by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

SAN DIEGO — Let us begin this little Super Bowl story on the sidelines, second quarter, where we — oops! Look out! There goes Washington’s Ricky Sanders streaking past for an 80-yard touchdown. Now we — oops! Look out! There goes Washington’s Gary Clark for a 27-yard touchdown. And we — look out! Washington’s Timmy Smith for a 58-yard touchdown. Maybe we could — watch it! Sanders again, a 50-yard touchdown.

Well, thanks for joining us.

Skinned alive. Say good night, Denver. Super Bowl XXII didn’t need a referee; it needed a traffic cop. Was that really the final score? 42-10? Did Washington really score 35 points in the second quarter? Five touchdowns?

That’s a month’s work for the Lions.

“Just getting to the Super Bowl is great, but winning it is the ultimate,” said an elated Doug Williams, who, as the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl, smashed every stereotype, then smashed everything else. “I feel great. I didn’t come here as a showcase for the black quarterback. I came as quarterback of the Washington Redskins.”

And all this time, Denver thought he was the Grim Reaper.

It is hard to think of words for what Williams and the Redskins did to Denver on this cool afternoon. A slaughter? Not strong enough. Maybe a slerter. A slooter. A slawwwwter. At one point, Washington scored when it was just trying to run out the clock. The Redskins had to fall on the ball to keep it from traveling to the end zone on its own.

“That’s the only one we’ve played like that all year,” admitted a smiling Joe Gibbs, the Redskins coach.

What puzzled viewers — at least until they switched to “Murder, She Wrote,” which was still early in the first bag of potato chips — was that this was supposed to be a good game.

“Finally,” people had said, “a decent Super Bowl matchup. Maybe it won’t be over by the third quarter.”

They got their wish. It was over by the second.

Here was Timmy Smith dancing in the end zone. Here was Dave Butz, the oldest Redskin, doing the old man’s shuffle. Here was Williams, marching off the field in a crowd of fans, holding his helmet high over his head. “HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!” sang the largely pro-Washington crowd. They haven’t been this happy in D.C. since George Bush socked it to Dan Rather.

“The game plan was exactly what we wanted,” Williams said. No kidding. If it was any more effective, the Pentagon would grab it. Suddenly, the Redskins
— who had a knack of barely beating their previous opponents — were every NFC champion of the past few years: the New York Giants, the Chicago Bears, the San Francisco 49ers. Washington did all the damage those teams did to the AFC, and came up with some of its own.

Name the record, the Redskins smashed it. Running back Smith, who was born about the time “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” was released in the States, became the first rookie to 1) gain more than 100 yards in a Super Bowl; 2) gain more than 200 yards in a Super Bowl; 3) score two touchdowns in a Super Bowl and 4) do an end zone dance that involved only the hips and elbows.

“I just want to say thanks for the Redskins giving me a second chance,” he said. Smith didn’t even know he was starting (for George Rogers) until game time. He spent his junior and senior years in college on the injured list with knee problems. On Sunday, he gained 204 yards on 22 carries — far more than his total for the entire regular season.

So much for college.

And how about Williams, who is working for a paltry (football-wise)
$475,000, and now owns or co-owns the Super Bowl record for 1) most yards passing; 2) longest touchdown pass; 3) most touchdowns thrown and 4) most times asked how it feels to be a black quarterback.

“This really hasn’t hit me yet,” he said, dressed in a wet gray T-shirt in the Redskin locker room. “I didn’t even realize I was at the Super Bowl until about 2 o’clock this morning, when I couldn’t sleep.

“We don’t have the Three Amigos, but what we have is good enough.”

Especially what they’ve got behind the center. Williams, voted the game’s MVP, became a forever star with Sunday’s historic performance. They can ask him new questions now. Like, how does it feel to be the first black quarterback to be fitted for a Super Bowl ring at halftime?

Actually, that’s being generous. Halftime was too late. Once Clint Didier hauled in another Williams touchdown pass — and by this point Williams was giving them to anyone who asked — the Rocky Mountain fans already were working on their “wait until next year” excuse.

Which is what they used last year.

But OK. You think you had a lousy time watching? Imagine the Broncos. They were massacred in last year’s Super Bowl, 39-20, by the Giants. This time they scored half as many points and gave up three more. More than 73,000 people crammed the seats at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium.

Denver was a no-show.

“We couldn’t stop them,” said Broncos coach Dan Reeves, understating his case by about the length of a football field.

I would like to show pity to the Broncos. Right after I show them how to tackle. Their defense wasn’t bad. It was pathetic. A joke. Coppertone gives you more protection.

The Washington running backs made every hole look like a canyon. The Washington receivers — particularly Ricky Sanders, who caught nine passes for 193 yards — made the Denver secondary look, well, secondary.

What about the celebrated Denver offense? What about John Elway, the Huckleberry Kid with the can’t-miss arm? Well, their Super Bowl was a great first quarter. Did you see that first play from scrimmage? A 56-yard touchdown bomb from Elway to Ricky Nattiel? Six points before they even broke a sweat? It was a glorious moment for the orange and blue. It was also the only one. Bogart and Bergman will always have Paris. Denver fans will always have those first two minutes.

And what of Elway? You have to feel for the man, even though the cook at Denny’s has seen more productive scrambling. Bad day? Whoo. At one stage in the first and second quarters, Elway threw 11 straight incompletions, ran into Washington’s Alvin Walton twice for sacks, and saw a 10-0 lead turn into a 21-10 deficit. And Washington was just warming up. Elway’s long passes were off target or in the arms of Redskin defenders (three interceptions). His celebrated receivers, the Three Amigos, proved to be as bad as the movie for which they were named.

“My philosophy of this game is wait until next year,” said Mark Jackson, who led the Amigos with four catches. Nattiel had two. Vance Johnson, he of the orange hair, earrings and plans for major Amigos endorsements, did not catch a pass, proving once again, you can’t count your tacos before they’re fried.

“When you go into halftime trailing 25 points, people tell you you can come back but it’s hard to believe,” said Elway, who completed just 14 of 38 passes. He frowned. The Huckleberry Kid is in danger of becoming a January Dud, the Fran Tarkenton of the Rockies. “We know what it takes to get here, we just have to figure out what it takes to win.”

So there goes Super Bowl XXII, ladies and gentlemen. Yet another blowout. Yet another halftime with more drama than what followed. Remember it fondly, the way you might remember a highway accident: a Redskins rout, a Denver collapse, a second quarter that will forever be remembered as the greatest offensive show in Super Bowl history, and the quickest ratings killer since PBS. CUTLINE Washington Redskins quarterback Doug Williams, the Super Bowl MVP, looks downfield for a receiver during Sunday’s victory over Denver. Eddie Manie, right, of New York, and another fan celebrate after they caught a ball thrown into the stands by Washington’s Clint Didier.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!