The Super Bowl is just 31 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 31 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion! 

Pasadena’s Rose Bowl hosted Super Bowl XXI on January 25, 1987. The game pitted the NFC champion New York Giants against the Denver Broncos of the American Football Conference.  

New York Giants 31 Years Ago


Coming into 1986, the G-men had not won a championship since 1956. In fact, they had not even won a division title in twenty-three seasons. But, this team had very high expectations coming in.  

Unlike the ’85 Bears, the Giants won a lot of close games. During the regular season, they went 9-2 in games decided by 7 or fewer points. They were very well-coached by defensive guru Bill Parcells. And this team’s strong suit was their defense led by Lawrence Taylor. Taylor may have been the greatest defensive player in NFL history. However, this was far from a one-man unit. While the defensive backfield was suspect, their front seven was phenomenal. 

On offense, they were led by the small, but durable Joe Morris. Morris rushed for over 1500 yards. Phil Simms was the quarterback. He was average at best in 1986 tossing 22 interceptions on the season. Simms, though, was good when he needed to be. That included his heroics on a 4th and 17 to help the Giants come back against Minnesota. 

In the playoffs, the Giants humiliated San Francisco, 49-3. They literally knocked Joe Montana out of the game. In the NFC championship game verse division rival Washington, New York scored 17 points in the first quarter of a very windy game at Giants Stadium. Subsequently, they won 17-0. Thus, the Giants were on to their first Super Bowl of their franchise’s history! 

Denver Broncos 31 Years Ago


In the AFC, it was a four-team race between the Browns, Broncos, Jets and Patriots. Denver’s Head Coach was longtime Cowboy Dan Reeves. There was nothing spectacular about his team except quarterback John Elway. The Broncos finished the season 15th-ranked on offense and 9th on defense. But, in a season where there was so much parity in the AFC, the Broncos did a great job of staying in ball games and competing hard. 

That effort was on full display in their two exciting playoff games. In the divisional round against the defending conference champion Patriots, Denver came back to win 22-17. In the AFC championship game at Cleveland, they made history. 

It was a back and forth affair. The Broncos found themselves down 20-13 with five minutes left after Brian Brennan gave Cleveland the lead. Denver misplayed the kickoff. Hence, they started their key drive at their own 2-yard line! The moment was not too big for Elway. 

Denver methodically moved the ball down the field. With 39 seconds left, Elway drilled a pass to Mark Jackson from the five-yard line. The PAT tied the score. In OT, Rich Karlis kicked a controversial game-winner and Denver was on to their second Super Bowl.

Giants Pull Away 


The Giants were favored to win Super Bowl XXI by 9 points. But, Denver fought tooth and nail as they had all season in the first half. The Giants’ defense hung tough in the red zone in the second quarter during a pivotal part of the game. The Broncos were leading 10-7 and had first and goal. They were stuffed, though. Taylor made an amazing speed play tracking down Elway on a run. Karlis, then, missed a twenty-one-yard field goal.  

That was the closest Denver came to the shocking upset. Simms could not miss. He finished the game 22 of 25 passing and the G-men scored 26 consecutive points to pull away. Zeke Mowatt, Mark Bavaro, Phil McConkey, Ottis Anderson and Morris scored touchdowns for NY in a 39-20 victory. The only thing left was for the Giants to do was douse Parcells with Gatorade. Harry Carson did the honors and the Giants had their first World Championship! 

New York came back four years later to win Super Bowl XXV. Denver lost two of the next three. At this point in NFL history, the NFC was dominating the Super Bowl. They won every big dance from Super Bowl XIX through XXXI.  

Tomorrow, we’ll discuss how the Redskins won Super Bowl XXII.


Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills