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Joe Montana

Bounces Back From Back Injury

In 1985 Montana turned in another brilliant performance, throwing for 3,653 yards and twenty-seven touchdowns, but it wasn't enough to return the 49ers to the Super Bowl. In the first round of the playoffs, San Francisco was knocked out of the competition by the New York Giants, 17-3. The beginning of the 1986 season was particularly ominous for Montana, who suffered a severe back injury that doctors at first feared might end his career. He confounded the medical professionals by returning to the game within two months. The 49ers went on to win the NFC Western Division title but fell again to the New York Giants in the first round of the playoffs, 49-3. Labor troubles once again intervened in 1987, cutting the regular season to fifteen games, of which Montana played in thirteen. The quarterback, however, managed to throw for 3,054 yards and a career-high thirty-one touchdowns. He also set an NFL record by completing twenty-two consecutive passes. San Francisco once again won the NFC Western Division title but fell in the first round of the playoffs, this time at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.

As 49ers coach Walsh began giving more playing time to Steve Young during the 1988 season, rumors began to circulate that Montana might be traded. He later told the Boston Globe: "I've never doubted myself, but sometimes you wonder a little." Montana resolved to do whatever it took to hang on to his job as starting quarterback. In the end, he kept his job and led the 49ers to still another Super Bowl game after blow-out wins against the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears in the playoffs. In January 1989, the 49ers once again faced off against the Bengals in the Super Bowl. Of his third trip to the Super Bowl, Montana told the San Jose Mercury News: "This trip to the Super Bowl is more gratifying than the others because the road has been harder." In classic Montana form, the quarterback came to the rescue in the final minutes of the game to lead San Francisco to a 20-16 victory over the Bengals.

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