Changing Places: Colts at the 49ers, 1998

The Colts haven't played in San Francisco since 1998. And when they did, a rookie quarterback named Peyton Manning tried to lead his 1-5 Colts to an upset over the star-studded 49ers. Records were broken and controversy reigned.

OCTOBER 18, 1998
3 Com Park, San Francisco

Colts Starters

WR  Jerome Pathon LDE  Al Fontenot
LT  Tarik Glenn LDT Tony McCoy
LG  Steve McKinney RDT  Ellis Johnson
C  Jay Leeuwenburg RDE  Bertrand Berry
RG  Tony Mandarich LB  Andre Royal
RT  Adam Meadows LB  Elijah Alexander
TE  Ken Dilger Nickel  Back  Monty Montgomery
WR  Marvin Harrison LCB  Jeff Burris
QB  Peyton Manning RCB  Tyrone Poole
RB  Marshall Faulk SS  Robert Blackmon
FB  Craig Heyward FS  Jason Belser

It was a sunny day in San Francisco when the 1-5 underdog Colts lined up to take on the 49ers in front of 68,486 fans.

Running back Marshall Faulk (17-103, 1 TD), rookie quarterback Peyton Manning (18-30-231, 3 TDs) and wide receiver Marvin Harrison (6-98, 3 TDs) helped the Colts jump out to a shocking 21-0 lead in the second quarter. Faulk ignited the Colts' attack with a 65-yard touchdown run less than five minutes into the game. Manning and Harrison hooked up twice for scores on short 4- and 6-yard passes. But the 49ers climbed back into the contest with 17 unanswered points -- with a little help through a pair of interceptions by the Colts being nullified by holding penalties. Steve Young (33-51-331, 2 TDs) found wide receivers J.J. Stokes and Terrell Owens for scores after each of the penalties.

The Colts started the second half strong, launching a 10-point scoring flurry that included a 61-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Harrison and a 38-yard field goal by Mike Vanderjagt. It was the third touchdown pass between Manning and Harrison of the game, numbers 3 through 5 of the tandem's career. They had hooked up for touchdowns just twice in the first six games of the season, once in Manning's debut against the Dolphins in week one and the other the previous week against the Bills.

But with just over six minutes remaining in the third quarter after Vanderjagt's kick, the momentum pendulum began to swing back towards the 49ers. 

Trailing 31-17, Young gave the Colts a dose of his mobility and pushed his offense through the defense for 91- and 53-yard drives. Young scored both touchdowns on 1-yard and 23-yard runs. The game was tied with just under 6 minutes left in the game. 

The Colts started chewing up the clock, but their drive stalled and they missed a 53-yard field goal attempt by Vanderjagt with 1:08 remaining. With great field position, the 49ers moved the ball to set up a Wade Richey 24-yard field goal to escape with the 34-31 win.

The officiating of the game raised a furor in the media and amongst fans, especially in regards to the two interceptions that had been negated that would have stopped two San Francisco scoring drives. Questions were raised as to whether or not the officiating was biased in favor of the 49ers -- who had the marquee names on their squad like Young and Jerry Rice. The outcry became so embarrassing that the league actually issued a statement saying that errors were made by the officiating crew.

The Colts defense had fought mightily throughout the day, with five different players (Berry, McCoy, Fontenot, Johnson, linebacker Jim Morrison) recording sacks at the expense of Young. But San Francisco's offense simply overpowered them late in the game. The 49ers finished the day with 36 first downs, which to this day is still the highest number of first downs yielded in a game by the Colts in franchise history. On a more positive note, Fauk's 65-yard touchdown run and Manning's 61-yard touchdown pass marked the first time in Colts history that a rushing 50-plus yard touchdown and a passing 50-plus yard touchdown had been scored in the same game.

Manning and Harrison return to San Francisco on Sunday with the opportunity to break the career record for a quarterback-receiver duo that they currently share with Young and Rice. To do that in San Francisco, where they hooked up for their first 3-touchdown effort of Manning's rookie campaign would be fitting.

And to add to the irony of the day, this time it's the 49ers who are starting a rookie quarterback against a star-studded Colts team. Manning and the Colts will certainly be hoping that they don't have to wage a fourth-quarter comeback to win -- like the Niners were forced to do back in 1998.

Premium Members can view additional photos from that 1998 game by clicking on the Saturday, October 8th entry of our Sportwriter's Blog. Check out the photos of some players you haven't seen in quite a few years and enjoy the memories!



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