The season saw the return of Jerry Rice, who missed most of 1997 with a major knee injury.
After defeating the Packers in the Wildcard round, thanks to a game-winning catch by young Terrell Owens, San Francisco's season ended with a defeat to the Atlanta Falcons the following week. The Falcons then defeated the 15–1 Minnesota Vikings in the title game, but they lost to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
The Divisional round was Steve Young's final playoff appearance as he suffered a concussion in Week 3 of the next season, ending his 15-year NFL career.
|1998 San Francisco 49ers season|
|Head coach||Steve Mariucci|
|Home field||3Com Park|
|Division place||2nd NFC West|
|Playoff finish||Won Wild Card Playoffs (Packers) 30–27|
Lost Divisional Playoffs (Falcons) 18–20
|1998 San Francisco 49ers draft|
|1||28||R. W. McQuarters||Cornerback||Oklahoma State|
|2||58||Jeremy Newberry *||Center||California|
|3||89||Chris Ruhman||Tackle||Texas A&M|
|4||119||Lance Schulters *||Safety||Hofstra|
|5||151||Phil Ostrowski||Guard||Penn State|
|6||180||Fred Beasley *||Fullback||Auburn|
|7||215||Ryan Thelwell||Wide Receiver||Minnesota|
|Pro Bowl during careerMade roster Made at least one|
|1998 San Francisco 49ers roster|
|1||September 6, 1998||vs New York Jets||W 36–30 (OT)||CBS 1:00 pm PT|
|2||September 14, 1998 (Mon)||at Washington Redskins||W 45–10||ABC 6:00 pm PT|
|4||September 27, 1998||vs Atlanta Falcons||W 31–20||FOX 1:00 pm PT|
|5||October 4, 1998||at Buffalo Bills||L 21–26||FOX 10:00 am PT|
|6||October 11, 1998||at New Orleans Saints||W 31–0||FOX 10:00 am PT|
|7||October 18, 1998||vs Indianapolis Colts||W 34–31||CBS 1:00 pm PT|
|8||October 25, 1998||at St. Louis Rams||W 28–10||FOX 10:00 am PT|
|9||November 1, 1998||at Green Bay Packers||L 22–36||FOX 1:00 pm PT|
|10||November 8, 1998||vs Carolina Panthers||W 25–23||FOX 1:00 pm PT|
|11||November 15, 1998||at Atlanta Falcons||L 19–31||FOX 10:00 am PT|
|12||November 22, 1998||vs New Orleans Saints||W 31–20||ESPN 5:15 pm PT|
|13||November 30, 1998 (Mon)||vs New York Giants||W 31–7||ABC 6:00 pm PT|
|14||December 6, 1998||at Carolina Panthers||W 31–28 (OT)||FOX 1:00 pm PT|
|15||December 14, 1998 (Mon)||vs Detroit Lions||W 35–13||ABC 6:00 pm PT|
|16||December 20, 1998||at New England Patriots||L 21–24||FOX 10:00 am PT|
|17||December 27, 1998||vs St. Louis Rams||W 38–19||FOX 1:00 pm PT|
The game lead tied or changed eight times in regulation as the Jets under Bill Parcells came to Candlestick Park. Jets quarterback Glenn Foley matched Steve Young's three touchdowns and one pick with three scores and one pick of his own; Foley put up 415 yard to Young's 363 yards. The two teams traded punts in overtime; the Niners had to start at their four-yard line and coach Steve Mariucci called "90 O", a run play intended to get away from their own endzone. Garrison Hearst burst through a hole and raced 96 yards straddling the sideline, getting key blocks from Dave Fiore despite an injured leg, and from Terrell Owens for the touchdown and a 36–30 Niners win.
The Niners traveled to Rich Stadium to face the Bills and crashed hard 26–21 despite 21 fourth-quarter points. The Niners committed 22 penalties eating up 178 yards (compared to Buffalo's 12 fouls for 106), while the two teams' punters Chris Mohr and Reggie Roby combined for 323 punting yards.
Still smarting from their poor performance at Buffalo, the Niners traveled to the Superdome and crushed Mike Ditka's Saints 31–0. The game was another penalty-laden affair with a combined 24 fouls eating up 240 yards. The Niners shut down Danny Wuerffel and Billy Joe Tolliver, limiting them to 15 completions for 174 yards and a pick.
The Niners hosted the Colts and their new quarterback Peyton Manning. The Colts immediately served notice for the future as they raced to a 21–0 lead behind two Manning scores to Marvin Harrison and a 65-yard score from future Ram Marshall Faulk. The Niners clawed back as Steve Young threw three touchdowns and ran in a fourth; a botched point-after kick led to a Jerry Rice two-point conversion catch from Young to tie the game, then Wade Richey's 24-yard field goal won it 34–31 for the Niners. |Weather= 68 °F (Sunny)
Hitting the TWA Dome, the Niners cruised to a 28–10 win over the Rams as Steve Young overcame two picks with three touchdowns and budding superstar Terrell Owens ran in a 21-yard score. The Niners picked off Tony Banks three times.
