The Super Bowl is just 23 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 23 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
South Florida hosted Super Bowl XXIX on January 29, 1995. The game pitted the San Francisco 49ers against the San Diego Chargers of the American Football Conference. If ever there was a predictable Super Bowl, this was the one.
San Francisco 23 Years Ago
The 49ers were undoubtedly the team of the 1980’s. They continued their stellar play into the ’90’s but had yet to win the Super Bowl. In 1990, they were stunned by the Giants in the NFC championship game. In 1991, Steve Young took over as starting quarterback. And, while posting some of the best statistics ever seen, Young failed to defeat the Cowboys, his boyhood team, in consecutive NFC championship games. 1994 was his season.
Deion Sanders, arguably the finest cornerback the NFL has ever seen, was a key acquisition to an already fine defense. The defense also added Richard Dent, Toi Cook, Tim McDonald, Ken Norton, Rickey Jackson and Gary Plummer (all Pro Bowl players from other teams). They had two other young-stud defensive linemen in Bryant Young and Dana Stubblefield who would serve as fixtures on the Niners’ defense for a decade. And, finally, Merton Hanks and Eric Davis manned the defensive backfield. Since San Francisco was a dynamic offensive team, Coach Siefert’s focus was totally defense and he built a good one!
On offense, the 49ers were #1 yet again. Jerry Rice was the best player in the NFL. But, it was not all roses early in the season. In week two, the Niners lost to Kansas City, 24-17. Who played quarterback for the Chiefs that day? Joe Montana. In week five, the 49ers were pulverized by Philadelphia by the unreal score of 40-8 and Steve Young, the 1994 NFL MVP, was benched. And he was mad!
Epic NFC Championship
Young bounced back to help San Francisco win their next 13 meaningful games, posting ridiculous numbers in the process. Young was smart, fast, strong, and accurate. None of those things would have mattered if he lost to Dallas again. San Francisco defeated the Cowboys during the regular season by a score of 21-14. They would meet again. The stage was set for the real Super Bowl of the 1994 season: the NFC Championship game.
The Niners came out with their pants on fire. Eight minutes in, the score was 21-0! Dallas received the kick. Aikman threw a pick, Irvin fumbled, Kevin Williams fumbled and Dallas had to be wondering what kind of nightmare they were in. But, like Cowboys always did in that era, they battled back. They got within 10 late in the fourth. Aikman went deep and Sanders had very tight coverage on Irvin, but a flag was not thrown. San Francisco prevailed and was on to their fifth Super Bowl. There would be a new champion!
San Diego Chargers 23 Years Ago
Their opponent was the San Diego Chargers. Bobby Ross and his ’93 Chargers finished 8-8. Coming into the ’94 season there were not lofty expectations in San Diego. However, the Chargers started 6-0 and established themselves as a serious contender in a weak AFC. Although San Diego endured a mid-season slump, they did enough to get a #2 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Their offense was built around their powerful RB Natrone Means and underrated QB Stan Humphries. On defense, they had the fantastic linebacker and future Hall of Famer Junior Seau. The Bolts did just enough to edge Miami in a thrilling divisional round game. San Diego trailed 21-6 at the half. But, a safety and a Means’ TD cut the lead to 21-16. Then, Humphries hit Mark Seay for a go-ahead score. Dolphins’ kicker Pete Stoyanovich badly missed a fied goal at the buzzer. So, the Chargers were on to Pittsburgh to play the highly favored Steelers.
In the championship game, the Chargers again fell behind. This time they trailed 13-3 late in the third quarter. But, Humphries hit on two 43-yard touchdown passes; one to TE Alfre Pupunu and the other to WR Tony Martin. The Steelers, led by Neil O’Donnell, marched right down the field only to be thwarted on a fourth and goal on a PBU by linebacker Dennis Gibson. Miraculously, the 1994 San Diego Chargers would play in Super Bowl XXIX.
The game was tough to watch for Chargers’ fans. San Francisco came out of the gates flying. It took them seven offensive plays and five minutes to compile a 14-0 lead. Thankfully, the Chargers had the ball over the next minutes and scored to cut the lead to 14-7 on a Means’ plunge.
But, the 49ers came right back scoring TDs on two of their next three possessions. The halftime score was 28-10. In the second half, the Niners continued the onslaught. They went 42-10 before Chargers’ kick returner Andre Coleman took one back.
The final score of the Super Bowl from 23 years ago was 49-26. Steve Young passed for 325 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for 49 yards. This was his day in the sun. 1994 was his season. It was his first and last Super Bowl title for the 49ers. Indeed, he would run into a gunslinger playing in the midwest the rest of the decade. As for the Chargers, they have not been back to the Super Bowl despite having several legends on their team in the 2000s. And, now they live up the highway in Los Angeles.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how the Cowboys got their groove back.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills