Thirty-six years later, quarterback Ken Anderson isn’t about to second-guess the goal-line play calling by his Cincinnati Bengals in the 1982 Super Bowl.
Trailing 20-7 late in the third quarter, the Bengals found themselves in a first-and-goal at the 49er 3. The Bengals tried one pass and pounded their 250-pound fullback Pete Johnson into the line three times but couldn’t reach the San Francisco end zone, turning the ball over on downs. The 49ers used the momentum of that goal-line stand to carry them to a 26-21 Super Bowl victory over the Bengals.
“The bottom line is we had been so successful in our short-yardage and goal-line offense with Pete Johnson,” Anderson told the Talk of Fame Network’s “5 Games” podcast. “He was our bread and butter. We were going to live with that. You have to give the 49ers a little bit of credit. Their defense really tightened up and did a great job in that situation.”
It was the only time in Anderson’s 16-year career that he would reach a Super Bowl. He passed for 300 yards and a pair of touchdowns that day but it wouldn’t be enough to give the Bengals a Lombardi Trophy in their first Super Bowl appearance. He remembers the game as if it were played yesterday.
“You go back and try to just say it’s another game…but right away you know it’s not,” Anderson said. “Diana Ross was singing the national anthem. She never showed up at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati. So there’s something different about that game. You play the biggest game of your life and you lose. It’s disappointing I guess you get over it but you never forget it.”
It wasn’t just the first Super Bowl appearance by both the Bengals and 49ers. It was the first Super Bowl ever played in a cold-weather city. The game was played at the home of the Detroit Lions in Pontiac, Mich.
“I remember telling my family, if we ever go to a Super Bowl, it will be this year when it’s in Pontiac,” Anderson recalled. “We’re not going out to Pasadena or any of those great (warm) spots. We’re going to Pontiac, Michigan. But believe me, after we won the AFC championship, nobody on our team cared where the heck we were going for the Super Bowl because we were playing in it.”
Anderson also talked about his MVP season in 1981, the impact of offensive coordinator Lindy Infante and what life would have been like had Paul Brown chosen Bill Walsh to be his successor as head coach of the Bengals instead of Bill Johnson. Walsh, who spent five years as Anderson’s quarterback coach in Cincinnati, was on the other sideline in the 1982 Super Bowl coaching the 49ers to that victory over the Bengals.
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