On the first play Hebert passed to Torrance Small for an eight-yard gain, and then—and then!—nobody called timeout. Three timeouts remaining, and they didn't call one. The Saints ran around for a while, looked at each other blankly, tried to get lined up and finally snapped the ball again with 19 seconds showing on the clock—the play had taken 27 seconds. Perhaps the Saints thought the big 3 next to TIMEOUTS on the scoreboard meant they had used all three of their timeouts.
When somebody asked New Orleans coach Jim Mora about his, ahem, time management, he said, "It was fine, other than [not] calling time after that first play."
How was your trip on the "Titanic"? It was fine, other than hitting that iceberg.
What happened on that timeout, Bobby? "I don't control that," Hebert said. "I just do what I'm told. I call timeout when I'm told. I wasn't told."
All was ignominy for the Saints from then on: two incompletions, a holding penalty and, with one second left, not a Hail Mary but a screen pass to Hilliard, who lateraled the ball to 290-pound tackle Richard Cooper, who did not continue lateraling it in the grand tradition but tried to leg it all the way to the end zone himself. And that is the way it ended for the Saints, with one of the league's best kickers on the sideline, three timeouts on the scoreboard and the football in the hands of a helmeted behemoth shoved out of bounds 36 yards short of glory.
Inside the 49er locker room joy ruled. "Where were you during that last drive, boss?" Young playfully asked the 49ers' frantically passionate owner, Eddie DeBartolo Jr. "On the window ledge?"
Walking to his locker, Young got the kind of looks usually known only inside Montana state lines. "That last drive," said San Francisco guard Guy McIntyre. "He was just as calm as Joe ever was."
The footsteps had quieted. The team was Young's. Longtime San Francisco Examiner columnist Art Spander began the questioning to Young by saying, "I know you don't want to be compared with Montana...."
"Then don't. Art." Young interrupted with a smile. "Then just don't."
And you know what? He didn't.