Super Bowl XXVII was an American football game played on January 31, 1993 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion following the 1992 regular season. The National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys (16-3) defeated the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Buffalo Bills (14-6), 52–17 (a then-record 69 combined points). The Cowboys won their third Super Bowl in team history, and their first one in fifteen years. The Bills became the first team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls, and just the second team to play in three straight (the Miami Dolphins played in Super Bowls VI-VIII, winning VII and VIII).
The Bills' Super Bowl record 9 turnovers—4 interceptions and 5 lost fumbles—led to their third consecutive Super Bowl loss. The Cowboys lost 2 fumbles themselves, tying the Super Bowl record for the most turnovers by both teams in a game (the Cowboys and the Baltimore Colts also committed a combined 11 turnovers in Super Bowl V).
Meanwhile, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the United States federal holiday honoring civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., was observed for the first time in 1986. However, the holiday was only celebrated in 27 states and the District of Columbia during that first year. Opponents across the nation tried to stop the holiday from being recognized in their own local areas.
In 1986, an Arizona holiday honoring King had been declared by Governor Bruce Babbitt after a bill to create the holiday failed in the state legislature. A year later, though, newly-elected Governor Evan Mecham rescinded the holiday in 1987 on the grounds that the holiday had been illegally created.
Legislation to create the holiday was passed by the state legislature in 1989, but opponents to the holiday succeeded in forcing the holiday to undergo a ballot initiative. Arizona voters rejected the 1990 initiative to create a King holiday.
The NFL, which had an increasing percentage of African American players, and urged by the NFL Players' Association, voted to yank Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona, and awarded it instead to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.
Faced with the boycott, Arizona voters finally approved the holiday by ballot in 1992, and on March 23, 1993, the NFL awarded Super Bowl XXX (1996) to Tempe.
With Johnson as head coach and Jones as his own general manager, people in the league thought they could take advantage of them. Both lacked NFL experience, and instead of hiring coaching assistants with experience in the league, they hired ones that worked with Johnson in Miami. And Jones fired the two men that brought previous success to Dallas: its founding president Tex Schramm and its famed personnel man Gil Brandt.
The Cowboys' 3-13 record in 1988 did have a silver lining, it was the worst in the league and thus gave the Cowboys the first pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Jones and Johnson picked UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman, who would eventually go on to be selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times in his NFL career. Meanwhile, Jones and Johnson immediately started to shuffle the team's depth chart to find players talented enough to build a winning team. Linebacker Ken Norton Jr., one of the few holdovers from Landry's last losing seasons, would later claim that he would often go into a player huddle and meet new teammates for the first time.
Then, Jones and Johnson made a move midway through the 1989 season that shocked many in the league: they traded their only Pro Bowl player, running back Herschel Walker, to the Minnesota Vikings for five veteran players and eight draft choices. Although the Cowboys finished the 1989 season with a 1-15 record, their worst record since the team's inception, the foundations for the Cowboys' return to glory had been set. Although Dallas had the league's worst record, they traded away the first pick in the 1990 draft so they could get backup quarterback Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft. Then with the 17th pick, they drafted running back Emmitt Smith, and the trifecta of Aikman, Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin (who was drafted by Landry in 1988) was now set. Dallas also signed veteran tight end Jay Novacek away from Phoenix, who went on to make the Pro Bowl in five of his six years with the Cowboys.
Johnson also started to rebuild the team by drafting players who were fast, quick, and athletic. The defense was designed to become aggressive, while the offense was made to be a conservative one that did not make mistakes. The Cowboys finished 7-9, but Smith won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award and Jimmy Johnson was selected as NFL Coach of the Year. By 1991 season, the Cowboys finished with an 11-5 record and made the playoffs for the first time in six years.
In 1992, the Cowboys finished with a 13-3 regular season record, the second best in the league. Although not a single one of their defensive players made the Pro Bowl, Dallas was ranked as the number one defense in the league (allowing only 4,278 yards) and ranked as the number one defense against the run (allowing only 1,244), bringing back many fans memories of the Doomsday Defenses of old. The defensive line was anchored by Jim Jeffcoat (10.5 sacks) and Tony Tolbert (8.5 sacks), along with Charles Haley, who had led the NFC in sacks in 1990 and had been acquired by Dallas in a trade with San Francisco. While Norton anchored the linebacking core, the team's solid secondary was led by defensive backs Kenneth Gant and James Washington, who both recorded 3 interceptions each.
Dallas' spectacular offense, led by Aikman who had the best season of his career by completing 302 out of 473 passes for 3,445 yards and 23 touchdowns while throwing only 14 interceptions, was one of the league's finest, finishing fourth in the league in total yards. Superstar running back Emmitt Smith lead the NFL in rushing with 1,713 yards and scoring 18 rushing touchdowns, while also catching 59 passes for 335 yards and another touchdown. Irvin, the teams emotional lightning rod, caught 78 passes for 1,396 yards and 7 touchdowns. Other contributors on the offense included wide receiver Alvin Harper (35 receptions for 562 yards and 4 touchdowns) and Novacek (68 receptions for 630 yards and 6 touchdowns). Dallas' dominate offensive line was led by Pro Bowlers Nate Newton and Mark Stepnoski.
With all this talent the Cowboys would be considered by many to be one of the deepest and most talented teams to ever take to the gridiron.
On defense, the line was anchored by tackles Bruce Smith (14 sacks) and Jeff Wright (6 sacks, 1 fumble recovery), who were fully recovered after missing almost all of the previous season due to injuries. The Bills were once again led by their trio of linebackers Darryl Talley (77 tackles, 4 sacks), Shane Conlan (66 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception), and Pro Bowler Cornelius Bennett (52 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries. The defensive secondary was aided by the emergence of second year defensive back Henry Jones, who led the NFL with 8 interceptions, returning them for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. Defensive back Mark Kelso recorded 7 interceptions, while Pro Bowl defensive back Nate Odomes had 5.
However, the Bills quest for a third consecutive Super Bowl suffered a major setback when they lost the final game of the season to the Houston Oilers. The loss caused the Bills to finish with an 11-5 record, losing the AFC East title to the Miami Dolphins based on tie-breaking rules, and thus making them a wild card team for the playoffs. Thus, even if they won their first playoff game, they would have to win two on the road to make the Super Bowl. To make matters worse, Kelly also suffered strained knee ligaments during the loss to the Oilers and had to miss the first 2 playoff games. Furthermore, their first opponent in the playoffs ended up being the Oilers. A headline on a Buffalo newspaper stated the Bills situation: "Bills Begin The Longest Road Today."
Dallas then defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 30–20, in the NFC Championship Game. This was the first time that the two teams met in the NFC Championship Game since the 49ers narrowly beat the Cowboys during the 1981 season on a last second touchdown pass known as "The Catch." The 49ers came into the game with the league's best regular season record at 14–2 and led the league in scoring with 431 points. But in this game, the Cowboys built a 24–13 lead going into the fourth quarter, as Aikman capped a nine minute drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Smith. However, 49ers quarterback Steve Young's 5-yard pass touchdown pass to Jerry Rice cut the lead 24-20 with 4:22 left in the game. But instead of trying to run out the clock with a running play, Aikman threw a 70-yard completion to Harper. Three plays later, Aikman threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kelvin Martin to clinch the victory (the extra point was blocked). Aikman finished the game with 332 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, with no interceptions.
The Bills first defeated the Houston Oilers, 41–38 in overtime, in what became known as "The Comeback." Nothing seemed to go right for the Bills in the first half. In addition to playing without Kelly and Bennett, Thomas was knocked out of the game with a hip injury. The Bills offense could only score a single field goal, while their defense played even worse, as Oilers quarterback Warren Moon passed for 222 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Houston jumped to a 28-3 halftime lead. Then, backup quarterback Frank Reich's first pass of the second half was intercepted by Bubba McDowell and returned 58 yards for a touchdown, making the score 35-3. However, the Bills suddenly stormed back to score 5 unanswered touchdowns to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds. First, Davis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Then Buffalo recovered an onside kick and immediately scored again on Reich's 36-yard touchdown pass to Beebe. Reich then threw touchdowns of 26 and 18 yards to Reed. In the fourth quarter, Reich hit Reed with a 17-yard score to give the Bills a 38-35 lead. The Oilers kicked a field goal late in the game to send it into overtime, but Odomes' interception in the extra period set up kicker Steve Christie's game winning field goal to give the Bills the biggest comeback win in NFL history.
Buffalo then recorded a 24-3 win on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the AFC Central champions with the AFC's best regular season record at 11-5. Although Kelly and Thomas had not recovered enough to play for this game, Reich threw for 160 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions, while Davis rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the defense redeemed themselves for giving up 38 points against the Oilers by holding the Steelers to only a field goal.
The Bills then defeated the Miami Dolphins, 29-10, in the AFC Championship Game. The Dolphins were coming off a 31-0 blowout playoff win over the San Diego Chargers. But Buffalo's defense dominated the Dolphins offense, intercepting quarterback Dan Marino twice, recovering 3 fumbles, and limiting Miami to just 33 rushing yards. Although Buffalo's offense had trouble scoring touchdowns because Kelly and Thomas were rusty coming back from their injuries, Christie scored 5 field goals to make up for the difference. Kelly did connect with Thomas on a screen pass for a 17 yard touchdown, and Ken Davis ran it in from two yards out for another score. As a result, the Bills became the fifth wild-card team to advance to the Super Bowl.
