Back to the air. With The Protectors chicken-fighting that formidable Viking pass rush, Brodie threw deep downfield to Gene Washington, who made a spectacular catch and run for a 53-yard gain. A pass to Vic Washington added eight yards. On the next play Kwalick was covered closely, so Brodie lofted the ball over the sideline and out of danger. Then he came back up the middle to Gene Washington for 24 yards and a touchdown. Now it was 17-13.
When San Francisco got the ball back again, there was only a minute and a half left. This time it was 66 yards to go for the touchdown. Again the offensive line blunted the charge of the Purple People Eaters, and again Brodie, imperturbable and daring, marched his team downfield.
Mixing passes with a draw play—and a trick play that failed—Brodie moved San Francisco to the Minnesota 20, where he used up his last time-out with a minute to go. He next hit Vic Washington, who was tackled on the two. Two passes fell incomplete and then, with only 25 seconds remaining, Brodie rolled out to his right, looking for all the world like he was going to try to run the ball in himself. Instead, he drilled a pass in the end zone to Dick Witcher, a reserve who had come in as a second tight end to reinforce the impression that the 49ers were going to run.
Witcher caught the ball—his first touchdown of the year—and was immediately descended upon by delirious teammates who buried him more effectively than a whole defense could. San Francisco, old John Brodie and The Protectors were in the playoffs together again.
In each of the last two years, the 49ers have lost to the Cowboys in the playoffs, but both of these teams are inconsistent, and in this confused season of creeping mediocrity there are no certainties. In the beginning, remember, almost everyone thought that the Vikings, with Tarkenton souping up their offense, would run away with the title, but the Vikings could not even make the playoffs and, indeed, just made .500.
In any event, the odds would suggest that the winner of the 49er-Cowboys game will emerge as the NFC's Super Bowl entrant. Green Bay meets Washington in the other match, and while the Redskins have already demonstrated that they can beat the Packers, neither the Cowboys nor the 49ers should lose to the Over The Hill Gang this late in the long, arduous season.
In the AFC, Pittsburgh, a very young and ambitious team, finally won a championship, but despite the fact that runner-up Cleveland also qualifies for the playoffs, the Central is a weak division. The East appears to be weaker still, and while it is to Miami's great credit that it went undefeated, the feat is merely academic. The Dolphins played such a cream-puff schedule that not one of their opponents made the playoffs, and only two of them barely scraped by over .500. No, the real class of the AFC now would appear to be the Oakland Raiders, who have won their last six games.
No world championship has ever come to San Francisco, and it would be ironic if the honor were denied it this time by its rival in the less glamorous city across the bay.