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49ers Defeat Bengals, 20-16, in Super Bowl

January 23, 1989|ELLIOTT ALMOND | Times Staff Writer

In the aftermath of three days of rioting in Miami's black neighborhoods, attention returned Sunday to Super Bowl XXIII, in which the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals, 20-16, in front of 75,000 spectators in Joe Robbie Stadium and a nationwide television audience.

As police patrolled quiet black neighborhoods and maintained checkpoints outside the stadium, the city's troubles gave way to one of the Super Bowl's most exciting finishes ever. Quarterback Joe Montana threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left as San Francisco won its third National Football League championship of the 1980s.

Lead Doesn't Hold Up

Cincinnati had taken a 16-13 lead on Jim Breech's third field goal of the game, a 40-yarder with 3:20 to play. But the lead did not hold up against one of football's most potent offenses.

The winning score came at the end of a 92-yard drive, led by Montana, whose touchdown pass gave him a Super Bowl record with 357 yards passing.

Taylor told television interviewers: "I was thinking if it comes to me, it's mine."

Montana said he was trying to mount a drive to get his team in position to kick a potential tying field goal.

"We just got going, thinking field goal," he said. "We never gave up. Things might go wrong, but you've got to fight back. That's one thing we never gave up on. Confidence. And it showed."

Montana, the oft-injured 49er star, completed 23 of 36 passes and had two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Eleven of Montana's completions were to Jerry Rice, who finished with 11 catches for 215 yards, both also records.

Rice, the Super Bowl most valuable player, said he was confident the 49ers could rally in the final minute.

"I knew we (receivers) had to make the plays," he said. "Joe gave us the leadership we needed."

Said Randy Cross, the All-Pro San Francisco center who played his last game after 13 seasons: "Montana has got to be the best quarterback of the '80s. He kept telling us on that last drive, we've got to believe, we've got to believe."

In San Francisco, horns blared, fireworks lit the sky and strangers kissed in the streets as fans celebrating the 49ers' victory turned the city into an impromptu open-air party.

The California Highway Patrol closed Highway 480 near the Embarcadero because of crowds in the area, and several city streets were closed because of the reveling fans. There were numerous arrests, most for being drunk in public, San Francisco police reported.

It was the fifth straight victory for a National Football Conference team, but by far the most dramatic--the previous four had been by an average score of 41-14.

The game was uneventful well into the third quarter, but Stanford Jennings enlivened the day near the end of the period with a 93-yard kickoff return to give Cincinnati a 13-6 lead.

Until Jennings' return, the teams were resigned to two field goals each for a 6-6 tie.

But after the return, the game's tempo seemed to change. San Francisco's vaunted offense came to life at the beginning of the fourth quarter behind Montana, who led a quick 85-yard march down the field, culminated with a 14-yard pass to Rice for a touchdown, which helped tie the score again.

"It was one of the great games I've been involved in," 49ers Coach Bill Walsh said. "We put it together on the final drive."

Media attention before the game was focused off the football field after a wave of racial unrest began Monday when an unarmed black motorcyclist, Clement Lloyd, was fatally shot by a police officer in Miami's predominantly black Overtown section. The motorcycle was being pursued for a traffic violation. His passenger, Allen Blanchard, later died of head wounds suffered when the motorcycle crashed.

For the next three nights, crowds of angry blacks clashed with police, looted dozens of stores and burned 13 businesses. Two black men were killed, dozens injured and 400 arrested. Property damage was estimated at $1 million.

More than 100 black Miami residents gathered in the black Liberty City neighborhood for a rally to coincide with the game's kickoff to protest the police killings, but there was little trouble Sunday.

"It's very quiet, there are no problems at all," police spokesman Raymond Lang said half an hour before the game started.

Complete details in Sports.

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