"Right to me," Allen said. "I couldn't believe it."
"God dawg!" Bradshaw said, grimacing at the memory. "I knew I should've run it. It's times like that when I wish I were a running back, a wide receiver, anything but a quarterback."
Five plays and one penalty and the Chargers had cut the lead to 28-24, the payoff coming on a quick slant and then turnback pattern to Winslow, between the clutches of Lambert and Jack Ham. Fouts was cool: The pass came on fourth-and-six. "Jack tipped the ball," Lambert said. "A few inches either way and we'd have had it."
There was 8:31 left when the Steelers got the ball again, on their own 17. They tried to grind it out, eat the clock, keep possession. Steeler football, Three Rivers football. But the eras have changed. You don't try to stop the Chargers, you have to try to outscore them. Pittsburgh needed a touchdown to put the game away. What it ended up with was a third-and-seven on its own 44, and then a low pass to Tight End Bennie Cunningham—he swore he caught it, the official said no—and then a shanked 20-yard punt. Fouts had the ball on his own 36 with 3:59 to go. The match was on his racket.
"We just wanted to make yards," Fouts said. "Pass or run, it didn't matter. Muncie had been awesome, coming around the corner. We figured, let them try to stop him."
Muncie already had carried the ball 20 times en route to his third straight game of more than 120 yards rushing. (His final stats: 25 carries, 126 yards.) "I was pretty exhausted," he said. "I had to come in and lay down for 20 minutes after the game. But I looked at those guys in the huddle, Doug Wilkerson, Ed White, Dan, all those great old veterans, and they just nodded at me, and Charlie Joiner said, 'O.K., big back, start rolling.' "
Four Muncie carries for 33 yards, plus a 16-yard completion to Winslow, and a penalty, and San Diego had a second-and-five at the Steeler 10. Then Robin Cole, the Pittsburgh right linebacker, decided to take matters into his own hands. He blitzed. He guessed right, stopping Muncie for minus two. Third-and-seven. Charger time out. In the press box, Offensive Coordinator Larrye Weaver sent down a strange play—weak-side screen to Winslow, with Fouts doing a half-roll to his right and then throwing back across the field to his left.
"We'd completed it in the first half [for 18 yards]," Charger Coach Don Coryell said. "It's a play we've practiced every day for years, but we'd never called it in this situation, never in a goal-line situation. If a lineman doesn't rush or pursue Fouts, if a linebacker hangs back...things can go wrong. But the Steelers pursue well, they hustle. I remember thinking, 'God, what a great call.' "
Cole again blitzed on his own. He flew in like a bullet. But Fouts laid the ball behind him, and Winslow rumbled in for the score, overrunning Cornerback Mel Blount on the goal line. One minute left. The Steelers couldn't come back.
"It was Cover-One, my coverage," Cole said. "I tried to make a big play on my own. Sometimes you have to gamble. I guessed wrong. They picked a good time to call that play. The only way I could have stopped it would have been to jump 20 feet in the air."