1987 San Francisco 49ers season

The 1987 San Francisco 49ers season was the team's 38th year with the National Football League. The 49ers won the division for the second consecutive season, and ended the season as the top seed in the NFC playoffs. The season ended with an upset loss to the Minnesota Vikings in the divisional round of the playoffs.

1987 San Francisco 49ers season
Head coachBill Walsh
Home fieldCandlestick Park
Division place1st NFC West
Playoff finishLost Divisional Playoffs (Vikings) 36–24

The season

The 49ers lost the first game of the season to Pittsburgh. It appeared that they were going to start the season 0–2, down by 6 points with just seconds to play. However, quarterback Joe Montana threw a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Jerry Rice as time expired. The 49ers used the victory as a springboard to a 13–1 run to end the season with the best record in the NFL.

The 49ers scored 459 points, the most in the NFL in 1987; they also scored 206 more points than they allowed, best in the league as well. The 49ers gained the most total yards (5,987), the most rushing yards (2,237) and second most passing yards (3,750) in the NFL in 1987.[1]

Wide receiver Jerry Rice was named NFL Offensive Player of the Year and the Bert Bell Award (for Player of the Year). Rice caught 22 touchdown passes in a strike-shortened 12 games, a record that stood for twenty years(with the 23rd reception occurring on the 16th and final game of the season).[2] Rice led the league in receiving yards per game (89.8), total touchdowns (23), and points scored (138). Quarterback Joe Montana (who crossed the picket line during the strike) led the league with 31 touchdown passes. He also led the league in passer rating (102.1) and completion percentage (66.8%).

The San Francisco defense was also very strong, surrendering the fewest total yards (4,095), fewest passing yards (2,484) and fifth-fewest rushing yards (1,611) in the NFL in 1987. The 1987 49ers have the best passer rating differential (offensive passer rating minus opponents' combined passer rating) of the Live Ball Era (1978–present), with +52.4.[3]


When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected quarterback Vinny Testaverde first overall in the 1987 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay quarterback Steve Young was traded to the 49ers on April 24, 1987. The Buccaneers received 2nd and 4th round draft picks in the trade, which they used to draft Miami linebacker Winston Moss, and Arizona State wide receiver Bruce Hill.

NFL Draft



1987 San Francisco 49ers staff
Front office

Head coaches

  • Head Coach – Bill Walsh

Offensive coaches

Defensive coaches

Special teams coaches

Strength and conditioning

  • Physical Development Coordinator – Jerry Attaway


1987 San Francisco 49ers roster

Running backs

Wide receivers

Tight ends

Offensive linemen

Defensive linemen


Defensive backs

Special teams

Reserve lists

Practice/Taxi squad {{{practice_squad}}}

Rookies in italics

Regular season

In 1987, Jerry Rice led the NFL with 22 touchdown receptions. The runner-up was Philadelphia Eagles receiver Mike Quick with 11. This marked the first time in NFL history that a category leader doubled the total of his nearest competitor.[5]


Week Date Opponent Result Attendance
1 September 13, 1987 at Pittsburgh Steelers L 17–30
2 September 20, 1987 at Cincinnati Bengals W 27–26
September 27, 1987 Philadelphia Eagles canceled
3 October 5, 1987 (Mon) at New York Giants W 41–21
4 October 11, 1987 at Atlanta Falcons W 25–17
5 October 18, 1987 St. Louis Cardinals W 34–28
6 October 25, 1987 at New Orleans Saints W 24–22
7 November 1, 1987 at Los Angeles Rams W 31–10
8 November 8, 1987 Houston Oilers W 27–20
9 November 15, 1987 New Orleans Saints L 24–26
10 November 22, 1987 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers W 24–10
11 November 29, 1987 Cleveland Browns W 38–24
12 December 6, 1987 at Green Bay Packers W 23–12
13 December 14, 1987 (Mon) Chicago Bears W 41–0
14 December 20, 1987 Atlanta Falcons W 35–7
15 December 27, 1987 Los Angeles Rams W 48–0

Game summaries

Week 2

1 234Total
49ers 0 7137 27
Bengals 10 1006 26



NFC West
San Francisco 49ers(1) 13 2 0 .867 5–1 10–1 459 253 W6
New Orleans Saints(4) 12 3 0 .800 4–1 8–3 426 283 W9
Los Angeles Rams 6 9 0 .400 1–5 5–7 317 361 L2
Atlanta Falcons 3 12 0 .200 1–4 3–8 205 436 L3


NFC Divisional Playoff vs Minnesota Vikings

The 13-2 49ers suffered one of the biggest upsets in playoff history as the 8-7 Vikings came into Candlestick and beat the 49ers 36-24. Vikings QB Wade Wilson threw for 298 yards, and Anthony Carter caught 10 passes for 227 yards. Joe Montana struggled so much, that Steve Young came in to relieve him. Though he played better, it wasn't enough. The Vikings took a 20-3 halftime lead, and held on for the major upset.

Awards and records



  1. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com: 1987 NFL Standings, Team & Offensive Statistics
  2. ^ It was broken by Randy Moss in 2007.
  3. ^ "Cold Hard Football Facts: 40 and Fabulous: in praise of passer rating". Archived from the original on 2012-08-17. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  4. ^ 1990 NFL Pro Set Harris Barton trading card, Card No. 284, Pro Set Properties
  5. ^ Numbelivable!, p.147, Michael X. Ferraro and John Veneziano, Triumph Books, Chicago, Illinois, 2007, ISBN 978-1-57243-990-0
  6. ^ Pro-Football-Reference.com
  7. ^ a b NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 142
  8. ^ NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book, Workman Publishing Co, New York,NY, ISBN 0-7611-2480-2, p. 447
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-19. Retrieved 2012-08-03.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)

External links

Scoring summary
1CINLarry Kinnebrew 2-yard run (Jim Breech kick)Bengals 7–0
1CINJim Breech 23-yard field goalBengals 10–0
2SFMike Wilson 38-yard pass from Joe Montana (Ray Wersching kick)Bengals 10–7
2CINRodney Holman 46-yard pass from Boomer Esiason (Jim Breech kick)Bengals 17–7
2CINJim Breech 42-yard field goalBengals 20–7
3SFJerry Rice 34-yard pass from Joe Montana (Ray Wersching kick)Bengals 20–14
3SFRay Wersching 24-yard field goalBengals 20–17
3SFRay Wersching 31-yard field goalTie 20–20
4CINJim Breech 41-yard field goalBengals 23–20
4CINJim Breech 46-yard field goalBengals 26–20
4SFJerry Rice 25-yard pass from Joe Montana (Ray Wersching kick)49ers 27–26
Key figures
Division championships (19)
Conference championships (6)
League championships (5)
Retired numbers
Current league affiliations
Former league affiliation
Seasons (73)

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