The Super Bowl is just 25 days away. Let’s look at the Super Bowl from 25 years ago to honor this not so significant occasion!
Pasadena’s Rose Bowl hosted Super Bowl XXVII, on January 31, 1993. The game pitted the NFC champion Dallas Cowboys against the two-time defending AFC champion, Buffalo Bills.
Dallas Cowboys 25 Years Ago
The Cowboys, known as “America’s Team” due to their tremendous popularity in the late ’70’s, had fallen on hard times in the late ’80s. But, Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson replaced the venerable Tom Landry regime and heads rolled. The biggest deal accomplished by this traded Herschel Walker to Minnesota for a truckload of draft picks. Those pieces assembled formed a Cowboys team that excelled in all phases of the game during the ’90s. It is one thing to have a lot of draft picks, it is quite another to draft wisely. And, the Cowboys of this era had a lot more hits than misses.
Emmitt Smith out of Florida was an instant success after college in 1990. He joined QB Troy Aikman and WR Michael Irvin to form “the triplets.” The triplets were joined by an outstanding offensive line, fullback Daryl Johnston, tight end Jay Novacek and WR2 Alvin Harper to form the 4th-ranked offense of 1992.
The 1992 Dallas Cowboys had one of the greatest and most underrated defenses in NFL history. One word to describe this defense was: speed. Coach Johnson and defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt expertly used a defensive line rotation that was nearly impossible to run against. Dallas did not have big, strong linebackers. Instead, they used an ultra-quick group. Robert Jones, Ken Norton, Vinson Smith and Dixon Edwards flew to the ball. Their safeties were very sound as well with James Washington and Darren Woodson patrolling the back end.
America’s Team is Back
On opening day, the Cowboys made a statement by shutting down the defending champion Redskins, 23-10. Although the 49ers were the clear-cut favorite in the NFC, Dallas gained momentum with each passing week. San Francisco and Dallas were on a collision course in the NFC title game. And, this game did not disappoint. The 49ers had effectively begun their own dynasty when they defeated Dallas in the 1981 NFC championship game. The Cowboys’ organization and fans were out for revenge. For anybody who has not watched this game, it’s a ‘must-review!’
Dallas took a 24-13 lead midway throught the 4th quarter. Led by Steve Young and Jerry Rice in their respective primes, the 49ers were not about to quit. They stormed down the field cutting the lead to four. Dallas received the ensuing kickoff, which was returned to the 20. On the very next play, instead of sitting on the ball, Aikman hit Harper on a deep slant-in and he was off to the races. The play racked up 70 yards. Dallas scored a few plays later to ice the game, 30-20. In hindsight, this was the real Super Bowl. The two best teams in the NFL from 1992-1994 were unquestionably Dallas and San Francisco.
Buffalo Bills 25 Years Ago
The AFC was much more wide open. Six teams all with 10-6 or 11-5 records would battle for the AFC championship. The Bills were seeking their third consecutive trip to the Super Bowl. Their defense improved by leaps and bounds over their 1991 effort. And, for the third straight season, the Bills finished in the top two on offense. However, the Bills lost in the season finale at Houston. The loss cost Buffalo homefield advantage as well as the AFC East division. Houston and Buffalo were scheduled to play in the Wild Card game the following Sunday, but Jim Kelly injured his knee to make matters worse. He would be out 2-3 weeks.
Circle the Wagons
The Oilers were led by Warren Moon, and the magnificent run-‘n-shoot attack. They ran roughshod over the Bills in the first half, as Moon threw four TD passes. In the early moments of the third quarter, Bubba McDowell returned a deflected pass from the arm of Frank Reich, into the end zone for a 35-3 lead. (*I have been to dozens of Bills’ games, and after that pick six, the stadium was so quiet, you could hear the Oilers yelling exuberantly!)
Buffalo bounced right back with a short scoring drive. Then, they recovered an onside kick and scored again. After a three-and-out and horrendous punt, Buffalo scored again. Henry Jones next intercepted a pass and Buffalo…scored again. This one came on a fourth and five from the 18. Frank Reich hit a wide open Andre Reed over the middle. In six minutes, the score went from 35-3 to 35-31. (**This was the loudest stadium I have ever been in!)
The fourth quarter morphed into something that looked normal again. The Bills moved the ball well to lead 38-35 with about four minutes to go. Houston tied it with less than a minute remaining. In overtime, Nate Odomes intercepted Moon on the second play. Steve Christie came on to kick the field goal giving the Bills the unbelievable win.
Buffalo was riding high when they beat Pittsburgh 24-3. And, Kelly returned to lead them to a “not as close as it sounds” 29-10 win over the Dolphins in the AFC championship game. Amazingly, Buffalo was going back to the Super Bowl for the third straight time.
Dallas Dominates Super Bowl XXVII
The Bills got off to a good start in the Super Bowl. Steve Tasker blocked a punt and Thurman Thomas scored, giving them a 7-0 lead. That would be Thurman’s only highlight, though. Both teams moved the ball very well in the first half. However, only Dallas parlayed those yards into points. Aikman was on fire, throwing for three first half touchdowns. Kelly was not. He threw two interceptions and he fumbled. The fumble was snatched by Jimmie Jones for a TD. Sadly, Kelly was knocked out from the ball game. Enter Frank Reich, who could not replicate his wild-card game magic. He was intercepted and Thomas fumbled. At halftime, Buffalo trailed 28-10 and had turned the ball over five times.
They cut the lead to 31-17 on the final play of the third quarter on a TD by Don Beebe. However, Dallas and their superior athleticism dominated the rest of the way. They destroyed Reich. He fumbled two more times and threw another interception. Steve Tasker’s fumble gave the Bills nine total turnovers on the game!
The defining moment of this football game came late in the fourth quarter with Dallas leading 52-17. Leon Lett was returning a Reich fumble all the way. As he neared the goal line, he carelessly extended the ball to his side. Beebe came screaming down the sidelines and knocked the ball away an inch before Lett crossed the plane. So, Dallas only won by 35 points.
Dallas won their first of three Super Bowls in four seasons. They were a truly impressive team. And, they would get another chance to beat Buffalo in Super Bowl XXVIII. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about that game!
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills