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Super Bowl XXIII

Super Bowl XXIII was an American football game played on January 22, 1989 at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion following the 1988 regular season. This was the first Super Bowl hosted in the Miami area in 10 years, and the first in Miami not held at the Orange Bowl. This was also the last Super Bowl played on the second to last Sunday in January. Ever since, the game has been played on the last Sunday of January and now the first Sunday in February.

The National Football Conference (NFC) champion San Francisco 49ers (13-6) defeated the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Cincinnati Bengals (14-5), 20-16. This was the second meeting between the two teams in the Super Bowl, their first meeting being seven years earlier.

The game is remembered for the 49ers' fourth-quarter game-winning drive. Down 16-13, San Francisco got the ball on their own eight yard line with 3:10 on the clock and marched 92 yards down the field in under three minutes. They then scored the winning touchdown on a Joe Montana pass to John Taylor with just 34 seconds left in the game.

49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice was named the Super Bowl MVP. He caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and one touchdown, while also rushing once for 5 yards.

This was also the final NFL game coached by the 49ers' Bill Walsh. This was also the final Super Bowl that Pete Rozelle presided over as NFL Commissioner.

On January 26, 2006, NFL.com ranked this game number 1 on its list of the top 10 Super Bowls of all time.

Background

NFL owners voted to award Super Bowl XXIII to Miami, Florida during their March 10-15, 1985 meetings. This was the sixth time that Miami hosted the game, and the first at Joe Robbie Stadium; the 5 previous Super Bowls in the area were played at Miami Orange Bowl.

San Francisco 49ers

For the 49ers, it was their first Super Bowl appearance since they defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. They had made the playoffs in the three seasons between Super Bowl XIX and Super Bowl XXIII, but were eliminated each time in the first round, primarily because of the poor performances by their offensive stars in those games; quarterback Joe Montana, receiver Jerry Rice and running back Roger Craig all failed to produce a single touchdown.

In the 1988 season, San Francisco won the NFC West with a 10-6 regular season record, but it was a long uphill battle. The team had a quarterback controversy with Montana and Steve Young each starting at quarterback during the season. But after a 6-5 start, Montana led the 49ers to win 4 of their final 5 regular season games.

Montana finished the regular season with 238 completions for 2,981 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also added 132 rushing yards. His favorite target was Rice, who recorded 64 receptions for 1,306 yards (a 20.4 yards per catch average) and 9 touchdowns. Craig was also a key contributor with a total of 2,036 combined rushing and receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Fullback Tom Rathman also made a big impact, rushing for 427 yards and catching 42 passes for 387 yards. The 49ers defense was led by defensive backs Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Jeff Fuller, and Tim McKyer, who recorded a combined total of 18 interceptions. McKyer led the team with 7, while Lott recorded 5. Linebacker Charles Haley was also a big contributor with 11.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries.

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals were also a team on the rebound. During the 1987 strike-shortened season, quarterback Boomer Esiason and head coach Sam Wyche had openly feuded, and the team finished with a miserable 4-11 record. A lot of Bengals fans would have been happy to see them both leave the team, but they worked out their differences in the off-season and Esiason ended up having the best season of his career en route to Super Bowl XXIII. During the regular season, he threw for 3,572 yards and 28 touchdown passes with only 14 interceptions, while also rushing for 248 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries. Esiason's performance made him the top rated quarterback in the league with a 97.4 passer rating and earned him the NFL Most Valuable Player Award.

