"Kick it over
the Rockies and through the goalposts!"
We figured the
Denver game would be one of the toughest of the year, and we were right. In the
last quarter we were behind 19-17 and Denver's big linemen were hurting us.
John Madden patted me on the tail and said, "George, get warmed up. Maybe
we'll change the tempo a little bit." With four minutes to play, he sent me
in. As I ran out on the field a snowball whistled past my ear. Denver fans like
to participate in the action.
On the first play
from our 20-yard line I threw to Hewritt Dixon for a two-yard loss. Then I
threw incomplete. Now it was third and 12, and I called my favorite pass—99
in—right down the middle. I never even looked at the primary receiver, Rod
Sherman, because I knew he would be where he was supposed to be. I concentrated
on "looking" the free safety off in order to lock him in place and keep
him from helping out on Rod. The fake worked, too. After the season I ran into
the Denver free safety, Paul Martha, and he said, jokingly, "You
son-of-a-gun, you looked at me and I just stood there. I knew what you were
gonna do, but you just looked me off." I said, "Paul, that's one of the
advantages of having baby-blue eyes." I threw the ball just as Dave Costa
decked me with a forearm, and Rod caught it for a first down. Then Warren Wells
made a great catch on a ball that I threw short, and a few plays later Freddie
Biletnikoff beat his man by three or four yards and we had the winning
touchdown. It had taken exactly a minute and a half of playing time.
surgical-stocking set really began to get excited after that Denver game.
Columnist Erma Bombeck wrote a very funny piece about it. She said that when I
kicked a long field goal at Cleveland her husband "kicked his tonic bottle
32 feet into the air," and when I threw the winning pass at Denver her
husband "announced that he was donating his support hose to Goodwill."
Ted O'Leary, the Kansas City writer, wrote that I was a menace to everyone in
his 40s, that I had deprived them of the alibi of age.
There were even
poems about me. One long one, in a California paper, ended:
At 43, he's
But don't tell
George, at least not yet,
We've five more
games to go!
At least that
Oakland radio station discontinued its " Grand Canyon" routine. Instead
it plugged our next game: