On January 20, 1985 in Super Bowl XIX, Joe Montana bested Dan Marino in Stanford Stadium 38-16, or rather the 49ers over the Dolphins. We had been told the aerial circus came to town with Dan Marino and his 48 TDs during the regular season, and 57 when you add the playoff stats to his totals. Remember the hype of how it should be a shootout?? A can’t miss aerial show!! The Marks Brothers: Duper and Clayton! Mark Clayton had set the record with 18 receiving touchdowns as the Dolphins scored a record 70 touchdowns in 1984. A young strapping quarterback with a rocket arm at the height of his power. Who could stop them??
Enter the 1984 San Francisco 49ers. A team motivated by the ’83 NFC Championship debacle against the Washington Redskins in a 24-21 loss. A game marred by a controversial pass interference and defensive holding call that prolonged the final drive where the Redskins milked the clock and made their game winning kick. This thwarted one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the NFL where the highest scoring team ever (83 Redskins: 541 points), jumped to a 21-0 lead and were about to easily advance to Super Bowl XVIII.
Yet the secondary of Eric Wright, Ronnie Lott, Dwight Hicks, and Carlton Williamson shut down the explosive Redskins after that allowing Joe Montana to bring his team back.
In a frantic 4th quarter Joe Montana, who had been shut down all game long, went white hot and completed 3TDs in the quarter to tie the game at 21. The 49ers had all the momentum, their sideline was going nuts and RFK Stadium, home of the famous “We Want Dallas” chant, was so quiet you could hear vendors selling popcorn.
Then a questionable pass interference call against Eric Wright going up the sideline, where incidental contact at best would have been a more accurate call. A few plays later Ronnie Lott was called for defensive holding…which was the first time I ever saw someone get called for holding with his arms down to his side!! All that could be talked about in the Niner’s locker room after the ’83 Championship was the frustration that the officiating decided the game and not the players. So they were on a mission to win it all in 1984.
The 49ers became the first team to go through the season 15-1 in the regular season. How strong was this team? The only loss during the campaign was a 20-17 loss to Pittsburgh who made it to the AFC Championship that season. Fair to say Pittsburgh was strong? Thought so… Well led by their secondary which placed ALL 4 members in the Pro Bowl. This team was definitely prepared to take on the pass-happy Dolphins who defeated the Steelers to meet them in Super Bowl XIX.
George Seifert put the defense in a 4-1-6 defense and Fred Dean, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, and Manu Tuiasosopo produced the pass rush that got to Marino by smothering his receivers. Many of these Dime defense principles Bill Belichick used with the Giants in stopping the 1990 Bills in Super Bowl XXV and for the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. George Seifert didn’t get enough credit for coming up with a defense that produced upsets against high powered offenses in future Super Bowls.
One of the most demoralizing things that a defense can do is intercept a team in the endzone negating a long drive which the 49ers did twice in both the 3rd and 4th quarters of Super Bowl XIX. This was a signature game for one of the best secondaries ever. They were built specifically to take on an explosive passing attack and nearly took out two of the greatest offenses of all time. The refs interfered with one in 1983 but they wouldn’t be denied in Palo Alto.
However with Joe Montana throwing for 331 yards and most yards rushing for a QB in a Super Bowl with 59 yards the defense was overshadowed. Roger Craig scored 3 touchdowns in the game. Wow…Dan Marino was only in his second year…he’d return to the Super Bowl in the near future…right?
Don’t take any chances for granted, there are no guarantees that you’ll get back…
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