Cincinnati had a number of offensive weapons, boasting 6 Pro Bowl selections. Wide receiver Eddie Brown was the top receiver on the team, with 54 receptions for 1,273 yards and 9 touchdowns, setting franchise records for most receiving yards in season, highest yards per catch average in a season (24.0) and most receiving yards in a single game (216 against the Pittsburgh Steelers). Wide receiver Tim McGee and Pro Bowl tight end Rodney Holman were also major threats, combining for 75 receptions, 1,213 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Rookie fullback Ickey Woods was their top rusher with 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also catching 21 passes for 199 yards. Woods gained a lot of media attention with his "Ickey Shuffle", a dance routine he did in the end zone to celebrate his touchdowns. Multi-talented running back James Brooks was also a key contributor, gaining a total of 1,218 combined rushing and receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. And the Bengals' offensive line was led by such Pro Bowl players as right guard Max Montoya and left tackle Anthony Muñoz. Muñoz was named the NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year the third time in his career, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the 8th season in a row. With all these weapons, Cincinnati's offense led the NFL in scoring (448 points), rushing yards (2,710), and total yards (6,302).

The Bengals defense ranked 17th in the league, allowing 5,556 yards and 329 points during the regular season. Cincinnati had a superb defensive line, led by pro bowl defensive tackle Tim Krumrie, along with linemen Jim Skow (9.5 sacks), David Grant (5 sacks), and Jason Buck (6 sacks). Pro Bowl defensive backs Eric Thomas and David Fulcher combined for 12 interceptions. The team ended up winning the AFC Central with a 12 – 4 record.

Playoffs

The Bengals went on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks, 21-13, and the Buffalo Bills, 21-10, in the playoffs. Woods was the key contributor in both wins, rushing for a combined total of 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cincinnati's 17th ranked defense during the season made a major improvement in the playoffs, holding both their opponents to a combined total of 23 points and recording 5 interceptions.

Meanwhile, Bill Walsh guided the 49ers to their crushing playoff wins over the Minnesota Vikings, 34-9, and the Chicago Bears, 28-3. With the win over the Bears, the 49ers became the first road team to win an NFC Championship Game since the 1979 season.

Super Bowl pregame news

Despite the Bengals superior regular season record and Esiason's MVP award, the 49ers were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl, mainly because of Montana. Montana had already led the 49ers to 2 previous Super Bowls and both times left with a championship ring and Super Bowl MVP honors.

While Montana had problems during the regular season, he appeared to be playing his best in the postseason, throwing for 466 yards and 5 touchdowns in his 2 playoff games, with only 1 interception. In contrast, Esiason had thrown for only 202 yards and 1 touchdown, with 2 interceptions.

Cincinnati also had internal problems. On the night before the game, Bengals running back Stanley Wilson was caught using drugs in his hotel room and suspended from the team.

The rematch was the third time in Super Bowl history two teams were meeting for a second time. Miami and Washington met in Super Bowls VII and XVII, with the teams splitting the games. Dallas and Pittsburgh met in Super Bowls X and XIII, with Pittsburgh winning both of those games. Both Dallas-Pittsburgh matchups were in Miami at the Orange Bowl. Pittsburgh and Dallas would later meet in Super Bowl XXX (which the Cowboys won by 10) to become the first two teams to ever meet three times in the Super Bowl.

Television and entertainment

The game was broadcast in the United States by NBC with Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties and color commentator Merlin Olsen in the broadcast booth. This would be Olsen's final Super Bowl broadcast, as he was demoted the following season to make room for Bill Walsh. Bob Costas, Gayle Gardner, and Marv Albert hosted the pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage with analysts Paul Maguire and then-Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula. With the win, the 49ers became the first team to win Super Bowls televised on three different networks (CBS-XVI, ABC-XIX, and NBC). Since then, the Washington Redskins (in 1992), the Green Bay Packers (in 1997), the Pittsburgh Steelers (in 2006) and the New York Giants (in 2008) have accomplished this same feat. The game aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom.

The pregame festivities honored the Miami and South Florida areas, along with a tribute to NASA.

Singer Billy Joel later sang the national anthem. He also sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XLI which coincidentally was held at the same venue. The coin toss ceremony featured former Miami Dolphins players Nick Buoniconti, Bob Griese, and Larry Little.

This was the last outdoor Super Bowl to start earlier than 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, as it started just after 5 p.m.

