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Thursday, July 06, 2000
Super Bowl XXIII: Montana Is No Average Joe  
  by Zachary Levin
 

The opening three quarters of Super Bowl XXIII (January 22, 1989) between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals were dull--as many recent championship games had been (the Super Bowl was getting a reputation). But with the game tied 6-6, Cincinnatii's Stanford Jennings returned a kick 93 yards for a touchdown. San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana answered with an 85-yard drive and touchdown pass to receiver Jerry Rice.  The championship race was on, one that would that would cement Montana's reputation for clutch performances and justify his nickname: Cool Joe.

After the Montana-Rice express deadlocked the game again, Cincinnati's running attack ate up yards and time, en route to a field goal that put the Bengals up 16-13 with 3:20 to play. What happened next is known in football lore simply as "The Drive." Montana took his team 92 yards on 11 plays in just 2:31, his passes dissecting the Cincinnati defense like a surgeon's scalpel. During the drive Montana actually stopped long enough to point out comedian John Candy in the stands, exhibiting a poise under pressure that helped keep his team loose.

The final play of the drive featured receiver John Taylor, not Rice. Taylor had not yet caught a pass in Super Bowl XXIII; Rice had 11 catches, a record 215 receiving yards, and was named the game's most valuable player. As Rice and Taylor lined up on the same side of the ball, Bengal safety Ray Horton focused, predictably, on Rice. The decoy worked. Horton never had a chance, as Montana hit Taylor with a 10-yard touchdown pass for the win. Final score: San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16.

 

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