In a chess game played out over 100 yards of prime Texas real estate today, Joe Montana knows what move comes next.
The take-no-prisoners blitz.
In search of his fifth Super Bowl ring, Montana first must go through Ryan's ravenous Oilers defense. He says he knows Ryan's defenders will come hard after his 37-year-old body.
"That's what he does with everybody," Montana said. "I don't expect him to change."
Montana has seen it before, of course. When he was performing legendary feats with the San Francisco 49ers, he enjoyed one of his most remarkable comebacks against the Ryan-coached Philadelphia Eagles in 1989.
He burned Ryan's defense for five touchdown passes -- four in a furious fourth quarter -- while enduring nine sacks.
Asked about the key to his success that day, Montana had a convenient memory lapse.
"I don't remember," he said. "I think what happens in a game against a team like this, you . . . throw a lot of incomplete passes and then you'll hit a big play like 40 yards.
"You have to be patient with it, and the key is not to give them the ball. An incomplete pass can seem a plus for them, but it can also be a plus for us, because we're not giving them the ball. Maybe the next time you'll hit one and that's what you kind of have to be patient with."
Montana said the Oilers weren't more aggressive than other blitzing teams. "It's just that they bring a lot more guys in most cases. That's the style, and they just do it more often."
Protecting Montana will be central to any success the Chiefs have. Coach Marty Schottenheimer didn't divulge his game plan but acknowledged the chess moves at his disposal.
"You can keep a bunch of people in there to block and try to run two-man routes," Schottenheimer said, "and then, hopefully, be protected long enough to throw the ball. Another way to do that is to spread everybody out all over the field and make them go out and line up on you and then throw the ball real [quickly]."
Montana came under heavy pressure in last week's 27-24 overtime win against the Pittsburgh Steelers. But he completed a fourth-down touchdown pass to force overtime, then threw five straight completions to set up the winning field goal. It was the 28th time in his career that Montana brought a team back from the brink of defeat in the fourth quarter.
That's what he was expected to do when he was traded to Kansas City last summer. He was injured much of the season, though, and produced good-but-not-spectacular numbers: 13 touchdown passes, seven interceptions. He was second to Denver Broncos' John Elway in the AFC passer efficiency JTC ratings, and went 8-3 in the 11 games he started.
Montana missed the Week 2 game against Houston, when the Oilers routed the Chiefs, 30-0.
But it's the chance to advance in the playoffs, not revenge, that motivates Montana.
"It's a different challenge," he said. "It's a fun and frustrating game. It's a big game for ups and downs."