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

SAN FRANCISCO — Well, I’m sure the Denver Broncos were very happy to make it back to the Super Bowl. But had their AFC championship been played after the NFC title game, instead of before it, they might have changed their minds. They might have told Cleveland, “Listen, uh, you guys go instead, OK? We have a dental appointment.”

Could you blame them? Who on earth would want to play the San Francisco 49ers right now? In the Super Bowl? In front of the whole world? Why not try to take your pants off — over your head? Why not punch a grizzly bear? Why not French-kiss a shark? Why not volunteer to be Noriega’s defense attorney?

There has to be a more dignified way to make a living. The 49ers are playing as if their opponents are clowns, sitting above a tub of water, waiting for a sponge.

Splash! Down goes Minnesota. Splash! Down go the Rams. The 49ers begin the
’90s the way they ended the ’80s, going Super. Why don’t we just change the name? The 49er Bowl. They own the thing anyhow.

“They dominated us in every way,” said a polite but stunned quarterback Jim Everett, after San Francisco blew out the Rams’ dream candle, 30-3, Sunday at Candlestick Park, to win their fourth NFC championship in the last nine seasons. “They covered us well. They rushed us well. They controlled the ball well. They read the defense well. They–.”

Um. Yeah. Back to you in a minute, Jim.

First this word from the fans in Denver: “HEEELLLLP!” Or didn’t they watch the game here Sunday? Against a Rams squad that was one of just two to beat them this season, the 49ers barely broke a sweat. They scored three touchdowns in just over 11 minutes of the second quarter. By halftime, Jerry Rice was checking for good Cajun restaurants in New Orleans. “Hello? Party of 45 for next Monday?”

And Joe Montana? This is how they spell Joe Montana in football circles: G-O-D. On Sunday he threw 30 passes, completed all but four, hit for two touchdowns, 262 yards, had no interceptions, and didn’t come close to being sacked.

“I don’t think he had any dirt on him, did he?” asked Everett. “He read our coverage. His receivers outran us. He–.”

Uh-huh. Back in a minute, Jim.

First, let’s get this over with. The prediction: San Francisco will win the Super Bowl. Denver, alas, is doomed. The Broncos already got clobbered, by Washington and the New York Giants, in Super Bowls XXI and XXII after the 1986 and ’87 seasons. Why do they keep coming back? Who’s running the show out there, Harold Stassen?

About the only mistake the Broncos haven’t made in a Super Bowl is showing up when the 49ers are there. Now, they have committed that bugaboo. Las Vegas, I hear, made the 49ers 11 1/ 2-point favorites before they took off their uniforms.

Let us not mince words: The 49ers do not play football, they teach it. They take NFL teams that have done well, teams such as Minnesota, which won the NFC Central, and the Rams, who knocked off Philly and the Giants in successive playoff weeks, and they make them look like first-graders.

This is the pass.

This is the run.

This is how you play defense.

This is how you board the plane for the Big Party. Got it?

“We feel great,” said Bubba Paris, the massive offensive tackle who is fond of poetry. “How would you feel if you were going to the Super Bowl? We have a vision.”

“Our mission is not complete,” added Roger Craig, who must have felt like Secretariat Sunday, the way he galloped up the muddy turf, for 93 yards. “We want one more win.”

It would hardly be a miracle finish. The 49ers — who have won three of the last eight Super Bowls — don’t rely on miracles. They draft them. This is a team, don’t forget, that lost its head coach last year. Usually, that takes a little bite out of a franchise, doesn’t it?

Instead, they came back with a better record under George Seifert (14-2) than they had with Bill Walsh (10-6) in 1988. Their receiving corps keeps growing — Rice, John Taylor, now Mike Sherrard and Brent Jones. And their defensive backs are beyond excellent.

“Is there a better secondary in the NFL than yours?” someone asked cornerback Tim McKyer.

“I can’t think of one,” he said. He looked over at fellow cornerback Don Griffin. “What about you, Grif?”

“I can’t think of one, either.”

“No. Guess not.”

Guess not.

And Montana. Gosh. Did you watch him operate that hurry-up drill just before halftime? It was a beautiful thing. Marched his team 87 yards in 181 seconds. Completed six straight passes and eight out of 10. Mixed in a run or two. Went for the sidelines. Finished it off with a touchdown strike. And, like a master pool hustler who leaves his opponent no good shot, he turned the ball back to the Rams with nine seconds on the clock.

“It was our offensive line that made the difference,” Montana said in typical humility. True, he had enough time back there to do next year’s Christmas shopping. But you can’t discount his eyes, his selection of targets, his calm under fire. Watching Joe Montana operate is like watching a surgeon slice a birthday cake. It looks that easy.

“The way Joe is going,” said Paris, “his best game won’t be the Super Bowl,

it’ll be the Pro Bowl — because he keeps improving every week.”

Are you getting this all down, Denver? Do you see the once- proud Rams, trudging back to the bus? Do you see Everett, who had been their miracle man, mumbling on and on about his opponents? I hate to be a party poop. But if the 49ers don’t come home with the Super Bowl trophy, it will only mean that their bus got stuck in traffic.

And so it goes, as we head for the climax of another San Francisco symphony. The answer for the Broncos this season was to get back to the Super Bowl.

The question now becomes: Why bother?


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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.

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