SAN DIEGO — There is often pain in waiting and winning, as Doug Williams has learned over the years and realized here again Sunday in Super Bowl XXII.
His end was justified in victory, as the Washington Redskins crushed Denver, 42-10, at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium with a 35-point highlight film of a second quarter that shattered record-books and Bronco backs, and caused Rocky Mountain lows.
For Williams, though, the means were more cruel, taking him first from the streets of Zachary, La., to the National Football League's title game in 1979 and back again. Williams went down before he went up again. He disappeared for a time into a spring league and returned quietly to the thrill of no one.
There was bench time and think time. Getting to Super Sunday and making his stand and his point to whomever it was he was making it for would demand constant testing and pain and patience.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday February 2, 1988 Home Edition Sports Part 3 Page 3 Column 1 Sports Desk 1 inches; 33 words Type of Material: Correction
The photographer's credit for the color picture of Washington's Timmy Smith, which ran on Page 1 of The Times Super Bowl XXII special section Monday, was incorrect, due to an editing error. The photographer was Patrick Downs of The Times.
Someone probably told Williams that his upstaging Denver's John Elway in the biggest of games would be as easy as having a root canal.
Well, somehow Williams did both. He went down before he came up. Williams didn't sleep much this week--his body was on East Coast time--waking most days at 5 a.m.
There was an abscessed tooth that forced him into a dentist's office for three hours of work Saturday.
"There was soreness, but I didn't think about it today," Williams said.
There was a 10-0 first-quarter deficit to think of, and a knee injury that forced him out of the game for a while.
Williams, untouched, stumbled in his own pocket with 1 minute 37 seconds left in the first quarter, suffering hyper-flexing of his left knee.
He returned later with a brace.
"I felt if I could walk, I could set up," he said. "No matter what the pain was."
Williams returned early in the second quarter, just in time to make history.
In that quarter alone, he completed 9 of 11 passes for 228 yards and 4 touchdowns, maybe good enough numbers for a most valuable player standing alone. Suddenly, everything Williams touched was fire.
It was five Redskin touchdowns in five possessions. It was Williams throwing for 80 yards to Ricky Sanders and Williams to Gary Clark for 27. It was Timmy Smith, previously as generic as his name, running 58 yards for another score. It was Williams again throwing for 50 yards to Sanders, and then Williams to Clint Didier and an 8-yard scoring pass just before the half.
More than that, it was over. Adios, Three Amigos .
Williams, for the game, completed 18 of 29 passes for 340 yards and 4 touchdowns. Afterward, people piled MVP trophies and Super Bowl records into his arms and then asked if he was surprised.
"The question is, are you surprised?" Williams shot back. "Did I surprise you? That's a hell of a question."
And a football world answered yes.
Really, though, it wasn't supposed to happen at all. What happened to Elway and the Duke and the Arm and the Amigos?
It was Elway, not Williams, who was chased and sacked and battered all evening. It was Elway who completed fewer than half of his passes--14 of 38--and was sacked 5 times. And it was Elway who threw 3 interceptions.
"Our idea was to harass him all night long," Redskin tackle Dave Butz said. "If not legally, then we wanted to at least throw their offensive linemen into him and make him take a hit."
It was pretty convincing. Of course, the Redskins might have added that so many might have overlooked the fact that their line was bigger and better all along.
Could it be something in their conference's water? This was the NFC's fourth straight Super Bowl win and sixth in the last seven, not that anyone's counting.
"We got our tails kicked today," Elway said. "No question, we lost to a better team."
And not even the Elway factor could overcome the odds. It turns out, the game's greatest quarterback can't do it by himself.
The Redskins, as planned, used some shadow coverage on him.
Sometimes they had a lineman hound Elway's every move, sometimes a linebacker, sometimes strong safety Alvin Walton, who put his helmet into Elway's chest enough times--once illegally--to make him remember.
"He was elusive," defensive end Charles Mann said of Elway. "I lost 15 pounds out there today in this track meet. The key was not giving him a chance to set up. We made him throw on the run."
Of course, no one could explain what took the Redskins so long to get to the second quarter. Some were pitching the cleat theory, claiming their short cleats were causing them to slip on the damp stadium surface.
In fact, at various times during the quarter, you could find Washington players on the sideline changing to longer cleats.
"I put on cleats that were one-half inch longer," Mann said. "It makes a difference."
But before the Redskins could get out of their bad shoes, they were down, 10-0.
How long did it take? Well, Elway's first pass from scrimmage went 56 yards to Ricky Nattiel for a touchdown. It wasn't complicated. Nattiel simply ran past cornerback Barry Wilburn, and Elway threw the ball about 60 yards on the fly.