Sunday, February 01, 2009

Super Bowl XIII: Steelvers vs. Cowboys, January of 1979

Super Bowls rarely have wonderful storylines on both sides of the face off. Last season saw the remarkable run of the Patriots come to an end in the Super Bowl. The Giants were a widlc ard team that got hot. Two years ago, it was Peyton Manning's first Super Bowl, and the Bears were just happy to be there. Thirty years ago, the storylines on both sides of the ball were amazing as America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys, rumbled with the Pittsburgh Steelers with their Terrible Towels and Steel Curtain defense. Both teams had marvelous seasons. Both teams were top 5 in defense and offense. Both team sported many all pros and future hall of famers. These teams had meant a few years back in the Super Bowl and played a hard fought game. This matchup would pit two QBs who would retire with a combined 6 Super Bowl rings between them. Even though there was all of 1979 to be played, this was the game for the decade. Whomever won this would be considered the team of the 1970s. NFL Network has aired several SBs this week, spotlighting famous games. This is a review of that game in all its glory.

Before I get into specifics, here are some general observations. The kickers stink. Pitts' kicker was 12/26 during the season. All players look small, and the run game seems less about power than it does about skill in blocking (pulling, trapping, etc). This might be because linemen look more like tall broad guys than 300 lb oafs. It's funny to hear Tony Dungy as a back up in Pittsburgh's secondary. Bradshaw and Staubach are both mobile, both evade the rush and both throw on the run well. Both look smaller than prototypical QBs of today. Only 30 years have passed, and the game looks extremely different. Like every Super Bowl with the Steelers, the Steelers fans are very very loud.

Dallas has the first drive, and young Tony Dorsett looks good. He has great foot speed, good cut moves, and sets up his blocks well. Dallas uses a lot of pre-snap motion, uses the pro set often, and sends plays in from Landry using guards. Yes, they changed a guard every play. They kill a methodical drive of runs trying to use a trick reverse play. Dumb. This is too cute for the SB. Pittsburgh gets the ball and Franco Harris si the opposite of Dorsett, slow, not a quick runner or cutter. Both teams use lots of pro set and FB runs. They both run a lot w/o a lead blocking back. On a 3rd down, Bradshaw converts in the face of a blitz with a great read. Both teams use only 2 WRs and a TE even in passing downs. A busted screen pass turns into a deep bomb to Stallworth. Bradshaw shows great touch in dropping it into Stallworth's hands and a great grab by him.

Dallas sues shotgun and the announcers call himt he only QB in the league to use it effectively (at age 36). Landry calls all offensive plays, Bradshaw calls all plays for the Steelers and has since his rookie year. Amazing to think of in this age of coordinators. Staubach has some great reads on the blitz, and his mobility helps evade a fierce rush. The Steelers are quick off the edge. They get coverage sack. Here's why: no zone, secondaries double each WR and single up the TE or RB in the flat. There is no hole in the zone read. Danny White is Dallas' punter, and the annoucers hint at a QB controversy between him and Staubach. Lots of scuffles and chippy shots between players. These teams do hate each other.

There is no Dallas pass rush, and even when they blitz, Pittsburgh picks it up well. He makes soem good reads and then follows it up with a throw into double coverage for an INT. The Steelers and Cowboys O-linemen show good discipline. There are no dumb ass false starts, blocks are held for the entire play to allow for cut back lanes, and they pull well. Randy White is a D-linemen but looks like he'd play LB today. Scary. Dallas finally gets to Bradshaw and causes a fumble. Bradshaw has a good pocket most of the time.

Newhouse and Bleier are FBs that act more like FB/TB hybrids. Both get a decent chunk of carries and catch the ball on routes. Refs seem to let the DBs make plays and be physical with WRs. There seems to be a "let them play" attitude. Shell and Blount make great plays for Pittsburgh. On a blitz, Staubach gets the ball on a medium out route to Hill, and he takes it to the house. Great throw as he is drilled. The replay shows two defenders clobbering Staubach. He was about 200 lbs. Small for today, yet he takes a pounding and has wheels at age 36.

Dallas starts to get to Bradshaw more and makes him move around. They are stunting a bit more now. Witht he athletes they had on the line, I am not surprised. Dallas strips Bradshaw and gets a TD out of it. Pitts is throwing the ball a lot because Franco can't run for shit. Franco seems ot have bad balance and also seems to go down at first contact. He's like the Shaun Alexander of the 70s. Dallas blitzes, it fails miserably and Bradshaw hits Stallworth, who takes it 75 yards for a TD. Stallworth has 3 catches for 115 yards and 2 TDs.

