Ranking top 49ers plays in franchise's storied history: No. 20-16
20. Montana and Rice the Giant killers
In the second week of the 1988 season, the 49ers could not get much going throughout the day against the formidable New York Giants, one of their biggest rivals throughout the 1980s. Steve Young started, but Joe Montana entered in the second half.
The 49ers took over at their own 23-yard line with 1:21 remaining. Montana threw an incomplete pass on first down. He tried to run after a fumbled snap on the next play and was dropped for a 1-yard loss. The 49ers were going nowhere, until ...
Montana had just enough time to unload a deep pass for Jerry Rice, who got a step on Giants cornerback Mark Collins down the right sideline. Safety Kenny Hill collided with Collins as Rice caught the pass. Rice took it the rest of the way for a 78-yard touchdown in the final minute to give the 49ers a crazy 20-17 victory and silence a stunned crowd at the Meadowlands.
19. Woodall takes it the other way
In December of 1995, the 49ers and Buffalo Bills were tied 10-10 at Candlestick Park. The Bills had a first and goal at the 1-yard line and were on the verge of taking the lead in the second half.
Fullback Darick Holmes got the call up the middle for Buffalo. But 49ers linebacker Gary Plummer timed his leap perfectly and drilled Holmes above the pile at the goal line to knock the ball loose.
Linebacker Lee Woodall scooped up the fumble and tore off on a game-changing 96-yard sprint for a touchdown that resulted in a 14-point swing and a 49ers’ victory.
18. The big fella can move
Nose tackle Michael Carter was a key player in the middle of the 49ers’ defense. He was a three-time Pro Bowl player, and before his NFL career began, he won a silver medal in the 1984 Olympics in the shot put.
But he looked like a sprinter on Jan. 12, 1991, in an NFC Divisional Playoff Game at Candlestick Park. Carter picked a Mark Rypien pass out of the air after Charles Haley hit the Washington quarterback as he was throwing.
Carter returned the interception 61 yards for his only career touchdown. The play, which came at the beginning of the fourth quarter, blew open a close game, and the 49ers went on to a 28-10 victory.
17. Kittle takes Saints for a ride
The 49ers were in danger of losing in back-to-back weeks last season. It came down to a fourth-and-2 play from their own 33 with 39 seconds remaining in a Week 14 game at New Orleans.
During practices that week, tight end George Kittle messed up the play a couple of times, but coach Kyle Shanahan called it with the game on the line. This time, Kittle ran the route perfectly. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo delivered the pass. And, then, Kittle simply would not allow himself to be tackled.
Kittle carried three defenders with him for a 39-yard gain. An additional 15 yards were added at the end of the play because of a facemask penalty. Kittle’s memorable play set up Robbie Gould’s game-winning field goal as time expired for an important 48-46 victory over the Saints.
16. J.T. goes for 90-plus ... twice
On Dec. 11, 1989, in Los Angeles, 49ers receiver John Taylor made history, becoming the only NFL player with two touchdowns from scrimmage of 90 yards or longer in the same game. His first came in the second quarter on a 92-yard touchdown pass from Montana.
In the fourth quarter with the 49ers trailing by 10 points, Taylor lined up on the left side and caught a short slant from Montana. Taylor made his way across the field, breaking three tackles. After getting to the right sideline, Taylor turned on his speed. Jerry Rice ran interference and delivered the final block 80 yards down the field to assist Taylor on his way to a 96-yard touchdown.
The 49ers rode the momentum of Taylor’s second touchdown to rally for a 30-27 victory on Monday Night Football at Anaheim Stadium.