Super Bowl XXIV was an American football game played on January 28, 1990 at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion following the 1989 regular season. The National Football Conference (NFC) champion San Francisco 49ers (17-2) won their fourth Super Bowl by defeating the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos (13-6), 55–10. It remains the most lopsided game in Super Bowl history to date. The 49ers' 55 points were the most ever scored by one team, and their 45-point margin of victory was the largest ever. The 49ers are the only team in a Super Bowl to score at least two touchdowns in each quarter. Their 2nd of 8 touchdowns ended with a missed extra point however. They are also the only team to score 8 touchdowns in a Super Bowl.
This marked the first time in 10 years that a team won back-to-back Super Bowls, the last time being when the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowls XIII and XIV following the 1978 and 1979 seasons. The Broncos became the second team to lose three Super Bowls in four years after losing Super Bowls XXI and XXII, both by considerable margins as well. The Vikings also lost three Super Bowls in four years (VIII, IX and XI). The Buffalo Bills have also joined this group since. Joe Montana was named the Super Bowl MVP, his third award in his fourth Super Bowl victory. He completed 22 of 29 passes for a total of 297 yards and a Super Bowl record 5 touchdowns, while also rushing for 15 yards. Montana's 75.9 completion percentage was the second highest in Super Bowl history, and he also set a record by completing 13 consecutive passes during the game. Head coach George Seifert was the second rookie head coach to win a Super Bowl. Montana became the third player in league history to win both the Super Bowl MVP and the AP Most Valuable Player Award during the same season. Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw also won both after the 1966 and 1978 seasons, respectively.
The 49ers offense was just as dominating as it was during the previous regular season. Quarterback Joe Montana threw for 3,512 yards, 26 touchdowns, and only 8 interceptions, giving him what was then the highest quarterback rating in NFL history (112.4). Montana also rushed for 227 yards and 3 touchdowns, and earned both the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Wide receiver Jerry Rice had another outstanding season, catching 82 passes for 1,483 yards and 17 touchdowns. Running back Roger Craig was the team's leading rusher with 1,054 yards and 6 touchdowns, and he recorded 49 receptions for 473 yards and another touchdown.
But other stars on the 49ers offense began to emerge, enabling the team to spread the ball around. After being used primarily as a punt returner during his first 2 seasons, wide receiver John Taylor had a breakout season, catching 60 passes for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns, while also returning 36 punts for 417 yards. Tight End Brent Jones recorded 40 receptions for 500 yards. Fullback Tom Rathman had the best season of his career, rushing for 305 yards and catching 73 passes for 616 yards. Even Montana's backup, quarterback Steve Young, had a great year, throwing for 1,001 yards and 8 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions, while also rushing for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns. With all of these weapons, San Francisco's offense led the league in total yards from scrimmage (6,268) and scoring (442 points).
The 49ers defense ranked third in the NFL in fewest points allowed (253). Defensive ends Charles Haley and Pierce Holt each recorded 10.5 sacks. Their linebacking corps was anchored by Keena Turner, Matt Millen, and Bill Romanowski. Future Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott led the team with 5 interceptions. Defensive backs Eric Wright and Chet Brooks also combined for 5 interceptions between them.
One of Denver's new major additions was rookie running back Bobby Humphrey, who rushed for 1,151 yards, caught 22 passes for 156 yards, and scored 8 touchdowns. Humphrey gave the Broncos a powerful running attack that they lacked in their previous Super Bowl seasons. The defense had a new weapon as well: rookie free safety Steve Atwater. Together with veteran defensive backs Dennis Smith, Wymon Henderson and Tyrone Braxton, the Broncos secondary combined for 14 interceptions. Braxton lead the team with 6, which he returned for 103 yards and a touchdown, while also recovering 2 fumbles. Another new addition was defensive end Ron Holmes, who recorded 9 sacks. Holmes, along with veteran linebackers Karl Mecklenburg (7.5 sacks and 4 fumble recoveries) and Simon Fletcher (12 sacks) gave Denver one of the top defensive lines in the AFC.
