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Ray Mansfield, the old Steeler center, dropped by the hotel to visit with his former teammates. "I could always look at Terry before a game and tell you what kind of a day he was going to have," Mansfield said. "If he was a little glassy-eyed—you'd be talking to him and he'd look through you like you weren't there—I'd know it was going to be a long afternoon."
"How does he look today?" Mansfield was asked.
"Don't ask," he said.
And now the coach is telling Bradshaw that his arm is going to win it. Bradshaw's first interception, which had set up a Rams' go-ahead field goal—13-10—in the second quarter, had brought back visions of the interception Houston's Vernon Perry ran back for a TD in the AFC title game. His first interception against the Rams had been a late throw over the middle to Swann; Bradshaw had tried to force the ball through double coverage, and Dave Elmendorf had picked it off. Bradshaw's second interception had been a ball that got away from him, a bloop throw to Smith on a deep pattern. His third one had been a force to Stallworth over the middle, deep in Ram territory, with the Steelers behind 19-17.
There had almost been a fourth one. In the third quarter, with the Rams still on top 19-17, Bradshaw had tried to find Swann inside, and Nolan Cromwell, the L.A. free safety, had roared up like the Duesenberg that had transported Steeler patriarch Art Rooney out for the coin toss. "The only thing that could have stopped him," said Steeler Center Mike Webster, "was a .357 magnum." But Cromwell dropped the ball.
Third-and-eight on the 27. Your game to win, Terry baby. The Steelers' running game? Forget it. Thirty-seven carries for only 84 yards on the day. "The Rams did their homework," Webster said. "When we'd audible, Jack Reynolds would call the correct defense for the play we audibled to. They knew us."
"I could see them doing research on the sidelines," Ram Defensive End Fred Dryer said. "I think Terry was having trouble reading us."
There are not many ways a human being can throw a football better than Bradshaw did to Stallworth on that third-and-eight play. Stallworth got inside Rod Perry, the cornerback, and behind Elmendorf, the strong safety, and took it 73 yards for a 24-19 Pittsburgh lead. Two series later Stallworth did it again—45 yards on the same play—only this time he didn't bother to throw the little inside fake. It set up Franco Harris' one-yard touchdown for the 31-19 margin that rewarded the Steeler bettors.
"God-given ability," Webster said. "You just can't beat it. Terry had enough ability to overcome the mistakes, the three interceptions, the bad week he'd had. He had the courage to go with that long stuff."
In the Rams' locker room Perry answered the same question over and over: "Inside-outside coverage. I had the outside. I did the best I could. Hey, haven't you ever seen a perfect play?"