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1988 San Francisco 49ers season

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Title: 1988 San Francisco 49ers season  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Bill Walsh (American football coach), San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowl XXIII, Joe Montana, Soldier Field, Roger Craig (American football), Gene Stallings, Dick LeBeau, NFC Championship Game, NFC West
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

1988 San Francisco 49ers season

1988 San Francisco 49ers season
Head coach Bill Walsh
Owner Eddie DeBartolo, Jr.
Home field Candlestick Park
Record 10–6
Division place 1st NFC West
Playoff finish Won Divisional Playoffs (Vikings) 34-9
Won Conference Championship (Bears) 28-3
Won Super Bowl XXIII (Bengals) 20-16
Previous season      Next season
< 1987      1989 >

The San Francisco 49ers 1988 season was their 43rd season in the National Football League. The season was highlighted by their third Super Bowl victory. In 1988, the 49ers struggled. At one point, they were 6-5 and in danger of missing the playoffs but rose to defeat the Washington Redskins on a Monday night, eventually finishing the season at 10-6. They gained a measure of revenge by thrashing the Minnesota Vikings 34-9 in the first round. The 49ers then traveled to Chicago's Soldier Field, where the chill factor at gametime was 26 degrees below zero. They defeated the Chicago Bears 28-3 in a NFC Championship game upset.

For the 49ers, it was their first Super Bowl appearance since they defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. They had made the playoffs in the three seasons between Super Bowl XIX and Super Bowl XXIII, but were eliminated each time in the first round, primarily because of the poor performances by their offensive stars in those games; quarterback Joe Montana, receiver Jerry Rice and running back Roger Craig all failed to produce a single touchdown.

The 49ers alternated quarterbacks as Montana and Steve Young both started at various points of the season. The broadcast booth of the 49ers radio network also saw change, as Joe Starkey substituted for longtime 49ers play by play announcer Lon Simmons during several games, mostly in October. The 1988 season was the last for Simmons as 49ers broadcaster. With the regular season and postseason, the 49ers compiled a total of 13 victories (a .684 win percentage) on the season, a record-low for Super Bowl champions. In 2011, the New York Giants would tie this record (but with a .650 win percentage as they suffered seven losses as opposed to the 49ers six).


NFL Draft

Round # Pick # Player Position College
? 33 Danny Stubbs Outside Linebacker Miami
? 39 Pierce Holt Defensive Tackle Angelo State
? 80 Bill Romanowski Outside Linebacker Boston College
? 102 Barry Helton Punter Colorado
? 191 Kevin Bryant Linebacker Delaware State




1988 Team Starters


16 Joe Montana                   QB
33 Roger Craig                   RB
44 Tom Rathman                   FB
85 Mike Wilson                   WR
80 Jerry Rice                    WR
89 Ron Heller                    TE
74 Steve Wallace                 LT
61 Jesse Sapolu                  LG
64 Randy Cross                   C
62 Guy McIntyre                  RG
79 Harris Barton                 RT


91 Larry Roberts                LDE
95 Michael Carter               NT
75 Kevin Fagan                  RDE
94 Charles Haley                LB
50 Riki Ellison                 LB
99 Mike Walter                  LB
58 Keena Turner                 LB
22 Tim McKyer                   LCB
21 Eric Wright                  RCB
49 Jeff Fuller                  SS
42 Ronnie Lott                  FS

Kicking Team

6 Mike Cofer                    K
9 Barry Helton                  P
82 John Taylor                  PR
25 Doug DuBose                  KR

Regular season

In the 1988 season, San Francisco won the NFC West with a 10-6 regular season record, but it was a long uphill battle; the Niners, Rams, and Saints all finished 10-6 with the Niners winning the division on tiebreakers. The team had a quarterback controversy with Montana and Steve Young each starting at quarterback during the season. But after a 6-5 start, Montana led the 49ers to win 4 of their final 5 regular season games.

Montana finished the regular season with 238 completions for 2,981 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also added 132 rushing yards. His favorite target was Rice, who recorded 64 receptions for 1,306 yards (a 20.4 yards per catch average) and 9 touchdowns. Craig was also a key contributor with a total of 2,036 combined rushing and receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Fullback Tom Rathman also made a big impact, rushing for 427 yards and catching 42 passes for 387 yards. The 49ers defense was led by defensive backs Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Jeff Fuller, and Tim McKyer, who recorded a combined total of 18 interceptions. McKyer led the team with 7, while Lott recorded 5. Linebacker Charles Haley was also a big contributor with 11.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries.