Veteran receiver Vance Johnson had the best season of his career, catching 76 passes for 1,095 yards and 7 touchdowns, while also returning 12 punts for 118 yards. However, quarterback John Elway played inconsistently during the regular season, throwing just as many interceptions as touchdowns (18) and recording only a 73.7 passer rating.
Despite his regular season problems, Elway ended up playing his best during the playoffs. First, he led the Broncos on a last minute touchdown drive to narrowly defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-23. The Steelers held a 17-10 halftime lead before Elway's 37-yard touchdown pass to Vance Johnson tied the game in the third quarter. Then after Pittsburgh scored 2 field goals to take a 23-17 fourth quarter lead, Elway led the Broncos on a 71-yard drive to score on the Melvin Bratton's 1-yard game winning touchdown run. On the ensuing drive, Randy Robbins then recovered a Steelers fumble on third down with 2:02 left to clinch the victory.
The Broncos then defeated the Cleveland Browns, 37-21, in the AFC Championship Game. This was the third time in the last four years that both teams faced each other in AFC Championship, and the previous two resulted in two of the most famous games in NFL Lore: The Drive and The Fumble. In this game, the Broncos seemed to be in complete control at first, building up a 24-7 lead. But Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar rallied his team back with 2 third quarter touchdowns, cutting the lead to 24-21 going into the final period. Some observers began to wonder if this game would become known as "The Comeback". However, Elway destroyed any chance of a Browns comeback by leading the Broncos 80 yards and scoring with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Winder on the first drive of the fourth quarter. Denver then scored field goals on each of their next 2 drives to put the game away. Elway finished the game with 385 passing yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions, while also leading Denver in rushing with 5 caries for 39 yards.
Meanwhile, San Francisco started out their postseason by blowing out the Minnesota Vikings, 41-13. Minnesota started out the game by marching 70 yards on their opening drive and scoring a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. But the 49ers dominated the rest of the game. On their first play from the line of scrimmage, Montana completed a short pass to Rice, who then took it all the way to the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown reception. The next time they had the ball, Montana led them on another touchdown drive, scoring on a short pass to Jones. Then defensive back Chet Brooks intercepted a pass from Vikings quarterback Wade Wilson and returned it 28 yards, setting up Montana's third touchdown pass on an 8-yard toss to Taylor. Then just before half ended, Montana threw another touchdown pass to Rice, giving the 49ers a 28-3 halftime lead. Then in the fourth quarter, San Francisco scored 2 more touchdowns to put the game away: a 53-yard interception return by Lott and a 4-yard run by Craig. Montana finished the game with 241 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Wilson was held to just 9 completions for 74 yards and intercepted twice.
The 49ers then entered the NFC Championship Game against the Los Angeles Rams, who were coming off postseason wins against two of the NFC's toughest teams, the New York Giants and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Rams scored first to take a 3-0 lead. However, the 49ers took over in the second quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points on 2 touchdown passes by Montana and touchdown run by Craig. By the time the first half ended, San Francisco had a commanding 21-3 lead and went on to a surprisingly easy 30-3 win and their second consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Montana had another superb performance, compiling 262 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, again without throwing an interception. Rams quarterback Jim Everett was held to 163 yards and threw 3 interceptions.
On their opening possession, Denver was forced to punt after three plays and the 49ers scored on their ensuing drive, marching 66 yards and scoring on a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Joe Montana to receiver Jerry Rice.
The Broncos responded with a 49-yard scoring drive, mainly on plays by running back Bobby Humphrey, who rushed 4 times for 22 yards and caught a 27-yard shovel pass, Elway's longest completion of the game. Kicker David Treadwell finished the drive with a 42-yard field goal to cut the Broncos deficit to 7-3.
Denver's defense forced San Francisco to punt on their next drive after 3 plays, and receiver Vance Johnson gave his team good field position with a 7-yard return to the Broncos' 49-yard line. But then Humphrey lost a fumble at midfield while being tackled by defensive end Kevin Fagan, and safety Chet Brooks recovered the loose ball for San Francisco.
