The San Francisco 49ers started calling Candlestick Park home in 1971. In the 42 years that followed, the 49ers produced many a memorable game. With San Francisco now calling Levi’s Stadium home, it makes sense to look back at the history of Candlestick Park and possibly even determine the best games ever played in that arena.
This isn’t the sort of exercise that will affect the 49ers Odds to Win the games to come, but you know San Francisco fans will appreciate the trip down memory lane. So if you were to try and aggregate most memorable Candlestick Park moments, what would make the cut?It goes without saying that the 1999 49ers match against Green Bay is worth a mention. One assumes that 49ers fans had a special hatred for Green Bay fans back in the 90s because San Francisco kept losing to the Packers in the playoffs, and those losses were not even close.So you know there was a lot at stake for San Francisco when they fought the Packers in the NFC Wild Card in 1999.
After delivering a 12-4 regular season, a fourth loss to Green Bay would bring all the hard work of the 49ers crashing down. After the 49ers managed to hold at 23-20, Brett Fave threatened to upend everything with a 25-yard touchdown pass. With barely two minutes on the clock, Steve Young countered with a drive that got the ball to Jerry Rice who fumbled. Fortunately, the 49ers had one more play. They used the final eight seconds to fire a perfect pass to Terrell Owens courtesy of Young, paving the way for a final score of 30-27 in favor of the 49ers. This match comes up a lot because it saw Steve Young rescue the 49ers from a defeat they couldn’t afford to weather.
Though, that bout pales for many fans when compared to the 49ers game against New Orleans in the NFC Division playoffs in 2012. Remember, the Saints were a powerful offensive side, especially when compared to the defense-oriented 49ers. It seemed almost ridiculous to think that the 49ers could contain Drew Brees, especially in light of their opponents’ powerful passing game. Some eyebrows were raised when Pierre Thomas fumbled in the first quarter (on a third and goal completion), leveled by Donte Whitner.Then the Saints dropped 17 straight points, an occurrence that would stun any team. Of course, Brees wouldn’t let that slide, his pair of touchdowns in the second quarter giving the Saints the boost they needed to get a lead.
Not to be outdone, Alex Smith’s shotgun snap took the 49ers back into the lead (29-24) with a little over two minutes left on the clock.
Brees’s ridiculously pretty pass to Jimmy Graham gave the Saints a 2-point conversion only for Smith and Vernon Davis to bring the ball down New Orleans’ 20-yard line. Rather than playing it safe with someone like David Ackers, Smith instead gave his side the win by rifling a ball to Davis and securing another touchdown. Who knew Smith would save the day? No one thought him capable of such throws.
In fact, that is the primary reason why this game ranks so high in conversations amongst 49ers fans. Smith was the unexpected hero no one was looking for. Who knows what would have happened if the 49ers had looked to Ackers –a kicker—in those final seconds. Sure, Ackers had a record 44 field goals during that regular season but he wouldn’t have played for the win like Smith.
His performance in 2012 is only eclipsed by the events of the San Francisco/Dallas NFC Championship game in 1982. The emergence of Joe Montana and Bill Walsh changed the prospects of a 49ers team that had attained bottom-feeder status in the league.
With Montana in their camp, the 49ers not only attained a 13-3 regular season record, but they had it in mind to secure their first super bowl in history. But to do that, they had to overcome the Cowboys.
Things did not look too good when the 49ers found themselves trailing Dallas at 27-21. Montana changed everything. With less than a minute left on the clock and after talking to Walsh, Montana took the snap, went right, lofted a high sky pass to Dwight Clark who caught the ball and went into the opponent’s end zone. Montana, Clark, and Walsh ended the game as victors with a score of 28-27. The team also produced one of the greatest plays in its history. Remember that Montana was still in his first full year as a starter.
There is no doubt that his presence and that of Walsh gave birth to the 49ers dynasty.