Mark Clark: Reliving my favorite Super Bowl ever

I still remember how cocky I was when my teams finally made it to the Super Bowl. Yes, I said teams. I drew the helmets of both teams on my notebook for school during my senior year. I was confident the two would make it to the big show.

I also remember how people laughed when I kept insisting the two teams were going to make it to the Super Bowl and I even predicted which team would be the winner. I was right about that as well.

The game was my favorite Super Bowl of all-time – the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Minnesota Vikings. Maybe the Steelers should not have been there so soon, but they were. So soon? Well, it was the first time the Steelers were in the Super Bowl and only the fourth time the team had made the postseason since its first year in the NFL which was 1933.

As for the Vikings, they were working their way up the ladder and into the Super Bowl for the third time in six years, having lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 23-7 in Super Bowl IV and to the Miami Dolphins 24-7 in Super Bowl VIII.

The Vikings had the experience of playing in the game. They had the experienced quarterback in Fran Tarkenton. They had one of the best defenses in professional football – the Purple People Eaters – for several seasons. They were the team expected to get the victory.

I did not think so.

I liked the Steel Curtain defense better and thought it would perform better against the Vikings than the Vikings would perform against it. I was a Terry Bradshaw fan even though that season, he was one of three Steelers quarterbacks to contribute to the team’s success. Joe Gilliam was 4-1-1, Bradshaw was 5-2 and Terry Hanratty was 1-0 for a combined record of 10-3-1. The trio combined for 2,154 yards with 12 touchdowns while completing 166 of 386 passes – just 43 percent.

The Steelers were more of a run oriented team – the old three yards and a cloud of dust style of offensive football. Franco Harris ran for 1,006 yards on 208 carries with five touchdowns. Overall, the Steelers ran for 2,417 yards on 546 attempts for 19 touchdowns.

The Vikings relied on the passing arm of Tarkenton. He threw for 2,598 of Minnesota’s 2,909 yards while compiling a 9-4 record. He completed 234 of 400 passes for 58.5 percent with 17 touchdowns. Bob Berry got the other Vikings win during the regular season while throwing for 305 yards for five touchdowns, a completion percentage of 70.8.

Chuck Foreman was the leading rusher for the Vikings that season with 777 of his team’s 1,856 yards. He ran for nine of his team’s 17 touchdowns.

The Vikings averaged 22.1 points per game and allowed 13.9. The Steelers averaged 21.8 points per game and gave up 13.5. The teams were evenly matched in these two statistical categories. I knew it would not be a high scoring game, I had figured the final score would be 17-10 or closer. The final score was actually 16-6 in favor of the Steelers.

Neither team’s offense was very productive in the first quarter which ended scoreless as the two defenses flexed their muscles. The Steelers missed a field goal and a second field goal attempt never got off the ground because of a bad snap. Minnesota missed a field goal in the second quarter. But, there were some points finally scored in the second quarter when Minnesota’s Dave Osborn fumbled a pitch from Tarkenton at the Vikings’ 10-yard line. The ball rolled to the end zone where Tarkenton fell on it to prevent a Steelers touchdown. Dwight White touched Tarkenton down for the first safety in Super Bowl history. The score was 2-0 at the half.

Roy Gerela’s kickoff to start the second half was an unintentional squib as his plant foot slipped on the wet surface. The ball went to Minnesota’s Bill Brown who fumbled. The Steelers recovered at the 30 and went on to score on a 9-yard run by Harris to take a 9-0 lead. Minnesota cut the lead to 9-6 in the fourth quarter when Matt Blair blocked a punt that went into the Steelers end zone where it was recovered by Terry Brown.

That was as close as Minnesota would come to winning as the Steelers put the game away with an 11-play, 66-yard drive to make the score 16-6 on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Larry Brown. That was my favorite Super Bowl of all-time simply because I had selected the two teams and the winner before the season ever started. Of course, it did not hurt that both of those teams were my favorites.

The Steelers went on to win three more Super Bowls in the 1970s. They have won six of eight Super Bowls. The Vikings went on to lose their fourth Super Bowl in 1977 and have not made a trip back since. The way it is looking, I will never see the Steelers and Vikings play for the title again.

Mark Clark is a local sports writer for 

The Citizen of East Alabama.