1988 San Francisco 49ers Season
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1988 San Francisco 49ers Season
1988 San Francisco 49ers season
OwnerEddie DeBartolo, Jr.
Head coachBill Walsh
Home fieldCandlestick Park
Local radioKGO-AM 810
Division place1st NFC West
Playoff finishWon Divisional Playoffs (vs. Vikings) 34-9
Won NFC Championship (at Bears) 28-3
Won Super Bowl XXIII (vs. Bengals) 20-16

The 1988 season was the San Francisco 49ers' 69th in the National Football League (NFL), their 73rd overall, and their tenth and final season under head coach Bill Walsh. The season was highlighted by their third Super Bowl victory. They failed to improve on their 13-2 record from 1987, and the 49ers struggled to a 6-5 record at the midway point and were in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 1982, but rose to defeat the Washington Redskins on a Monday night, eventually finishing the season at 10-6. They gained a measure of revenge by thrashing the Minnesota Vikings 34-9 in the first round. The 49ers then traveled to Chicago's Soldier Field, where the chill factor at game time was 26 degrees below zero. They defeated the Chicago Bears 28-3 in the NFC Championship.

For the 49ers, it was their first Super Bowl appearance since they defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. They had made the playoffs in the three seasons between Super Bowl XIX and Super Bowl XXIII, but were eliminated each time in the first round, primarily because of the poor performances by their offensive stars in those games; quarterback Joe Montana, receiver Jerry Rice and running back Roger Craig all failed to produce a single touchdown.

The 49ers alternated quarterbacks as Montana and Steve Young both started at various points of the season. The broadcast booth of the 49ers radio network also saw change, as Joe Starkey substituted for longtime 49ers play by play announcer Lon Simmons during several games, mostly in October when Simmons called the Oakland Athletics 1988 American League Championship Series and 1988 World Series games for the Oakland A's flagship station, KSFO-AM. The 1988 season was the last for Simmons as 49ers broadcaster. With the regular season and postseason, the 49ers compiled a total of 13 victories (a .684 win percentage) on the season, a record-low for Super Bowl champions. In 2011, the New York Giants would tie this record (but with a .650 win percentage as they suffered seven losses as opposed to the 49ers six).


NFL Draft

Round Pick Player Position College
1 Choice to L.A. Raiders
2 33(Choice from L.A. Raiders) Danny Stubbs DE Miami (FL)
2 39(Choice from Philadelphia through Tampa Bay) Pierce Holt DE Angelo State
2 Choice to Tampa Bay
3 80 Bill Romanowski LB Boston College
4 102(Choice from Chicago through L.A. Raiders) Barry Helton P Colorado
4 Choice to Tampa Bay
5 Choice to N.Y. Jets
5 Choice to Buffalo
6 Choice to Tampa Bay
7 191 Kevin Bryant LB Delaware State
8 219 Larry Clarkson OT Montana
9 247 Brian Bonner LB Minnesota
10 275 Tim Foley K Georgia Southern
11 303 Chet Brooks DB Texas A&M
12 331 George Mira, Jr. LB Miami (FL)


Training Camp

The 1988 San Francisco 49ers season held training camp at Sierra College in Rocklin, California.





1988 Team Starters


16 Joe Montana                   QB
33 Roger Craig                   RB
44 Tom Rathman                   FB
85 Mike Wilson                   WR
80 Jerry Rice                    WR
89 Ron Heller                    TE
74 Steve Wallace                 LT
61 Jesse Sapolu                  LG
64 Randy Cross                   C
62 Guy McIntyre                  RG
79 Harris Barton                 RT


91 Larry Roberts                LDE
95 Michael Carter               NT
75 Kevin Fagan                  RDE
94 Charles Haley                LB
50 Riki Ellison                 LB
99 Mike Walter                  LB
58 Keena Turner                 LB
22 Tim McKyer                   LCB
21 Eric Wright                  RCB
49 Jeff Fuller                  SS
42 Ronnie Lott                  FS

