That morning, in the press interview session, Millen had issued the quote of the week. Grimm had been asked how badly he wanted to win the Super Bowl. "I'd run over my mother to win it," he said. The quote was repeated to Millen. "I'd run over Grimm's mother, too," he' said.
The Raiders had left their mark on Tampa during the week. All over town, on the benches and the billboards, silver and black signs had been pasted up: COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE. That's the Raiders' new motto, replacing Pride and Poise. In front of their hotel was another Sign: YOU ARE NOW ENTERING RAIDER LAND. The only thing missing was a skull and crossbones.
Super Sunday broke cloudy and mild, with a wicked, swirling, 20-mph wind. Before the kickoff hundreds of balloons were released. They danced crazily in the air, ducking and bobbing and darting, with no direction to them. Waiting for the intros, Theismann and Jim Plunkett watched the air show and worried. The Raiders' offense is predicated on the ever-present fear of the long pass. Theismann knew that the Raider cornerbacks would be playing his receivers tight. He knew he had to try something deep to drive them back. But in this wind....?
On the opening series the Raiders were stopped and punted. Theismann tried Haynes on a quick out to Monk, and Haynes broke to the ball immediately and almost intercepted it. Time to go deep. Theismann went up on top to Monk, and Haynes was with him and the ball sailed. Theismann tried it again. Same result. It was going to be a long day. "We weren't able to get our wide receivers in the offense," Theismann would say. "The wind grabbed the long stuff and took the ball where it wanted to."
Washington punted. The snap was high, Jeff Hayes was late getting the kick off, and Derrick Jensen, the captain of L.A.'s special teams, crashed up the middle, blocked the ball and recovered it in the end zone for the game's first score.
The Skins tried to get something going. They lined up Clint Didier, a reserve tight end, wide on the flank, with a wide-out inside him. They switched sets, breaking out late from an I formation, lining up two tight ends next to each other and putting one of them in motion. L.A. adjusted. Mike Davis picked up Didier, man-to-man. They had a read on the formations. "We had them typed perfectly," Millen said. "Everything they'd done in the past off a particular move, they did again. They didn't fool us."
"No matter what formation they ended up in," Haynes said, "in the end it just came down to man-to-man, very basic stuff—you take that guy, I take this one. My kind of football, the kind of football I missed at New England."
Theismann was to try Haynes twice more in the first period. Both passes were for Brown and both fell incomplete. He had gone 0 for 5 against Haynes's coverage; he hadn't tried Hayes at all. "I was getting lonely out there," Hayes said.
"I kind of figured Theismann would work on me right away," Haynes said. "No one had done it, so why not try? He looked at the films; he saw that I hadn't been getting much work. Maybe he thought I'd be lax in my techniques."
Meanwhile the Raider offense was being conservative. Plunkett hadn't gone deep, and the Skins had been containing him pretty well. It was a ticking time bomb, though, and with 10:48 to go in the half and L.A. on its own 35, it went off. Plunkett, with the wind more or less at his back, found Cliff Branch streaking down the middle, after he'd jumped into a slot position, inside the other wideout, Malcolm Barnwell. Darrell Green, Washington's rookie cornerback, hesitated for a moment, and Branch wound up with the ball on the Skins' 15, a 50-yard gain. Two plays later Plunkett hit Branch for a 12-yard TD, a curl pattern that left cornerback Anthony Washington flat-footed.