Dallas has a better return game than Pittsburgh. Their special teams seem better. The Steelers get great penetration from their front 4 and Ham and Lambert have good lateral movement, which allows them to make plays as their linemen suck up blockers. Hidden play alert: Dallas sacks Bradshaw which forcesa FG attempt which just misses short and to the left, hitting the crossbar. Dallas moves the ball throught he air with soem good covnersions and Staubach softly puts a lollipop into Dorsett's hands as he gets drilled, but Dorsett picks up the 1st. Staubach kills the drive with an INT into what looks like 5 black Steelers' jerseys. BS roughing penalty for a hard tackle gives the Steelers the ball near midfield. Bad Call.

The Steelers workt he ball down the field, with Bradshaw hitting Swan often. Swanny is compared to a Russian Ballet dancer with his leaps. He does time his jumps very well. Bradhaw gambles on a roll out with a soft throw to Bleier in the end zone near the end of the half. Bleier makes a great catch. Dallas runs out the clock, and heads into the locker room trailing the Steelers 21-14. The first half could be summed up in a phrase "big plays". Dallas has scores from a fumble recovery and a great run and catch by Hill. Pittsburgh has 3 TDs from Stallworth's great work and an INT and return (and BS penalty) that gave them a short field.

The 2nd half opens up with the defenses playing much better. Dallas in a strategic boner keeps going to Newhouse instead of Tony Dorsett. Even dumber is the fact that Newhouse is back from a leg injury and obviously not as effective as Dorsett or his own back up (Laidlaw). Bad move. Dallas has moved to using a moving pocket on soem passes to neutralize the Pitts' rush. Staubach has a great scramble with a juke move that gets him an extra 4 yards. He scrambles at the "proper time". I want to note that he's moving this well at age 36. In comparison, Steve McNair retired by 35, and looked made of stone in early 30s. He did not have the agility or fluidity of his early days like Staubach still had at 36. The announcers say that Staubach credits his longevity and conditioning to working out 2 hours a day in the gym in his garage. Yes, the QB of America's Team works out in his garage. Another side note is that Dallas only had 3 players who had played fro another coach. Wow, just wow.

Both teams are not moving the ball much. Some big 3rd down stops. Dallas uses the shotgun, but it involves 2 RBs on the wings. It helps vs. this rush. On a 3rd and 3, Dallas runs. Yes, runs for it and converts. This would not happen today. Dorsett is great on the edge, reads his blocks well and makes good choices on when to cut it inside. Dallas misses out on a TD when Billy Jo Dupree whiffs on blocking the only remaining Steeler who could have tackled Dorsett. This leads to the play. Out of a timeout, Dallas calls a beautiful play action pass to the TE, Jackie Smith, he proceeds to drop it. This is the most recognized drop in SB history. Dallas kicks the FG and the 3rd ends at 21-17.

Bradshaw leads Pitts downfield with some help from a dropped INT, a pass interference call, and savvy play on 3rd down. He played great on 3rd down this game. Note: only one rookie started for either team this game. Franco gets a TD through a huge hole. On the following kickoff, Dallas fumbles and Pittsburgh punches it in with Bradshaw going for the jugular. He calls a great slant and guns it to Swann, TD, game over. Dallas closes the gap with a TD, recovered onside kick adn another TD, but Pittsburgh won this game with better execution. They did not kill drives with turnovers as often as Dallas, did not have horrendous drops in the endzone or 3rd down, and played a great game on defense in the 2nd half.

Even though the Steelers pushed the game to 35-17, this was closer than that, and keep that in mind when people say "35-31, it wasn't that close of a game". Going into the 4th, it was 21-17, and both defenses had tightened up. Some argue Staubach was one of the greatest QBs of all time, but no one ever speaks up for Bradshaw. Look at the comment down this entry for why Staubach could have been the greatest of all time if he had not gone to Navy. Bradshaw put up good numbers for his time, and won 4 SBs. In 2 of those SBs, he carried his offense because Franco sucked in SBs 13 and 14. I always like to put that out to New England fans who consider Brady a top 5 guy. Let's wait until he's 38 and retired before we start debating GOAT merits. Right now, in my opinion, he's in the Bradshaw-Aikman level. Great QB on great teams. Back to this game, very rarely will you see SBs that pit teams with a great rivalry that is from their back and forth titles in the same decade and previous meeting. Hopefully for the NFL, a rivalry like this may develop in the near future. Let's cross our figners and hope.

Also... Steelers to win and cover today in Super Bowl 43.

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