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 4, 1988 at New Orleans Saints W 34-33
2 September 11, 1988 at New York Giants W 20-17
3 September 18, 1988 Atlanta Falcons L 17-34
4 September 25, 1988 at Seattle Seahawks W 38-7
5 October 2, 1988 Detroit Lions W 20-13
6 October 9, 1988 Denver Broncos L 13-16 (OT)
7 October 16, 1988 at Los Angeles Rams W 24-21
8 October 24, 1988 (Mon) at Chicago Bears L 9-10
9 October 30, 1988 Minnesota Vikings W 24-21
10 November 6, 1988 at Phoenix Cardinals L 23-24
11 November 13, 1988 Los Angeles Raiders L 3-9
12 November 21, 1988 (Mon) Washington Redskins W 37-21
13 November 27, 1988 at San Diego Chargers W 48-10
14 December 4, 1988 at Atlanta Falcons W 13-3
15 December 11, 1988 New Orleans Saints W 30-17
16 December 18, 1988 Los Angeles Rams L 16-38

Game summaries

Week 1

The Saints, fresh off the first winning season in franchise history, clawed to a 17-7 halftime lead in the second quarter, but Joe Montana erupted in the third with three touchdown throws. Coach Bill Walsh, wanting to get playing time for backup Steve Young, put Young in in the fourth quarter; Young was sacked in the endzone for a safety and the Saints scored ten more points after that, nonetheless coming up short 34-33 to the 49ers.

Week 2

1 234Total
• 49ers 0 1037 20
Giants 7 307 17

Concerned over Montana's health, coach Walsh started Steve Young in his place against the Giants; Young's rawness to the Niners offensive system showed in he was limited to 115 yards passing and the Niners trailed 17-13 in the fourth. Montana came in and fired a 77-yard touchdown in the final minutes to Jerry Rice and a 20-17 Niners win.

Week 3

The 49ers lost to the Falcons for only the fourth time since 1981 as Joe Montana was intercepted three times and sacked three times in a 34-17 rout. Gerald Riggs of the Falcons rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Week 4

The Niners rebounded by putting up 580 yards of offense in a 38-7 rout of the Seahawks. Joe Montana threw four touchdowns and Steve Young added a fifth while Roger Craig and Tom Rathman accounted for 186 rushing yards. The Seahawks Jeff Kemp was intercepted three times and Kelly Stouffer added a fourth pick.

Week 6

Joe Montana threw for 191 yards and an interception; he was replaced by Young as John Elway tied the game 13-13 on a touchdown to Vance Johnson. Wind gusts up to 40 MPH suddenly hit Candlestick Park and made passing more difficult; in the overtime a Steve Young pass was intercepted, setting up Rich Karlis' winning field goal (16-13 final for the Broncos).

Week 7

Roger Craig had one of his greatest games in a 199-yard stampede where he scored three touchdowns, highlighted by a dramatic 46-yard score in the first quarter. Despite three Jim Everett touchdowns the Rams fell to San Francisco 24-21, the tenth 49ers win in the rivalry's previous 14 games.

Week 9

The Vikings' playoff win at San Francisco the previous season hung over Candlestick Park as Coach Walsh started Steve Young in Joe Montana's stead. Young struggled and was booed repeatedly by the crowd ("They were running him out of town," lineman Harris Barton said). Late in the fourth quarter the Vikings led 21-17 with the Niners at Minnesota's 49-yard line; Young escaped a sack and ran in the game-winning touchdown, earning applause from the same audience that had been booing him; the NFL Films clip with Lon Simmons' call of the score is among the most replayed in retrospectives on Young's career.[2]

Week 10

With Young still starting, the 49ers raced to a 23-0 lead in the third quarter, and Coach Bill Walsh felt it was the sharpest the offense had looked all season. The Cardinals, however, began clawing back as Neil Lomax rifled a pair of touchdowns; making matters worse for San Francisco was a whopping 14 penalties for 106 yards. On a kick return Walsh was blindsided by a runner and suffered two cracked ribs; he then had to watch as the Cardinals race down field in the final minute and score on a nine-yard Lomax score to Roy Green.

