KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Steve Young, the gentleman whose only ostensible sin is that he is not Joe Montana, modeled bruises on his chest and scratches on his back after it was over yesterday.
Sacked four times, once for a safety, brutalized twice on late hits that drew flags, intercepted twice, limping from a bruised thigh, Young had the look of a man who had answered the bell for one too many rounds.
Yet, the most stinging hit of all was delivered by the scoreboard, which read Kansas City Chiefs 24, San Francisco 49ers 17.
As if replacing Montana were not burden enough for Young, Montana had to go and beat him.
In the first meeting between the genius and his gifted successor, Montana prevailed to the delight of 79,907 fans wearing red at Arrowhead Stadium, an atmosphere more befitting of a college rivalry than a regular-season NFL game between teams that rarely meet.
"In a lot of ways, the master showed he still had a lot to show the student," said the ever-gracious Young.
The two quarterbacks, neither friends nor enemies, said hello before the game and after.
"I just wished him luck and told him maybe we'll see each other again," said Montana, alluding to a possible Super Bowl rematch.
Young, owner of the league's highest passing rating for the past three seasons, has not taken the 49ers to the Super Bowl. Montana won four of them for a San Francisco franchise that won nothing its first 36 years. He was the MVP in three of the victories.
Steve Young is no Joe Montana, but Joe Montana still is.
The greatest closer in the history of football has reached the two-minute drill of his career. Montana is nearing the end and is doing what he always does when time is running out. He's winning big games.
Yesterday's reunion at Arrowhead was not just another game, as evidenced by how many players and coaches said during the week that it was just another game.
Naturally, Montana was up to the challenge.
He completed 19 of 31 passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns and did not throw an interception. Willie Davis dropped four passes or Montana could have passed for 300 yards for the second week in a row for the Chiefs (2-0).
Nice numbers, but statistics never have sufficiently captured Montana's superiority. The when and the how always have told more than the what.
How does a man with such an ugly elbow throw such beautiful passes? How is Montana, 38, so slow and so hard to catch at the same time? No matter how slowly he rolls right, it seems, the behemoths chasing him run one step slower.
He reads defenses with Dick-and-Jane ease and doesn't stumble over a single word.
This time, Montana's comeback didn't come in the fourth quarter, as so many have since his days at Notre Dame. This time, it came in the third, when the Chiefs scored 15 points to erase a 14-9 halftime deficit.
On the opening play of the second half, Young (24-for-34, 288 yards, one touchdown, two interceptions, one fumble, one lost opportunity) was sacked by Derrick Thomas for the second time, though this time not for a safety.
The sack for a 5-yard loss portended trouble for the offensive line-troubled 49ers (1-1).
Montana, master of the ball-control offense via the air, directed the Chiefs 57 yards on eight plays.
One play after hitting tight end Keith Cash for an 8-yard score, Montana rolled right and, undaunted by a heavy rush, hit J. J. Birden in the back of the end zone for the two-point conversion to give the Chiefs a 17-14 lead.
Kansas City's points came on two touchdowns, an extra-point kick, a safety and a two-point coversion, not the usual route.
Charles Mincy then intercepted a Young pass and returned it to the 49ers' 17. Four plays later, Marcus Allen rushed for a 4-yard touchdown and the Chiefs led 24-14.
In the fourth quarter, Young drove the 49ers from their 20 to third-and-goal at the 2. He rolled left for what looked like a sure six until David Whitmore stopped him cold. One more dent for Young's body and ego. Doug Brien's 19-yard field goal brought the 49ers within a touchdown with 5:34 left.
With 2:23 left, 49ers receiver John Taylor fumbled and Kansas City took over at its 31.
Time for Montana to protect the lead, but no time for caution. Eight plays later, Montana killed the clock by dropping to his knee, 8 yards from the end zone.
On the opening play of the final drive, Montana checked off his primary, secondary, and tertiary receivers, and lofted a perfect, long sideline pass to Allen, his fourth option, for a 38-yard gain.
Montana's arms went upright, fists clenched, his celebration signature, the most famous upright arms associated with Notre Dame this side of Touchdown Jesus.
"He said the game was nothing special, but we sensed it was," said Davis, the receiver with the slippery hands. "When we saw him do that and jump in the air, we knew it was."