The Super Bowl is just 30 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 30 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
San Diego hosted Super Bowl XXII on January 31, 1988. The game pitted the NFC champion Washington Redskins against the Denver Broncos of the American Football Conference. The 1987 season was one of the most bizarre and unpredictable campaigns in NFL history due to the players’ strike. One game was cancelled, and three other games were played by replacements.
Washington Redskins 30 Years Ago
When the dust cleared, the Redskins had the jumpstart on the NFC. They finished 11-4 thanks to their replacements. Redskins’ scabs finished a shocking 3-0. That record included a win on Monday Night against the Cowboys where many of the Dallas veterans had already crossed the picket line.
The regular players for the Skins included veteran QB Doug Williams and a superb group of wide receivers on offense. On defense, their strength was in their defensive line. Charles Mann and Dexter Manley were outstanding. Darrell Green was an all-world cornerback.
In the playoffs for the second consecutive season, Washington went into Chicago and knocked off the favored Bears. Green’s punt-return in which he hurdled a Bear and sprained his ribs is a play for the ages. This was Walter Payton’s last game.
In the NFC championship game, Washington survived a valiant Vikings’ team. Minnesota had finished the regular season with an 8-7 record. However, they won at 12-3 New Orleans and 13-2 San Francisco. Their win over the 49ers was so decisive even Joe Montana was benched.
Washington’s defense was up to the challenge. They hammered Vikings’ quarterback Wade Wilson throughout the game. Williams had an awful game, but led Washington on a winning drive. With Washington ahead 17-10, the Vikings had one last shot on 4th down from the 4-yard line. Wilson’s throw went off the hands of Darrin Nelson and fell incomplete. The Redskins were off to their fourth Super Bowl.
Denver Broncos 30 Years Ago
The Broncos were favored to repeat as AFC champions. They had much the same line up that propelled them to the Super Bowl in 1986. However, they added a terrific rookie receiver named Ricky. Ricky Nattiel joined Mark Jackson and Vance Johnson. They were known as “The Three Amigos.” Denver was vastly improved on offense finishing second in the NFL. QB John Elway won the NFL MVP likely because the other two candidates, Jerry Rice and Joe Montana, divided voters. Elway, though, owed no apologies as he performed masterfully in leading Denver back to the Super Bowl.
In the playoffs, Denver routed Houston in the divisional round. Thus, they would face Cleveland in an AFC championship game rematch. In 1986, the Broncos defeated the Browns because of “The Drive.” In 1987, Denver won again because of “The Fumble.”
Denver got off to a great start in the championship game, but Cleveland fought back. Indeed, the Browns were unstoppable in the second half. Trailing 38-31 with one minute to go, the Browns ran Earnest Byner. He appeared to have a gaping hole. But, unheralded Jeremiah Castille swiped the ball away at the one. Denver was on their way to their third Super Bowl.
2nd Quarter Onslaught
The Broncos got off to a blazing start in the big game. Elway hit Nattiel for a 56-yard TD on their first offensive play. On their second drive, they kicked a field goal. It was 10-0 at the end of one. Then, it happened.
In one of the greatest performances in NFL history, the Redskins outscored Denver 35-0 in the second quarter. They scored 5 touchdowns on 18 plays! Williams hit Ricky Sanders for two long strikes as well as Gary Clark and Clint Didier for touchdowns. The other score came from the least likely of heroes.
Running back Timmy Smith rushed for a total of 1000 yards in his career – regular and postseason combined. But, 200 of those yards came in Super Bowl XXII! He scored twice in the Super Bowl and his record 204 yards rushing stands to this day.
Joe Gibbs called the all the right shots in this Super Bowl and has got to be considered one of the greatest Head Coaches in the history of the sport. Broncos’ head man Dan Reeves was no slouch in his time either. Both guys would get back to the Super Bowl. Gibbs won Super Bowl XXVI and Reeves lost Super Bowl XXIV with Denver and XXXIII with Atlanta.
So, tomorrow we’ll look at a much more competitive game between the Bengals and 49ers!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills