49ERS STAND TALL


Monday, January 25, 1982


BY BUD SHAW

The Philadelphia Daily News

 

PONTIAC, Mich. - It will be a freeze frame in a Super Bowl

flashback someday, 22 bodies posing for Leroy Neiman's easel in a scene that

will be remembered as The Goal-Line Stand.

It is fourth and a foot, Cincinnati trailing, 20-7, late in the third

quarter. All the Bengals need is 12 inches, dammit, and logic says Pete

Johnson could get that much in a three-legged race.

There's a collision of helmets and shoulder pads. Johnson throws his body

into the right side of the line. The 49ers' Jack Reynolds, Ronnie Lott and Dan

Bunz sacrifice their own, which means the matchup is dead even.

When the whistle blows, nose tackle Archie Reese is laying on top of the

pile, his arms pumping toward the Silverdome ceiling in celebration. Pete

Johnson's gain is measured in fractions. And, somewhere, John Facenda is

practicing his next voice-over.

"If I would've been betting on Pete Johnson making a foot," 49ers

defensive coordinator Chuck Studley says later, "I would've bet everything I

own that he'd make it."

The Goal-Line Stand was just one more improbability in a giddy season for

the 49ers, a team that didn't seem fit for drama such as this seven months ago

but was ready to be fitted for Super Bowl rings last evening.

THE TEAM WITH THE adolescent secondary and the no-name running backs had

beaten the Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI. And Bill Walsh, the coach of a

6-10 team last year, was being pulled away from a press conference to answer

a telephone call from President Reagan.

"You might tell Joe ( Montana ) and the rest of the fellas they really did

win one for the Gipper," Reagan said.

"I think Joe was thinking about the Gipper when he won that one," said

Walsh. "Thank you very, very much."

Nobody knows if Reagan had an alternate message ready for Forrest Gregg (or

would Ernest Borgnine have called instead?), but if he did, he probably was

practicing it with three minutes left in the third quarter.

The Bengals had pulled themselves out of a 20-0 hole - the largest halftime

deficit in Super Bowl history - on a five-yard TD scramble by Ken Anderson in

the first series of the third quarter.

Two 49er possessions had gained a grand total of minus-three yards and here

the Bengals were moving again. It was a fourth- and-one at the San Francisco

5, and the 49ers looked up just in time to realize they had only 10 men on

the field.

LINEBACKER KEENA TURNER was on the sidelines when Pete Johnson took the

handoff and busted up the gut for two yards and a first down at the 3.

"I didn't know I was supposed to be in there," said Turner, who swears he

missed only one play even though his coaches say it was two. "Then, a couple

coaches started hollering at me. Then, a couple players hollered. I think

even the fans were hollering."

Turner returned in time to see Johnson run behind left tackle Anthony Munoz

for two more yards to the one on first down. Here they were with three plays

and less than a yard to go for a touchdown that figured to tighten the 49ers'

windpipes even more.

On second down, Johnson ran left again, but was stuffed by John Harty and

Jack Reynolds. On third down, Anderson threw a soft pass to running back

Charles Alexander at the goal line, but back-up linebacker Dan Bunz dropped

him 12 inches short.

"I thought about going for the ball," said Bunz, who once had a bit part

in " North Dallas 40," but now is a candidate for a remake of " The Longest

Yard." "I figured it might be better to just stop the man instead of going

for the ball."

THE FOURTH-DOWN PLAY was as basic as you can get. Pete Johnson weighs 250

and runs 350. The only surprise is that the Bengals didn't choose to run it

behind Anthony Munoz.

"There wasn't much doubt about who was going to get the ball," said Jack

Reynolds. "They had to give it to Pete. The guy is a Sherman tank. He's as

big as a defensive lineman."

"I think that play depressed them," said Bunz. "I mean, how would you

feel if you had Pete Johnson and you couldn't gain a foot?"

The Bengals had started the game in a similar depression and the Goal-Line

Stand just brought back some not-so-distant memories.