This marked first time since the AFL-NFL merger that the two Super Bowl teams each won their conference championship game on the road. Dallas winning in San Francisco and Buffalo in Miami.
Still, many thought that the inexperienced Cowboys might panic under the pressure of playing in their first Super Bowl, and thus make a number of mistakes. Also, some thought Buffalo's no-huddle offense could eventually wear down and dominate Dallas' young defense.
This was the last of five Super Bowls at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Two other Super Bowls were played nearby at the Los Angeles Coliseum. This would be the seventh Super Bowl in the Los Angeles area, tying New Orleans at the time for the city to host the most Super Bowls.
Country music singer Garth Brooks sang the national anthem. He was accompanied by actress Marlee Matlin who signed the anthem for the hearing impaired. Brooks very nearly did not perform the anthem -- he left the stadium less than an hour before he was slated to sing, because of a dispute with NBC, regarding a video he asked them to air. Television producers spotted rocker Jon Bon Jovi in the crowd and were prepared to have him perform the anthem, until Brooks was finally coaxed back into the stadium.
Part of the halftime show can be found on Michael Jackson's Dangerous - The Short Films DVD. However, the DVD only features the "Heal The World" performance of the halftime show, and omits the show opening and a medley of "Jam", "Billie Jean" and "Black Or White".
Because of Jackson's star power, the FOX network declined to broadcast counter-programming against the halftime show like they did during Super Bowl XXVI's show in the previous year. FOX would never broadcast counter-programming again against the Super Bowl; on December 19, 1993, the network signed an agreement to broadcast NFL games starting in 1994.
Dallas then reached their own 40-yard line on their next drive, but an illegal formation penalty nullified running back Emmitt Smith's 12-yard run. Troy Aikman then threw two consecutive incompletions, and the Cowboys were forced to punt again. The Bills subsequently advanced to midfield with the aid of a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett and a 21-yard reception by wide receiver Andre Reed.
Then the wave of turnovers began. On the next play, Dallas safety James Washington intercepted Jim Kelly's pass and returned it 13 yards to the Bills' 47-yard line. The Cowboys then drove 47 yards in 6 plays to tie the game on Aikman's 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jay Novacek.
On the Bills' first play of their next drive, Dallas defensive end Charles Haley sacked Kelly and forced a fumble. Cowboys defensive tackle Jimmie Jones picked the ball out of the air at the 2-yard line and dove into the end zone for a touchdown to give his team a 14-7 lead. Dallas had scored 2 touchdowns in a span of 15 seconds, the fastest pair in Super Bowl history.
Early in the second quarter, Kelly's 40-yard completion to Reed gave the Bills a first down at the Cowboys 4-yard line. But the Bills failed to score on 3 rushing attempts. On fourth down, Kelly's pass was intercepted in the end zone by safety Thomas Everett.
On Buffalo's next drive, linebacker Ken Norton, Jr. hit Kelly, re-injuring the quarterback's knee that he sprained earlier in the season, and playoff hero Frank Reich took Kelly's place. Reich started out well, completing his first 2 passes, including a 38-yard completion to Reed to advance the ball to the Dallas 22-yard line. But then Thomas was stopped for no gain on third down and 1 at the 4-yard line. Rather than attempt another fourth down play near the goal line, the Bills settled for Steve Christie's 21-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 14–10 with 3:24 left in the half.
The Cowboys then stormed down the field on their next possession, scoring in just 5 plays. After a pair of completions by Aikman for 17 yards, Smith's 38-yard run gave the Cowboys a first down inside the Bills' 20-yard line. Aikman then finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Irvin, increasing his team's lead to 21–10. On the first play of the Bills' ensuing drive, Thomas caught a swing pass, but fumbled the ball while being tackled by Lett, and Jones recovered it at the Bills 18-yard line. Aikman then threw his second touchdown pass to Irvin to give the Cowboys a 28-10 lead. (Irvin's two touchdown receptions made him the 7th player to do so in a Super Bowl. Irvin also became the second player, after Washington Redskins wide receiver Ricky Sanders in Super Bowl XXII, to catch two touchdowns in a single quarter. Furthermore, Irvin's two catches occurred in a span of 18 seconds, the fastest pair of touchdowns ever scored by a single player in Super Bowl history).
With about a little over a minute left in the first half, Buffalo barely avoided another turnover when running back Kenneth Davis recovered a fumbled handoff from Reich. But 2 plays later, defensive back Larry Brown intercepted Reich's pass at the Dallas 28-yard line to preserve the Cowboys' 18-point lead at halftime.
Dallas then took the opening drive of the second half and advanced 77 yards in 11 plays, featuring a 25-yard reception by Irvin. However, on third down and 2, Aikman's pass to Novacek in the end zone was overthrown, forcing Dallas to settle for Lin Elliot's 20-yard field goal to increase their lead to 31-10. Both teams were unable to score on each of their next possessions, but on the period's final play, Reich threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Bills receiver Don Beebe, despite Cowboy complaints that the touchdown should have been nullified because Reich, while scrambling to avoid the Cowboy rush, crossed the 40-yard line for what should have been ruled an illegal forward pass. So despite 5 first half turnovers, the Bills were only trailing Dallas 31–17 going into the final period, and after their comeback from the 32-point deficit in the playoffs, a 14-point comeback seemed perfectly within their capabilities.
But early in the fourth quarter, Aikman threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper. Then on the second play of the Bills' next possession, Everett intercepted a pass from Reich and returned it 22 yards to Buffalo's 8-yard line, setting up another touchdown on Smith's 10-yard run. After Buffalo received the ensuing kickoff, Reich fumbled a high snap while in a shotgun formation. Norton recovered the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown, increasing the Cowboys' lead to 52-17. The 21 points by the Cowboys is the most ever for a team in the 4th quarter. The Cowboys also became just the second team to score two non-offensive touchdowns in a game. The Raiders also did so in Super Bowl XVIII with a blocked punt return and an interception return.
The most memorable moment of the game came well after the Cowboys had built an insurmountable lead. After both teams lost a fumble on their next possessions, the Bills managed to advance to the Cowboys' 31-yard line. But Reich lost a fumble while being sacked by Cowboys lineman Jim Jeffcoat. Lett picked up the ball with no one in front of him and appeared to be headed for a 64-yard touchdown return. As he started to showboat just before crossing the goal line, Beebe raced in from behind and knocked the ball out of Lett's arm and into the end zone. The ball then rolled out of bounds for a touchback. If Lett had scored the touchdown, it would likely have given the Cowboys a Super Bowl-record 59 points in the game (if the extra point was successful.)
Smith was the top rusher of the game, rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 6 passes for 27 yards. Irvin was the Cowboys' leading receiver with 6 receptions for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. Novacek added 7 receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Lett recorded a sack, a fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles.
Reich and Kelly combined for 22 out of 38 completions for 276 yards and a touchdown, but also threw 4 interceptions. Thomas, who gained 2,113 combined rushing and receiving yards during the season, was held to just 29 combined rushing and receiving yards in the game. Reed was the Bills's top receiver with 8 receptions for 152 yards. Bills running back Kenneth Davis was their leading rusher with 86 yards. Davis also caught 3 passes for 16 yards and returned a kickoff for 21 yards, giving him 123 total yards.
Irvin and Bills receiver Andre Reed each had over 100 yards receiving, making it the first time players from different teams and at least 100 yards receiving. Irvin had 114 yards while Reed had 152. Reed's total is the highest for a player on a losing team.
|Alvin Harper||WR||James Lofton|
|Mark Tuinei||LT||Will Wolford|
|Nate Newton||LG||Jim Ritcher|
|Mark Stepnoski||C||Kent Hull|
|John Gesek||RG||Glenn Parker|
|Erik Williams||RT||Howard Ballard|
|Jay Novacek||TE||Pete Metzelaars|
|Michael Irvin||WR||Andre Reed|
|Troy Aikman||QB||Jim Kelly|
|Emmitt Smith||RB||Thurman Thomas|
|Daryl Johnston||FB-WR||Don Beebe|
|Tony Tolbert||LE||Phil Hansen|
|Russell Maryland||LDT-NT||Jeff Wright|
|Tony Casillas||RDT-RE||Bruce Smith|
|Charles Haley||RE-LOLB||Marvcus Patton|
|Ken Norton, Jr.||LOLB-LILB||Shane Conlan|
|Robert Jones||MLB-RILB||Cornelius Bennett|
|Vinson Smith||ROLB||Darryl Talley|
|Larry Brown||LCB||James Williams|
|Kevin Smith||RCB||Nate Odomes|
|Thomas Everett||SS||Henry Jones|
|James Washington||FS||Mark Kelso|
The Cowboys are back on top of the mountain. They were there in the '70s, fell off in the '80s, and now they're back and they should stay there a while. - Dale Hansen making what would be an accurate prediction of the Cowboys' dominance in the 1990s.
For the first (and to date only) time in Super Bowl history, the officials changed shirts at halftime. Officials wore their short-sleeved shirts during the first half and their long-sleeved shirts in the second half.