Kicking Team

6 Mike Cofer                    K
9 Barry Helton                  P
82 John Taylor                  PR
25 Doug DuBose                  KR



Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance Recap
1 July 31 Miami Dolphins L 21-27 0-1 United Kingdom Wembley Stadium (London) 70,535 Recap
2 August 6 Los Angeles Raiders W 24-10 1-1 Candlestick Park 64,457 Recap
3 August 13 at Denver Broncos L 24-34 1-2 Mile High Stadium 75,067 Recap
4 August 20 at San Diego Chargers W 34-27 2-2 Jack Murphy Stadium 39,044 Recap
5 August 26 Seattle Seahawks W 27-21 3-2 Candlestick Park 53,357 Recap

Regular season

In the 1988 season, San Francisco won the NFC West with a 10-6 regular season record, but it was a long uphill battle; the 49ers, Rams, and Saints all finished 10-6 with the 49ers winning the division on tiebreakers. The team had a quarterback controversy with Montana and Steve Young each starting at quarterback during the season. But after a 6-5 start, Montana led the 49ers to win 4 of their final 5 regular season games.

Montana finished the regular season with 238 completions for 2,981 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also added 132 rushing yards. His favorite target was Rice, who recorded 64 receptions for 1,306 yards (a 20.4 yards per catch average) and 9 touchdowns. Craig was also a key contributor with a total of 2,036 combined rushing and receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Fullback Tom Rathman also made a big impact, rushing for 427 yards and catching 42 passes for 387 yards. The 49ers defense was led by defensive backs Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Jeff Fuller, and Tim McKyer, who recorded a combined total of 18 interceptions. McKyer led the team with 7, while Lott recorded 5. Linebacker Charles Haley was also a big contributor with 11.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries.


Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Attendance Recap
1 September 4 at New Orleans Saints W 34-33 1-0 Louisiana Superdome 66,357 Recap
2 September 11 at New York Giants W 20-17 2-0 Giants Stadium 75,943 Recap
3 September 18 Atlanta Falcons L 17-34 2-1 Candlestick Park 60,168 Recap
4 September 25 at Seattle Seahawks W 38-7 3-1 Kingdome 62,382 Recap
5 October 2 Detroit Lions W 20-13 4-1 Candlestick Park 58,285 Recap
6 October 9 Denver Broncos L 13-16 (OT) 4-2 Candlestick Park 61,711 Recap
7 October 16 at Los Angeles Rams W 24-21 5-2 Anaheim Stadium 65,450 Recap
8 October 24 at Chicago Bears L 9-10 5-3 Soldier Field 65,293 Recap
9 October 30 Minnesota Vikings W 24-21 6-3 Candlestick Park 60,738 Recap
10 November 6 at Phoenix Cardinals L 23-24 6-4 Sun Devil Stadium 64,544 Recap
11 November 13 Los Angeles Raiders L 3-9 6-5 Candlestick Park 54,448 Recap
12 November 21 Washington Redskins W 37-21 7-5 Candlestick Park 59,268 Recap
13 November 27 at San Diego Chargers W 48-10 8-5 Jack Murphy Stadium 51,484 Recap
14 December 4 at Atlanta Falcons W 13-3 9-5 Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium 44,048 Recap
15 December 11 New Orleans Saints W 30-17 10-5 Candlestick Park 62,977 Recap
16 December 18 Los Angeles Rams L 16-38 10-6 Candlestick Park 62,444 Recap

Game summaries

Week 1 at New Orleans Saints

The Saints, fresh off the first winning season in franchise history, clawed to a 17-10 halftime lead in the second quarter, but Joe Montana erupted in the third with three touchdown throws. Head coach Bill Walsh, wanting to get playing time for backup Steve Young, put Young in for the fourth quarter; Young was sacked in the endzone for a safety and the Saints scored seven more points after that, nonetheless coming up short 34-33 to the 49ers.

