NFL Week 10 historical matchups: The Super Bowl guarantee that almost came true, and more
The Rams' 25-year-old backup quarterback nearly backed up his guarantee against the Steelers in Super Bowl XIV
Vince Ferragamo, the Rams' 25-year-old backup quarter, had helped Los Angeles advance to Super Bowl XIV after the team lost Pat Haden to a midseason injury. A .500 team at that point, Ferragamo helped the Rams go 4-1 down the stretch to capture the NFC West division crown. He then helped lead Los Angeles to upset victories over Dallas and Tampa Bay en route to a date against the defending, three-time Super Bowl champion Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.
Like Namath a decade earlier, Ferragamo was not openly intimidated heading into a Super Bowl that he and his teammates pitted as heavy underdogs. Ferragamo, as recalled by former Steelers' broadcaster Myron Cope in Jim Wexell's book about the 1979 Steelers, guaranteed victory just days before kickoff.
"I said to Ferragamo, 'Have you got any interesting predictions?" Cope recalled asking Ferragamo. "And he said, 'Well, the Rams are going to win the game. No doubt about it.' He was very emphatic that the Rams were gonna win. So I left the [interview area] after nobody picked up on it at the table, which surprised me. You'd think, 'Hey wait, the quarterback flat out predicts victory like Joe Namath did.' But they went on to other topics."
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While the national media didn't jump on the quote, Cope made sure his listeners in Pittsburgh heard it. Cope also relayed the message to Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw shortly after Cope arrived back at the team hotel.
"[Bradshaw] turned beat red when he heard that, and he said, 'He really said that?' I said 'Yeah, I asked the question and he said it flat out that they're gonna beat you.' He said, 'Well, we'll see about that.'"
"Bradshaw was really pumped up," Cope continued. "He carried that into the ballgame I'll betcha, because when I told him about it, I never saw him livid like that. You know, Bradshaw could roll with anything, but here's this punk, who ended up riding the bench in the Canadian League, talking like that."
The "punk," who did end up riding the pine in the Canadian League during the final stages of his pro career, played like Namath for the majority of Super Bowl XIV. For the majority of the game, Ferragamo outplayed Bradshaw, who threw three interceptions as the Rams built a 13-10 halftime lead. In the third quarter, after Bradshaw launched a 47-yard bomb to Lynn Swann to give the Steelers the lead, Ferragamo responded with a 50-yard pass to Billy Waddy that helped put the Rams back up front heading into the final stanza.
While Ferragamo's Rams won the first three quarters, Bradshaw and the Steelers, during the fourth quarter, displayed their championship mettle in front of the largest crowd -- 103,985 -- that has ever attended the Super Bowl. With Swann knocked out the game, and the Steelers facing a third and long from their own 27, Bradshaw went for broke and hit receiver John Stallworth downfield for a 73-yard touchdown pass that gave the Steelers the lead, 24-19.
Undeterred, Ferragamo led the Rams marched back down the field. But after three completions that gained 47 yards got Los Angeles to the Steelers' 32 with 5:53 remaining, Ferragamo was bedeviled by Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert, who picked off Ferragamo's intermediate pass. On the play, Ferragamo missed a wide-open Waddy, who likely would have given the Rams the head had Ferragamo seen him.
Bradshaw, who would be named Super Bowl MVP for a second straight year, wasted little time making Ferragamo pay for his mistake. Three plays after Lambert's pick, Bradshaw lofted a 45-yard strike to Stallworth, setting up Franco Harris' game-clinching score with 1:52 remaining.
While the Steelers won, 31-19 (and covering the 11-point spread in the process) to capture their fourth Super Bowl in a six-year span, Ferragamo and the Rams won respect.
"Ferragamo was the better quarterback today," Steelers center Mike Webster said after the game, via Sports Illustrated's Paul Zimmerman. "Overall, I'd have to say he did the better job."
Here are four other Week 10 matchups with historical significance
The Cowboys' 'Hail Mary' prayers are answered
Desperation passes at the end of close games was part of the NFL game long before Roger Staubach's last-minute heave to receiver Drew Pearson that gave the Cowboys a 17-14 win over the two-time defending NFC champion Vikings in the first round of the 1975 playoffs. But it was Staubach who was the first player to call the last-minute deep pass a "Hail Mary".
