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These Are Some Predictions That Have No Winner

January 22, 1992|JIM MURRAY

MINNEAPOLIS — Super Bowl XXVI. Many people think it will be Washington LV, Buffalo, X. Or some such. Brute strength always conquers in the end.

Well, I don't know about that. But I do know some other things to bet on:

--One team, confronted with fourth and one on the other's 40-yard line, will elect to punt. It will punt out of bounds at the other team's two-yard line, whereupon the receiving team will march 98 yards down the field and score.

--A team with fourth and one on the other's five-yard line will opt for a field goal. This will enormously hearten the other team, which will believe it has forced the juggernaut into a compromise, and will play with more confidence and daring--and competence--the rest of the way.

--A quarterback will be named player of the game after a wide receiver and a tight end have made gravity-defying catches of tipped, half-intercepted passes.

--If the game goes into overtime, it will be decided by a 48-yard field goal, which will mean, in effect, that the game was decided by a coin toss.

--It will take two teams 57 minutes of playing to make the score 13-7. Then, in the last three minutes, both teams will go into defensive scrambles when the other guys have the ball and will have two men rush the passer and everybody else peel back in a "prevent" posture.

This will quickly produce three or more touchdowns. But the lesson will be entirely lost on coaches, who will tell you that you don't understand the game. What's to understand? All you have to be able to do is add.

--The best player on the field will probably be the center, but the only person in the stands or watching video who knows what his first name is will be his mother.

--Buffalo won't have the ball much. Buffalo may not need the ball much.

--If Buffalo couldn't beat the Giants and a backup quarterback last year, what is there to make you think they can beat first-string Mark Rypien and the Redskins this year? The answer to that is, Mark Rypien isn't Johnny Unitas. He may not even be Jeff Hostetler.

--The halftime show will look like a combination of the Folies Bergere and the War of 1812. The NFL never trusts the athletes to keep the customers sufficiently entertained. And they may be right.

--For the first time this season, crowd noise will not be a factor in the Metrodome and will not drown out the signal calling. This is because neither team is the home team. It won't be sportsmanship, just lack of interest.

--Jack Kent Cooke will be on camera more than his coach or quarterback, but Buffalo's owner, Ralph Wilson, will get on TV only if he happens to be standing next to Cooke.

--Instant replay will reverse a field decision only after a TV announcer whose opinion is not supposed to filter into the judge's box will have told 40 million Americans that it should be reversed. The reversal will have no effect on the outcome of the game. Fortunately, they never do.

--Running backs, as usual, will not be a big factor. As Deacon Jones, who wrote the book on defense, used to say: "We will never be beat by the run." Running backs are nice, but not necessary. In Super Bowls, they are like crocodiles--you've seen one, you've seen 'em all.

--A victory will mean more to Buffalo than Washington. Nothing of magnitude has taken place in Buffalo since McKinley got shot there.

--A team with the ball on the other's three-yard line will try three smashes into the center of the line for no gain, then kick a field goal, when, if they had gone wide, they could have scored easily.

A straight line is not always the shortest distance between two points when a pro team has only about 13 yards to defend. But even Bill Walsh resorted to this dubious strategy in Super Bowl XXIII when he plowed into the line on the goal line against Cincinnati, ended up with minus yardage--and then missed the field goal!

It was one big reason he won that game only 20-16. The enemy three-yard line is frequently lousy field position.

--There will be, by actual count, 1,500 stories coming out of Minneapolis this week noting that Buffalo Coach Marv Levy is the only Phi Beta Kappa in pro coaching.

But that's nothing. He'll be the only Phi Beta Kappa in the Metrodome on Super Sunday. His advantage over his rival coach will not be noticeable. Unless they switch the contest to a spelling bee.

--In an obvious passing situation late in the game, a quarterback will be able to help himself to 15 or more yards running and a first down. But he will throw the ball anyway. For a six-yard gain.

--Super Bowl games are like wine. You never really find out how good they were till years later. Basically, to escape being ho-hum, this game needs for Buffalo to win. Washington winning will be dog bites dog; Orange County goes Republican.

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