Odds aren't with San Diego, but perhaps the motivation is JTC

January 25, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

MIAMI -- Put aside the physical part, the individual matchups and statistical comparisons because what this Super Bowl is all about is already being played out in the minds of the two teams. It's a cerebral contest -- kind of like little David and his slingshot going up against all-imposing Goliath. But, despite the analogy, don't confuse the Super Bowl with anything biblical.

Is there a link to motivation and, if so, can any such force of zealous application overcome superior weapons as possessed by a highly rated rival. It makes for a different kind of a Super Bowl, meaning that never before has any contender been dismissed with so little respect.

The San Diego Chargers are thereby granted the psychological edge since so little is expected of them that the situation, as nebulous as it is, works in their favor. Maybe that's all they have, being a decided underdog, which means they are relieved of pressure.

But, the record shows there's more to them than that, considering their capacity to come from behind and win. They've led a tenuous existence but here they are playing in the grand finale.

Oddsmakers, cold and calculating, consider them woefully inferior to the San Francisco 49ers by an overwhelming 19-point differential. This, of course, translates to immediate pressure on the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.

They have to concern themselves with what's being written and said, if only to partially justify the top-heavy position they enjoy four days before the issue is decided on the field.

Could the Chargers be the beneficiary of such a condition? Much is being made of the Baltimore Colts falling to the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, when they were the betting choice as 18-point favorites and believed it.

But that was so long ago the upset is irrelevant, except to be an updated lesson for the 49ers that they dare not become too blase. The 49ers beat the Chargers in the regular season, more than doubling the score, 38-15, and should do it again.

The Chargers will try playing them differently this time to give the 49ers something new to think about and, while they're doing that, take them out of their rhythm and negate momentum. But the 49ers, to a man, coaches and players, say they aren't coming in with an inflated attitude.

"On this team, there is no over-confidence," insisted linebacker Ken Norton. "Pressure is just something we've been dealing with all year. Ever since the ownership put this team together and bought the type of players we have, everyone has expected us to go all the way and that is pressure in itself."

So here are the 49ers, now one game away from their objective. It was what was expected. Coach George Seifert says his team '' has been a heavy favorite so many times this season that it's conditioned to handling what can be a precarious role.

The Chargers' coach, Bobby Ross, has always stressed the emotional part of football. It's his way to endeavor to create an edge. He has an exacting touch in bringing a team up to a point in its preparation that it's able to reach back for something extra.

Ross digs deep into the psyche of his players. He works the personal pride angle and stresses the theme of how they are in position to create history.

Without question, he draws the maximum from the talent as evidenced by the fact the Chargers beat two better teams in the playoffs, the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers.

There's a unity to the Chargers. They can be expected to alter their past ways of doing things -- hoping to hold the ball and keep the 49ers from striking early and often.

"If we could hold the ball like we did against the Dolphins for 39 minutes, I'd love that," Ross commented.

Tight end Alfred Pupunu supports the contention that the Chargers will not be tight when they show up for the Sunday evening kickoff.

"We are going in loose as can be because no one believes we can win," he said. "There is no pressure on us. It's all on the 49ers."

So right now the Chargers, put upon and shown little respect, are a collection of men on a mission. They play too well as a unit and have come too far to be discounted.

The element of emotion is the best thing they bring with them. Ross and San Diego won't be embarrassed.

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