Week 2 at New York Giants

Concerned over Montana's health, coach Walsh started Steve Young in his place against the Giants; Young's rawness to the Niners offensive system showed as he was limited to 115 yards passing and the Niners trailed 17-13 in the fourth. Montana came in and fired a 77-yard touchdown in the final minutes to Jerry Rice and a 20-17 Niners win.

Week 3 vs. Atlanta Falcons

The 49ers lost to the Falcons for only the fourth time since 1981 as Joe Montana was intercepted three times and sacked three times in a 34-17 rout. Gerald Riggs of the Falcons rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Week 4 at Seattle Seahawks

The Niners rebounded by putting up 580 yards of offense in a 38-7 rout of the Seahawks. Joe Montana threw four touchdowns and Steve Young added a fifth while Roger Craig and Tom Rathman accounted for 186 rushing yards. The Seahawks Jeff Kemp was intercepted three times and Kelly Stouffer added a fourth pick.

Week 5 vs. Detroit Lions

Week 6 vs. Denver Broncos

Joe Montana ran in a six-yard touchdown and threw for 191 yards and an interception; he was sacked three times and replaced by Young as John Elway tied the game 13-13 on a touchdown to Vance Johnson. Wind gusts up to 40 mph suddenly hit Candlestick Park and made passing more difficult; in overtime a Steve Young pass was intercepted (Young's second pick of the game), setting up Rich Karlis' winning field goal (16-13 final for the Broncos).

Week 7 at Los Angeles Rams

Roger Craig had one of his greatest games in a 199-yard stampede where he scored three touchdowns, highlighted by a dramatic 46-yard score in the first quarter. Despite three Jim Everett touchdowns the Rams fell to San Francisco 24-21, the tenth 49ers win in the rivalry's previous 14 games.

Week 8 at Chicago Bears

The Niners struggled to a 10-9 loss to the Bears on Monday Night Football. The Niners incurred ten penalties for 57 yards and Joe Montana was sacked four times.

Week 9 vs. Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings' playoff win at San Francisco the previous season hung over Candlestick Park as Coach Walsh started Steve Young in Joe Montana's stead. Young struggled and was booed repeatedly by the crowd ("They were running him out of town", lineman Harris Barton said). Just before the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter the Vikings led 21-17 with the Niners at Minnesota's 49-yard line; Young escaped a sack and ran in the game-winning touchdown, earning applause from the same audience that had been booing him; the NFL Films clip with Lon Simmons' call of the score is among the most replayed in retrospectives on Young's career.[4]

Week 10 at Phoenix Cardinals

With Young still starting, the 49ers raced to a 23-0 lead in the third quarter, and Coach Bill Walsh felt it was the sharpest the offense had looked all season. The Cardinals, however, began clawing back as Neil Lomax rifled a pair of touchdowns; making matters worse for San Francisco was a whopping 14 penalties for 106 yards. On a kick return Walsh was blindsided by a runner and suffered two cracked ribs; he then had to watch as the Cardinals raced down field in the final minute and scored on a nine-yard Lomax score to Roy Green. It turned out to be the last road loss for the 49ers until Week One of the 1991 season.

Week 11 vs. Los Angeles Raiders

The low point for the 49ers season came against the Raiders as Joe Montana started despite continuing concern by Walsh over his health; Montana had lost eight pounds and was coming off a stomach illness. Montana was held to 160 passing yards as the Raiders clawed out a 9-3 win. The 49ers' final drive stalled when officials did not call a pass interference penalty on the Raiders over a play to Jerry Rice inside the 10-yard line.

As a result, it was the second game of the season they didn't score a touchdown. Following the loss amid chatter from players interpreted as them giving up on the season Ronnie Lott called a players-only meeting; Harris Barton called it "a 'screw the coaches' meeting" and said that it worked to refocus the players on playing better ("They usually don't work, but this one did.")

