SOUTH FLORIDA, January 28, 2014 — The 1980s was about more than just glam rockers and big hair. Great traditions began in the National Football League, from President Ronald Reagan calling the Super Bowl champions to the first wave of major football video games to the Gatordade dumping on winning coaches. John Madden and Pat Summerall were soothing, and Alcoa presented “fantastic finishes.” The Super Bowl became a larger than life event.
This is Part III of an eight-part series. Here are the recaps of Super Bowls XV through XX.
Super Bowl XV, 1980 – The AFC had all five playoff teams exactly at 11-5. The Oakland Raiders beat the Houston Oilers indoors, the Cleveland Browns 14-12 in the snow, and the San Diego Chargers in the rain, which slowed down the passing attack of Don “Air” Coryell and quarterback Dan Fouts. The Raiders were led by Jim Plunkett, who only a couple years earlier was thought to be washed up. The owners of Oakland and San Diego hated each other, and Chargers owner Gene Klein blamed Raiders owner Al Davis for the rain, insisting that Davis hired a crop duster to seed the clouds. Davis never denied this ludicrous assertion, because it burnished his outlaw image.
The NFC had three teams at 12-4, and the Cowboys defeated the Atlanta Falcons before falling to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 10-7 in the regular season, but Super Bowl XV was revenge.
Rod Martin had three interceptions, and Jim Plunkett showed his talent. A swing pass to Kenny King went for 80 yards and a touchdown, and the special teams blocked a field goal. The Raiders won their second Super Bowl, and Coach Tom Flores, who had replaced the retired Madden a year earlier, reached the top. From a cultural standpoint, it was the first win with a Mexican head coach and quarterback. 27-10 Raiders
Super Bowl XVI, 1981 – The NFC Title game was an epic battle between the Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, led by Coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana. In the final minute, Montana’s touchdown pass to Dwight Clark would forever be known as, “The Catch.” The 49ers won 28-27 despite six turnovers. The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC.
The 49ers led 20-0 at the half. Down 20-7, the Bengals drove to the 49ers one-yard line. The 49ers then mounted an inspired goal line stand, with four plays gaining nothing. The Bengals did eventually cut the gap to 20-14, but a couple field goals by the 49ers put the game out of reach. The Bengals scored again with 17 seconds left, but could not recover the onside kick. The 49ers began one of the great NFL dynasties. 26-21 49ers
Super Bowl XVII, 1982 – A strike shortened season had Roger Staubach successor Danny White leading the Cowboys to the NFC Title game for the third straight year. This year they played their hated rivals, the Washington Redskins. For the third straight year, playing on the road, the Cowboys lost.
The Redskins faced the Miami Dolphins in in a rematch of the Super Bowl ten years earlier. With the Redskins trailing 17-13, Joe Theismann had his pass tipped, with a certain interception to put the Dolphins up by 11. At the last second, Theismann knocked the ball from the Miami “Killer B’s” defense for an incompletion. This kept the game within reach, and the Redskins took a 20-17 lead. Facing a fourth and one at the Miami 44, “The Diesel” John Riggins burst through and rumbled all the way for a touchdown to ice the game. It was the first Super Bowl win for the Redskins, and the second loss for the Dolphins to even out their two wins. 27-17 Redskins
Super Bowl XVIII, 1983 – The Redskins returned, and faced the Raiders, who were now located in Los Angeles. Earlier in the year, the Redskins defeated the Raiders 37-35 in a game for the ages. That game had a 99-yard touchdown pass from Plunkett to Cliff Branch, and a 97-yard punt return for a touchdown by Greg Pruitt. The Redskins led 20-7, and then the Raiders exploded for four touchdowns and a 35-20 lead. The Redskins then came back with a touchdown, a perfectly executed onside kick, a field goal, and a final touchdown by Theismann to Joe Washington with 20 seconds remaining for the win. Only a missed field goal and a missed extra point during the season separated the Redskins from a 16-0 season.
Super Bowl XVIII was not close. Marcus Allen rushed for 191 yards, Plunkett threw a pair of touchdowns, and the Raiders scored on a blocked punt by Derrick Jensen and an interception for a touchdown by Jack Squirek. The Redskins only touchdown was followed by the extra point being blocked. To quote Joe Theismann, “They handed us our ass on the tray, and the tray was bent.” The Raiders won their third Super Bowl in eight years, and the Redskins lost their second one. 38-9 Raiders.
Super Bowl XIX, 1984 – Dan Marino Shredded the NFL for 5084 yards in leading the Dolphins to a 14-2 record and the team’s second appearance in three years. Joe Montana led the 49ers to a 15-1 record and their second appearance.
The Dolphins led Super Bowl XIX 10-7 early on, but the 49ers took the game over. They led 28-10 when the Dolphins kicked a field goal before the half, recovered a fumble on the kickoff, and added another field goal before halftime. The second half was uneventful, as the 49ers shut down the Dolphins and extended their lead. San Francisco won their second Super Bowl, and Miami lost their third Super Bowl in five appearances. 38-16 49ers
Super Bowl XX, 1985 – The Chicago Bears did their Super Bowl Shuffle, and their defense, led by Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, may have been the greatest of all time. Fiery coach Mike Ditka, with intense defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, were unrelenting. Maverick quarterback Jim McMahon led the offense, with legendary running back Walter Payton leading the running game. William “The Refrigerator” Perry provided the entertainment.
The New England Patriots won three road games, starting out by beating the Jets. They then shocked the Raiders and the Dolphins, who were both considered superior. The Dolphins were the only team to beat the 15-1 Bears that year. Perhaps neither the Raiders nor Dolphins would have won the Super Bowl that year, but they would not have been intimidated. The Patriots opened and closed the scoring in Super Bowl XX, but the Bears had an avalanche of points in between. 46-10 Bears