Somebody double-crossed me. I think the team I spied on was Stanford. We got killed at Candlestick Park. We scored a touchdown on our first drive, got a field goal the next time clown and then never scored again. We got vaporized in an NFC divisional playoff, 28-10.
Most of the problem was this damn Montana. He was running like Cunningham and gunning like Elway and cunning like, well, himself. "We were this close every time to sacking him," said our Pro Bowl defensive end, Charles Mann. "We made him run, but every time he seemed to like to run.... He was a one-man wrecking crew."
Maybe I wasn't seeing too well out of my seagull disguise, but I could've sworn we were in this game for a minute there. Rypien started off sizzling. He hit Art Monk for a 31-yard touchdown, and we were up 7-0. They answered with that running back who looks like a Russian professor, Tom Rathman, whose one-yard touchdown tied it. But we came right back with a field goal, and we led 10-7 in the first quarter. Who would ever think they would egg us from there?
I should've known we were in trouble, though, when Montana hit third-look receiver Jerry Rice with a 10-yard touchdown pass that was so pretty it could break your heart in two. He slipped it just past the cuticles of our cornerback, Darrell Green, and right onto the fingertips of Rice. "That's all Montana," said Green. "We were in the right position. He just made the play."
The trouble was, he kept on doing it. On the next drive he put a spiral through the crook of the elbow of our linebacker, Andre Collins, and into the disbelieving mitts of their tight end, Brent Jones, for 47 yards. And two plays later a guy who hadn't played in 10 weeks, Mike Sherrard, who was coming off a broken right ankle, gimped into the clear and caught the eight-yard TD pass that made it 21-10.
"If the ball had been thrown three inches either way," said Gibbs of the passes to Rice and Jones, "we could have made the plays on defense."
Still, I had hope. One of our Buicks, 290-pound defensive end James Geathers, put a hurt on Montana at the end of the first half that put him out of the game. "When I saw [backup] Steve Young come in," Geathers said, "I thought we had a chance. But Montana came back like Superman."
Not that it mattered. By then, Rypien had gone south. He had Monk open in the corner of the end zone in the third quarter and threw it so late that the Niners got back and intercepted it. Then he opened the fourth quarter by getting intercepted in the other end zone. Nobody quite knew who he was throwing to, but it was definitely somebody in a 49er jersey.
We had one more chance when Montana had his first throw picked off in 180 playoff pass attempts over the past three years. Linebacker Monte Coleman made the interception with 10:28 left. But Rypien got zilch on three tries, and on fourth down, Niner cornerback Eric Davis gave Gary Clark a facial in the end zone without getting called for it, and that pretty much killed that.
Oh, then there was the humiliating ending. San Francisco's 285-pound nose-guard, Michael Carter, picked off a Rypien pass and ran it back 61 yards for a touchdown. Although, maybe ran isn't the right word. It was more the way a doughnut truck gets down Broadway with five pistons and three wheels. When they've got Rice and Carter burning you, you might as well start making vacation plans.