It doesn’t take much to change the outcome of a game. Ray Horton has seen that a couple of times, in a couple of instances when it couldn’t have been on a bigger stage.
In doing an interview with the Cards’ new defensive coordinator the other day, the subject of the little things – and Super Bowls – came up. Don’t forget, Horton was on the defensive staff of that Steelers’ team that beat the Cards a couple of years ago. We started talking about the interception return of linebacker James Harrison right before halftime (careful, don’t throw things at the computer screen).
Afterward, Horton said, he figured the coaching staff watched that play 50 times over and over. He can tell you exactly where everyone on both teams was and ended up. Despite claims by Kurt Warner to the contrary, Horton said the Cards lined up for that play just like they had all season. But Harrison, a linebacker, decided not to blitz as called and for some reason stayed home.
(This is the stomach-punch part of the post, so if you’re faint of heart, look away now).
“You can look at each guy and think, ‘If one guy does one thing different, he doesn’t score,’ ” Horton said of Harrison’s 100-yard touchdown. “It was a dramatic play and it turned the game around. It won or lost that Super Bowl.
“Really, if James Harrison would have done what he was supposed to do … the play (the Cards called) was a perfect play and they would have scored, walked in and probably won the game. But because one guy did something different … the ramifications …”
Horton knows of ramifications. Because if you ask him what play during his 10-year NFL career sticks out, it’s a play just like that – and for Horton, it had the same painful type of result.
He was playing for the Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, the one where Montana hit John Taylor for a game-winning 10-yard touchdown with 30-some seconds to go – just barely past the outstretched fingers of a diving Horton.
The play the Bengals had called was to double-team both Taylor and Jerry Rice (who had 11 catches for 215 yards that day), the right call for the formation. But then Rice went in motion – a change-up – and Horton thought, “We’re screwed.” He thought about calling time out but didn’t, which still sticks with him.
While we talked, Horton jumped up to scribble the play on a white board to explain what happened. Safety David Fulcher was supposed to come across for Taylor. Horton was supposed to stay with Rice, but he quickly realized Rice was the diversion. He tried to jump back and make the play. He just missed the ball, and was lying in the end zone as Taylor finished off the play.
“We are sitting on the bus on the way back and David said, ‘Ray, I could’ve picked that ball, I had nothing to do,’ ” Horton remembered. “I said, ‘I know. I know.’
“It still haunts me.”
Tags: 49ers, Bengals, David Fulcher, James Harrison, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, John Taylor, Kurt Warner, Ray Horton, Steelers, Super Bowl
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