9. Super Bowl XXIII, 1989: San Francisco 20—Cincinnati 16
In perhaps his greatest comeback of them all, Joe Montana rallied the 49ers in the final minute to win his third Super Bowl in a matchup with the tough, hard luck Bengals.
Competitiveness: 10 out of 10. A taut defensive struggle, the two teams managed only four field goals and a Bengals kickoff return touchdown through three quarters. San Francisco finally broke through with a game-tying touchdown to Jerry Rice, only to have the Bengals retake the lead with a late field goal. This set the stage for Montana’s iconic 92-yard touchdown drive, on which he won the game with a 10-yard pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining.
Star Power: 9 out of 10. Most of it was on the San Francisco side, but wow. Montana and Rice are two of the ten greatest players in league history. Ronnie Lott and Charles Haley are in the Hall of Fame. Bill Walsh transformed the sport.
Intrigue/Controversy: 8 out of 10. The Bengals suffered a major distraction when fullback Stanley Wilson was caught using cocaine in the team hotel the night before the game, forcing them to leave him off the game day roster. Wilson was banned from the league for multiple violations of the drug policy.
Aftermath: 9 out of 10. Montana and the 49ers would repeat the following year, further cementing his stratospheric legend. Cincinnati has not made it back to a Super Bowl, but the no huddle offense used by coach Sam Wyche would have a major influence on the league and is widely imitated to this day.
Aggregate Score: 36 out of 40.
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