Week 12 vs. Washington Redskins

The refocused Niners erupted on the defending champion Redskins, racing to a 23-7 halftime lead and winning 37-21. Joe Montana threw two touchdowns (including an 80-yarder to Jerry Rice) and ran in a third. Super Bowl MVP Doug Williams of the Redskins threw three touchdowns while Timmy Smith was held to just six rushing yards.

Week 13 at San Diego Chargers

The Niners' scoring explosion continued at Jack Murphy Stadium as Joe Montana threw three touchdowns (the first a 96-yarder to Jerry Rice) and Roger Craig had two rushing scores and a touchdown catch, while Doug DuBose added a rushing score. Four Niners backs plus both quarterbacks (Montana and Steve Young) rushed for 203 yards crushing the Chargers 48-10.

Week 14 at Atlanta Falcons

The Niners traveled to Fulton County Stadium and limited the Atlanta Falcons to 177 yards of offense in a 13-3 win.

Week 15 vs. New Orleans Saints

The Niners hosted the Saints with both teams at 9-5 but going in opposite directions following two straight Saints losses. Led by Roger Craig's 115 yards, the Niners rushed for 152 yards and two scores while Joe Montana threw for 233 yards and a score in San Francisco's 30-17 win. At halftime, the 49ers retired number 87, which was worn by Dwight Clark from 1979 to 1987.

Week 16 vs. Los Angeles Rams

The Niners clinched the NFC West despite a three-way tie with the Rams and New Orleans (all finishing 10-6) and despite a 38-16 slaughter by the Rams that put them into the playoffs. Jim Everett threw four touchdowns while Montana and Young combined for 291 yards but no scores. San Francisco won the division on tiebreakers and the Rams were the wild card, while the 10-6 Saints were eliminated from playoff contention on the conference record tiebreaker.

Game officials


Week Opponent Referee Umpire Head Linesman Line Judge Back Judge Side Judge Field Judge Replay
1 vs. Miami Dolphins (at London, England)
2 Los Angeles Raiders
3 at Denver Broncos (12) (89) (72) (94) (21) (47) (113) Bill Fette
4 at San Diego Chargers
5 Seattle Seahawks (40) (50) (109) (56) (99) (66) (46) Armen Terzian

Regular season

Week Opponent Referee Umpire Head Linesman Line Judge Back Judge Side Judge Field Judge Replay
1 at New Orleans Saints (9) Jerry Markbreit (100) Bob Wagner (72) Terry Gierke (59) Bob Beeks (4) Doug Toole (58) Bill Quinby (91) Bill Stanley George Sladky
2 at New York Giants (48) Gordon McCarter (117) Ben Montgomery (81) Dave Anderson (3) Boyce Smith (49) Dean Look (61) Dick Creed (84) Bob Wortman Chuck Heberling
3 Atlanta Falcons (7) Fred Silva (42) Dave Hamilton (8) Dale Williams (54) Jack Johnson (68) Louis Richard (102) Merrill Douglas (18) Bob Lewis Royal Cathcart
4 at Seattle Seahawks (60) Dick Jorgensen (110) Ron Botchan (10) Ron Phares (51) Dale Orem (92) Jim Poole (20) Larry Nemmers (44) Donnie Hampton Bill Swanson
5 Detroit Lions (43) Red Cashion (27) Al Conway (37) Burl Toler (94) Vern Marshall (52) Ben Tompkins (29) Howard Slavin (96) Don Hakes Grover Klemmer
6 Denver Broncos (32) Jim Tunney (115) Hendi Ancich (111) Earnie Frantz (33) Howard Roe (118) Tom Sifferman (97) Nate Jones (82) Pat Mallette Bill Fette
7 at Los Angeles Rams (70) Jerry Seeman (103) Rex Stuart (79) Aaron Pointer (15) Bama Glass (21) Pete Liske (64) Dave Parry (113) Don Dorkowski Dave Kamanski
8 at Chicago Bears (23) Johnny Grier (78) Art Demmas (87) Paul Weidner (83) Ron Blum (24) Roy Clymer (90) Gil Mace (119) Ron Spitler Al Sabato
9 Minnesota Vikings (7) Fred Silva (42) Dave Hamilton (8) Dale Williams (54) Jack Johnson (68) Louis Richard (102) Merrill Douglas (18) Bob Lewis Royal Cathcart
10 at Phoenix Cardinals (9) Jerry Markbreit (100) Bob Wagner (72) Terry Gierke (59) Bob Beeks (4) Doug Toole (58) Bill Quinby (91) Bill Stanley George Sladky
11 Los Angeles Raiders (40) Pat Haggerty (50) Neil Gereb (109) Sid Semon (56) Ron Baynes (99) Banks Williams (66) Dave Hawk (46) John Robison Cal Lepore
12 Washington Redskins (70) Jerry Seeman (103) Rex Stuart (79) Aaron Pointer (15) Bama Glass (21) Pete Liske (64) Dave Parry (113) Don Dorkowski Dave Kamanski
13 at San Diego Chargers (12) Ben Dreith (88) Dave Moss (55) Dave Barnes (41) Dick McKenzie (106) Al Jury (16) Doyle Jackson (31) Dick Dolack Dixon Holman
14 at Atlanta Falcons (48) Gordon McCarter (117) Ben Montgomery (81) Dave Anderson (3) Boyce Smith (49) Dean Look (61) Dick Creed (84) Bob Wortman Chuck Heberling
15 New Orleans Saints (43) Red Cashion (27) Al Conway (37) Burl Toler (94) Vern Marshall (52) Ben Tompkins (29) Howard Slavin (96) Don Hakes Grover Klemmer
16 Los Angeles Rams (14) Gene Barth (57) Ed Fiffick (85) Frank Glover (74) Ray Dodez (38) Bruce Maurer (34) Gerald Austin (76) Ed Merrifield Mark Burns


