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The Young 49ers
Rick Reilly
September 30, 1991
San Francisco needed a victory on Sunday, and so did Steve Young
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September 30, 1991

The Young 49ers

San Francisco needed a victory on Sunday, and so did Steve Young

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What it all meant was that Sunday's game against the Rams—a team that also was 1-2 but had licked San Francisco in their last three regular-season meetings at Candlestick Park—was large. Young knew that if he started 1-3 and Montana came back to play the next week against the Raiders, as had been rumored, he always would be the kid who borrowed Dad's car and wrecked it.

For most of the first half, Young must have wondered why he ever wanted this job in the first place. He twice moved the 49ers inside the Ram 20, and all he got was a field goal. You could almost hear the columnists typing, In the 49ers' last five chances inside the opponent's 20, Steve Young has come away with exactly three points. Do we lynch him or hang him?

Then, with Los Angeles leading 10-3 and only 41 seconds remaining in the half, with acres of green to go and maybe a very nice career going right down the tubes, Young decided to have his finest moment of the day. In 23 seconds he took the Niners 65 yards for a touchdown, a drive of perfect spirals, gorgeous catches—including a 12-yarder for the score by John Taylor—and exhausted Rams. From there, Young was not tense, only terrific. He threw a 62-yard TD pass to Rice in the fourth quarter, and the Niners won 27-10.

Young's day: 21 for 31, 288 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, one clutch-as-hell drive. Oh, yeah, 11 completions were to the right and 10 to the left. "That felt good," said Young with an extra-large sigh. Did the 49ers finally feel less like a rental team to him and more like his own? "It was my team this week," Young said, "and that's good enough for me."

When it will be Montana's team again nobody can say. He won't play until at least Oct. 13, when San Francisco will face the Falcons in Atlanta. The 49ers had hoped he would be throwing at practice by last week, but the only throwing Montana has done of late is with one of his kid's Velcro balls. Privately, San Francisco coaches and executives figure they'll be lucky if he can play half the year.

So for now at least, Young will have to do. And guess what, he's not doing half bad. After Sunday's game, Seifert was in the dressing room when somebody walked up and asked him if that 23-second drive at the end of the first half reminded him of classic Montana. "No," he said. "It reminded me of classic Steve Young."

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