Joe Montana, despite throwing a career-high four interceptions, lifted the San Francisco 49ers to a 23-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals today with a four-yard touchdown pass to Fred Solomon with 1:39 remaining.
The 49ers (9-1) have a comfortable four-game lead in the NFC West over the Los Angeles Rams. Cincinnati fell to 3-7.
Montana began his comeback in the fourth quarter by starting the 49ers' first scoring drive of the quarter with a 17-yard pass to tight end Earl Cooper. He followed with a key 15-yard swing pass to Bill Ring on third down at his 46. Running back Wendell Tyler added runs of 15 and nine yards to help set up Ray Wersching's second field goal of the half from 35 yards out. That cut the Bengals lead to 17-13.
The 49ers' defense, which recorded six sacks, then forced Cincinnati to punt. Dana McLemore returned the kick 19 yards to give the 49ers the ball at the Bengals' 40.
Montana went right to work, hitting Dwight Clark cutting over the middle for 17 yards. He then threw a pass to Roger Craig for a gain of eight. On third down, Montana threw an incomplete pass and the 49ers had to settle for a 24-yard Wersching field goal to reduce the Bengals' lead to 17-16.
The 49ers' defense held the Bengals again and once more the 49ers got an outstanding return by McLemore to get the ball back to the Bengals' 42. On the first play, Montana hit Clark with a pass in the left flat. The San Francisco receiver shook off a tackle attempt by Ray Griffin and ran down the sidelines for a 39-yard gain. Montana kept the drive alive by completing a third-down pass to Solomon to put the ball on the Bengals' five-yard line with two minutes to go.
Two plays later, Montana rolled right and then threw back across the field to a leaping Solomon for a four-yard touchdown.
"Joe has an option of who to throw to on the play," Solomon said. "Their defense went with Joe's motion and I decided to drift out. He finally saw me and threw it up. He made a great adjustment."
Cincinnati's Ken Anderson completed two passes for first downs after Solomon's score, getting the ball into 49ers' territory, but safety Carlton Williamson intercepted at the San Francisco 30-yard line with 35 seconds left.
Montana connected on a 12-yard scoring pass to Cooper in the first half, but the Bengals built a 17-7 halftime lead on a 39-yard field goal by Jim Beech, a six-yard run by Larry Kinnebrew and a seven-yard pass from Anderson to Cris Collinsworth. Wersching added a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter.
"It's a tough loss because we had a good team on the ropes and couldn't put them away," Bengals Coach Sam Wyche said. "It's also tough because some of our guys died a little bit because they wanted to win. I died a little too, I guess I used one of those lives I have as coach."