NFC West
San Francisco 49ers(2) 10 6 0 .625 4-2 8-4 369 294 L1
Los Angeles Rams(5) 10 6 0 .625 4-2 8-4 407 293 W3
New Orleans Saints 10 6 0 .625 3-3 6-6 312 283 W1
Atlanta Falcons 5 11 0 .313 1-5 4-8 244 315 L3


Week Date Opponent Result Record Venue Recap
Divisional January 1, 1989 Minnesota Vikings (4) W 34-9 1-0 Candlestick Park Recap
NFC Championship January 8, 1989 at Chicago Bears (1) W 28-3 2-0 Soldier Field Recap
Super Bowl XXIII January 22, 1989 Cincinnati Bengals (A1) W 20-16 3-0 Joe Robbie Stadium Recap

NFC Divisional Playoff vs. Minnesota Vikings

For the third time in some 365 days the 49ers hosted the Vikings, and for the second time in that span it was in the playoffs. Minnesota entered having shot down the Rams 28-17 and boasting an offense fourth in scoring with a defense second in fewest points allowed with a plus-23 turnover differential - and none of it made any difference as Joe Montana threw three touchdowns in the first half and Jerry Rice caught all three. Wade Wilson was picked off twice as the Niners won 34-9, their first playoff win since Super Bowl XIX.

NFC Championship Game at Chicago Bears

The Niners traveled to frigid Soldier Field a week after the Bears succeeded in the Fog Bowl against the Eagles and less than three months after San Francisco's ugly Monday Night loss in that same venue. The Niners put the game away in the third quarter following Joe Montana's third touchdown of the game as the Niners limited the Bears' sluggish offense (18th in scoring) to just one Kevin Butler field goal. The win was doubly personal for Walsh between returning to the Super Bowl and also quieting hecklers in the Soldier Field crowd, including one in particular who'd persisted in what Walsh delicately described as "remarks about my body parts and my preferences in life", but who was reduced to futile stuttering as the game got out of hand.