For the fifth straight time the Niners fell to the Green Bay Packers, this time 36–22 at Lambeau Field. The Niners overcame a botched punt snap for a safety and erased a 16–0 Packer lead to take the lead 22–19 in the third quarter. From there, despite three Brett Favre interceptions, it all fell apart for the Niners as the Packers unleashed 17 unanswered points.
Ty Detmer took over for Steve Young against the 1–7 Panthers, throwing for 276 yards and three touchdowns (to J.J. Stokes and Terrell Owens), but three interceptions kept the Panthers in the game and they took a 23–22 lead before Wade Richey's 46-yard field goal capped a 25–23 Niners win. |Weather= 57 °F (Cloudy)
The battle for the NFC West had now become a true battle as the 7–2 Falcons hosted the 7–2 Niners and things got ugly for San Francisco. Steve Young managed 342 passing yards but only 21 completions; the Falcons grabbed a fumble at the Niners goalline for a Jessie Tuggle touchdown and when Young connected on long-range scores to Terrell Owens and Jerry Rice, Chris Chandler put the game away on his 78-yard strike to Terance Mathis. The 31–19 Falcons win marked the end of the Niners' hold on the division crown that season.
Following four straight wins the Niners traveled to Foxboro Stadium to face a struggling Patriots squad. Regular starter Drew Bledsoe was out for the year with a broken throwing hand so backup Scott Zolak took over. The Niners scored 21 second-quarter points (including a touchdown from backup Ty Detmer), but the Patriots battled back and tied the game, then won it in the final seconds on Adam Vinatieri's 35-yard field goal. Terrell Owens was held to three catches for 61 yards; a pass for Owens was intercepted by Ty Law.
|(2) Atlanta Falcons||14||2||0||.875||442||289||W9|
|(4) San Francisco 49ers||12||4||0||.750||479||328||W1|
|New Orleans Saints||6||10||0||.375||305||359||L3|
|St. Louis Rams||4||12||0||.250||285||378||L2|
For the first time in the Brett Favre era the 49ers pulled off a victory over the Packers. After a late Packers touchdown the Niners trailed 27–23 and a continuing issue during the game was dropped passes by receiver Terrell Owens. In the final ten seconds Steve Young dropped back in the Packers redzone, stumbled but stayed on his feet, then heaved the ball to the endzone where Owens caught it, landed in the endzone with four seconds left, and the Niners had pulled out one of the most dramatic wins in their history. This play is often referred to by 49ers fans as "the Catch II", the 1st "Catch" being the touchdown from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark in the final minute against the Cowboys in the 1981 playoffs. It's the final playoff win that Young would achieve.
The game started poorly for the 13–5 49ers, who lost 1,500-yard rusher Garrison Hearst to a broken bone in his left leg on the first play of the game. Backup Terry Kirby was able to only rush for 46 yards. With their running game hobbled, the 49ers trailed 14–0 at the half, and 20–10 going into the fourth quarter. With 2:57 remaining, Young scored on an 8-yard run and the team converted a two-point conversion after a botched snap, to bring the score to 20–18. The 49ers had one more chance to win with the ball deep in their own territory but Young threw a pass that was picked off by the Falcon's William White.
|1||Jets||John Hall 24 yard field goal||Jets 3–0|
|1||49ers||Garrison Hearst 5 yard run (Wade Richey kick)||49ers 7–3|
|2||Jets||Keyshawn Johnson 41 yard pass from Glenn Foley (John Hall kick)||Jets 10–7|
|2||49ers||J.J. Stokes 6 yard pass from Steve Young (Wade Richey kick)||49ers 14–10|
|2||Jets||Wayne Chrebet 6 yard pass from Glenn Foley (John Hall kick)||Jets 17–14|
|3||49ers||Wade Richey 22 yard field goal||Tie 17–17|
|3||Jets||Keyshawn Johnson 21 yard pass from Glenn Foley (John Hall kick)||Jets 24–17|
|3||49ers||Jerry Rice 14 yard pass from Steve Young (kick failed)||Jets 24–23|
|4||Jets||John Hall 32 yard field goal||Jets 27–23|
|4||49ers||J.J. Stokes 31 yard pass from Steve Young (Wade Richey kick)||49ers 30–27|
|4||Jets||John Hall 31 yard field goal||Tie 30–30|
|OT||49ers||Garrison Hearst 96 yard run||49ers 36–30|
|Division championships (19)|
|Conference championships (6)|
|League championships (5)|
|Current league affiliations|
|Former league affiliation|
All-America Football Conference (1946–1949)
Championship seasons in bold