January 25, 1987
New York Giants – 39
Denver Broncos – 20
This Super Bowl introduced a couple of traditions. When the Giants had secured their victory, they dumped a Gatorade cooler on head coach Bill Parcells. While the Giants had done this all season, a national audience was now able to witness it. Over the years, almost every team has done this at the end of a big game since then.
The other tradition was that Super Bowl XXI MVP Phil Simms was the first athlete to appear in a “I’m going to Disney World!” television ad. Ever since then, the Super Bowl MVP would be shown saying “I’m going to Disney World!” or “I’m going to Disneyland!”
Simms finished the game with 22 of 25 passes completed for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Simms also had 25 rushing yards on 3 carries. His 22 out of 25 (88%) completion percentage not only set a Super Bowl record, but also an NFL postseason record for 21 years.
The Giants advanced to their first Super Bowl in team history, and were playing for their first league championship since they lost to the Chicago Bears in the 1963 NFL Championship Game.
Elway’s ability to improvise on the fly, in part, helped Denver to make it through the playoffs, narrowly defeating the New England Patriots, 22–17, and the Cleveland Browns, 23–20, in the AFC Championship Game. The AFC Championship Game against the Browns was particular significant because Elway displayed why many NFL experts thought Super Bowl XXI would be the first of many Super Bowls for him. In what became known as The Drive, the Broncos started from their own 2-yard line, trailing 20-13, with 5:32 left to play. But in 15 plays, Elway led Denver 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown pass with 39 seconds left. The Broncos then won in overtime after Elway’s led them 60 yards in 9 plays to set up kicker Rich Karlis’ game winning field goal.
Meanwhile, the Giants went on to only allow a combined total of 3 points in their playoff victories over the San Francisco 49ers, 49-3, and the Washington Redskins, 17-0, respectively. Such a dominating performance by the Giants’ defense gave the team a lot of confidence going into the Super Bowl match-up versus the Broncos.
Denver started off the Super Bowl pretty good by getting a field goal on their opening drive. But the Giants came right back and took the lead 7-3 on a 9-play, 78-yard drive, capped by a Phil Simms 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zeke Mowatt.
Denver kick returner Ken Bell gave his team great field position by returning the ensuing kickoff 28 yards to the Broncos 42-yard line. Then, Elway completed 3 consecutive passes: a 14-yard completion to running back Sammy Winder, an 11-yard completion to tight end Orson Mobley, and a 9-yard screen pass to Winder. On Winder’s play, the Giants were flagged for two 15-yard penalties. The first was a personal foul called on Harry Carson, who was penalized for hitting Winder out of bounds. The second penalty was an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on Lawrence Taylor, who picked up the first penalty marker and threw it. The penalties moved the ball to the Giants’ six-yard line, and three plays later Elway scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Broncos a 10–7 lead.
With 2:46 left to go in the second quarter, Giants defensive end George Martin sacked Elway in the end zone for a safety, cutting Denver’s lead to 10-9. The safety was immediately preceded by the first use of instant replay in a Super Bowl game. Elway appeared to complete a pass to tight end Clarence Kay for a 25-yard gain. The play was originally ruled a completion, but the call was changed on the field to an incomplete pass. After conferring the play was reviewed by the replay officials, and director of officiating Art McNally ruled that Kay did not catch the ball.
In the second half, the Giants dominated the Broncos, outscoring them 30-10 with four touchdowns and a field goal on their first five possessions.
On the opening drive of the second half, Simms threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Mark Bavaro to give the Giants a 16-10 lead. After the Broncos were forced to punt, the Giants got a 21-yard field goal by Raul Allegre.
After another Bronco punt, and Giant drive, Joe Morris scored a 1-yard touchdown run to make the score 26-10.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, John Elway threw an interception. The Giants were able to drive and got a 6-yard touchdown pass when Simms threw a pass that bounced off Bavaro’s fingertips, but fell right into the arms of Phil McConkey. The Giants lead was now 33-10.
The Broncos finally managed to get a good drive going on their next possession, advancing the ball 74 yards in 13 plays and scoring on Karlis’s 28-yard field goal, cutting their deficit to 33-13. But the Giants recovered Denver’s ensuing onside kick attempt and stormed right back for another touchdown. On the drive, Rouson ran for 18 yards and then Simms ran for a 22-yard gain. Running back Ottis Anderson finished the drive off with a 2-yard touchdown run to make the score 39-13 after Allegre’s extra point attempt failed.
Denver later managed to cut their deficit to 39-20 with Elway’s 47-yard touchdown pass to Vance Johnson (the 100th TD in Super Bowl history), but by then there was only a little more than two minutes left in the game.
As the final seconds of the game ticked away Harry Carson, continuing the recent trend started by the Giants, gave head coach Bill Parcells a Gatorade shower, going as far as to take off his jersey and pads and sneak behind Parcells with a Rose Bowl security team shirt on.