SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — When it comes to iconic moments during San Francisco’s dynastic run in the 1980s, few measure up to what among 49ers fans is simply referred to as “The Drive” to cap off the team’s 20-16 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII.
Unlike past championship seasons, the path to Super Bowl XXIII for the San Francisco 49ers was filled with twists, turns and stumbles. The team struggled coming out of the blocks, triggering a quarterback controversy and dividing fan loyal to either Joe Montana or Steve Young.
With the team hovering at 6-5 and the playoffs seemingly a distant dream, Montana solidified his starting spot and led San Francisco to victory in four of their last five regular season games.
Meanwhile, the Bengals also were on the rebound from two years of disappointment. Their rise was symbolized by a rookie running back out of UNLV by the name of Ickey Woods, who ignited a local fan frenzy with his celebratory “Ickey Shuffle.”
Exciting was hardly an adjective one would use for the first half of Super Bowl XXIII as neither team could gain any momentum. Mike Cofer and Jim Breech field goals accounted for the only points as the teams ended the half deadlocked 3-3.
Cincinnati seemingly took control of the game in the third quarter, scoring 10 points while the 49ers only registered another field goal. Finally, Montana found in his rhythm late in the third, directing the 49ers on an 85-yard, 4-play drive that was capped by a 14-yard touchdown strike to Jerry Rice early in the fourth quarter.
Both defenses continued to slug it out with their counterparts as Cincinnati regained the lead, 16-13, with 3:20 left in the game. With the hopes of the 49ers faithful riding on his shoulders, Montana came into the game.
On an 11-play, 92-yard march, Montana was a picture of calm and confidence. San Francisco offensive tackle Harris Barton would famously recall Montana pointing out actor John Candy standing on the sideline to him as the team huddled.
With 39 seconds left, San Francisco had the ball on the Bengals 10. The game was in the balance, everyone including the Cincinnati defense thought Montana for sure would go to Rice. But as Rice drew defenders, John Taylor broke free, gathering a Montana toss for the winning touchdown and etching “The Drive” into 49er fokelore.