Week 11

The low point for the 49ers season came against the Raiders as Joe Montana started despite continuing concern by Walsh over his health. Montana was held to 160 passing yards as the Raiders clawed out a 9-3 win. Following the loss Ronnie Lott called a players-only meeting; Harris Barton said that it worked to refocus the players on playing better.

Week 12

The refocused Niners erupted on the defending champion Redskins, racing to a 23-7 halftime lead and winning 37-21. Joe Montana threw two touchdowns (including an 80-yarder to Jerry Rice) and ran in a third. Doug Williams of the Redskins threw three touchdowns while Super Bowl MVP Timmy Smith was held to just six rushing yards.

Week 16

The Niners clinched the NFC West despite a three-way tie with the Rams and New Orleans (all finishing 10-6) and despite a 38-16 slaughter by the Rams that put them into the playoffs. Jim Everett threw four touchdowns while Montana and Young combined for 291 yards but no scores. San Francisco won the division on tiebreakers and the Rams were the wild card, while the 10-6 Saints were eliminated from playoff contention.



NFC Divisional Playoff

San Francisco 49ers 34, Minnesota Vikings 9
1 2 34Total
Vikings 3 0 609
49ers 7 14 01334

at Candlestick Park, San Francisco

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

MIN- Chuck Nelson 47-yard field goal MIN 3-0

SF- Jerry Rice 2-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick)SF 7-3

2nd Quarter

SF- Jerry Rice 4-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) SF 14-3

SF- Jerry Rice 11-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) SF 21-3

3rd Quarter

MIN- Hassan Jones 5-yard pass from Wade Wilson (kick failed) SF 21-9

4th Quarter

SF- Roger Craig 4-yard rush (Mike Cofer kick) SF 28-9

SF- Roger Craig 80-yard rush (kick failed) SF 34-9

NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers 28, Chicago Bears 3
1 2 34Total
49ers 7 7 7728
Bears 0 3 003

at Soldier Field, Chicago

Scoring Summary

1st Quarter

SF- Jerry Rice 61-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) SF 7-0

2nd Quarter

SF- Jerry Rice 27-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick)SF 14-0

CHI- Kevin Butler 25-yard field goal SF 14-3

3rd Quarter

SF- John Frank 5-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) SF 21-3

4th Quarter

SF- Tom Rathman 4-yard rush (Mike Cofer kick) 28-3

Super Bowl XXIII

San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16
1 2 34Total
Bengals 0 3 10316
49ers 3 0 31420

at Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, Florida

The game is remembered for the 49ers' fourth-quarter game-winning drive. Down 16-13, San Francisco got the ball on their own eight-yard line with 3:10 on the clock and marched 92 yards down the field in under three minutes. They then scored the winning touchdown on a Joe Montana pass to John Taylor with just 34 seconds left in the game.

49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice was named the Super Bowl MVP. He caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing once for 5 yards.

This was also the final NFL game coached by the 49ers' Bill Walsh. This was also the final Super Bowl that Pete Rozelle presided over as NFL Commissioner.

Scoring summary

1st Quarter

  • SF - FG: Mike Cofer 41 yards 3-0 SF

2nd Quarter

  • CIN - FG: Jim Breech 34 yards 3-3 tie

3rd Quarter

  • CIN - FG: Jim Breech 43 yards 6-3 CIN
  • SF - FG: Mike Cofer 32 yards 6-6 tie
  • CIN - TD: Stanford Jennings 93-yard kickoff return (Jim Breech kick) 13-6 CIN

4th Quarter

  • SF - TD: Jerry Rice 14-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) 13-13 tie
  • CIN - FG: Jim Breech 40 yards 16-13 CIN
  • SF - TD: John Taylor 10-yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) 20-16 SF

Awards and records

  • Mike Cofer, Led NFC, 27 Field Goals
  • Mike Cofer, Led NFC, 121 Points
  • Roger Craig, Offense, UPI NFC Player of the Year
  • Roger Craig, Led NFC with 2068 total yards
  • Jerry Rice, Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl XXIII


External links

  • 49ers on Pro Football Reference
  • 49ers Schedule on

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