"Drew caught it, we won the game, and after the game, an AP writer just said to me, 'What were you thinking about when you there the ball?' Staubach said during a 2018 appearance on 'The Dan Patrick Show.' "I said, 'I closed my eyes and said a Hail Mary.' I was a catholic kid from Cincinnati."
While NFL's first attributed "Hail Mary" pass lives on in NFL infamy, it did not come without some controversy.
"The Vikings say that Drew pushed off," said Staubach, whose Cowboys would defeat the Rams the following week before losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl X. "But if you see the film, it looks like Nate Wright slipped."
Brett Favre's greatest moment as a Packer did not come in Super Bowl XXXI, when his three total touchdowns helped Green Bay defeat the Patriots in what was the only Super Bowl victory of his illustrious career. Instead, Favre points to the Packers' win over the Panthers in that year's NFC Championship Game -- Green Bay's first NFC title win since the Packers defeat the Cowboys in the legendary 1967 Ice Bowl -- as his favorite NFL game.
In front of a delirious Lambeau Field crowd, Favre and the Packers dismantled the upset Panthers, who had reached the NFC title game in just their second year of existence. While Favre played up to his league MVP status (throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns), it was the duo of running backs Dorsey Levens (205 yards and a touchdown on 15 touches) and Edgar Bennett (99 yards and a score on 25) carries that powered the Packers to victory. Green Bay's defense, anchored by legendary pass rusher Reggie White, also played a key role in the 30-13 win, forcing three turnovers while holding the Panthers to just 12 first downs and 251 total yards.
"In some ways, that game almost meant more to me than the Super Bowl," Favre said in an NFL Films documentary. "It was football. It was cold. It was in Green Bay. It was all Packer fans. To us, that was the Ice Bowl."
Richard Sherman puts 49ers, entire NFL landscape on notice
Richard Sherman made one thing clear near the end of the Seahawks' emotional victory over the 49ers in the 2013 NFC Championship Game. Sherman, a standout cornerback who earned his first All-Pro selection that season, showed that it wasn't wise to throw against him with the game on the line, which is what then 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick attempted with 30 seconds left and Seattle clinging to a six-point lead.
Sherman, the face of Seattle's "Legion of Boom" defense, deflected Kaepernick's pass attempt to Michael Crabtree that was intercepted by linebacker Malcolm Smith. The play clinched Seattle's 23-17 victory over San Francisco, the reigning NFC champions who had made three consecutive trips to the conference title game.
After the game, Sherman put an exclamation point on his game-saving play during his postgame interview that immediately went viral.
Jets beat Giants in 'most important preseason game in NFL history'
Joe Namath, the man that quarterback the greatest upset victory in pro football history, recently said that the Jets' victory over the Giants months later during the 1969 preseason was nearly as important as his team's shocking upset over the Colts in Super Bowl III. In that game, Namath and the Jets became the first AFL team to defeat an NFL team while helping make the Super Bowl the spectacle that it is today.
Several months later, the Jets were trying to prove that their win over the Colts wasn't a fluke. They were also out to prove that the AFL was on equal footing with the more established NFL.
The Jets would look to make reinforce those facts against the NFL's Giants in the first-ever game between the Big Apple's two pro teams. The game, played in front of nearly 81,000 fans inside the Yale Bowl, was never a contest. Namath, as he did months earlier in Super Bowl III, stole the show, going 14 of 16 with three touchdown passes in the Jets' 37-14 thrashing of the Giants.
While Namath played above the hype, Fran Tarkenton, the Giants' future Hall of Fame quarterback, struggled against a Jets' defense that befuddled Colts quarterbacks Earl Morrall and Johnny Unitas months earlier in Super Bowl III. Tarkenton went just 9 of 21 while throwing two interceptions, as the Giants never seriously threatened the Jets, who backed up their Super Bowl win with a convincing win over one of the NFL's traditional teams.
One line in Norm Miller of the New York Daily News' postgame story perfect summarized the exhibition game, a game that was arranged through the efforts of The News that was played to benefit four local charities.
"With the tremendous incentives to win this one, the Jets played it like the Super Bowl; the Giants played it like the Daze Bowl."
Several months after the Yale Bowl, the NFL and AFL agreed to merge, something that likely would not have happened if not for Broadway Joe's Jets.
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