January 15, 1995: The San Francisco 49ers had felt the sting of losing two NFC Championship Games in a row to their bitter rivals, the Dallas Cowboys. But on this day, quarterback Steve Young and the rest of the 49ers would get their revenge in one of the most anticipated games in NFL championship history.
The team went out in the offseason and draft and got the defensive players necessary to compete with the Cowboys' potent offense. Ken Norton Jr., Gary Plummer, and Deion Sanders were free agent additions, while the team drafted defensive lineman Bryant Young, who quickly developed into a force.
Young was the MVP of the regular season, leading the league with a passer rating of 112.8 and throwing for 35 TDs and 10 Ints. It was his second MVP award, but to him it meant nothing if he couldn't win the big game. The Cowboys stood in the way of Young getting the team back to the Super Bowl for the first time since Joe Montana left.
The 49ers finished the regular season 13-3 to secure homefield advantage over the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys (12-4), including a 21-14 defeat of Dallas earlier in the season. The star power on these teams may not ever be equaled again with the likes of Young, Sanders, Jerry Rice, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irving, Eric Davis, Ken Norton Jr., Larry Allen, Nate Newton, and the list goes on.
The scene was set for Candlestick Park, and what took place in the first quarter no one saw coming. The 49ers went up 21-0 in a barrage of points off three Cowboys' turnovers. Dallas would turn it over 5 times in the game.
Dallas would battle back to get the game to 24-14, but just before halftime, as he did so many times in his career, Hall of Fame receiver Rice broke their backs with a 28-yard touchdown catch.
The Cowboys made a game of it in the second half, but Sanders proved to be worth all the money the 49ers spent on him when he blanketed receiver Michael Irvin on a deep pass (there's debate if it was pass interference, but you be the judge).
In the end the 49ers won 38-28, handing Aikman his first ever postseason defeat. Young took his famous victory lap around Candlestick Park after he had exercised his demons vs. Dallas.
That game was the real Super Bowl. The San Diego Chargers stood no chance against the high-powered 49ers, with San Francisco winning Super Bowl XXIX, 49-26, in a game where Young threw for a record 6 TDs, and officially took the monkey off his back of being in Montana's shadow.
But that Super Bowl wouldn't have been possible if not for this great NFC Championship played 20 years ago today. Here's to you Steve Young and the 1994-1995 San Francisco 49ers.