From then on, the 49ers completely took over the game. Ten plays after the fumble recovery, the 49ers scored on a 7-yard pass from Montana to tight end Brent Jones. Kicker Mike Cofer missed the extra point attempt, keeping the score at 13-3, but it turned out to be the only miscue the 49ers would make for the rest of the game. Once again, the Broncos were forced to punt three plays after the ensuing kickoff, and the 49ers advanced 69 yards in 13 plays to score another touchdown. The key player on that drive was fullback Tom Rathman, who caught 3 passes for 39 yards, kept the drive alive with a successful run on a fourth down conversion, and capped it off a 1-yard touchdown to make the score 20-3. Later in the second quarter, wide receiver John Taylor's 17-yard punt return gave the 49ers the ball near midfield, and they scored another touchdown with a 38-yard completion from Montana to Rice, increasing their lead to 27-3 at the end of the half.
When the second half started, the 49ers picked up right where they left off. Linebacker Mike Walter intercepted Broncos quarterback John Elway's first pass of the third quarter, and Montana threw a 28-yard touchdown reception to Rice on the next play. Then Elway was intercepted again on the Broncos' ensuing drive, this time by Brooks, who returned the ball 38 yards to the Denver 37-yard line. Two plays later, Montana fooled defensive back Steve Atwater with a pump fake in Rice's direction, and then threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Taylor, making the score 41-3.
Denver's lone touchdown came on their next possession, a 61-yard, 5-play drive. First, Broncos defensive back Darren Carrington returned the ensuing kickoff 39 yards to the 39-yard line. Elway's 13-yard completion to Johnson, a 34-yard run from Humphrey, and a pass interference penalty on 49ers linebacker Bill Romanowski moved the ball to the San Francisco 1-yard line. Elway then capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run on third down, cutting their deficit to 41-10.
However, the 49ers continued to dominate the Broncos. San Francisco responded to Denver's score with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:56 off the clock, and ended with Rathman's 3-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Then after the ensuing kickoff, Elway was sacked for a 6-yard loss by defensive end Danny Stubbs. Then after an offsides penalty on the 49ers, cornerback Don Griffin sacked Elway, forcing a fumble. Stubbs recovered the loose ball and returned it 15 yards to Denver's 1-yard line. 49ers running back Roger Craig then closed out the scoring with a 1-yard touchdown run on the next play to make the final score of the game 55-10.
Rice finished the game with 7 receptions for 148 yards and a Super Bowl record 3 receiving touchdowns (he joined teammate Roger Craig as the only players to score three touchdowns in a Super Bowl; Craig did it in Super Bowl XIX - 2 receiving and 1 rushing). Craig was the leading rusher of the game with 69 rushing yards and a touchdown, while also catching 5 passes for 34 yards. Rathman rushed for 38 yards and 2 touchdowns while also catching 4 passes for 43 yards. Taylor caught 3 passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and added another 38 yards on 3 punt returns. Elway was held to just 10 completions out of 26 attempts for 108 yards with no touchdowns, and was intercepted 2 times. Elway also ran for a touchdown, and fumbled twice (although he recovered one of them). Humphrey was Denver's leading rusher and receiver, with 61 rushing yards and 3 receptions for 38 yards. Carrington returned 6 kickoffs for 146 yards.
|Jerry Rice||WR||Vance Johnson|
|Bubba Paris||LT||Gerald Perry|
|Guy McIntyre||LG||Jim Juriga|
|Jesse Sapolu||C||Keith Kartz|
|Bruce Collie||RG||Doug Widell|
|Harris Barton||RT||Ken Lanier|
|Brent Jones||TE||Orson Mobley|
|John Taylor||WR||Mark Jackson|
|Joe Montana||QB||John Elway|
|Tom Rathman||FB||Steve Sewell|
|Roger Craig||RB||Bobby Humphrey|
|Pierce Holt||LE||Alphonso Carreker|
|Michael Carter||NT||Greg Kragen|
|Kevin Fagan||RE||Ron Holmes|
|Charles Haley||LOLB||Michael Brooks|
|Matt Millen||LILB||Rick Dennison|
|Michael Walter||RILB||Karl Mecklenburg|
|Keena Turner||ROLB||Simon Fletcher|
|Darryl Pollard||LCB||Tyrone Braxton|
|Don Griffin||RCB||Wymon Henderson|
|Chet Brooks||SS||Dennis Smith|
|Ronnie Lott||FS||Steve Atwater|