Less-Than-Minute Rice Burns Giants, as 49ers Win, 20-17
Jerry Rice and Joe Montana often make it look easy, but this time they did it the hard way.
Montana connected with Rice on a 78-yard scoring pass play with 42 seconds left Sunday to give the 49ers a 20-17 victory over the New York Giants.
“Just as we planned,” Montana said with a straight face of the play, which came on third and 12.
Rice caught the ball near midfield after beating cornerback Mark Collins, escaped an attempted tackle by safety Kenny Hill and sprinted down the sideline.
Earlier, Rice dropped two seemingly perfect passes, including one at the New York 3-yard line in the fourth quarter.
“When Joe threw the ball, I didn’t blink, I didn’t do nothing,” Rice said. “I wanted to make sure I caught it. If I had dropped that one, I could’ve stayed here in New York.
“Joe threw an excellent pass, they went for the ball and after I caught it I was gone.”
It was a good victory for the 49ers (2-0), who had lost three straight games to the Giants (1-1). The Giants beat San Francisco, 49-3, in the 1987 playoffs. In that game, Montana was knocked unconscious in the first half.
“I liked this game better,” Montana said. “Last time the stadium was upside down.”
Montana, who didn’t start because of an elbow injury, replaced starter Steve Young at the start of the second half, but could not take the 49ers to a touchdown until his pass to Rice.
“It was four guys running a go pattern,” Montana said. “I threw it out in front of him, but Jerry has good acceleration.
“After he caught it, the first thing I did was look for a flag. Then I looked to see if they marked him out of bounds.”
In that 1987 playoff game, Rice fumbled in the open field on his way to an apparent touchdown and took two late shots from Hill, who was fined for the blows.
“The chances of it working are pretty good,” Rice said. “I recall against Cincinnati last year we won a game like that but we used three guys on one side and I was on the opposite side.”
Collins sat dejected on the Giants bench for about 10 minutes after the game.
“The guy (Rice) didn’t make a play all day, then he does it on the last one,” Collins said. “I thought I had him (covered). It was a perfectly thrown ball.”
The Giants went ahead, 17-13, with 1:21 left when Phil McConkey’s 32-yard punt return set up a 15-yard touchdown pass from Phil Simms to Lionel Manuel. Simms completed 21 of 37 attempts for 227 yards.
San Francisco also scored on Mike Cofer’s field goals of 35 and 26 yards and Doug DuBose’s 1-yard dive.
Cofer’s 26-yarder midway through the third period snapped a 10-10 tie.
The Giants scored on Simms’ 12-yard pass to Manuel in the first quarter and Raul Allegre’s 36-yard field goal with nine seconds left in the first half.
Left-hander Young started in place of Montana, who suffered a bruised right elbow in last week’s victory over New Orleans. Young completed 11 of 18 passes for 115 yards, but lost 2 fumbles on sacks. He added 48 rushing yards in 5 carries. Montana completed 10 of 18 attempts for 148 yards.
Both San Francisco quarterbacks made use of running back Roger Craig, who carried 18 times for 110 yards and caught 9 passes for 62 more.
Craig set up Cofer’s tie-breaking field goal with a 16-yard pass from Montana on third and 9 to the Giants 29. He added an 11-yard run to the 9 two plays later.
The Giants moved 66 yards to the 49er 21 with 3:18 left, but Allegre was wide left on a 39-yard try.