January 24, 1982
San Francisco 49ers 26
Cincinnati Bengals 21
Super Bowl XVI was the Super Bowl debut of Joe Montana. Before the season started, nobody could have predicted that these teams would meet in the Super Bowl, as they both had 6-10 records the previous year. The quarterbacks were the big reason for both teams’ success. Joe Montana emerged, and would go on to be one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and the Bengals’ 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.
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.
This play was the end of one dynasty and the birth of another:
In the Super Bowl, 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.
The Bengals had an opportunity to score first. But Anderson threw an interception at the 5 yard line. The 49ers then drove, and scored on a 1 yard quarterback sneak.
The Bengals then had another opportunity to score early in the 2nd quarter. But Cris Collinsworth lost a fumble while being tackled by 49ers defensive back Eric Wright at the 5 yard line.
The 49ers recovered the fumble, and drove 92 yards, scoring on an 10-yard pass from Montana to fullback Earl Cooper, increasing their lead to 14–0. Cooper’s leaping, celebratory spike of the football after scoring became the photo Sports Illustrated used for its post-game cover.
Later on in the quarter, the 49ers went on another drive, and ended up with a field goal, going up 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. The 49ers had a false start penalty which prevented them from scoring another touchdown, but they got another field goal. The 20-0 halftime lead was the largest halftime lead in Super Bowl history to that date.
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 on in the quarterback, the Bengals drove, and had a first down on the 3 yard line. But, the 49ers held them. The Bengals tried to score a touchdown on 4th down, but were held back as the quarter was coming to a close.
The 49ers could not get anywhere on their next drive, so the Bengals had great field position after receiving the ball back. 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. They got a field goal, increasing their lead to 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. They got another field goal making the score 26–14 with less than 2 minutes left in the game. 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. This marked the first time in Super Bowl history that the team which compiled the most yards and touchdowns lost.