Super Bowl Week: Looking back on Super Bowl XIV

With the help from Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz, Hulu is reliving the ten greatest Super Bowls of all time. The Rams show up on this list three times. First up? Super Bowl XIV, Rams vs Steelers in Pasadena. You can enjoy a 22-minute flashback, courtesy of NFL films.

“Super Bowl XIV took its shape just as much from the team that lost as the team that won. The Los Angeles Rams earned a dignity in defeat which they had never earned in victory.”

— NFL Films

Full disclosure: I hated the 1979 Rams. I was six years old, and we crowded around a tiny black and white TV as Vince Ferragamo’s Rams strangled my father’s Buccaneers 9-0 in the NFC Conference Championship game, spoiling their first-ever winning season. Our quarterback, Doug Williams, completed only 2 of 13 passes before being pulled from the game, and with his loss all hope for a miraculous finish was gone.

It was an eminently flawed NFC field, obviously, if the Championship came down to these two historic underdogs; with two playoff wins, the 9-7 Rams became the losingest team ever to play in a Super Bowl, and they faced Terry Bradshaw and the three-time champion Steelers.

The Rams went to battle without any of the iconic names associated with the franchise. This was a “tweener” lineup past the era of Rosey Grier, Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, and Lamar Lundy — the fearsome foursome — and before the era of Eric Dickerson and coach John Robinson’s one-back system that enabled his greatness. Their only Pro Bowlers, indeed their only players of note, were the two Youngbloods: linebacker Jim, and  hall of fame DE Jack. Their eventual starting quarterback, Vince Ferragamo, completed only 49% of his passes that season. Their running back, Wendell Tyler, was known more for his fumbling than his rushing.

This was a fractured team marked by bickering and dissent at the top of the franchise as Georgia Frontiere wrested the team away from the children of her late husband, Carroll Rosenbloom. They were galvanized by one thing — winning.

They very nearly won this game too, holding a tenuous 19-17 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, and driving for the game-winning points down 24-19 with just a few minutes left in the game.

The score changed hands six times before it ended Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19, but only the guys who laid the 11 points with the bookies read it as a 12-point Steeler win. The Rams made it that close. They stayed in it because of a sustained intensity that brought them great honor, because of an unexpectedly brilliant performance by young Quarterback Vince Ferragamo, and because of a tackle-to-tackle ferocity that had the Steeler defense on its heels much of the afternoon.

Paul Zimmerman, Sports Illustrated, 1980

But the first Super Bowl win for the Rams would have to wait another twenty years…