San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throws in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs during Saturday’s preseason game, Aug. 24, 2019, at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Ochsner/Kansas City Star/TNS)

On Sports Media: 49ers have history of shining on Monday Night

San Francisco 49ers are no stranger to primetime Monday Night Football games

By Jim Williams

Special to S.F. Examiner

If the San Francisco 49ers beat the Cleveland Browns on Monday night at Levi’s Stadium, it would mark the 49th time the franchise has come away with a win on Monday Night Football.

Their 48th win came all the way back in 2016, when they shutout the Rams 28-0.

San Francisco already leads the NFL in MNF wins but winning their 49th does have a very nice ring to it. With Jimmy Garoppolo back and one of the most improved defenses in the league, it’s no surprise they’ll get another crack at it (or even a 50th win) when they host Seattle on Nov. 11.

ABC Monday Night Football first aired on Sept. 21, 1970 as part of the NFL-AFL merger, and the opener featured the Browns beating the New York Jets 31-21. Shifting the Sunday-afternoon NFL into primetime attracted a large, non-football, casual sports audience that were more drawn to stars than stats.

The popularity of the program grew at the same time as the national reputation of the 49ers, with their dynasties of the 1980s and the 1990s led by Joe Montana — who went 8-2 on Monday nights — and Steve Young, who went 9-1 in the primetime showcase.

San Francisco played in some of the most memorable Monday Night Football games in the history of the program, like Dec. 11, 1989, with Al Michaels calling play-by-play as the 49ers, armed with Jerry Rice and Montana, faced the Rams in Southern California. John Taylor stole the show on that Monday evening in Anaheim, catching two touchdowns in the final 20 minutes that helped San Francisco come back from a 17-3 deficit to engineer a 30-27 lead. Taylor finished with 286 yards on 11 catches.

On Dec. 23, 1991, against the Chicago Bears, Young threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns, rushing for 63 yards and a score in a 52-14 win over a vaunted defense.

On Dec. 28, 1992, San Francisco battered the Detroit Lions 24-6 in the final game of the regular season to finish 14-2, en route to a loss in the NFC Championship. That night was the last time Montana would lead the 49ers to victory in a regular season game. He came off the bench in the second half to hit on 15 of 21 passes for 121 yards and touchdown passes to Brent Jones and Amp Lee.

After Montana left for Kansas City, Young took over, and he and Rice began a string of memorable Monday Night performances of their own.

Thus far the focus on the 49ers signature wins have been centered around Montana which is certainly understandable but San Francisco had another Hall of Fame star who always seemed to treasure the MNF spotlight and that was of course Jerry Rice. We go to the night that cemented Rice as a true superstar on the national stage and that came on

The 1994 season opener, on Sept. 12, cemented Rice as a true superstar on the national stage. Rice hauled in seven passes against the Los Angeles Raiders in a 44-14 win, tying then breaking Jim Brown’s all-time touchdown record.

Rice tied Brown in a fitting way, taking in a 23-yard reverse for his 126th touchdown with 12:15 to go. With five minutes remaining in the game, and the win all but secure after a Raiders fumble, Young hit Rice between two defenders for the record-breaking score.

We don’t yet know how good this version of the 49ers is, but it is possible that they have a breakout performance on Monday night.

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