It took a near-recording passing day from Terry Bradshaw. It took two sensational catches by John Stallworth and one by Lynn Swann. It took a lastquarter interception by Jack Lambert. It took everything the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers could muster today to finally subdue the stubborn Los Angeles Rams, 31-19, and win an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl title.
This was supposed to be a dull, one-sided game, but the 11-point underdog Rams made it one of the best and most exciting Super Bowls with a gutty performance, especially from inexperienced quarterback Vince Ferragamo, who almost outdid the glorious Bradshaw.
But Bradshaw was not about to let the Steeler bid for football immortality get away. He shrugged off three interceptions, a stiff Ram pass rush and rallied his team to two fourth-period touchdowns before a thrilled throng of 103,985 in the Rose Bowl. The game's most valuable player now has a record nine touchdown passes in Super Bowl games, passing Roger Staubach of Dallas, who has eight.
The Steelers now can lay claim to being a football dynasty, pointing to four NFL titles in six years as ample proof of their ability. But the Rams can walk away just as proudly after producing an effort that probably would have won most past Super Bowl games.
Bradshaw's two touchdown passes and his 309 throwing yards -- second best in Super Bowl history -- were made possible only by the talents of Stallworth and Swann, whose knack for producing big plays exposed perhaps the only weakness in the Ram defense.
Stallworth, who felt he was ignored unjustly by Bradshaw in the first half, scored what became the winning touchdown by sensationally pulling in a 73-yard bomb early in the last quarter to erose a 19-17 Ram lead.
Then he somehow leaned back and gathered in a 45-yarder among three Ram defenders with three minutes left to set up Franco Harrris one-yard icing-on-the-cake score -- his second of the game -- and allot the Terrible Towels to flutter.
Swann, who suffered a slight conccussion late in third period, got Pitttsburgh's offense untracked right after halftime with one of his patented leaping grabs between two Rams. He stumbled at the two before twirling into the end zone for 47-yard score.
"This is probably the best one we've ever had," Coach Chuck Noll said, showing a rare hint of emotion in the Steelers' joyous locker room.
But Noll was far less happy in the final minutes when the Rams, trailing 24-19, and knowing their chances of winning were running out, drove to the Pittsburgh 32. That is when Ferragamo made his only mistake of the game, a wayward pass that middle linebacker Lambert picked off before the Steelers struck for their final touchdown.
That errant throw, however, did not detract from Ferragamo's effort. In only his seventh pro start, he shredded Pittsburgh's proud defense for 212 yards, three times moving the Rams into leads.
The Rams' pride was hurt by a point-spread that made them 11-point underdogs. Although they finally lost by 12, they were no pushovers. They scratched and clawed, pulling out all stops. But they never could find a way to handle Bradshaw and his brilliant receivers.
Both clubs served notice early that this was going to be a high-scoring affair, much like Pittsburgh's scintillating triumph last season over Dallas in Super Bowl 13.
A 41-yard field goal by Matt Bahr on the Steelers' first possession was offset immediately by a one-yard touchdown run by Ram Cullen Bryant after Wendell Tyler had sprinted 39 yards around left end. So much for any Pittsburgh romp.
Pittsburgh answered with four Bradswaw completions that set up a Harris one-yard scoring sweep. When Bahr booted the conversion, the Steelers had a 10-7 lead in the second period.
Ferragamo would not fold. He threw for 16 yards to Lawrence Mccutcheon to get the ball to the Pittsburgh 20. Then Donnie Shell was called for interference at the Steeler 18. When the Rams stalled, Frank Corral tied up the game, 10-10, with a 31-yard field goal.
By now, everyone realized the Rams were not kidding. To emphasize that point, they took advantage of Bradshaw's first interception to set up a 45-yard Corral field goal and a 13-10 advantage with 14 seconds to go in the half.
Noll said he told his players nothing special in the locker room at intermission.
"We just knew we weren't playing with usual Steeler intensity," Lambert said. "We had to change that."
Pittsburgh did, quickly. On the fifth play of the third quarter, Bradshaw threw a soaring pass toward Swann, who had barely outrun Pat Thomas down the sideline before angling to the middle.
"They were blitzing and were in man-to-man coverage," Badshaw said. "I audibilized at the line and let it go."
Just as safety Nolan Cromwell came over to help Thomas by attempting to bat away the ball, Swann started his jump. He went higher and higher, finally pulling in the ball while at least three feet above. the ground. He came down, kept his balance and danced in for the 47-yard score.
surely this stunning blow, one that had become a Steeler trademark the last two seasons, would finally brush off the pesky Rams.
It did not. Ferragamo took a page from Bradshaw's go-for-broke book. He found Billy Waddy 46 yards down the field and Waddy turned the pass into an eye-catching reception by pulling the ball away from Pittsburgh's Ron Johnson at the Steeler 24.
Before their foes could recover, the Rams struck again. Lawrence Mccutcheon began a sweep around right end, then pulled up and passed to Ron Smith, who got behind J.T. Thomas.Smith pulled in the accurate toss and moved into the end zone for the score.
After Corral missed the conversion, the Rams held a 19-17 lead with 4:45 gone in the quarter. Those fans who had booed their team so vigorously during the regualr season, who had thought the club had no chance of making it this far, now were beside themselves with joy.
But Los Angeles couldn't capitalize on two more interceptions of Bradshaw. The Rams had the Steelers on the edge, but they could not apply the final blow.
On a third down from his 27, Bradshaw dropped back and looked for Stallworth, who was running a hook-and-go pattern. He was being covered by Rod Perry, a talented cornerback who had been sidelined much of the season with bad calf.
Perry lunged for the ball at the Ram 35 but missed with a swipe of his arm. Stallworth gathered in the pass without missing a stride and scrampered untouched for his Super Bowl record third touchdown reception while Perry lay on the turf. The Steelers now led, 24-19, with 12:04 left in the game.
The Rams had come too far now to stop. They mounted on last scoring threat, again with Ferragamo providing the impetus.
His 24-yard compleion to Preston Dennard and 15-yarder to Waddy had Los Angeles at the Steeler 32. The L.A. offensive line, which was having trouble with the steeler blitz, was providing excellent protection and the Ram receivers were getting open. And the Steelers seemed confused.
But not Lambert Ferragamo wanted to pass to Smith on a cut-in pattern. Lambert was playing a deep zone and Ferragamo never saw him as he caught the pass at the 25. "He made a good play and I probably made a bad decision," Ferragamo said.
Pittsburgh could sense victory. Bradshaw again called a hook-and-go pattern to Stallworth, "but I was sure they wouldn't be in the same defense. When I came up to the line, doggone if they weren't."
Stallworth cut between Perry and Dve Elmendorf while Bradshaw let go the pass. As it came to Stallworth, Cromwell came over to help. All three Rams were thwarted as Stallworth reached back and cradled the ball against his chest for a 45-yard gain to the L.A. 22.
It was Stallworth's third reception, for 121 yards. It became Bradshaw's final completion giving him a 14-for-21 production. His 309 passing yards were second only to his 318 of Super Bowl 13.
Two plays later, Thomas was called for interfering with Jim Smith in the end zone. On the third try from the one, Harris bolted over, Bahr kicked the conversion and the steelers had another title.