GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Like a great orchestra on tour, the San Francisco 49ers under the direction of maestro Joe Montana put on another riveting performance yesterday.
With solo touchdown receptions from John Taylor, Brent Jones and Jerry Rice, Montana passed for 411 yards and pulled the curtains on the Green Bay Packers 24-20 before an enraptured audience of 58,835 in Lambeau Field.
The Packers put on a promising warmup act of their own and may someday be ready for the main show. They took a 10-0 lead and looked serious about it until unwittingly relinquishing the baton to Montana 32 seconds before intermission.
A squib kick following Sterling Sharpe's sensational touchdown catch gave the 49ers the ball at the 41 and it was music to their ears. Montana moved his artists 59 yards in only three plays and 21 seconds for their first touchdown, a 23-yarder to Taylor. Like three cymbal crashes, the march woke up the world champions and mesmerized the Pack.
"It takes a while to get started in these early-morning ballgames for us," San Francisco coach George Seifert said.
Not until the fourth quarter did the 49ers take the lead, 17-10, on a 6-yard pass to Jones at the end of a 42-yard drive, their best field position of the day.
The Packers tried to return to center stage, with Sharpe hitting the high notes and Don Majkowski escaping 49ers, who were trying to beat him like a bass drum. Sharpe's diving, over-the-shoulder touchdown catch in the first half had threatened to steal the show as the Packers had done last Nov. 19 in San Francisco when the 49ers last lost.
The Packers drew to 17-13 with 8:17 left and were looking for an encore when Montana and Rice came to the climactic passage of this afternoon.
Third down and five at their 36-yard line, Montana sight-read a blitz and hit Rice on a hook pattern that Rice turned into a 64-yard touchdown with 7:16 left to make it 24-13. Packers cornerback Mark Lee slipped on the coverage and Rice was all alone, streaking down the center of the field accompanied only by the hush of the crowd.
"I saw the backside blitz coming and I knew I had to get rid of the ball. Jerry had a hook. There was no adjustment," Montana said.
Performed as written and rehearsed. It was Rice's sixth and final catch and gave him 187 yards on the day.