Super Bowl XXII

Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego
January 31, 1988

Washington Redskins 42
Denver Broncos 10

This was the Doug Williams Super Bowl, and the second Super Bowl in a row that the Denver Broncos took a beating.

The Redskins set the following Super Bowl records in the victory:

* Total offensive yards (602)
* Total offensive rushing yards (280)
* Most touchdowns scored in a Super Bowl game (6)
* Total offensive yards in a quarter (356)[2]
* Most points in a quarter and in a half (35)
* Most touchdowns in a quarter (5)
* The largest deficit that a team has overcome to win a Super Bowl (10 points)

Both teams combined to set the following records:

* Total combined offensive yards (929)

Redskins quarterback Doug Williams was named the Super Bowl MVP, completing 18 of 29 passes for a Super Bowl record 340 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. Williams became the first player in Super Bowl history to pass for four touchdowns in a single quarter, and throw four in a half. Williams was also the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl.

The Broncos routed the Houston Oilers in the Divisional round of the playoffs, 34–10. Denver then won the AFC Championship Game in an exciting game over the AFC Central champion Cleveland Browns 38-33 for the second consecutive year. The game featured the play that became known as The Fumble resulting more bad luck in Cleveland professional sports lore: Denver defensive back and former Tampa Bay Buc Jeremiah Castille stripped the football from Browns running back Ernest Byner and recovered the ensuing fumble as Byner was rushing in for the potential tying touchdown, securing the Broncos’ win.

Meanwhile, the Redskins had narrow wins in the playoffs. First, they won at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears, 21–17. The Redskins won a defensive battle against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, 17-10.

The game started out very well for Denver. After forcing Washington to go 3 and out, the Broncos’ scored on their first play from scrimmage, when quarterback John Elway threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to wide open receiver Ricky Nattiel, giving Denver a quick 7–0 lead after just 1:57 had elapsed in the game. It was the earliest touchdown any team had ever scored in Super Bowl history.

The Broncos quickly forced Washington to punt, and put together another drive. After getting to the 6-yard line, they were forced to get a field goal, and went up 10-0.

On the Redskins’ first play of the second quarter, receiver Ricky Sanders got behind defensive back Mark Haynes (who tried to jam him at the line of scrimmage), caught a pass from Williams, and took it 80 yards for a touchdown. After forcing the Broncos to punt on their next possession, Washington advanced to the Denver 27-yard line. Facing third down and 1, with Denver’s defense expecting a running play, Washington decided to pass and receiver Gary Clark made a diving catch in the end zone for a touchdown to give Washington a 14–10 lead.

After the ensuing kickoff Denver drove to the Washington 26-yard line, aided by running back Sammy Winder’s 27-yard reception and Elway’s 21-yard run. After Elway threw an incomplete pass on third down, however, Karlis missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. On the first play of the Redskins’ ensuing drive, Williams threw a 16-yard completion to Clark. Then on the next play, running back Timmy Smith, a rookie in his first NFL start, took off for a 58-yard touchdown run, making the score 21–10.

The Redskins increased their lead to 28–10 on their next possession with a 50-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Sanders, making him the first player in Super Bowl history to catch 2 touchdowns in a single quarter. Four plays after the ensuing kickoff, Washington defensive back Barry Wilburn intercepted a pass from Elway on the Redskin 21 yard-line, and once again the Redskins stormed down the field to score. First, Timmy Smith broke loose for a 43-yard run, then Williams completed a pair of passes to Sanders to reach the Denver 7-yard line. Two plays later, Williams threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Clint Didier to make the score 35–10. On Denver’s next drive, Elway completed 3 consecutive passes for 40 total yards to advance to the Redskins 36-yard line. However, Washington rookie defensive back Brian Davis intercepted Elway’s next pass at the 21-yard line with 7 seconds left in the half.

By the end of the game, Elway was sacked five times and threw three interceptions, and Washington scored another touchdown, a 4-yard run by Smith in the fourth quarter, to bring the game to its final score of 42–10.

The Wonder Years premiered on ABC at the conclusion of this Super Bowl. This was only the second successful series to debut following the Super Bowl (The A-Team, which premiered following Super Bowl XVII, was the other).

2 thoughts on “Super Bowl XXII”

  1. As a resident of Northeast Ohio, I find the clips of The Fumble and The Drive to be…highly entertaining. Not a Browns fan at all.
    However, they were fun to watch in those days. A part of me wanted them to get to at least one Super Bowl. Just to get there, though…
    Sort of liked the Redskins back then, so XXII was an enjoyable game for me as well.


    1. I like Denver, except when they play against the Patriots. I have family from the Denver area, so I loved it when Denver won those games. I feel a little bad for Cleveland now in retrospect, since they still haven’t been to the Super Bowl. But those two Cleveland/Denver games were way better than the Super Bowls themselves.


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