Jerry Rice and the San Francisco 49ers were heavy favorites to defeat the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. But as the fourth quarter began, they were trailing 13-6. It began to look as though the Bengals were about to pull off a huge upset. But then Jerry Rice, the 49ers wide receiver, took over.
On the fourth play of the 49ers' first drive of the final quarter, Rice leaped high into the air to snag a Joe Montana pass.
As he came down, he stretched his 6'2'' frame forward just enough to cross the Cincinnati goal line for the tying score. But the determined Bengals answered with a field goal to take the lead 16-13.
Rice went back to work. This time, with just 1:15 remaining, he turned a short Montana toss into a 27-yard gain to the Cincinnati 18-yard line.
Two plays later, he streaked across the middle of the field. The Bengals secondary, fearing his speed and athletic ability, adjusted and double-teamed him.
This left John Taylor wide open for the touchdown throw. Respect for Rice had thus set up the game-winning touchdown pass. His 11 catches for a Super Bowl-record 215 yards earned him MVP honors.
Rice (born 1962) was the 49ers' No. 1 draft choice in 1985. He had attended tiny Mississippi Valley State, where he established 18 NCAA Division II records. Named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team, he holds virtually every meaningful NFL receiving mark.
Many experts contend that Rice is the greatest receiver the game has produced. His impressive credentials include 13 Pro Bowl selections, 14 1,000-yard receiving seasons, and 17 50-catch seasons.
A virtual scoring machine, he caught an NFL-record 22 touchdown passes in the strike-shortened l987 season and a career-record 197 in his 20 seasons.
To put some of Rice's career marks in perspective, consider how high he has set the bar. His 1,549 receptions are 448 more than second-place wide receiver Cris Carter, and Rice's 197 touchdown catches outpace Carter by 67.
Rice's 22,895 receiving yards are 7,961 more than runner-up Tim Brown. And Rice's 207 total touchdowns are 32 more than the next-most, by running back Emmitt Smith.
Perhaps most incredibly, Rice missed only 17 regular season games in 20 years, and only three games if you disregard 1997, when Rice was sidelined with torn knee ligaments. His 303 games are the most ever by an NFL receiver and rank only 51 games off the overall league record for games played.
To learn more about football greats, see:
- Great Football Players
- Great Offensive Football Players
- Great Defensive Football Players
- Great Football Coaches