The San Francisco 49ers selected a quarterback out of Notre Dame with the 82nd pick in the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft. Little did they know that when they picked Joe Montana, they were selecting a future Hall of Famer who would be known as one of the biggest winners in league history.
Joe Montana put together a career that includes eight Pro Bowls, three First Team All-Pro selections, two league MVP awards, four Super Bowl championships, and three Super Bowl MVP awards. Montana is best known for his moments in clutch time. Here are five of the best moments from Montana’s career.
5. Montana tops Elway on Monday Night
In Montana’s final season in 1994, he matched up with John Elway in a Week 7 matchup on Monday night. The Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos entered the fourth quarter tied at 21. A Lin Elliott field goal gave the Chiefs a 24-21 lead that held up until late into the fourth.
With 4:08 left in the game, Elway and the Broncos got the ball back down three. Denver went on a five-play drive that ended in an Elway touchdown run. The Chiefs would get the ball back with 2:45 left and one last chance. Montana would lead Kansas City on a nine play, 75-yard touchdown drive. He went 7-8 on the drive for 60 yards and a touchdown pass to Willie Davis.
This would give the Chiefs a 31-28 victory and push their record to 4-2. Even in his final season, Montana had some great late game heroics.
4. Super Bowl XIX
The 1984 season was arguably the best in 49ers’ history. They finished the regular season 15-1 and at the top of the NFC West. They outscored their opponents 44-10 in the first two games of the postseason. San Francisco was set to take on Dan Marino and the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX.
Marino was coming off a season here he was named league MVP after throwing for 5,084 yards and 48 touchdowns. In the Super Bowl, Joe Montana played like he wanted to remind everyone who the best quarterback in the league was. He led the 49ers to 28 first half points and led by 12 heading into the break. San Francisco would add 10 seocnd half points and win the game 38-16.
This would be Montana’s second of what would eventually be four Super Bowl victories. Joe Montana was named Super Bowl MVP after going 24-35 for 331 yards and three touchdowns. He added 59 rushing yards and a touchdown. This would be one of the most satisfying victories in Montana’s career.
3. The Theft
In Week 2 of the 1987 season, the 0-1 49ers traveled to take on the 1-0 Cincinnati Bengals. This game would turn into an instant classic right when it was over.
The Bengals jumped out to a 10-0 lead and extended to 20-7 heading into halftime. The comeback would be on for Joe Montana and the Niners. He found Jerry Rice for a 34-yard score right out of the locker room. Two Ray Wersching field goals would tie the game up after the third quarter. The Bengals would score the first six points on Jim Breech field goals. This would set up one of Montana’s best moments.
San Francisco would drive down the field to the Bengals’ 25-yard line. With two seconds left, they had just one play left in the game. Montana took the snap and dropped back. There was a clean pocket around him and he stepped up to deliver a strike to Rice in the right corner of the end zone. Wersching would knock down the extra point with no time on the clock. It was a 27-26 win for the Niners in typical Joe Montana fashion.
2. The Catch
In Montana’s first year as the full time starter in 1981, the Niners finished 13-3 and made a run to the NFC Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys. This game went right down to the wire.
The teams traded punches over the first three quarters. It was San Francisco with a 21-17 lead. Dallas would not go quietly. They would score the next 10 points of the game to take a six point lead late. Joe Montana and the Niners would get the ball back from their own 11-yard line. Montana would engineer a 14 play, 83-yard drive down the the six-yard line of Dallas. With 58 seconds left, San Francisco faced a third-and-three in need of a touchdown.
Joe Montana took the snap and immediately rolled to his right. After double-pumping, Montana got a pass off right before being knocked down by Ed “Too Tall” Jones. A leaping catch was made in the back of the end zone by Dwight Clark. He finished the game with eight catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. This play is known as “The Catch” and is one of the most famous plays in the history of the NFL.
1. The Drive
The No. 1 spot on this list is a no brainer. Joe Montana took the Niners on the most famous drive in Super Bowl history. He did it against league MVP Boomer Esiason and the Bengals.
When San Francisco entered the playoffs in 1988, they were coming off three straight first round exits. They got over the hump with a 34-9 victory over the Minnesota Vikings then dominated the Chicago Bears in the NFC Championship Game. In the Super Bowl against the Bengals, they trailed 13-6 heading into the fourth quarter. Joe Montana would find Rice to tie the game early in the final period. A Jim Breech field goal would give the Bengals the lead with 3:44 left in the game.
Joe Montana lined up under center with 3:04 left from the Niners’ eight-yard line. Calm, cool, and collected, Montana orchestrated a masterful drive where the offense faced just one third down. Montana went 8-9 for 97 yards and a touchdown. It ended with a completion to John Taylor in the end zone for a 20-16 lead.
Rice was named Super Bowl MVP after catching 11 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Montana finished 23-36 for 357 yards and two touchdowns. This won Joe Montana his third Super Bowl and San Francisco would go onto repeat in 1989. Along with “The Catch,” this sequence also has a name. “The Drive” is one of the most famous Super Bowl moments and lands at the top of Montana’s best moments.