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Original Issue

Ding-dong year for Tampa Bay

The new play hadn't worked in practice, so it's no wonder Terry Bradshaw wasn't too crazy about it. But with the Steelers trailing the Rams 19-17 early in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XIV and standing third-and-eight on their own 27, Bradshaw called "60 Prevent Slot Hook and Go." Wide Receiver John Stallworth faked a hook, turned and sprinted deep. Bradshaw lofted a pass just beyond Cornerback Rod Perry's reach, and Stallworth was gone, 73 yards to the touchdown that put Pittsburgh ahead to stay. The 31-19 outcome wasn't at all surprising, but the Rams were. "Anyone who calls us dogs," Jack Youngblood declared, "well, let him call me that to my face." There were no takers.

Ricky Bell turned the rain to sunshine for the Bucs, ringing up 1,263 yards.

Coach Chuck Noll was, er, joyous after winning XIV.

The moment of truth: Perry just missed the ball, and Stallworth gathered it in for the victory.

Joe Greene did a mean job of blocking Vince Ferragamo's view (above). Wendell Tyler held onto the ball despite constant licks by the Steelers.

The Bucs completed only four passes on L.A.; Nolan Cromwell tipped this one.

Roger Staubach knew time was running out on the Cowboys' chances.

O. J. Simpson walked south from San Francisco, heading for Hollywood.

Earl Campbell was even better than he was in '78, rushing for 1,697 yards and 19 TDs, but a groin injury kept him from being a factor in the playoffs.

Phyllis Wanger was Pom Pom Mom of the Rams' Embraceable Ewes.


The Pittsburgh Steelers won the Super Bowl. So what else was new? Well, four-year-old Tampa Bay, a team that lost its first 26 games ever, finished 10-6 to win the NFC Central Division. The Buccaneers arrived thanks to an offense that Coach John McKay built around Running Back Ricky Bell, a defense anchored by End Lee Roy Selmon and a schedule designed to perk up last-place teams. Tampa Bay might have made it to Super Bowl XIV but for the equally astonishing Los Angeles Rams. At one point during their soap-operatic season, the Rams were 5-6 and Owner Georgia Rosenbloom was suggesting to endangered Coach Ray Malavasi that he make a wishbone quarterback out of Safety Nolan Cromwell. L.A. did change quarterbacks, but only after Pat Haden broke his pinkie and was replaced by Vince Ferragamo. Ferragamo led the Rams haltingly into the playoffs, but was unstoppable in the postseason opener, throwing three touchdown passes in a 21-19 defeat of Dallas. In the NFC championship, Los Angeles beat Tampa Bay 9-0 in a game not suitable for framing.

Houston limped into the playoffs without its arm, Dan Pastorini, and its legs, Earl Campbell. On heart alone, the Oilers beat Denver 13-7 in the wild-card game. Then the Oilers stole San Diego blind; Vernon Perry intercepted Dan Fouts four times as the Houston coaches decoded the hand signals the Chargers used to send plays in to Fouts. The AFC Championship Game will be remembered for The Call—or Non-call. Trailing Pittsburgh 17-10 in the third quarter, Pastorini passed to Mike Renfro in the end zone corner for what seemed to be a six-yard touchdown. After a summit conference, the referee ruled that Renfro had had "no possession," which also applied to the AFC title so far as the Oilers were concerned. The statistical stars of 1979 were Campbell, who rushed for 1,697 yards, and Fouts, who threw for an NFL-record 4,082 yards. The top rookie was Ottis Anderson of St. Louis, who gained 1,605 yards on the ground. Two familiar names bowed out: Viking Defensive End Jim Marshall, 42, after starting an incredible 302 straight games, and 0. J. Simpson, 32, the premier running back of the decade.