“Super Bowl Weekend–Super Bowl Disappointment”
I knew it would be hard, very hard.
25-years ago this weekend, coming off the Chargers greatest weekend, we had to swallow the bitterest pill.
I knew the San Diego Chargers deserved to be in the Super Bowl in Miami, coming off a 1st place season, a win in the playoffs in the rain over Miami, and the enormous win over the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
But I also knew who the San Francisco 49ers were, where they had been, what they had done, and what they could do.
It was so hard to sit there and call that (49-26) blowout loss. Steve Young threw 6-TD passes. The Niners went up and down the field, could not be stopped, could not be slowed down.
Games come down to just a couple of plays, but in this case, it was two plays early that spelled doom and gloom for the rest of the night in the Orange Bowl.
I said all week long on Radio Row, the Chargers would have to make it a shootout to be able to stay in the game.
San Francisco rode in with Young throwing, and Young running. There was Jerry Rice, Brent Jones, Johnny Taylor, Ricky Watters, William Floyd. Too many weapons for anyone to stop.
The Chargers, a severe case of stage fright that night. It started badly and then it got worse, no matter how hard Stan Humphries, Tony Martin, Natrone Means, Ronnie Harmon tried.
I remember Bobby Ross telling me he had looked at 19-different game tapes over two seasons, trying to configure how to defend the 49ers formation packages.
Then San Francisco ran 6-formations the Bolts had never seen on the first six plays. It was (14-0) just like that, in just six plays. They lined up Jerry Rice at running back. Brent Jones at fullback. Ricky Waters as a wide receiver.
Utter confusion in the Bolts secondary. I remember Junior Sean trying to align the secondary, his head turned towards his safeties as the ball was snapped. Receivers running open everywhere. Rice caught a slant on the 3rd play for a TD. Watters ran a crossing pattern, wide open from here to Biscayne Bay for another TD on the 6th play. Plays of 44-51-yards just like that.
It was like the defense got hit by a bolt of lightning and never recovered. When it was over, the Niners had 449-yards in offense, Young had a Super Bowl TD record.
It might have been a shootout, but the Bolts missed opportunities. Natrone Means could not score on 3-rushing attempts from the one. Mark Seay dropped a wide open TD pass on a crossing pattern. Those two TDs would have put the Bolts within a TD of San Francisco. But they could not hang in there with the best modern day offense the NFL ever had, the one designed by Bill Walsh and carried forward by George Siefert and Mike Shanahan.
The event overwhelmed the Chargers. Players seemed distracted by being at the Super Bowl. A good week of practice back in San Diego was negated by a shaky week of practice once they got to the Dolphins practice facility. Players spent too much time with friends or at events.
For some reason the Chargers did not fly in early to get acclimated to what the week would be. They were rattled my the media commitments. They were over amped in pregame warmups, as a scuffle broke out between Eric Bienemy and Shawn Lee on the field.
The Spanos family nixed a plan to have them wear their ‘Powder Blue’ Jerseys to celebrate the NFL’s 7th season. The Niners wore their old-school Reds and proceeded to hand out an old school beating on the Bolts.
It was a hard night to see a team, that had ignited its town with a great season, see all this crash and burn on one night in Miami.
The journey to get to Miami was exciting. The Sunday night shellacking was hard. They all said the right things, we will learn, we will be back.
That never happened. The next season, all five starting offensive lineman had knee scope surgeries between training camp and the start of the season. It was never the same team.
Sadly, 8-players off that team, died within a couple of years. David Griggs, the first to go in a car accident. Doug Miller, hit by lightning on a camping trip. Rodney Culver in a plane crash. Chris Mims of a diabetic attack. Curtis Whitley of a drug overdose.
Humphries career ended a year later with a severe concussion in Cincinnati, the mad bomber done in by 1-hit. As they say you are one play away from the end of your career.
No one could have forecast the falling out between Bobby Beathard and Bobby Ross, the end of a GM-Coaching marriage, so sudden, with an owner doing nothing to intercede to keep a good group together.
25-years ago this Sunday night, a special season finished up with a not-so special loss in Miami.
The journey was fabulous. The ending awful. That is the NFL. The Super Bowl-there’s a winner, and then there is Super Bowl disappointment for the loser.