It turns out that San Francisco Coach Bill Walsh made his shrewdest Super Bowl move long before he put on his game-day headset.
Sometime last week, it seems, he passed a message along to his quarterback, Joe Montana.
"I had just reminded him, 'Play your game and not Marino's,' " Walsh said today. " 'When you see it, take it,' which meant, run. I reminded him of his great ability, and he played accordingly."
And how. Montana merely passed for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth. He broke Super Bowl records for passing yardage (331) and running yardage for quarterbacks (59) while playing protagonist in the offense that Walsh scripted into a 38-16 victory over Miami in Super Bowl XIX Sunday at Stanford Stadium.
Poor Dan Marino. Miami's mercurial 23-year old quarterback, who was filled to the gizzard with so many passing records this season, completed 29 of 50 passes for 318 yards.
He was sacked four times and intercepted twice in the second half when he tried to excavate his Dolphins from a 28-16 halftime deficit. He was harassed so repeatedly during the second half that 49ers' designated sacker Fred Dean would say afterward, "Once, (Marino) said to me after I hit him, 'What the heck are you trying to do? You trying to break my leg?' "
Today, Montana accepted a new automobile, the spoils for being named the game's most valuable player by Sport Magazine. Nobody seemed to remember that this was the same quarterback who had slumped the previous several games.
Asked in a news conference this morning how close the 49ers' offense had been to perfect Sunday, Montana said simply, "Real close."
Montana, who completed 24 of 35 passes without an interception, added: "With the way our offense was scoring points, you have to feel that you can do anything you want. Our offensive line controlled the line of scrimmage."
Who would have thought that when Pittsburgh defeated these 49ers, 20-17, in the seventh week of the regular season that San Francisco would not lose again and would become the first team in league history to win 18 games in a season?
Montana said that "18-1 has never been accomplished before. It has to be up there. The question is, are we as good as some of the (championship) teams of the past, with the combination of our defense and our offense?
"Me? I'd take us against anybody."
He added with a wink: "I would have liked a perfect season, but 18-1 and one of these (here, he flashed his Super Bowl XVI ring into the flood of television lights), I'll take it."
Indeed, because of the magnitude of Sunday's victory, the 49ers were able to sit back and strut a little. They were given a parade through San Francisco today, then a club-record 10 players flew to Honolulu for Sunday's Pro Bowl game.
They even were able to chuckle about how guard Guy McIntyre had scooped up a grounded kickoff near the end of the first half, how he had fallen to his knees in hopes of not fumbling and then how he had arisen only to get hit and fumble. Miami recovered at the San Francisco 12 with four seconds left, and Uwe von Schamann kicked a 30-yard field goal to make it 28-16.
"That's the first time I've ever fumbled in front of several million people," McIntyre said after the game. "I've got too much tape on my hands to handle the ball properly. From now on, I'm going to leave that to the experts."
Montana laughed about McIntyre's gaffe and said today: "I think he tried to block when he got up."
At his own news conference this morning, Walsh said such prideful things as: "I'd have to say that at the end of the '84 season, we were the most prolific offense in football. It's that simple."
He also said: "It just came to pass that Miami played a better team this time around and they were beaten. Next year, maybe it will be different."
And what of the advantage of the hometown crowd? "Sure we love to hear our fans cheer," he said, "but we would have played with the same intensity if we were in Albuquerque or Fargo."
Walsh said that the 49ers carried off "pretty close to all" of the 25 plays at the outset of the game that Walsh normally scripts during the preceeding week. The 49ers used a great deal of play-action plays, Montana said, to take advantage of the inexperience of Miami's inside linebackers, rookie Jay Brophy and Mark Brown, a second-year player.
"The two guys on the inside weren't as experienced as the two guys on the outside," Montana said of the Miami linebackers, "and we thought that we could hold them (freeze them) for a second" by using play-fakes.
Montana's scrambles, which included a six-yard touchdown escape, might have broken Miami's defensive determination as much as any of Montana's passes.
"We gave Joe the green light to run whenever he could," Walsh said. "We didn't think they could catch him. He has more speed at quarterback than they did on their defensive front. When he ran, there was nobody who could catch him from behind."
Compliments spread thick with the 49ers' defense, a unit so effective Sunday that one fact remains unchanged: no team has ever won a Super Bowl with an offense that passes the ball more often than it runs.
Now, consider what transpired after Miami had taken a 10-7 lead late in the first quarter: on five of the next six series, Marino's offense failed to get a first down.
By Miami's seventh offensive series of this stretch, San Francisco led, 38-16, late in the third quarter.
Pittsburgh was the last team to win back-to-back Super Bowls (1978-79). After the 49ers defeated Cincinnati, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI, they fell to 3-6 in the following strike-shortened season (1982).
"In '82, we had 35 men, not 49," Walsh said. "We had injuries that forced us to play the lower part of our squad, and they weren't up to it. Yes, this is a complete team now, no question. It has to be one of the great teams."
Predictably, someone mentioned the word "dynasty," and Walsh said: "You only have a dynasty once it's a dynasty. Anything else I would say would be just rhetoric."
When Montana was asked his plans for the next few weeks, he said, "I'm getting ready for a wedding."
When he was asked the date, Montana, who is 28 and has been married twice, grinned. His fiance, actress/model Jennifer Wallace, sat among the media in the crowd.
"You guys keep asking me that question," he said. "It's the end of February, beginning of March."
"That's a long wedding," a media member piped out.
"We've got a lot to celebrate," said Montana.