During the fourteenth game of the regular season in 1980, the San Francisco 49ers (5-8) hosted the winless New Orleans Saints at Candlestick Park. Other than the QB Archie Manning led “Aints” being expected to lose their fourteenth consecutive game, there was not much reason to expect this would become a memorable game. Ironically, Manning would go on to post his best passer rating (81.8) of any season in his career during the Saints dismal season.
Although the Saints marching off to a 35-7 lead in the first half was a quite a surprise, it still seemed like just another game between two bad teams. In the second half, all that would change when a younger signal-caller would start to make his move at becoming the league’s best.
Most likely, the game would have been long over, if not for 49ers second year QB Joe Montana. And as we saw throughout his career, no game was ever over with Montana still on the field. Montana would lead a four touchdown second half charge to miraculously tie the game at 35 after regulation. The biggest comeback in regular season NFL history would culminate with San Francisco K Ray Wersching booting the game winning 36 yard field goal in overtime.
On Sunday night, also during the fourteenth game of the season, another promising 49ers second year quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, led his team to a 31-3 lead in the third quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Just as it happened thirty-two years ago, the trailing team would come from behind and score four consecutive touchdowns in the second half and tie the game. Just like with Montana, no lead is safe with Pats QB Tom Brady still on the field; even if it is against one of the best defenses in the league.
Eventually, the Patriots rally would fall short, as they would be fended off by the 49ers 41-34. Montana and the biggest regular season NFL comeback would be safe for now, as the 49ers just barely avoided being mentioned in the same breath as the notorious “Aints”. And in case you may be wondering, New Orleans did bounce back to win the following week at Shea Stadium against the New York Jets, which would turned out to be the Saints only victory of the 1980 season.
Next Sunday night, the Seattle Seahawks will be hosting the 49ers, whose airplane ride back to the west coast would have been a little more unpleasant if they had let the Pats game slip away. Even if the Seahawks (6-0 at CenturyLink Field) do win, the 49ers will still maintain possession of first place. Seattle needs the game more than the Niners do.
What are the chances that thirty-two years later, the same team with a second year quarterback would be involved in a twenty-eight point second half comeback during the 14th game of the season. Probably the same as a team scoring 50 points in back to back games, like the Niners next opponent, the Seattle Seahawks did in front of 14,000 empty seats in Toronto’s Rogers Centre against the Buffalo Bills. One team going on this type of two game scoring orgy has not been seen in the NFL since 1950.
If Montana’s and Kaepernick’s careers continue to synch up in any way, neither the Niners nor Kaepernick would mind very much.