NFL Super Bowl history: Super Bowls XXI through XXVI
SOUTH FLORIDA, January 29, 2014 — By the end of the 1980s, several coaches entered legendary status. Bill Walsh, Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs were all multiple Super Bowl winners. The 48th edition of the Super Bowl has John Fox making his second appearance and Pete Carroll making his first. So while both of these men try to taste the sweetness of football’s pinnacle, let’s take a look back and see how some of the great NFL dynasties took place.
This is Part IV of an eight-part series.
Super Bowl XXI, 1986 – The New York Giants won an NFL Championship in 1956, and in 1958 lost “the greatest game ever played,” to the Baltimore Colts. This was the Giants’ first Super Bowl. They played the Denver Broncos, who were led by John Elway. The Broncos defeated the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Title Game in overtime 23-20 after Elway led a 98-yard masterpiece comeback known as “the drive.”
The Broncos led Super Bowl XXI 10-7, but a safety cut the gap to 10-9. Denver kicker Rich Karlis missed field goals of 23 and 34 yards, deflating the team. The Giants’ defense poured it on in the second half, led by Harry Carson, George Martin and Lawrence Taylor. Phil Simms had a Super Bowl record for accuracy, completing 22 of 25 passes.
Head coach Bill Parcells became the victim of a new ritual that season that is now cliché. Harry Carson was the guy behind the idea of dumping the Gatorade bucket on the coach’s head. It was a way of getting back at the often irascible Parcells. During the Super Bowl, Parcells nervously looked around for the bucket, but was ambushed anyway. This was also the first year that the MVP, in this case Simms, announced that he was going to Disneyland. 39-20 Giants
Super Bowl XXII, 1987 – In another strike season, the Washington Redskins prevailed in the NFC, while the Broncos returned for the second straight year after again defeating Cleveland 38-33 in a game decided by “the fumble.”
Denver’s first play from scrimmage was a touchdown bomb, and at the end of the first quarter, the Broncos led 10-0. A blowout was shaping up, but not for Denver. Washington had the best quarter in Super Bowl history, scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter, including four touchdown passes by Doug Williams. He was the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl, and he flourished.
Unheralded running back Timmy Smith, who only lasted three years in the league, rushed for 204 yards, a current record. A 10-0 deficit became a 35-10 Redskins lead at the half. The second half was uneventful, as Denver lost for the third time, and Washington won their second Super Bowl in four appearances. 42-10 Redskins
Super Bowl XXIII, 1988 – After 11 games, the 49ers were only 6-5, having just taken a beating to the Raiders. Joe Montana was sacked eight times in the 9-3 loss. The 49ers regrouped, finished 10-6, reached the NFC Title Game, and shocked the heavily favored Bears 28-3. The Niners faced the Bengals, who defeated the Bills in the AFC Title Game.
This was a rematch of the Super Bowl seven years earlier. Super Bowl XXIII had different leaders, with Sam Wyche instead of Forrest Gregg as coach, and Boomer Esiason at quarterback instead of Ken Anderson. The 49ers still had Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. They also now had a receiver who would become a legend in Jerry Rice.
The game was 3-3 at the half, and with three minutes left, the Bengals led 16-13. The 49ers were 92 yards away, and Montana earned his icy cool reputation by relaxing his teammates. With all of the pressure on him, Montana said to his team, “Hey, is that John Candy in the stands? Cool.”
The team relaxed, and Montana threw a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left to win the game. Walsh retired after the game, and the 49ers had their third Super Bowl win. The Bengals lost their second. Joe Montana’s legacy was not done. 20-16 49ers
Super Bowl XXIV, 1989 – The 49ers returned for their fourth appearance in nine years, this time with a dominating 14-2 record. The Broncos returned for their third appearance in four years. All three times they defeated the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Title Game en route to the Super Bowl. However, Denver was mauled in those Super Bowls, each time by a larger margin, losing by 17, 19 and 32 points.
Super Bowl XXIV was worse, the biggest blowout in history. A 45 point shellacking earned the 49ers their fourth Super Bowl win, and the Broncos their fourth loss. 55-10 49ers
Super Bowl XXV, 1990 – The 49ers had the repeat, and were going for the three-peat, but fell short. They were 14-2, including a thrilling 7-3 defensive win over the Giants. Both of those teams started 10-0, and they met again in the NFC Title Game, which was another defensive thriller. The Giants kicked five field goals. The fourth one cut San Francisco’s lead to 13-12, and in trying to run out the clock, Roger Craig fumbled. The Giants recovered, and Matt Bahr’s fifth kick on the final play gave the Giants the 15-13 win.
The 13-3 Giants went on to the Super Bowl to face Buffalo, to whom the Giants lost earlier in the season. The Bills only won 17-13 in that earlier game, but they had one of the greatest offenses of all time.
The Giants held the ball for over 40 minutes in the rematch to keep Buffalo off of the field. A safety by Buffalo seemed to be the difference, since their final drive had them down by one point instead of three. Jeff Hostetler played smart football after taking over for an injured Simms. Hostetler, however, could only watch as Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas threw and ran the ball to get within field goal range.
A 47-yard attempt by Scott Norwood on the final play had the world watching. The kick was wide right. The Giants had their second Super Bowl win. Bill Parcells retired for the first of many times after the game. 20-19 Giants
Super Bowl XXVI, 1991 – The Bills and Redskins both returned. The Redskins were 14-2, losing one game on a Hail Mary and another on the last play in the final game when they had rested their starters. Like 1983, the Redskins again flirted with 16-0.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Redskins proceeded to dominate, leading 17-0 at the half, and cruising to a 37-10 lead. Buffalo scored late to make the score close, and quarterback Mark Rypien was the MVP. The Redskins won their third Super Bowl in ten years. What made it more amazing was that Coach Joe Gibbs did it with three different quarterbacks. 37-24 Redskins