The halftime show was titled "Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D" and featured Elvis Presto and hundreds of South Florida-area dancers and performers. Ironically, not one actual Elvis Presley song was performed. Several scenes included computer generated 3-D images. Prior to the game, Coca-Cola distributed 3-D glasses at retailers for viewers to use. At the onset of the halftime show, primary sponsor Diet Coke aired the first commercial in 3-D (Coca-Cola had originally planned to use the 3-D Diet Coke commercial as part of the 1987-1988, aired in 3-D season finale of Moonlighting, but withdrew plans due to the 1988 Writers Guild of America Strike.)

This game also marked the debut of the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter. The first winner of the annual survey was an ad from American Express starring Saturday Night Live stars Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz who went to the game with different credit cards - Carvey with AmEx rival Visa, Lovitz with American Express.

The movie Brotherhood of the Rose aired after the game.

Game summary

The game started out with devastating injuries on both sides. On the third play of the game, 49ers tackle Steve Wallace was taken off the field with a broken ankle. Later on, Bengals defensive lineman Tim Krumrie twisted his ankle nearly 180 degrees, shattering two bones in his left leg.

After the two teams traded punts on their first drives of the game, the 49ers, aided by a roughing the passer penalty and a 17-yard screen pass to Tom Rathman on 3rd-and-10, marched 73 yards from their own 3-yard line to the Bengals 24. But dropped passes, including one by receiver Mike Wilson on the 2-yard line (the first time in a Super Bowl that instant replay was used to reverse a call), forced them to settle for a 41-yard field goal from kicker Mike Cofer.

On the 49ers next drive, Montana threw a pass to wide receiver Jerry Rice, who first tipped it to himself and then made a one-handed catch before stepping out of bounds at the San Francisco 45-yard line. Then after reaching the Cincinnati 42-yard line, Montana spotted defensive back Lewis Billups trying to cover Rice one-on-one and made him pay for it by completing a pass to the receiver at the 10. But two plays later on a third down play, Bengals safety David Fulcher made a touchdown saving tackle at the 2-yard line to keep full back Tom Rathman from scoring. Cofer then attempted a 19-yard field goal, but a poor snap from center Randy Cross (though NBC's Dick Enberg initially blamed backup guard Chuck Thomas; who lined up next to Cross) threw off the kicker's timing and his kick sailed wide left. It became the shortest missed field goal in Super Bowl history.

The 49ers then forced the Bengals to punt on their next drive. On the play, San Francisco Pro Bowl punt returner John Taylor misplayed punter Lee Johnson's kick, and it sailed over his head, bouncing all the way to the 49ers 9-yard line to make it a Super Bowl record 63 yard punt. But Taylor made up for his mistake by chasing the ball down and returning it for a Super Bowl record 45 yards to the Bengals 46-yard line. Thanks to Taylor, a seemingly routine punt had turned into a double record setter.

However, the 49ers were unable to take advantage of their excellent starting field position. On first down, running back Harry Sydney fumbled a pitch from Montana and was downed for a 10-yard loss after he dove on the ball. On the next play, Montana was sacked by defensive lineman David Grant. Then on third down, Fulcher forced a fumble from 49ers running back Roger Craig, and Bengals defensive end Jim Skow recovered the ball on his own 41-yard line. Cincinnati then drove to the San Francisco 42-yard line, but after 2 incomplete passes and defensive end Danny Stubbs's 8-yard sack on Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason, they were forced to punt. However, Johnson pinned the 49ers back at their own 11-yard line with his punt. Then the Cincinnati defense limited the 49ers to just 1 yard on their ensuing drive, and ended up with great field position after defensive back Ray Horton returned San Francisco punter Barry Helton's 37-yard punt 5 yards to the 49ers 44-yard line

On their ensuing drive, the Bengals managed to get into scoring range by driving 28 yards to the San Francisco 16-yard line, assisted by an 18-yard completion from Esiason to receiver Tim McGee. But after Esiason's third down pass intended to wide receiver Eddie Brown was overthrown, they were forced to settle for kicker Jim Breech's 34-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the half.

