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PRO FOOTBALL: THE PLAYOFFS : Pro Football : It's July in January for Wade Wilson, Bernie Kosar

January 10, 1988|Bob Oates

The opposing coaches adopted similar defensive game plans out of fear. Schottenheimer was afraid of Dickerson; Indianapolis Coach Ron Meyer was afraid that Kosar, with his quick release, would pick his defense apart if he used his linebackers as blitzers.

And so, mostly on pass plays, both teams marched repeatedly. In the first 2 1/2 quarters, when the game was on the line, the Browns marched 86, 66 and 86 yards to touchdowns and the Colts drove 74 and 60.

Then a running back named Earnest Byner took over for Cleveland. A nice guy who usually spends most of his time blocking, Byner moved from fullback to halfback and replaced one Herman Fontenot, who had replaced Kevin Mack, who was too ill to play.

Byner ran and ran until he had 122 yards, getting most of it in the last 1 1/2 quarters.

Byner didn't win it. Kosar won it. But it was Byner and his blockers who, in the end, killed the Colts.

In a weird NFL year, in which the two wild-card teams are both still alive, it will take Denver's best game to eliminate the talented Houston group today.

At Candlestick Park Saturday, the Vikings escaped elimination for principally these four reasons: Wilson is an unflappable quarterback under pressure; he can make yards carrying the ball; he throws a very straight pass at all the middle distances, and, sometimes, he can hit Carter deep when little Anthony is being single-covered.

The 49ers' foolishness in trying to cover Carter with one man beat them.

Believe it: It was the 49ers' defense, formerly superb, that blew them out of the playoffs. Their gifted young quarterback, Steve Young, was about to bring them back to win an unexpectedly difficult game, but every time he moved the ball, the Vikings moved it, too, majestically, against the 49er defense.

Where have the Vikings been hiding Wilson? He is a rip-roaring Leatherneck winner--a Marines-have-landed, we-have-taken-charge quarterback. He is a Bobby Layne who can throw a straight ball. This was no upset, really. This was just letting a winning quarterback play.

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