49ers Were Reportedly Out of Line on the Play That Won the Super Bowl

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Associated Press

There was a bit of a mix-up on the play that gave the San Francisco 49ers a victory in Super Bowl XXIII, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Despite running backs Roger Craig and Tom Rathman lining up on the wrong sides of the field and then running the wrong patterns, quarterback Joe Montana managed to connect on a pass to John Taylor in the end zone.

The 49ers beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 20-16, Sunday for their third NFL championship of the 1980s.


Before Montana launched that pass with 34 seconds left, Craig was lined up behind him and to his right, with Rathman parallel to Craig and to the left of Montana, the San Francisco Examiner said.

Craig was supposed to be on the left of Montana, Rathman on the right.

The play, known as “20 halfback curl, X up,” calls for Craig to run a curl pattern, while Rathman first blocks if the other team is blitzing, then runs out to the right.

But Craig ran his curl pattern from the wrong side, and Rathman drifted to the left.

“When we broke the huddle, I saw Tom line up on the left, and that wasn’t the time to argue, so I just lined up on the right,” Craig said. “I ran the curl to the right, and it worked, because they double-covered me.

“Maybe we’ll run it that way next year,” Craig laughed. “It can’t be too bad if we won the Super Bowl with it.”