The two teams went into their locker rooms tied 3 – 3, the first halftime tie in Super Bowl history, and the lowest halftime score since the Pittsburgh Steelers took a 2 – 0 halftime lead over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

On their opening possession in the second half, the Bengals managed to get a sustained drive going, moving the ball 61 yards in 12 plays and taking 9:15 off the clock. Esiason, who completed only 4 of 12 passes for 48 yards in the first half, completed 3 of 4 passes for 54 yards on the drive, including a 20-yard completion to James Brooks and 23-yard and 11-yard completions to Cris Collinsworth, setting up a 43-yard field goal from Breech to give the Bengals their first lead of the game, 6-3. Cincinnati then forced San Francisco to punt, but on the first play of their next drive, 49ers rookie linebacker Bill Romanowski intercepted a pass from Esiason at the Bengals' 23-yard line. However, after a dropped pass by Jerry Rice, the 49ers offense could not get a first down, and they had to settle for Cofer's 32-yard field goal to tie the game.

With less than a minute left in the third quarter, it appeared that this would become the first Super Bowl ever to go 3 quarters without either team scoring a touchdown. But on the ensuing kickoff, Bengals kick returner Stanford Jennings returned the ball 93 yards for a touchdown to give the Bengals a 13 – 6 lead. Jennings would be the second player to return a kickoff for a touchdown in Super Bowl history. In four games played at Joe Robbie Stadium, each game had a kickoff return for a score, all by the eventual losing team.

But the 49ers immediately responded with a touchdown of their own, on an 85-yard, 4-play drive. First, Montana threw a short pass to Jerry Rice, who turned it into a 31-yard gain. Then the San Francisco quarterback completed a 40-yard pass to Craig on the first play of the 4th quarter, moving the ball to the Bengals 14-yard line. Montana's next pass was nearly intercepted but dropped by Billips in the endzone. Montana then threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rice, and the game was tied, 13 – 13.

Cofer's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Bengals the ball at their own 35-yard line. But they could only reach the 43-yard line before being forced to punt. Taylor nearly turned the ball over by fumbling Johnson's punt, but his teammate Darryl Pollard recovered the ball at the San Francisco 18-yard line. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Montana completed a 44-yard pass to Rice, and then Craig ran for 7 yards, moving the ball to the Bengals 31-yard line. But after Craig was tackled for a 1-yard loss on the next play, Fulcher broke up a third down pass intended for Taylor, and then Cofer's ensuing 49-yard field attempt sailed wide right.

The Bengals took over from their own 32-yard line following the missed field goal, and retook the lead with a 10-play, 46-yard drive, featuring a 17-yard reception by backup receiver Ira Hillary on third down and 13, along with 21 yards on three carries from Ickey Woods and a 12-yard play-action sideline pass to James Brooks. At the end of the drive, Breech kicked a 40-yard field goal, giving the Bengals a 16-13 lead with 3:20 left in the game. The 49ers returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 15-yard line with 3:10 on the clock, but an illegal block penalty on the play pushed the ball back half the distance to the goal line to the 8.

Montana then led an 11-play, 92-yard drive to score the winning touchdown. In order to calm his teammates in the huddle just before the final game-winning drive, Montana pointed into the stadium crowd and said "Hey, isn't that John Candy?" The moment worked, and the 49ers were able to drive down the field for the win. It became the defining moment of Montana's "Joe Cool" reputation. Assuming that the Bengals would expect him to throw the ball near the sidelines (to enable the receivers to step out of bounds to immediately stop the clock), Montana first threw a pair of completions in the middle of the field, one to Craig and one to tight end John Frank. His next pass went 7 yards to Rice, which was then followed up by a pair of runs by Craig to reach their own 35-yard line. Montana then completed a 17-yard pass to Rice to advance the team to the Bengals 48-yard line, and followed it up with a 13-yard completion to Craig to move them to the 35-yard line.

