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49ers May Be Better the Second Time Around

September 01, 1985|Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — Once the San Francisco 49ers got rolling in the 1985 Super Bowl, it was pretty much a one-team show.

"We did whatever we wanted to do," running back Wendell Tyler said of the 38-16 victory over the Miami Dolphins. "Maybe this started something, maybe a dynasty."

Maybe. Maybe not.

Injuries, age, tough schedules and complacency have dashed the dynasty dreams of many former Super Bowl winners, even before the championship rings were broken in. The last National Football League team to repeat as champion was the Pittsburgh Steelers, winners of Super Bowls in 1979 and 1980.

Coach Bill Walsh thinks this season's team can be tougher than the 1984 squad, which won a league-record 18 games, because of its depth and improving young players.

"The critical thing with this team is to play with intensity. All the other stuff we have," he said.

Complacency, of course, is a natural enemy.

"Bill Walsh tells us we've got to stay hungry, like a boxing champion. Marvin Hagler fights like he's hungry," fullback Roger Craig said.

Walsh, no doubt, is counting on everyone, from $1 million-a-year quarterback Joe Montana on down, to maintain healthy appetites throughout the season, which kicks off next Sunday.

"I think we're all approaching this season with a businesslike approach. No one is still hung over from the Super Bowl celebrating," said Keith Fahnhorst, the offensive tackle who ranks as the team's senior member.

"This year, it will be a big task living up to expectations," said Craig, who scored three touchdowns against Miami. "I think the coaches and the veteran players, the guys who were around in 1982, have done a good job reminding the younger guys that we've got to keep the same work habits we had last year.

"There are a lot of teams out there laying for us," he said. "We're going to have to be a dominating team right from the first part of the season."

The 49ers know what it's like to be dominating, and then disappointing.

After winning the 1982 Super Bowl, San Francisco went 3-6 and failed to qualify for the playoffs during the following strike-shortened season.

Likewise, the Raiders, 1981 Super Bowl champs, fell to 7-9 the next season, and went from 1984 Super Bowl winners to first-round playoff losers last season.

Walsh's 1982 Super Bowl team was light on depth but healthy. San Francisco also won despite a running attack which offensive guard Randy Cross described as "more of an implied threat than a real threat."

But injuries began cracking the championship mold even before training camp opened the following summer. Cross suffered a broken leg during a springtime fund-raising appearance and top draft pick Bubba Paris had his rookie year postponed when he hurt a knee in the season's final exhibition game.

In the regular-season opener, two defensive starters, end Dwaine Board and linebacker Dan Bunz, were injured.

The 49ers' rushing attack, which ranked 35th in the NFL when they won the 1982 Super Bowl, did even worse the following season when it fell to 37th.

Then Craig arrived for the 1983-84 season and teamed with Tyler to give Walsh's offense the luxury of strong running to complement Montana's passing. Craig was a second-round draft pick out of Nebraska; Tyler was acquired in a trade with the Rams.

Linebacker Keena Turner, who played on both championship teams, said, "We're stronger talent-wise now. Hopefully, we're stronger character-wise."

Montana, the Most Valuable Player in both Super Bowl victories, said after the last one, "I'd like to think this would go down as a team of the 1980s."

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