Super distractions bowl over Falcons
Posted: Monday February 01, 1999 06:53 PM
MIAMI (AP) -- A guaranteed victory. A dispute at the airport. A key player arrested the night before the biggest game of the season.
All in all, the Atlanta Falcons displayed just about every telling trait of a Super Bowl rookie.
While the Denver Broncos maintained a championship persona all week, the Falcons showed signs of unraveling even before they got off the plane at Miami International Airport.
"It's a huge disappointment," coach Dan Reeves said after the Falcons stumbled to a 34-19 loss to the Broncos on Sunday night. "You get to this game, you do it for one reason -- to win. Nobody in our locker room was satisfied with just getting here."
The Falcons, playing in the first Super Bowl of their 33-year history, had managed to stay one step ahead of their sorry past all season. But it finally caught up with them in South Florida.
Broadway Ray Buchanan got things started by guaranteeing a victory -- Joe Namath-style -- during the off-week before the game. Nothing like a little bulletin-board material to fire up a team that already was the defending champion and determined to send John Elway into retirement with another Super Bowl triumph.
"The less you say, the less you have to take back," Reeves said. "I'd rather let the game speak for itself. But I would never tell someone what they can and cannot say."
Buchanan refused to back down. In fact, he kept up his war of words in the days leading up the game, the most memorable bit of verbosity coming when he proclaimed that Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe looked like a horse.
"I'm not going to apologize," Buchanan said. "I had the guarantee and the confidence that this football team could win. There was no doubt in my mind. I'll never take that back."
Well, it really doesn't matter at this point. The Broncos built a 31-6 lead before the Falcons scored a couple of meaningless touchdowns to make the score a bit more respectable for the history books.
When the team arrived in Miami, receiver Terance Mathis raised a ruckus over Reeves' request that Pro Bowl players and 10-year veterans be allowed to depart the plane first. Mathis said the team concept should come first, not individual achievements.
For good measure, Mathis picked Super Bowl week to talk about a past drinking problem.
But Buchanan and Mathis became mere bit players in the Falcons' soap opera when Eugene Robinson decided to take a drive the night before the game.
Police said the Pro Bowl safety -- known as the Prophet for his strong religious beliefs and Bible-thumping recitations -- was arrested for offering an undercover officer $40 for oral sex on Biscayne Boulevard, a major street frequented by prostitutes and drug dealers.
Robinson was released from jail at 11 p.m. Saturday, but spent the entire night praying and being consoled by teammates. Without any sleep, he started the Super Bowl and was burned on the biggest play of the night -- an 80-yard touchdown pass to Rod Smith late in the first half.
While maintaining his innocence, Robinson was contrite at an extraordinary post-game news conference.
"What I want to do now is apologize first to my Lord, Jesus Christ, secondly to my wife and kids, and thirdly to my teammates and the entire Falcons organization for the distraction that I may have caused them," he said. "I regret I was not maintaining the standards I have set for myself.
"I will have to continue, trust me, to make amends with everyone that knows me."
As it turned out, Buchanan provided one of the most prophetic acts of the week when he showed up at media day with a dog collar around his neck, supposedly to signify the Falcons' role as underdog.
In the Super Bowl, they simply played like dogs.
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.