Bill Walsh is a doodler.
"He'll even take a fork during dinner, turn it over and scratch out plays on a tablecloth," said Sam Wyche, who has been fascinated by Walsh since a player-assistant relationship with the expansion Bengals in the late '60s evolved into their being the assistant-head coach twosome that plotted victory for the 49ers in the Super Bowl today. "As long as I've known him, that's been his one consistent habit."
One by one in the Silverdome, diagrams that have danced in Walsh's mind for years ended with 49ers scampering for the yardage and points that had the Bengals all but knocked out by halftime. This white-haired football surgeon cut another fine defense to shreds when that had to be done.
"Swept 'em off their feet the first half," he said of that offensive clinic.
"Went right down the (pregame) list," assistant Wyche said of the 68-yard drive that produced a touchdown the first time the offense got the ball and the 92-yard surge that ended in a 14-0 lead on the third possession. "We had about 25 plays ready and went through about the first 15."
Those half-squib kicks that Bengal returners treated like live grenades and resulted in what Walsh called the game's turning point were part of the offense. The coach expected something good to happen from them, though not that gift field goal two seconds before halftime.
"We thought about it after the first game of the year here (against the Lions)," Walsh said. "We had trouble dealing with it then; so did Detroit, because the surface here's so dry and slippery. That field goal (that gave the Niners a 20-0 lead after they recovered an Archie Griffin muff) was the turning point.
"It made the game duller."
But not dull.
The 49ers expected what the Bengals gave them right from the second-half kickoff.
"Some of our guys are hunters," guard Randy Cross said, "and at halftime they said there's nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal. We'd shot those Bengals once, but not killed 'em. Those big tigers were in the bush and coming right after us."
Blitzing, springing at the 49er offense from the least-expected angles.
"They lived by the blitz in the fourth quarter," Walsh said. "But they died by it, because we later were able to run on it."
That third quarter was not quite as nightmarish as it seemed for San Francisco, though the goal-line stand that bought about five minutes of time was special for showing that a Super Bowl winner still needs a bit of defense in this pass-dizzy era.
"I thought back to a game we had against the Jets," said Wyche, Walsh's upstairs eyes. "We had them up something like 30-0 and they came back and gave us a scare.
"The first (second-half) series (when the Bengals drove 83 yards for a touchdown) I kept yelling (into the headset connected to Walsh's on the sideline): 'Run, clock, run.'
"He said: 'You thinking about that clock already?' "
Walsh and Wyche preferred to think the Niners were being "protective" rather than conservative during a third period that yielded but four yards on offense.
"They were blitzing so much we had to keep extra people out of the patterns to protect Joe (Montana)," Wyche said. "It limits what you can do."
"All D (defense) in the second half," Walsh admitted. "But their blitzing meant we could (eventually) use our running game and trapping game. That's what won it for us."
Doodler Walsh does discuss defense sometimes, although he tends to get to the point quickly and get back to his first love.
"The bottom line is that we're fast on defense," he said. "They were powerful; we were quicker. That was the difference."
Takes care of that. Back to you, Sam.
"That flea-flicker (the 49ers used on third and one on their fifth play of the game) came about the time we wanted to try it," Wyche said. "We have sequences for formations (such as the unbalanced line the Bengals said was troublesome), sequences for blocking schemes, sequences for run and pass. Sometimes we'll do something on the third play to set up the 11th play."
Had the Bengals not been so tigerish, that play could have been a touchdown. Had Charle Young not made a splendid catch as three Bengals hit him, all that thought would have been wasted instead of a 24-yard gain.
"We like to go deep," Wyche said. "But it's a read on his (Young's) part. And that man doesn't have good hands; he has great hands."
Walsh was anxious to talk about adversity, which included the best defense the Niners faced all day--a massive traffic jam.
"Our bus was stuck in traffic about a half-mile from the stadium," he said, "and I thought we might not make it. As it was, we finally got there about 20 minutes before warm-up time. That's cutting it pretty close. When we were in the heavy traffic, I told the team: 'Don't worry, we're already ahead, 7-0.'
"Half of our guys were there already and I told them the equipment manager was calling the plays."
This is a team that arrived loose and stayed that way.
"Once, it was Wednesday, I think," Cross said, "all of a sudden this rock music starts blaring during practice. We thought he (Walsh) would go crazy. He didn't. The more I think about it the more I think he probably planned the whole thing."
The Xs and Os were enough.
"The ultimate," Walsh kept saying. "Just the ultimate. When you work long and hard in your profession, you can't conceive of anything more. We had the best record in the league and won the Super Bowl, brought a team in three years basically back from oblivion."
For once in his football life, Walsh could use his fork solely in the intended manner tonight.