But on the next play, Montana threw his first incomplete pass of the drive. After that, Cross committed an illegal man downfield penalty, which at the time was a 10-yard foul, moving the ball back to the 45-yard line and bringing up second down and 20 to go with just 1:15 left in the game. But Montana overcame the situation on the next play with a 27-yard completion to Rice, who caught the ball at the 33, evaded 3 Bengal defenders, and ran to the 18-yard line before Horton managed to tackle him to prevent a touchdown. An 8-yard pass to Craig then advanced San Francisco to the 10-yard line. Then with 39 seconds left in the game, Montana finished the drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Taylor, giving the 49ers the lead for good. Finally, San Francisco's defense sealed the victory after Esiason's pass to Collinsworth was broken up as time expired.

Although Jerry Rice was named MVP, Montana had an MVP-worthy performance even though he almost lost the game for them. For the third time in a Super Bowl, completing 23 of 36 passes for a Super Bowl record 357 yards, throwing for 2 touchdowns, and gaining 14 rushing yards. Craig finished the game with 71 yards rushing, and 8 receptions for 101 receiving yards. He was the first running back in Super Bowl history to gain over 100 receiving yards. Taylor finished the game with a Super Bowl record 56 punt return yards. His 18.7 yards per return was also the highest average in Super Bowl history. For Cincinnati, Jennings rushed one time for 3 yards, and gained 117 yards and a touchdown on 2 kickoff returns. Woods was the top rusher of the game with 79 yards. But Esiason was limited to just 11 out of 25 completions for 144 yards and no touchdowns, with 1 interception. Collinsworth was the Bengals top receiver of the game, but with just 3 catches for 40 yards.

The 49ers became the 6th team to win the Super Bowl over a team with a better regular season record going into the game (12-6 for the 49ers to 14-4 for the Bengals). The 49ers also became the first team, since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, to win the Super Bowl after winning only 10 games during the regular season. Their 6 losses are tied for the most ever by a Super Bowl champion.

Scoring summary

  • SF - FG: Mike Cofer 41 yards 3-0 SF
  • CIN - FG: Jim Breech 34 yards 3-3 tie
  • CIN - FG: Jim Breech 43 yards 6-3 CIN
  • SF - FG: Mike Cofer 32 yards 6-6 tie
  • CIN - TD: Stanford Jennings 93 yard kickoff return (Jim Breech kick) 13-6 CIN
  • SF - TD: Jerry Rice 14 yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) 13-13 tie
  • CIN - FG: Jim Breech 40 yards 16-13 CIN
  • SF - TD: John Taylor 10 yard pass from Joe Montana (Mike Cofer kick) 20-16 SF

Starting lineups

San Francisco Position Cincinnati
OFFENSE
Jerry Rice WR Eddie Brown
Steve Wallace LT Anthony Muñoz
Guy McIntyre LG Bruce Reimers
Randy Cross C Bruce Kozerski
Jesse Sapolu RG Max Montoya
Harris Barton RT Brian Blados
John Frank TE Rodney Holman
John Taylor WR Tim McGee
Joe Montana QB Boomer Esiason
Tom Rathman FB Ickey Woods
Roger Craig RB James Brooks
DEFENSE
Larry Roberts LE Jim Skow
Michael Carter NT Tim Krumrie
Kevin Fagan RE Jason Buck
Charles Haley LOLB Leon White
Jim Fahnhorst LILB Carl Zander
Michael Walter RILB Joe Kelly
Keena Turner ROLB Reggie Williams
Tim McKyer LCB Lewis Billups
Don Griffin RCB Eric Thomas
Jeff Fuller SS David Fulcher
Ronnie Lott FS Solomon Wilcots

Officials

  • Referee: Jerry Seeman
  • Umpire: Gordon Wells
  • Head Linesman: Jerry Bergman
  • Line Judge: Bob Beeks
  • Field Judge: Bobby Skelton
  • Side Judge: Gary Lane
  • Back Judge: Paul Baetz
  • Alternate Referee: Gene Barth
  • Alternate Umpire: Ed Fiffick

See also

References

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