Super Bowl XXIII vs. Cincinnati Bengals (at Miami Gardens, Florida)

The game is remembered for the 49ers' fourth-quarter game-winning drive. Down 16-13, San Francisco got the ball on their own eight-yard line with 3:10 on the clock and marched 92 yards down the field in under three minutes. They then scored the winning touchdown on a Joe Montana pass to John Taylor with just 34 seconds left in the game.

49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice was named the Super Bowl MVP. He caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing once for 5 yards.

This was also the final NFL game coached by the 49ers' Bill Walsh. This was also the final Super Bowl that Pete Rozelle presided over as NFL Commissioner.

Game officials

Round Opponent Referee Umpire Head Linesman Line Judge Back Judge Side Judge Field Judge Replay Alternates
NFC Divisional Playoff Minnesota Vikings (9) Jerry Markbreit (78) Art Demmas (81) Dave Anderson (53) Bill Reynolds (106) Al Jury (120) Gary Lane (73) Bobby Skelton Dixon Holman
NFC Championship Game at Chicago Bears (95) Bob McElwee (101) Bob Boylston (35) Leo Miles (54) Jack Johnson (99) Banks Williams (47) Tom Fincken (82) Pat Mallette Al Sabato
Super Bowl XXIII Cincinnati Bengals (at Miami Gardens, Florida) (70) Jerry Seeman (89) Gordon Wells (17) Jerry Bergman (59) Bob Beeks (22) Paul Baetz (120) Gary Lane (73) Bobby Skelton Chuck Heberling (14) Gene Barth
(57) Ed Fiffick



Player Cmp Att Yds TD INT Sk Yds


Player Att Yds TD


Player Rec Yds TD




Player Pnt Yds Blck

Kick Return

Player Ret Yds TD

Punt Return

Player Ret Yds TD


Player INT Yards TD


Player FF Fmb FR Yds TD


Player Sk Sfty


Player Tkl Ast




Team Total Plays Passing Pass Att Pass Cmp Pass Yds Pass TD Intercepted Pass 1stD Rushing Rush Att Rush Yds Rush TD Fumbles Lost Rush 1stD Pen 1stD Pts

Awards and records

  • Mike Cofer, Led NFC, 27 Field Goals
  • Mike Cofer, Led NFC, 121 Points
  • Roger Craig, Offense, UPI NFC Player of the Year
  • Roger Craig, Led NFC with 2068 total yards
  • Jerry Rice, Most Valuable Player, Super Bowl XXIII

1989 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl

Number Player Position Conference
95 Michael Carter NT NFC Pro Bowlers
33 Roger Craig RB, Starter NFC Pro Bowlers
94 Charles Haley LB-DE NFC Pro Bowlers
42 Ronnie Lott FS, Starter NFC Pro Bowlers
80 Jerry Rice WR, Did Not Play NFC Pro Bowlers
82 John Taylor KR NFC Pro Bowlers



Pre season Local TV

Channel Play-by-play Color commentator(s)
KPIX-TV 5 Wayne Walker Bill Ring

Local Radio

Flagship station Play-by-play Color commentator(s) Sideline reporter (s) Studio host
KGO-AM 810 Lon Simmons (Pre Season, Week 1-5 and 8-16, Playoffs and Super Bowl XXIII)
Joe Starkey (Week 6-7)
Wayne Walker (Pre Season Week 1-2, Regular Season, Playoffs and Super Bowl XXIII)
Joe Starkey (Pre Season Weeks 3-5)
Joe Starkey (Pre Season Week 1-2, Week 1-5 and 8-16, Playoffs and Super Bowl XXIII) Joe Starkey


  1. ^ San Francisco 49ers 2015 Media Guide. San Francisco 49ers. p. 562.
  2. ^ "1988 San Francisco 49ers starters and roster". Pro-Football-Reference.com. Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q San Francisco 49ers 2015 Media Guide. San Francisco 49ers. p. 455.
  4. ^ 1988 Steve Young touchdown vs. Vikings on YouTube
  5. ^ San Francisco 49ers 2015 Media Guide. San Francisco 49ers. p. 517.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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