There was Kenny Anderson getting intercepted by safety Dwight Hicks at the

Niners' 5-yard line just a heartbeat into the game, a play that followed 49ers

return man " Famous" Amos Lawrence's fumble of the opening kickoff.

There was All-Pro wide receiver Cris Collinsworth fumbling at the Niners' 6-

yard line in the second quarter when it still was a 7-0 game. Shortly after

that, Joe Montana, who had scored on a one-yard dive in the first quarter,

threw a 11-yard TD pass to running back Earl Cooper.

This whole thing was beginning to look like the Eagles in Super Bowl XV.

Montana, the game MVP, moved the 49ers into field-goal range minutes later and

Ray Wersching hit his first of a Super Bowl record-tying four field goals - a

26-yarder that made it 17-0 with 0:15 left in the half.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT IS the stuff of Football Follies. Wersching squibbed the

kickoff ("That was an accident," he said) and Archie Griffin bobbled it just

inside the 20. Then, Bengals defensive back Ray Griffin tried to pick it up

at the 10. By the time the whistle blew, the only Griffin who didn't have his

hands on the ball was Merv.

Wersching trotted downfield and kicked a 22-yard field goal with 0:02 left

to make it 20-0. The last time the city of Cincinnati felt this numbed, it was

59 below zero outside.

"Basically," said Bill Walsh, "our offense just swept them off their feet

in the first half. I would say the turning point was that last field goal. I

know we certainly appreciated the points."

It was a little like saying Richard Nixon appreciated his Presidential

pardon. If the Bengals were torched by the 49ers' beautifully designed passing

offense in the first half, then they died a slow death at the brass-knuckled

hands of the 49ers' defense in the second.

The Bengals did manage to score on a four-yard pass from Anderson to tight

end Dan Ross to make it 20-14 in the fourth quarter, but it came nine valuable

minutes after The Goal-Line Stand started.

AND THEN WHEN THE 49ers were forced to put it up or get shut down, they

moved downfield for another Wersching field goal, this one a 40-yarder that

made it 23-14 with 5:25 left in the game.

Montana (14 of 22 for 157 yards) had been finding Dwight Clark and Freddie

Solomon open all day, but the play that hurt the Bengals the most on that

drive was a 22-yard, third-down pass to rookie wide receiver Mike Wilson.

Wilson was such an improbable hero that he made Dan Bunz look like Ted

Hendricks.

The game was over when 49ers corner Eric Wright - another one of the

Adolescent All-Stars - intercepted an Anderson pass at the Bengals' 47 and

returned it far enough for Wersching to kick a 23-yard field goal with 1:57

left.

The Bengals would score again on a three-yard pass to Ross, who set a Super

Bowl record with 11 catches, but it came too late to matter to anyone except

the bettors and Ross' agent.

When it was over, the 49ers were the first team ever to win a Super Bowl

without gaining more total yards than the loser. They already were the first

team ever to get this far with so many question marks at the beginning of the

season.

YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED to win a Super Bowl with three rookies in your

secondary, and there were times yesterday when the 49ers had four. You're not

supposed to win when you do something like fumble the opening kickoff or when

you find yourself playing a man short inside your own 10.

And you're not supposed to be able to stop Pete Johnson from gaining a foot

with the Super Bowl possibly on the line.

"I feel like a kid waiting on his first bike at Christmas time," said

Archie Reese. "He looks under the tree and there it is."

"There were a lot of hard times this season," said Ronnie Lott. "Like

back in training camp when people were calling us clowns.

"But I figure we're kinda like a newborn baby. You just cuddle it, tease

it, mold it until it grows up to what you want it to be. That's what this

organization did with this team.

"We're kinda emotional. But I'll tell you, in that goal-line stand we were

pretty much business-like. Nobody made any speeches. We just concentrated on

doing our jobs.

"It'll be one of those Super Bowl memories, the kind we've been watching

all week in our hotel rooms. I got somebody back home taping the game on a

Betamax. And you know what? I'm gonna replay that Goal-Line Stand as soon as

I get home. I'm gonna watch it the whole off-season."

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