Last Friday former 49er coach Bill Walsh, who created the monster that devoured the Broncos on Sunday, wrote a guest column for the
San Francisco Chronicle
in which he predicted a 35-17 Niner victory. Walsh went so far as to predict some final stats, including 460 total yards for the 49ers (they gained 461) and 24 completions in 32 attempts for 320 yards for Montana. Montana's numbers might have been right on target if he hadn't given way to sub Steve Young with 11 minutes to go.
After Friday's practice Mike Holmgren, new coach George Seifert's offensive coordinator, read Walsh's story and smiled. "I hope what I've been watching on film is what we'll see Sunday," said Holmgren. "What scares me is that it looks too easy."
On Jan. 17, the Wednesday after the NFC Championship game against the Los Angeles Rams, Holmgren studied the Bronco films with Montana for the first time. "How many of their games have you looked at?" Montana asked him.
"Ten," Holmgren said.
"And they've run this defense every time?"
Holmgren nodded. Montana's eyes lit up. "I can't wait," he said.
"Overconfidence, that's what scares me," Holmgren said last Friday. "Our guys have all looked at films. They're dying to get out there. Denver plays that old-style 3-4, Cover Three, which is a three-deep zone, or the Cover Two, which is two-deep, and they don't change.
"That's the defense that Bill Walsh designed his whole offensive scheme for when he first came to San Francisco, the static base 3-4. Then along came Buddy Ryan [as defensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears in the mid-1980s] and the 46 defense, and then people started copying our own guy, George Seifert, and the way he gave so many defensive looks before the snap. I remember Bill saying one day, 'Doesn't anybody play the old-style 3-4 anymore?' Well, these guys do.
"I kept thinking, No, they'll change for us. They'll blitz more. They'll do weird things. I was very concerned about Montana getting hit. He hadn't been hit at all in the playoffs. I was nervous about all those drug stories that broke on Wednesday. They upset him more than he let on."
O.K., assuming the Broncos stay with their 3-4 defense, what will you do? Holmgren got out a pencil and fined paper. "First of all, you read Smith, the strong safety," he said. "Ninety-eight percent of the time his alignment will dictate their coverage. Then there's Atwater. Very aggressive. The more you go for the hit, the more you miss.