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SUPER BOWL XXII : THE GAME : Amigos Are Handed Their Sombreros : Other Than Opening Play, Washington Shuts Down Denver's Wide Receivers

February 01, 1988|MARK HEISLER | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Anybody need a tattered poster of three ex-folk heroes in sombreros?

The Three Amigos went down with their Denver Bronco teammates, the only difference being the Amigos have made themselves famous lately so lots of people wanted to share their innermost thoughts. How about the agony of defeat? Will the sun rise tomorrow? Is the Letterman booking safe?

"I guess I'm about Amigo-ed out," said Mark Jackson, The Sensible One after Sunday's 42-10 near-miss in Super Bowl XXII. "I'm pretty sure we'll still be friends. Maybe we won't--I'm just kidding."

How about an almost-new cassette of "Touchdown Banditos?"

One little Amigo went to glory.

That was Ricky Nattiel, the rookie who caught the 56-yard bomb from John Elway on the Broncos' first offensive play.

"It was one I'll remember forever," said Nattiel, The Quiet One. "First-year guy, first play. It was a great thing for me, even though we lost.

"Did I know we'd open with it? Not at all. They called my number in the huddle. First play of the game, you're already fired up. I knew right then it was an opportunity for the team. I just ran by (Barry) Wilburn, and John (Elway) made a great throw.

"It was a big emotional lift for the team. But the thing is, there were four quarters left."

And his Amigo career? Consider it in its wind-down phase.

"The Amigo thing got out of hand," Nattiel said. "It exploded."

We've got Amigo T-shirts, marked down to $4.95 a dozen. You could use them for rags for polishing your car.

One little Amigo did fine.

That was Jackson, who caught 4 passes for 76 yards.

He thought he should have been thrown more.

He had a great many thoughts, actually.

"We came out in the first period and it was a little scary," Jackson said. "They put (Darrell) Green on me (on the) first play and I was like, 'Oh wow!' And Ricky goes deep and catches an iron rod and boom! We're up seven.

"Next series, Green's on me in the slot, I give him a good move. I catch the pass and go for 32 yards, and he's holding his side. I'm thinking, 'They can't cover us.' "

The way Jackson experienced it, the Amigos were running around open in the secondary, but Elway didn't have time to pick them up . . . or was scrambling and didn't see them . . . or something.

"It was just the protection," Jackson said. "Sometimes he scrambled when maybe he could have stayed in there.

"Am I hurting? You're talking to the wrong player for that. I know I went out and did my best. I'm satisfied with that.

"The thing is, I'm a little frustrated I didn't get the ball. I've gone out and done my job all year and I just haven't gotten the ball. I don't think I'm selfish. I just think it's the competitive attitude I have.

"I'm taking it a heck of a lot better than last year. Last year, it took a half-hour just to take off one cleat. Now I'm here (a little grimace) with you guys."

And the change in momentum?

"The Super Bowl is such a momentum game," Jackson said. "Once we got on top of 'em, it kinda took the wind out of their sails. Then we drove down a couple times and didn't score. It was like, 'We've got the momentum but we're not killing 'em.'

"I know what it's like for our offense when our defense is getting beat. That first quarter, their receivers dropped like three passes. Then they started clicking and now we're thinking, 'Holy smoke.'

"You could see it in everybody's face. We came in at halftime and guys were saying, 'We can score 35 points if they can, our offense is more potent than theirs.' You know, everyone was saying that but you can always say, 'If everyone had the same intensity I have, what kind of team would we have?'

"When we came out, we weren't even close to the intensity we needed. I remember the clock ticking down to 12 seconds at the end of the third quarter, and I realized we hadn't scored yet."

Nor would they.

Anyone need yesterday's fad? How about Mongolian cable TV?

One little Amigo got blanked.

That was Vance Johnson, for once, The Subdued One.

"I sure did," he said. "I didn't play very much. When I was around, I didn't see the ball.

"But I understand. I haven't been around. You have to gain a quarterback's confidence when you go out on the field and get him to come to you. If you don't, he goes to someone else."

And the Amigo hype that he'd pushed so hard, didn't that make this the more humbling?

"I wouldn't say it's humbling," Johnson said. "I'm disappointed we lost. What I do off the field is different.

"The Three Amigos, I keep telling everyone over and over, it's three friends. They make it seem like we're three bionic men who are going to make all the plays and win the game. It's three friends. You can't get more humble than that."

Adios, national Taco Bell endorsement, Aeromexico, Rosarita Refried Beans.

But it's not over yet. There's still the MTV date, the tour package to Cancun. In this man's army, you don't ride off into the sunset until the last contracted appearance has been satisfied.

"It's OK," Jackson said, "I don't get bent out of shape about things like that. I don't have anything else to do in March except lift weights."

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