The Super Bowl is just 38 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 38 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
Pasadena’s Rose Bowl hosted Super Bowl XIV on January 20, 1980. The game pitted the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams against the Pittsburgh Steelers of the American Football Conference. The Rams and Steelers dominated their respective divisions during the decade with one giant difference. The Steelers won the Super Bowl three times. The Rams were making their first appearance in the world title contest.
Los Angeles Rams 38 Years Ago
Ray Malavasi was in his second season as the Rams’ head man. He helped the Rams win their seventh consecutive NFC West title in 1979. Los Angeles did not exactly a great season, especially by their high standards. In fact, they were 5-6 after 11 games. But, they put together a 4-game winning streak including a week 15 rout at Atlanta to clinch the division.
The Rams were not strong on offense this particular season. Starting QB Pat Haden broke a finger in the 10th game. Vince Ferragamo replaced him and played respectably. If anything, Los Angeles possessed a solid rushing attack. Wendell Tyler rushed for 1100 yards. Cullen Bryant and Lawrence McCutcheon added depth and veteran leadership.
Unlikely Playoff Run
The Rams were tough defensively. Future Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood led the charge. However, the Rams had quality players at every level. In the divisional round playoff game against the heavily favored Cowboys, LA’s defense kept them in it till late in the fourth. Trailing 19-14, Ferragamo hit Billy Waddy over the middle. Waddy raced to the end zone to give the Rams the lead and the win, 21-19.
In the NFC championship game, the Rams traveled to Tampa Bay to play a Buccaneers’ team that beat them up during the regular season. The game was an absolute slugfest. Two terrific defenses destroying two pedestrian offenses. The Rams appeared to be in trouble when Youngblood broke a bone in his leg. But, miraculously, he kept playing through the injury and the pain. His performance surely inspired his team. The Rams outlasted the Bucs, 9-0. Finally, Los Angeles made it to the Super Bowl! And, this year it was being played in nearby Pasadena.
Pittsburgh Steelers 38 Years Ago
Their opponent was the defending-World Champion Steelers. The 1979 Steelers have the distinction of being the only Super Bowl team ever to field a squad made up of players who to that point only played for Pittsburgh. With free agency as it is in 2017, that feat will never be duplicated. It also demonstrates how well the Steelers drafted.
Pittsburgh played 14 terrific football games over the course of the regular season and two duds. In the divisional round of the playoffs, they humbled Miami, 34-14. Legends Bob Griese and Larry Csonka played in their last playoff game that day. The Steelers jumped out to a 20-0 first quarter lead and never looked back.
The championship game was much more competitive. The arch-rival Oilers went toe to toe with Pittsburgh. Houston, however, was victimized by a bad call. Mike Renfro was clearly in bounds in the back corner of the end zone. But, he was ruled out. That play served as the poster child for replay’s institution in the ’80’s. The Steelers won 27-13. They were back in the Super Bowl for the fourth time in six seasons.
See Saw Battle
Super Sunday 1980 was played on a glorious day in Southern California. It was difficult to tell who was the defending champion and who finished with a 9-7 record after three quarters. The Steelers and Rams put on a show.
The Rams opened with a three-and-out. The teams followed that with four consecutive scoring drives and a 10-10 tie late in the second. Late in the half, the Rams made two big plays to wreak tension on the Rose Bowl audience. First, Dave Elmendorf intercepted Bradshaw. Then, they went for it on fourth and eight from the 37. Ferragamo hit Waddy for the conversion. That sent Los Angeles to the break with a 13-10 lead.
The second half kicked off with more fireworks. Bradshaw hit Swann for one of their patented beauties from the forty-seven. LA struck right back. Waddy was on the receiving end of a 50-yarder. On the next play, McCutcheon swept right and tossed a duck to Ron Smith for a TD and a 19-17 Rams lead! The lead held up until the middle of the fourth.
Stallworth Saves Game
John Stallworth made an incredible catch and dashed home for a 73-yard score that put Pittsburgh up for good. The Rams threatened, but were denied by a Jack Lambert interception. After another wonderful play by Stallworth, Franco Harris powered home on third and goal from the one to put this beauty on ice.
The Steelers ended their decade of dynamite football with a courageous triumph. They would not get back to the big game with this crew again. The Rams were excellent in defeat. This would be their last Super Bowl until they played Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV representing St. Louis.
The Rams are now back in LA and Pittsburgh is back playing great football. The more things change, the more they stay the same from 38 years ago!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills