pass to Taylor with 9 seconds left in the half that made it 21-3.
Montana was 8 of 10 for 90 yards on the drive, which included a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the 49ers’ Jesse Sapolu. It also was marked by two completions to Mike Sherrard, the first in three years for the one-time No. 1 draft choice of Dallas, who has been out since his rookie season with a twice-broken leg.
Cofer made it 24-3 midway through the third quarter quarter with a 28-yard field goal after San Francisco moved 61 yards in 12 possessions to the Rams’ 11 on their first possession.
Three minutes later, Cofer missed a 38-yarder after Lott had picked off an Everett pass, the third interception of the day. Then he made a 36-yarder on the first play of the fourth quarter. and a 25-yarder with 5:40 left to close out the scoring.