Montana magic lifts 49ers Late drive sets up Cofer FG at :09 to top Saints, 13-12


NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Joe Montana drove the San Francisco 49ers 60 yards in the final two minutes to set up Mike Cofer's game-winning, 38-yard field goal with nine seconds to play last night, as San Francisco got off to a stumbling but successful start in its quest for a third straight NFL title by beating New Orleans 13-12.

The 49ers, who fell behind, 12-10, on Morten Andersen's fourth field goal with 9 minutes, 18 seconds to play, got the ball for the last time on their 19 with 1:30 left and no timeouts. Then Montana, who had been sacked six times, hit John Taylor for 25 yards, his longest completion of the night, to start the drive.

On a third-and-six at the New Orleans 48, he hit Roger Craig for 11 yards and then connected with Jerry Rice on a 20-yard completion to set up Cofer's winning kick.

"It's like fighting a rattlesnake. Give him enough time and he'll turn around and bite you," said Saints wide receiver Eric Martin.

San Francisco fullback Tom Rathman said: "Give Joe Montana the ball with less than two minutes left, and 80 percent of the time he'll win the game for you."

Montana, under pressure all night from linebackers Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling and a group of interchangeable linemen, didn't fare much better at the scene of one his greatest triumphs -- the 55-10 win at the Superdome last January that made the 49ers the first repeat National Football League winner in a decade -- until the final drive. In this, the first game of what the 49ers call the "three-peat" year, he went 26-for-43 for 210 yards.

Andersen's field goals of 41, 39, 28 and 32 yards weren't enough to overcome the self-destructive tendencies of the New Orleans offense and John Fourcade, who threw two interceptions with the Saints in range of the San Francisco goal line and finished with just 12 completions in 34 attempts for 186 yards. They also got just three points from two San Francisco turnovers inside their 25.

"It's disappointing to play as hard as we did and then lose the game," New Orleans coach Jim Mora said.

San Francisco's defense had blunted two deep New Orleans threats, and Montana had hit Brent Jones with a 4-yard touchdown pass to give the 49ers a 10-9 lead after three quarters.

Darryl Pollard intercepted a pass by Fourcade in the end zone, killing one drive, and Ronnie Lott picked off one at the 12-yard line to stop another one.

Montana marched the 49ers 80 yards for a touchdown after Pollard's interception. He completed all four of his passes for 30 yards on the drive, and Craig carried three times for 15 yards. The drive was helped by two personal-foul penalties against the Saints, one against safety Gene Atkins for a late hit, the other against defensive end Renaldo Turnbull for a head slap.

Andersen kicked three field goals for the Saints, and Cofer kicked one for the 49ers when New Orleans led, 9-3, at the half.

Cofer's kick was from 52 yards, giving the 49ers a brief 3-0 lead.

Andersen tied it with a 41-yarder in the first quarter, gave the Saints the lead with a 39-yard kick in the second quarter and extended it with a 28-yard kick with six seconds left in the half.

Cofer missed from 47 yards in the first quarter and from 52 yards in the second, both wide left.

In final exhibition tuneups 10 days ago, Cofer missed three of four kicks and Andersen two of three.

Cofer's successful kick matched his personal best set two years ago against Washington.

Keith DeLong set up Cofer's kick by recovering a fumbled punt on the New Orleans 32-yard line. Bobby Morse fumbled it, and DeLong dove through a crowd of teammates to cover the ball.

Three plays lost three yards, and the 49ers settled for the kick.

SanFrancisco 3 0 7 3 -- 13

NewOrleans 3 6 0 3 -- 12

First quarter

SF--FG Cofer 52, 4:11.

NO--FG Andersen 41, 12:29.

Second quarter

NO--FG Andersen 39, 8:06.

NO--FG Andersen 28, 14:57.

Third quarter

SF--Jones 4 pass from Montana (Cofer kick), 4:59.

Fourth quarter

NO--FG Andersen 32, 5:42.

SF--FG Cofer 38, 14:51.


TTC RECEIVING--San Francisco, Rathman 9-43, Taylor 5-75, Jones 3-29, Craig 3-15, Rice 2-26, Sherrard 2-12, Williams 2-10. New Orleans, E.Martin 6-91, Perriman 3-40, Hilliard 2-13, Turner 1-42.

MISSED FIELD GOALS--San Francisco, Cofer 47, 52, 55.

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