Palo Alto, Calif.
Except for the first quarter, after which Miami actually led San Francisco 10-7, Super Bowl XIX had all the suspense of watching a master carpenter driving 10-penny nails with a sledgehammer. The longer this game continued, the better 49er quarterback Joe Montana became at finding his receivers in a 38-16 rout which also included a record three touchdowns by running back Roger Craig. Prior to Sunday, there had been numerous stories all across the country comparing the relative merits of Montana and the Dolphins' second-year quarterback Dan Marino.
Montana, a six-year veteran from Notre Dame, is the escape artist who likes to confuse defenses by scrambling out of the pocket and throwing from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.
Marino, however, prefers the more conventional method of setting up within a given area and leisurely selecting his receivers the way an oil painter would pick out buildings on the horizon.
Usually the former University of Pittsburgh star has gotten the best of these arguments on the basis of his 48 touchdown passes this year, the most ever thrown by an NFL quarterback in a single season. Practically overlooked was the fact that Montana had been voted the Most Valuable Player when San Francisco defeated Cincinnati three years ago in Super Bowl XVI.
Sunday in an election that wasn't even close, Joe won his second Super Bowl MVP award by completing 24 of 35 passes for 326 yards and three touchdowns. Oh, yes, and he went all day without an interception.
When Montana wasn't rolling out of the pocket to throw, he found running room for himself when the Miami defense, overcommitting itself to stop the pass, often left large gaps of real estate unprotected near the line of scrimmage. Overall he carried the football five times for 59 yards and one touchdown.
``It wasn't just me, it was our entire offensive line that made this win possible,'' Montana told reporters. ``I think a lot of our motivation came from people asking us all week how we were going to handle Miami's offense. Actually we didn't bring this up among ourselves, but deep inside we knew that we had an offense too, and that maybe they would be the ones who couldn't stop us.''
Next to Montana, the intensity and consistency of the 49ers' defense deserved rave notices. It really began to jell in the second period when Coach Bill Walsh went to a four-man front, with one linebacker and six defensive backs. Overall this defense allowed the Dolphins only 25 yards on the ground, took away the threat of the deep pass, and came up with two interceptions.
Explained Miami Coach Don Shula: ``Offensively this was our poorest game of the year. The way San Francisco's defense took away the things that we usually do well never permitted us to get anything started. Marino had some problems with his delivery. He didn't throw the way he had during the regular season, when he averaged three touchdowns a game. In fact, the only time we scored through the air was when we surprised the 49ers by going without a huddle.
``We hadn't been stopped all year the way San Francisco shut down our offense on Sunday,'' Shula continued. ``Their defensive backs were playing so far off our receivers that it was difficult for us to even try to go deep. Usually when an opponent defenses you that way, you can do something with your running game. But for some reason we couldn't make that work either. I thought the two field goals we got at the end of the first half would give us a lift, only it never worked out that way. But at the same time I'm not going to let this defeat take away what a great season this young team had getting to the Super Bowl.''
Former Kansas City coach Hank Stram, who is now a radio commentator, had these thoughts about the game.
``Systems don't win football games; people win football games. San Francisco was a great team Sunday because it did the ordinary things you have to do to win a football game extraordinarily well.''
Although it obviously was difficult for Marino to have to stand there in the Dolphins' locker room after the game and answer pointed questions concerning his team's loss, Dan didn't duck any. Asked what was the key for the 49ers in stopping the Dolphins' offense, Marino replied:
``They just played great defense against us, particularly when it came to taking away the deep pass. When I did have a chance to get the ball to one of our wide receivers, I didn't seem to be able to hit him. We knew going into the game that they had this kind of flexible defense; that they probably would go with five, six, or even seven defensive backs against us. But we never thought they could shut us down so completely.''
As for those who say that San Francisco is now one of the greatest NFL teams of all time, just remember that Owner Al Davis was claiming the same thing for the Los Angeles Raiders last year after they beat Washington in the Super Bowl. Although the 49ers passed the test of brilliance against the Dolphins on Sunday, they still have to pass the test of time.
Attendance at Super Bowl XIX at Stanford Stadium was 84,059, the fifth largest crowd in the game's history. The total is exceeded only by the three crowds of 100,000-plus that attended the games staged in the Rose Bowl, and the throng of 90,182 for the Miami-Washington confrontation in Super Bowl VII at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The game was a ``homecoming'' of sorts for Walsh, who coached at Stanford for two years before taking over the 49ers' head coaching job in 1979. And of course it was pretty close to a ``home game'' for the entire team, which normally plays just 40 miles or so away in San Francisco's Candlestick Park.
This year marked the 10th time a quarterback has won the MVP award, with Montana joining fellow signal callers Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw as the only two-time recipients. The other quarterbacks who won it once each were Joe Namath, Len Dawson, Roger Staubach, and Jim Plunkett.
Each San Francisco player will receive $64,000 in post-season income, including a $36,000 check as a member of Sunday's winning team. Before that, victory in the conference semifinal brought $10,000 per man and winning the conference title $18,000. Miami players each collect $46,000 for their post-season efforts, including a Super Bowl loser's share of $18,000.
The 49ers' Roger Craig, who put 18 points on the board, is the first player to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Craig broke the mark of 15 points (four field goals, three extra points) by Don Chandler of Green Bay in Super Bowl II.
Marino's 50 pass attempts and 29 completions were both Super Bowl records, though not the kind one wants, since throwing that much almost always means a team is on the wrong end of the score and trying to catch up. The previous marks were 38 attempts by Ron Jaworski of the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV, and 25 completions by Ken Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XVI -- also both in losing causes.
Because so much preparation is necessary, all Super Bowls are scheduled several years in advance. In 1986, New Orleans will host the game for the sixth time. After that, the NFL's traveling road show moves to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 1987 (its fourth time there and sixth in the Los Angeles area), then makes its initial appearance in Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego in 1988. Most people think Palo Alto will again get the Super Bowl, but not until 1990, after Miami holds it a sixth time in 1989.