Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers, NFC Championship Game, January 14, 1990

Well, I was ready for some football today, so I decided to take in a game from the past. This particular game was the 1989 NFC Championship Game between the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers, played at Candlestick park in San Francisco. The 49ers went 14-2 during the regular season and had to be considered the favorites, but the Rams seemed to be getting hot at the right moment, winning two straight road games against the Eagles and Giants to get to this point. Not to mention that Los Angeles had beaten San Francisco, at Candlestick, earlier in the season, and nearly beat them again in Los Angeles. This game featured two teams that are very familiar with each other, with both teams having top notch offenses that few other teams had been able to stop during the regular season. This could have been a heck of a game. Instead, the 49ers completely dominated and made the Rams look terrible. A few thoughts from this game.

- This was actually a close game for a while, as the Rams stopped the Niners on the first drive and drove down the field for a 23-yard field goal. If there was one play that could have completly changed the game, it came late in the first quarter with the Rams up 3-0 and at the San Francisco 40 yard line. The Rams faked a reverse, and quarterback Jim Everett fired deep to an open Willie "Flipper" Anderson. It looked like a sure touchdown, but free safety Ronnie Lott raced from the other side of the field and got to the ball just in time to deflect it out of bounds. It was one of the better plays you will see a safety make, and if Lott hadn't made that play, the Rams are up 10-0 and who knows what happens from there. Instead, the Rams were forced to punt, and the rest is history.

- Joe Montana, the 49ers quarterback, just carved the Rams' defense up all day long. Montana completed 26 out of 30 passes for 262 yards. The Rams seemed determined to not let the deep ball beat them, so what did Montana do? Well, he did an excellent job of finding the weakness of the Rams coverage nearly every time he went back to pass. The Rams were forced to start a young James Washington at safety, and while Washington would later become a good player with the Dallas Cowboys, it was clear that he was overmatched in this game. Montana zeroed in on Washington, constantly picking on him and working the middle of the field with a lot of success.

- If there was one drive that summed up the game, it came with two minutes left in the first half. With the score 14-3 San Francisco, the Niners started at their own 18 yard-line, and from there Montana went to work, spreading the ball out to different recievers, from star running back Roger Craig to wideout Mike Sherrard, who was only playing his second game in three years due to injuries. Even after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (which was unwarranted, by the way, as the Rams were more at fault) pushed the Niners back fifteen yards to the Rams' 18 with 14 seconds left, Montana and the 49ers calmly and cooly came right back, as Montana found John Taylor in the end zone after Taylor burnt Leroy Irvin on a slant route for a touchdown. After the extra point, the 49ers were up 21-3 and never looked back.

- Tom Rathman, the 49ers Fullback, was quite simply a beast. He was one hard man to bring down, and when you did bring him down he would make sure it would be a painful experience for the defender. At one point he dragged Washington a couple of yards downfield before going down, and Rathman was constantly running over defenders. Oh yeah, Roger Craig wasn't any easier to bring down either, as his high-kicking running style usually left defenders with a knee in the face. The two backs combined for 245 yards from scrimmage and made life tough for Rams defenders.

- You know what you don't see at all anymore? Kickers that kick the ball barefoot. The Rams had one in Mike Lansford, who wore a shoe on his plant foot and left his kicking foot bare. Even when the field was cold or muddy, and this game featured quite a muddy field, Lansford left the foot sans shoe. Since he lasted nine years in the NFL, I guess it worked for him, but I doubt if we will ever see another barefoot kicker again in the NFL. It seems like kicking the ball with a bare foot would hurt like hell, but what do I know?

- This was not a good game for Rams QB Jim Everett, and in many ways his performance in this game affected him for the rest of his career. Everett started out okay, but the 49ers pass rush was getting to him, and Everett started to make mistakes, throwing constantly into double coverage, not stepping into his throws for fear of getting hit, which led to underthrown passes, and throwing three interceptions, two of which I wondered just what the heck he was trying to do, as there were at least three 49ers around the area he threw it. The lowpoint for Everett, and the play that ultimately defined his career, came in the third quarter. On third down, Everett dropped back to pass. With no one really close to hitting him, Everett dived on the ground with the ball, eventually being touched down for a sack. Check it out for yourself:

- From that point on, the Rams and their fans never truly believed in Everett, a quarterback who by the way, led the NFL in touchdown passes in 1988 and 1989. Although Everett put up good stats in 1990, the Rams fell to 5-11 and both Everett and the Rams went downhill from there until Everett was shipped to New Orleans and the Rams left L.A. to go to St. Louis. If only Ronnie Lott hadn't of gotten to that ball, than Jim Everett might be a Hall of Fame quarterback in the Rams might still be in Los Angeles. Funny how one single play can change everything, isn't it?

Bottom line, the Rams got licked, and this game is just classic Montana, as he leads the 49ers with machine like precision. At times it just looked too easy, as if Montana and his receivers were just playing catch in the backyard. From here, the 49ers would crush the Denver Broncos by a 900-10 margin (actually 55-10) and win the Super Bowl, while the Rams would have to leave town before reaching the NFC Championship Game again. Today, Montana, Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott, and the rest of 1989 49ers are remembered as one of the greatest teams of all-time, while Jim Everett is remembered mainly for this video:

Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any comments about this or previous posts, or ideas for future reviews or posts, than share them either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at Next time on The Canon Review should be fun, provided you're a fan of the former wrestler Van Hammer. Otherwise, well, you have been warned.

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