Resilience Tested: Athlete’s Comeback Journey Takes an Unexpected Turn

Resilience Tested: Athlete’s Comeback Journey Takes an Unexpected Turn

Hello Fidela! Itand#039;s Mavo and Iand#039; been loyal since 1959 when I saw my first Niners game at Kezar Stadium as a seven year old. From time to time, I will take you along in my time machine to relive major 49ers milestones and glorious moments of victory.

In our journey through time, I will share my personal memories as a faithful member for over 60 years. I set a target date of December 16, 1972, another huge red letter day in 49er history.Our Niners have a long history of great quarterbacks. I’d like to take you back to the defining game of a great comeback by one of these great quarterbacks. I’m talking about my first Niners idol, John Brodie (nicknamed JB).


This was the team’s final game and the 1972 NFL season. It was Saturday’s game against the longtime powerhouse Minnesota Vikings at Candlestick Park. Brodie was out for two months with an ankle injury.

Steve Spurrier, JBand#039’s longtime guard and also a 49ers player, did a good job of keeping the 49ers in contention.The season (1972) was an up and down season for the Niners. One week they beat the playoff contender Atlanta Falcons 49-14 and the other week they beat the Los Angeles Rams 31-7.It all came down to the last game against the Vikings. A win or tie would send the 49ers into the playoffs for the third consecutive season as NFC West champions.

A loss would eliminate the team from the playoffs. Both the Rams and Falcons challenged the 49ers for the NFC West title and played the next day.Head coach Dick Nolan started Spurrier, but with less than two minutes left in the third quarter, the Vikings led 17-6 and Nolan started Brodie. The sold-out crowd roared as Brodie trotted onto the court.

I told John to come in and name his plays as he always does,andquot; Nolan said. andquot;I wanted to keep the same two runners in there. There would be no need to send plays out.

It didn’t go any better for Brodie. Brodie was stopped twice and everyone seemed lost. But midway through the fourth quarter, the Brodie-Gene Washington relationship clicked. Washington caught a 53-yard bomb and moments later Brodie caught a rushing 24-yard pass with six minutes left in regulation.

A touchdown pass capped a stunning 99-yard drive. It was now 17-13.The 49ers defense forced a three-and-out by Tommy Hartand#039 Tarkenton to a 12-yard punt. However, a special teams penalty gave Minnesota a first down.After another Vikings first down, the 49ers defense forced a punt with 1:39 left. The team’s fortunes turned when a Vikings player was penalized 15 yards for a personal foul. After a minute and a half, Brodie went to work at the 49ers’ 36-yard line.

After two quick passes, the Niners reached the Vikings’ 44-yard line with 1:22 left.110923-JohnBrodie-FBBrodie’s pass over the middle to tight end Ted Kwalick was dropped. Stanford Vikings freshman quarterback Jeff Siemon was called for pass interference and the football was held at the Vikings 26-yard line.


Brodie threw to wide receiver John Isenbarger on the sideline, who gave a swing to wide open running back Larry Schreiber in the end zone. Vikings free safety Paul Krause broke it down.Brodie called for a tie next and Schreiber punted it to the 20 yard line and the quarterback cost the team and timeout.

When the game resumed, running back Vic Washington took a pass and ran to the 2-yard line. The next two completions in the end zone left just 30 ticks.The game winner came when Brodie threw a running pass to the right. Just as it looked like he might run it himself, he flashed veteran wide receiver Dick Witcher.

After Witcher’s stop, the Vikings safety continued and Brodie took the pass for a score in the end zone. Bedlam broke out in Candlestick Park. Bruce Gossett added the extra point and the 49ers led 20-17 with 25 seconds left.andquot;He gestured to me to let me know that no one was behind me.

I tried to run the corner behind Charley West, andquot; Witcher said after the game. andquot;But I wasn’t sure where the husband could be, but John tried to let me know he wasn’t there. Brodie had the ability to bring it if he wanted to. But there was no need.andquot;Minnesota wasn’t ready yet.

After returning the kickoff to the 41-yard line, Tarkenton’s two rushing passes moved the ball to the 49ers’ 35-yard line five plays later. Vikings head coach Bud Grant attempted a 43-yard field goal when there was no overtime in the 1972 NFL. Minnesota kicker Fred Cox missed it and the Niners won the NFC West.andquot;I don’t blame them for playing so hard against us,andquot; John Brodie said after the game.


We’ve been out of pocket the last two years (referring to the 49ers’ upset in the 1970 NFC Divisional Playoff game by freezing Minnesota). It didn’t take much strategy when I got there. All I could do was throw the ball out there and hope it hit something. Hey, it’s been a while since I came off the bench to beat someone. I think I did once when Y.A. Tittle was the first string quarterback. (Access) protection was excellent from the beginning of the game to the end. The only time the fans touched me was when I left the field. Stay true!.

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