MINNEAPOLIS, DEC. 30 -- Whether a Young left-hander or some guy named Joe is running the show, the San Francisco 49ers know they're going to win. And their opponents know the 49ers are going to win too.

"If we've got time on the clock, we're going to get the ball into the end zone," said the 49ers' Jerry Rice, who caught nine passes to total 100 receptions for the season. "We've always got somebody in the ideal position to make a big play."

Steve Young was in the ideal place today. He came off the bench at halftime to relieve Joe Montana and rallied the 49ers to a 20-17 victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Young's 34-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor with 29 seconds to go enabled San Francisco (14-2) to become the first team in NFL history with three seasons of 14 or more victories.

Minnesota Coach Jerry Burns wasn't surprised by Young's heroics.

"It epitomizes the whole season. We had our chance to win the game and we couldn't stop them," Burns said. "I just had a premonition they'd go right down and score and we wouldn't stop them. The secondary play was sick. The pass rush. The whole thing."

NFC Central champions last season, the Vikings (6-10) finished in last place for the first time since 1984. They ended the season with a four-game losing streak.

The 49ers' 18th straight road victory extended their own league record.

As he had planned to do before the game, 49ers Coach George Seifert started Montana and used Young for the entire second half. Montana completed 10 of 20 passes for 88 yards and was intercepted once as San Francisco trailed 10-0 and had a scoreless first half for the first time since Dec. 17, 1989 against Buffalo.

San Francisco....0....0....3....17....20

Minnesota........3....7....0.... 7....17