The Super Bowl is just 29 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 29 years ago to honor this not that significant occasion!
South Florida hosted Super Bowl XXIII on January 22, 1989. The game pitted the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers against the Cincinnati Bengals of the American Football Conference. This was the third rematch in Super Bowl history. The 49ers won Super Bowl XVI over the Bengals 26-21.
San Francisco 49ers 29 Years Ago
The 1988 49ers were very ordinary through the first eleven weeks. They tallied a 6-5 record including two awful offensive showings against the Bears and Raiders. But, this 49ers’ team had a player that had not been a part of their previous championship squads. Jerry Rice. By 1988, Rice embarked on destroying the NFL record book at the wide receiver position.
Led by Rice’s extraordinary talent, Bill Walsh’s 49ers won four straight. They clinched the division in week 15 when they defeated New Orleans.
In the playoffs, they got their revenge on the Vikings in convincing fashion. In the NFC Championship game played at Soldier Field in freezing Chicago, the finesse 49ers pounded the 12-4 Bears. Thus, they put to bed the myth that they were an all-offense, no-defense football team. That was simply untrue. The 1988 49ers featured an excellent defense led by veteran Ronnie Lott and youngster Bill Romanowski. The Bears never had a chance. Rice scored an electrifying early TD. Hence, San Francisco was on their way to a 28-3 win and their third Super Bowl appearance.
Cincinnati Bengals 29 Years Ago
Their opponents would be the Cincinnati Bengals. The ’88 Bengals were complete opposites of the 1981 team that last made the Super Bowl. Coach Sam Wyche implemented a sophisticated, up tempo, no huddle offense. Here is the point: Nobody ran that offense before 1988 on a consistent basis. Wyche utilized the intellect of his quarterback, Maryland grad Boomer Esiason. One of the great left-handed throwers in league history, Esiason went on to win league-MVP.
In the playoffs, in an effort to slow down the Bengals, the Seattle Seahawks were instructed to feign injury. The Bengals overcame that lunacy winning 21-13.
In the AFC championship game, the Bengals unraveled and unnerved their opponents, the young and hungry Buffalo Bills, 21-10. Rookie Ickey Woods rushed for two scores and did his famous “Ickey shuffle” on the sidelines. The underappreciated James Brooks also scored. Therefore, the Bengals and 49ers were set to square off in what appeared to be a very even Super Bowl match-up. It turned out to be just that!
The first quarter was marred by two terrible injuries. San Francisco’s offensive tackle Steve Wallace broke his leg on third play of the game. Moments later, Tim Krumrie, Cincinnati’s defensive leader at nose tackle, broke his ankle in the most gruesome injury in Super Bowl history.
Though slow in spots, there were many things to love about this game. For example, the 49ers punished Brooks, Woods and Esiason. Indeed, Cincinnati’s offense did very little on the day. They only accounted for three field goals. Yet, the game was tied 3-3 and 6-6.
The first touchdown of the game was scored by the Bengals’ Stanford Jennings on a kickoff return. In many ways, this was the pinnacle of the Cincinnati’s NFL franchise. They headed to the fourth quarter against Bill Walsh and Joe Montana leading 13-6.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, things started to change. Montana hit Roger Craig for 40 yards. Two plays later, Jerry Rice scored on a phenomenal play to tie the score. San Francisco moved the ball well the rest of the game. Yet, they trailed Cincinnati 16-13 with 3:44 left on the clock.
Then, Joe Montana did what he did. He led his team on a glorious 92-yard touchdown drive to win the Super Bowl. One of the most important plays was a beautiful 27-yard gainer from Montana to Rice on a 2nd and 20 with 1:17 to play. From the 10, Montana found John Taylor running up the left seam. He fired a bullet. And the NIners were champs again.
After the game, Bill Walsh stepped as aside as San Francisco’s coach. But, their dynasty was not over. In fact, they were virtually unbeatable in 1989 under defensive-genius George Siefert.
However, the Bengals never got back to the heights they experienced in 1988. In the nineties, they were awful. In the 2000’s, they were good, but could not win in the playoffs.
So, when one wants to re-watch the Bengals at their finest, they inevitably will get the privilege to see Joe Montana at his finest as well.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills