Super Bowl XVI was an American football game played on January 24, 1982 at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan (a suburb of Detroit) to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion following the 1981 regular season. It marked the first time that a Super Bowl was held at a cold-weather city. The domed stadium saved the crowd at the game from the very cold and snowy weather, but the weather did affect traffic and other logistical issues related to the game. Icy roads and a windchill well below zero caused the 49ers motorcade to be delayed out on the slippery roads before they finally made it to the Silverdome, although no one was hurt and the team made it there with plenty of time before kickoff.
The National Football Conference (NFC) champion San Francisco 49ers (16-3) defeated the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Cincinnati Bengals (14-5), 26–21. Although the Bengals gained 356 yards of total offense to the 49ers' 275, San Francisco forced 5 turnovers and jumped to a 20-0 lead by halftime. This marked the first time in Super Bowl history that the team which compiled the most yards lost.
Although the 49ers had 3 rookies starting as defensive backs, they all were major defensive threats: Carlton Williamson recorded 4 interceptions, Eric Wright had 3, and Ronnie Lott recorded 7 interceptions and tied an NFL record by returning 3 of them for touchdowns. Three-year veteran defensive back Dwight Hicks led the team with 9 interceptions, which he returned for 239 yards and a touchdown, giving the secondary a total of 23. Defensive end Fred Dean and linebacker Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds were big contributors up front, making it difficult for the opposing teams to rush the ball; Dean became a 49er after an in-season trade with the San Diego Chargers and piled up 12 sacks for San Francisco.
Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson was the top rated passer in the league and won both the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and the NFL Comeback Player of the Year Award. He completed 300 out of 479 (62.6 percent) of his passes for 3,754 yards and 29 touchdowns, with only 10 interceptions. Anderson was also an outstanding scrambler, rushing for another 320 yards and another touchdown. The Bengals main deep threat was rookie wide receiver Cris Collinsworth, who caught 67 passes for 1,009 yards and 8 touchdowns. Tight end Dan Ross had 71 receptions for 910 yards and 5 touchdowns, while wide receiver Isaac Curtis recorded 37 passes for 609 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fullback Pete Johnson was the leading rusher on the team, with 1,077 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was also a good receiver out of the backfield, catching 46 passes for another 320 yards and 4 touchdowns. A big reason for Cincinnati's production on offense was their line, led by future Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz.
The Bengals also had an outstanding defense that had not given up more than 30 points in any of their regular season or playoff games. Their line was anchored by defensive ends Ross Browner and Eddie Edwards, who did a great job stopping the run. Cincinnati's defense was also led by defensive backs Louis Breeden and Ken Riley, and Linebackers Bo Harris, Jim LeClair, and Reggie Williams, who intercepted four passes and recovered three fumbles.
The Bengals went on to win their first ever playoff game by defeating the Buffalo Bills, 28-21, and then defeated San Diego Chargers, 27-7, in a game known as the Freezer Bowl because of the -37 windchill conditions at Riverfront Stadium. Meanwhile, the 49ers went on to defeat the New York Giants, 38-24, and then narrowly beat the Dallas Cowboys, 28-27, on a last second touchdown pass known as The Catch.
Cincinnati head coach Forrest Gregg became the second person to play in a Super Bowl and then be a head coach in a Super Bowl. Gregg played in Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II as a member of the Green Bay Packers. Tom Flores, who coached in Super Bowl XV, was the first.
This was the first Super Bowl to feature two first-time participants since Super Bowl III. (There has been only one since, Super Bowl XX between the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots). This was also the only Super Bowl to date between two teams who had losing records the previous season, although Super Bowl XXXIV matched a team that had a losing record in 1998 (St. Louis Rams) vs. a team that finished a mediocre 8-8 that year (Tennessee Titans).
This is the only Super Bowl to have ever been played at the Pontiac Silverdome. This was also only the second of 16 Super Bowls to not take place in one of the three so-called "Big Super Bowl Cities" (the other was Houston in 1974). Fourteen of the previous 16 Super Bowls took place in either Miami, Florida, New Orleans, Louisiana or in the Greater Los Angeles Area. The Super Bowl did return to Michigan for Super Bowl XL but that game was played at Ford Field in Detroit, which by 2006 had replaced the Pontiac Silverdome as the home site for the Detroit Lions.
The game was one of the most watched broadcasts in American television history, with more than 85 million viewers. The final national Nielsen rating was a 49.1 (a 73 share), which is still a Super Bowl record, and ranking second only to the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1983. (Super Bowl XLII holds the record for TOTAL U.S. viewership, with an audience of 97.5 million; but only a rating of 43.2, a 65 share).
From there, quarterback Joe Montana led the 49ers offense to the Cincinnati 47-yard line with 3 consecutive completions. Then, the 49ers ran a fake reverse – flea flicker play that involved wide receiver Freddie Solomon and ended with Montana completing a 14-yard pass to tight end Charles Young at the 33. Three running plays and Montana's 14-yard completion to Solomon moved the ball to the 1-yard line. Finally, Montana scored from there on a 1-yard quarterback sneak, giving San Francisco a 7-0 lead.
The Bengals threatened to score early in the second quarter when they advanced across the San Francisco 30-yard line. But after catching a 19-yard pass from Anderson at the 5-yard line, rookie wide receiver Cris Collinsworth lost a fumble while being tackled by 49ers defensive back Eric Wright. After recovering the fumble, the 49ers drove for a Super Bowl record 92 yards, scoring on an 10-yard pass from Montana to fullback Earl Cooper, increasing their lead to 14–0. The play Cooper scored on had not been called by Bill Walsh for 2 years. Cooper's leaping, celebratory spike of the football after scoring became the photo Sports Illustrated used for its post-game cover.
With just over 4 minutes left in the half, Montana lead the 49ers on another scoring drive. First, he completed a 17-yard pass to wide receiver Dwight Clark at the Cincinnati 49-yard line. Then, running back Ricky Patton ran twice, advanced the ball to the 39-yard line. Montana's next two completions to Clark and Solomon moved the ball to the 5-yard line. But then Montana threw 2 straight incompletions, forcing the 49ers to settle for kicker Ray Wersching's 22-yard field goal to increase their lead to 17-0.
With just 15 seconds left in the half, Ray Wersching's ensuing squib kick was muffed by Bengals running back Archie Griffin, and the 49ers recovered the ball on the Bengals 4-yard line. According the NFL's highlight film for the game, the 49ers had discovered Wersching's ability to effectively use the squib during their 1981 season opener when a leg injury kept him from fully powering into the football; ironically, that game took place in the Silverdome. A false start penalty against San Francisco prevented them from attempting to score a touchdown, but Wersching kicked a 26-yard field goal, increasing the 49ers' lead, 20–0, the largest halftime lead in Super Bowl history.
After receiving the opening kickoff of the second half, the Bengals drove 83 yards in 9 plays, scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run by Anderson to cut the deficit to 20–7. This seemed to fire up Cincinnati's defense, who limited the 49ers to only 8 plays and 4 offensive yards for the entire third quarter.
Later in the quarter, Bengals defensive back Mike Fuller's 17-yard punt return gave the Bengals the ball at midfield. 2 penalties and a 4-yard sack pushed them back to their own 37, but on third down, Collinsworth's 49-yard reception from Anderson moved the ball the San Francisco 14-yard line. Johnson then later successfully converted on a fourth down run, giving the Bengals a first down on the 3-yard line. On that play, the 49ers only had 10 players on the field because LB Keena Turner, who was seriously ill with the chicken pox during Super Bowl week, missed a call to enter the game. On first down, Johnson drove into the line and gained 2 yards down the 49ers 1-yard line. The Bengals then tried to run Johnson into the line on second down, but lost a yard when a charging rush prevented the Bengals from establishing an up-the-middle blocking plan. Cincinnati receiver David Verser also missed a blocking audible by Anderson. On third down, 49ers linebacker Dan Bunz made probably the key defensive play of the game. Anderson faked to Johnson and threw a swing pass out to running back Charles Alexander, who was isolated on Bunz. Bunz, however, corraled Alexander at the line of scrimmage on an open-field tackle and kept him from reaching the end zone. Highlights showed that Alexander was supposed to have entered the end zone before making his cut and his early turn prevented a touchdown pass.
Rather than attempting a field goal on fourth down, the Bengals sent Johnson into the middle of the line one last time. But San Francisco linebacker Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds and safety Ronnie Lott tackled him for no gain, giving the ball back to the 49ers.
The 49ers only gained 8 yards on their ensuing drive, and Bengals got the ball back after receiving Jim Miller's 44 yard punt at their own 47-yard line. Taking advantage of their great starting field position, the Bengals marched 53 yards in 7 plays and scored a touchdown on a 4-yard pass from Anderson to Ross. With the score, the deficit was cut to 20-14 with 10:06 left in the fourth quarter.
But the 49ers countered with a 50-yard, 9-play drive that took 4:41 off the clock, and included Montana's 22-yard pass to receiver Mike Wilson and 7 consecutive running plays. Wilson's reception was a play Bill Walsh specifically designed for the Super Bowl that capitalized on the Bengals' doing a long-run coverage on Wilson anytime he ran a pass route over 20 yards; Wilson simply ran 25 yards straight out and then cut back to receive Montana's precision pass. Wersching ended the drive with a 40-yard field goal to give San Francisco a 23-14 lead with just 5 minutes left.
On the Bengals first play after receiving the ensuing kickoff, Wright intercepted a pass from Anderson. After returning the interception 25 yards, Wright fumbled while being tackled by Bengals guard Max Montoya, but San Francisco linebacker Willie Harper recovered the ball at the Bengals 22-yard line.
The 49ers then ran the ball on 5 consecutive plays, taking 3 minutes off the clock, to advance to the Cincinnati 6-yard line. Wersching then kicked his fourth field goal to increase the 49ers lead to 26–14 with less than 2 minutes left in the game. Wersching's 4 field goals tied a Super Bowl record set by Green Bay Packers kicker Don Chandler in Super Bowl II. Because of his 4 field goals and the close score, this is the only Super Bowl in which the losing team scored more touchdowns than the winning team (Cincinnati 3, San Francisco 2).
Anderson completed 6 consecutive passes on the Bengals ensuing drive, the last one a 3-yard touchdown pass to Ross, to make the score 26–21, but with less than 20 seconds left in the game. The Bengals tried an onside kick, but Clark recovered the ball for the 49ers, allowing San Francisco to run out the clock to win the game.
The game featured several great performances by players on both teams. Montana threw for 157 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for another 18 yards and a touchdown. Wright had an interception and forced a fumble. Collinsworth caught 5 passes for 107 yards, an average of 21.4 yards per catch. Cris Collinsworth and Dan Ross became the second pair teammates to each have 100 yards receiving in a Super Bowl. Collinsworth had 107, while Ross had 104. John Stallworth and Lynn Swann were the first to do so in Super Bowl XIII. Ross is the only tight end to have 100 yards receiving in a Super Bowl.
Fuller gained 35 yards on 4 punt returns. Ross recorded a Super Bowl record 11 receptions for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns (the most ever by a tight end in a Super Bowl) and he remains tied for the most receptions in a Super Bowl with Jerry Rice (who tied Ross' record in the Super Bowl rematch), Deion Branch, and Wes Welker. Anderson finished the game with 25 out of 34 pass completions for 300 yards and 2 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions. He also gained 14 rushing yards and a touchdown on 6 carries. Anderson's 25 completions and his 73.5 completion percentage were both Super Bowl records.
|Freddie Solomon||WR||Isaac Curtis|
|Dan Audick||LT||Anthony Munoz|
|John Ayers||LG||Dave Lapham|
|Fred Quillan||C||Blair Bush|
|Randy Cross||RG||Max Montoya|
|Keith Fahnhorst||RT||Mike Wilson|
|Charle Young||TE||Dan Ross|
|Dwight Clark||WR||Cris Collinsworth|
|Joe Montana||QB||Ken Anderson|
|Earl Cooper||FB||Pete Johnson|
|Ricky Patton||RB||Charles Alexander|
|Dwaine Board||LE||Eddie Edwards|
|Jim Stuckey||LDT-NT||Wilson Whitley|
|Archie Reese||RDT-RE||Ross Browner|
|Fred Dean||RE-LOLB||Bo Harris|
|Bobby Leopold||LOLB-LILB||Glenn Cameron|
|Jack Reynolds||MLB-RILB||Jim LeClair|
|Keena Turner||ROLB||Reggie Williams|
|Ronnie Lott||LCB||Louis Breeden|
|Eric Wright||RCB||Ken Riley|
|Carlton Williamson||SS||Bobby Kemp|
|Dwight Hicks||FS||Bryan Hicks|