Coach Red Miller of the Denver Broncos became infected with the assertiveness he is trying to instill in his players today. Commenting on which team might be hungrier in Sunday's Super Bowl, he said, "They - the Dallas Cowboys, damn sure better be hungry."
He said he wants his players to be "like a munch of wild dogs backed into a corner."
There was a difference of opinion on what the teams learned from the Dallas-Denver game at the end of the regular season. (The Cowboys won, 14-6.)
Miller said, "I think you can throw that Dallas game in the can; both teams will play better on Sunday. The value was the individual matchups. The players got to feel what it would be like to be up against one another."
Landry said at his news conference without knowing what Miller said, "I don't concern myself with matchups. You can't isolate defenders one on one in the 3-4 formation Denver uses. They stunt a lot."
Tony Dorsett of the Cowboys expressed a slight case of bruised pride because so many questions were directed at the challenge he would face from the Denver defense.
He said, "When you play with the best against the best it brings out the best in you."
It was relayed to Dorsett that outspoken linebacker Tom Jackson of the Broncos said he would be keying on the Cowboys' running back and Dorsett responded, "That's fine; that's the name of the game. I'll be there.
"I'm not thinking of going against one player; I will be playing against the Denver Broncos."
Does he go into each game thinking he is going to break a long run?
"Always." He admitted it might be because, "I don't like to get hit (any more than any other player)."
He was defensive only when he conceded that he had a "slight cold." He said he has no symptoms of the flu prevalent here.
Offensive tackle Claudie Minor of the Broncos said that he learned from a matchup against defensive end Ed (Too Tall) Jones in an exhibition game a year ago and again last month that "Jones is getting better. He's going to be a great player, but he's got a long way to go. What I have to do is use leverage to offset his extraordinary reach."
Without reference to Minor, Jones said, "I can't see Denver beating us. If we give them our best shot they can't beat us."
Prefacing his remarks by saying as a first-time head coach in a Super Bowl, "I don't know how to go about this," Miller went on, "Football is an emotional game. I like to show emotion myself. I like to see Broncomania (the name for the enthusiasm of the Denver fans and team).
"Our motto was, 'Hey, do it, then talk about it.' We're happy to be in the Super Bowl. Now don't get that statement wrong, I'm also damned sure here to win.
"Our offense is better that it has been credited. We have put points on the board when we had to. We're an opportunistic team. They (skeptics about the Bronco chances as a first-time visitor to the Super Bowl) said Pittsburgh and Oakland were playoff-hardened teams, too (a reference to the Cowboys having been to three Super Bowls, winning one).
"Our offense is built around Craig Morton, just like at New England, where we . . . I built the offense around Steve Grogan. Our offensive line gave Morton time to throw against Pittsburgh and Oakland. We scored 94 points on a good Pittsburgh defense."
Miller, was casting Landry as a nice guy, when he was compelled to switch his tack.
"Landry came into our locker room after our game in Dallas" Miller said. "He spoke to our players and me. He wished us good luck . . . success. He said he was kind of pulling for our team. I thought that was kind of nice."
A media cynic asked, "Do you think he wanted your team to be in the Super Bowl because he thought it would be easier to beat?"
"I hope so," Miller said, with some vehemence, as if he has been brought back to the cold reality of pro football by the question. "I hope so."
Miller said of the massive Super Bowl attention, "Our concentration is not disturbed; we like excitement."
Landry later remarked, "There's distraction here. You don't realize it till the day of the game. There is pressure."
In talking about his knowledge of the Broncos, Landry said, "I have a couple players on the Denver team (running back) Jim Jensen and Craig Morton.
Playing down the notion that it is a psychological plus to be low-rated in the Super Bowl, Landry added, "The American people have great sentiment for an underdog. We collected a lot of flowers as underdogs (in two Super Bowl losses)."
As if he was sending another reminder to the Broncos, Landry said with all the coyness of a deadpan poker player, "The main thing that is different about our team (from the past) is that we have more speed, with Tom Henderson, Randy White, Harvey Martin, and Tony Dorsett."
Jethro Pugh, Dallas defensive tackle, has decided the Super Bowl game like will be his last.
"I've been around 13 years and luck to be on a playoff in 11 of them," said Pugh, 34, who has played in 22 playoff games, more than any other player. "I've banked over $100,000 in playoff money and wished I still had it."