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Off On The Wrong Foot
Paul Zimmerman
January 18, 1982
...but right on target was 49er Joe Montana as he took aim at the NFC title
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January 18, 1982

Off On The Wrong Foot

...but right on target was 49er Joe Montana as he took aim at the NFC title

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"Almost five minutes left and all our time-outs," Walsh would say. "I liked our chances. If we got as far as the 35, we'd go for it on fourth down, no matter what. If we got stopped before that, we'd probably punt."

The Cowboys were in their nickel defense—four linemen, one linebacker, Champ Dickerson, and six backs. On the first play, Montana threw low on a little dump-off pass to Lenvil Elliott, his halfback. Elliott is 30 years old, a Cincinnati castoff. The speed is gone from his legs, but San Francisco activated him the previous week because he knows Walsh's passing scheme. Misfire, second and 10. A draw play to Elliott picked up six. "I cut-blocked Dickerson, and he went flying through the air and landed on his head," Quillan said. "I don't think he expected that. I think the run surprised them a little."

Walsh signaled a sideline pass to Flanker Freddie Solomon. He grabbed the ball just above his knees for a six-yard gain and a first down on the 23.

"Bob-18," McKittrick said into his head phones—Elliott sweeping right and both guards, John Ayers and Randy Cross, pulling. "Our best running play for the last three years," McKittrick calls it. It picked up 11 yards. First down on the 49er 34.

"Let's run it the other way," Wyche called down from the press box. "You got it," Walsh said. Bob-19, Elliott sweeping left, good for seven yards. Ayers, who'd thrown the springing block, picked himself up slowly. He looked over at Dallas' Randy White, who'd been battling him all day. White was still down. "We were both laying there," Ayers said, "but he didn't get up right away." White left the game for Bruce Thornton. Leg and chest cramps.

"Before our last drive," Cross said, "Walt Downing, our reserve center, came up to me and said, 'Wait till you see the films of Ayers vs. Randy White. They've been flailing and kicking and screaming all day."

On second and three Montana misfired to Elliott. Thornton was called offside on the next play, and the 49ers had a first down on the 46. White came back in, the 49ers completed a five-yard curl pass to Fullback Earl Cooper, and the two-minute warning sounded. Cross, who'd been battling the flu, along with a dozen other 49ers, dropped to one knee and got sick on the field.

"I'd thrown up on the sidelines twice before that," he said. "This time I couldn't make it over there. A couple of guys in the huddle got annoyed. They said, 'What the hell did you want to do that here for?' I said, 'Sorry, I couldn't help it.' "

On the sidelines Walsh asked Montana, "What do you think of Freddie Solomon on a reverse left?" "I'm not sure," Montana said. Then he said, "O.K., I'll block the defensive end," who was Harvey Martin. "I aim for the knees," Montana said later. "The great equalizer. Actually, Harvey went upfield, and I sort of collided with Randy White, chest high. I remember last game I did that once and he just started laughing."

The reverse gained 14 yards to the Cowboy. 35, then Montana drilled Split End Dwight Clark on an out pattern, right, for 10 more, a very risky, low-percentage pass into the teeth of double coverage by Everson Walls, who'd already intercepted two, and Nickel Back Benny Barnes. "Walls actually got a hand on it," Clark said. "Then the ball hit me in the chest." "I thought it would be a knockdown for Walls," Montana said.

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