Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When Bradshaw Secured His Legacy

On this day in 1980, Terry Bradshaw became the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls.

"He couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A," Dallas' Hollywood Henderson had said a year earlier, just before Bradshaw's Steelers beat the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. As Henderson learned, you don't have to be able to spell to be a Super Bowl–winning quarterback.

In the 35 years that have passed since, only one other quarterback, Joe Montana, has won four Super Bowls. It took him eight years to become the second member of the club.

If New England's Tom Brady wins the Super Bowl a week from Sunday, he will be the third member of the club, but he will have required 13 years to accomplish it.

But on this night, Bradshaw stood alone at the top of that mountain.

Victory did not come easily. The Steelers' opponents, the Los Angeles Rams, were making their first appearance in the Super Bowl and refused to go quietly against the Steelers, who were making their fourth appearance in six years.

Actually, Super Bowl XIV was almost like a home game for the Rams. The game was played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. At that time, the Rams played their home games in nearby Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is where the University of Southern California also plays its home games. Perhaps the Rams had an unacknowledged home field advantage.

The Rams and Steelers took turns seizing the lead through three quarters. The astonishing Rams led, 7–3 after the first quarter, 13–10 at intermission and 19–17 at the end of the third quarter.

But then the Steelers sprung to life. Bradshaw hit wide receiver John Stallworth for a 73–yard touchdown pass with 12:15 to play, then Franco Harris put the game on ice with a one–yard touchdown run with 1:52 remaining.

Bradshaw received his second consecutive Super Bowl MVP award.

The 10½–point favorite Steelers covered the spread with a 14–0 fourth quarter, but the Rams, who had been 9–7 during the regular season, had proven that they could trade punches with the big boys.

For there was no bigger boy in the NFL at that time than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

And it seemed at the time that the Steelers were poised to dominate the NFL in the foreseeable future.

As it turned out, though, the Steelers did not return to the Super Bowl for 15 years — and they did not win one again until February of 2006, more than a quarter of a century later.

The Rams, as I recall, were mostly seen as a flash in the pan — good enough to continue to dominate what seemed to be a weak division but unlikely to return to the Super Bowl any time soon.

The Rams did not return to the Super Bowl soon. It took them 20 years. But they rarely won their division in the years after their first Super Bowl appearance, either.

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