Mon, 23 May 2022

Faithful Time Machine: Niners Biggest Playoff Upset!

San Francisco 49ers
15 Jan 2022, 22:44 GMT+10

Chris Mavraedis

Greetings Faithful!

My name is Mavo and I've been Faithful since 1959 when I saw my first 49ers game at Kezar Stadium when I was 7 years old. In this story, I will be taking you back with me in my time machine to relive important 49ers milestones and glorious moments of triumph. As a member of the Faithful for over 60 years, we will journey through some of my most cherished 49ers memories.

I've set the target date to a HUGE red letter day in 49ers history. So strap in tight and let's get going!

December 27, 1970 - New York City, New York

In 2022, the Faithful are psyched because our 49ers are heading on the road to take on the Dallas Cowboys as an underdog. I think it's the perfect time to use our magic Faithful Time Machine to relive the team's first-ever playoff game when they were also a (heavy) underdog.

On Christmas Day my best friend, Rick Wilson, and I flew to New York City. Together, we went to a nearby bar named The Rustic Inn to watch the game. Once the patrons knew we were 49ers fans from the Bay Area, they peppered us with wild wager offers. Finally, I took a bet for $20 that gave me 13 points, which at the time was a big gamble for me. I nursed my two beers during the game to ensure I had the money to pay it off if the 49ers couldn't keep it close.

The 1970 San Francisco team was led by head coach Dick Nolan, who was in his third season with the team. Orchestrating the offense like Mozart was my first Niners idol, quarterback John Brodie. His main target was the exciting deep-threat wide receiver Gene Washington, who led the NFL with 1,100 receiving yards at the time. Watching the beautiful chemistry between Brodie and Washington was a thrill-a-minute!

The team headed east to take on the Vikings, who posted the best record in the NFL at 12-2 and had not lost a home game for more than two years.

The game conditions were brutally frigid. Eight degrees, a 12 mph wind and a Siberian-like wind chill of minus five - supposedly perfect Vikings weather! Virtually nobody gave the team from balmy California any chance against the mighty Vikings in the mind-numbing conditions. The game matched the 49ers number one scoring offense (352) against the Vikings number one scoring defense (143).

First Quarter

The game began ominously for San Francisco. The Vikings drove the opening kickoff deep into 49ers territory. Outside linebacker Jim Sniadecki bailed San Francisco out by intercepting a wayward pass from Vikings quarterback Gary Cuozzo. The reprieve was short lived, as fullback Ken Willard fumbled just two plays later and future Vikings Hall of Fame free safety Paul Krause scooped it up and ran it 22 yards into the end zone.

Minnesota stood 7-0 not halfway through the first quarter, my Andrew Jackson bill looked lost!

The 49ers offensive line, who had only yielded a then record-low eight sacks that season, were keeping the ferocious Purple People Eaters off Brodie. San Francisco was on the move at about midfield when the quarterback hit Washington with a long bomb! When the football hit Washington's hands I jumped up yelling, "touchdown!"

The normally sure-handed receiver fumbled the ball into the end zone after landing on the rock-hard frozen field at the Vikings 5 yard line. Minnesota recovered for a touchback and my betting antagonist was euphoric while I sat back down in a huff.

The 49ers defense forced a punt and sensational punt returner, Bruce Taylor, busted a 30-yard return to the Vikings 27. Two plays later, Brodie lofted a perfect 24-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dick Witcher. The score was tied up with a minute left in the first quarter and my bet was looking much better!

Second Quarter

The second quarter featured rock-solid defense by both squads.

Towards the end of the half, 49ers defensive lineman Stan Hindman recovered a Vikings fumble, which resulted in a field goal with 2:27 to go in the half. After another fumble recovery by the 49ers, a last-second 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

At the half, the 49ers held the lead at 10-7 and I was feeling great about my $20 wager!

Third Quarter

No offense could produce any results as both teams traded punts. The only highlight for the Vikings and my betting buddy was the lone sack by Alan Page. Taylor, who had a brilliant game, intercepted a pass at the end of the quarter.

Fourth Quarter

It was loud and tense at the Rustic Inn as the final quarter opened with the 49ers clinging to their slim 10-7 lead. Just as San Francisco got some offensive mojo going, halfback Bill Tucker fumbled and the pesky Krause recovered again.

The resulting Vikings drive stalled deep in 49ers territory with a critical combo sack by Cedric Hardman, Earl Edwards and Tommy Hart. Minnesota's kicker Fred Cox, the NFL's leading scorer, attempted to tie it up with a 43-yard field goal. It was right on line, but it died in the frigid conditions and barely fell two feet short of the crossbar - I heaved a big sigh of relief!

It remained 10-7 into the final minutes of the game. 49ers punter Steve Spurrier boomed a great 59-yard punt that was downed by San Francisco's special teams unit at the Minnesota one. After holding the Vikings to a three-and-out, the San Francisco defense forced them to punt deep from their end zone. Taylor weaved through defenders to take it to Minnesota's 14 yard line.

After Willard busted a key run to the Vikings one yard line, Brodie executed a quarterback sneak for the critical touchdown. The 49ers led 17-7 with 1:20 to go and I went crazy!

Hardman sacked Cuozzo to start Minnesota's two-minute drill. But after converting on a fourth and long, the quarterback marched the Vikings down to the 49ers 24 yard line. He then hit Vikings receiver Gene Washington with a touchdown pass for the only offensive touchdown by the Vikings with just one second left.

Minnesota's desperate onside kick was recovered by 49ers rookie Bob Hoskins, and the San Francisco team earned their first playoff win in their 25th season!

Final Score: 17-14

"We didn't move the ball well on them," said quarterback John Brodie postgame. "But our defense outplayed theirs. That was the key to the game. "I'm happy for all these guys. They've really sucked it up. We got out of some holes today, some teams don't get out of any."

My betting compadre paid me the $20, muttering that he underestimated the 49ers defense. Later that day, the Oakland Raiders defeated the Miami Dolphins and Super Bowl fever broke out in the Bay Area. There was a very real possibility of a Bay Bridge Super Bowl in Miami three weeks later.

"We're not Three Dots and a Dash, the Doomsday Defense or the Fearsome Foursome," Hardman said. "We're the Gold Rushers - we're rushing after all the money."

The upset victory over the Vikings meant the 1970 NFC Championship game would be the final 49ers game at Kezar Stadium the following Sunday. Niners' old-timers, like me, know how that game went, 'nuff said.

So c'mon boys, just as the 1970 49ers travelled to frigid Minnesota and upset the highly favored mighty Vikings in "Vikings weather," the San Francisco squad is going to Dallas to beat the Cowboys!


Mavo out!

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