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Super Bowl XXII

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31 January 1988

Cost of 30 second commercial
645,000 USD



Washington Redskins

Bob McElwee

Market share

Super Bowl XXII httpssmediacacheak0pinimgcomoriginals11

Doug Williams, Quarterback

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California, United States

Super Bowl XXIII, Super Bowl XXIV, Super Bowl XXVI, Super Bowl XXV, Super Bowl XXI

Super bowl xxii doug williams defeats john elway redskins vs broncos nfl full game

Super Bowl XXII was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Washington Redskins and American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1987 season. The Redskins defeated the Broncos by the score of 42–10, winning their second ever Super Bowl. The game was played on January 31, 1988 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, the first time that the Super Bowl was played in that city.


Super Bowl XXII Super Bowl XXII Redskins Williams makes history NY Daily News

This Super Bowl came at the end of a season that was shortened by a players' strike. Each team only missed one regular season game due to the labor dispute, but three games were played mostly with replacement players until the dispute was settled. The Broncos were making their second consecutive Super Bowl, and third overall appearance, after posting a 10–4–1 regular season record, largely through the strength of their quarterback, John Elway. This would be the last time that a team with a tie in their regular season record would play in a Super Bowl until the 2012 San Francisco 49ers played in Super Bowl XLVII with an 11–4–1 record.

Super Bowl XXII Win Super Bowl XXII

The Redskins, who were making their fourth Super Bowl appearance after posting an 11–4 regular season record, were led by quarterback Doug Williams. After Williams entered the season as a backup, he was promoted to starter midway through the season and led Washington to two playoff victories. In games not started by Williams, the team was 11-2 (including a 3-0 record in games played by replacement players). Williams was 0-2 as a starter during the regular season.

Super Bowl XXII Redskins 42 Broncos 10 in Super Bowl XXII Redskin Historian

After trailing 10–0 at the end of the first quarter of Super Bowl XXII, the Redskins scored 42 unanswered points, including a record-breaking 35 points in the second quarter, and setting several other Super Bowl records. Williams, who was named the Super Bowl MVP, completed 18 of 29 passes for a Super Bowl record 340 yards and four touchdowns, with one interception. He also became the first player in Super Bowl history to pass for four touchdowns in a single quarter, and four in a half. Williams was the first African American starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl. The 10-point deficit was the largest deficit overcome by a team to win the Super Bowl in any given season until Super Bowl LI (2017).

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Super bowl xxii washington 42 denver 10


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NFL owners voted to award Super Bowl XXII to San Diego on May 24, 1984 during their May 23–25, 1984 meetings in Washington, D.C. This was the first Super Bowl to be played at Jack Murphy Stadium (now currently known as Qualcomm Stadium) in San Diego, California.

Super Bowl XXII Super Bowl 50 Top 15 quarterback performances of alltime Page 12

Fourteen cities were part of the bidding process, which was scheduled to award four Super Bowls (XXI, XXII, XXIII, and XXIV). The bidding cities included: Anaheim, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Pasadena, Philadelphia, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Tampa, and Tempe. The Philadelphia host committee assembled what was considered a strong, but long-shot bid, hoping to win the first outdoor Super Bowl in a cold weather city. Jacksonville had no NFL team at the time; the Jacksonville Jaguars were founded in 1993 and would not start play until 1995.

After the balloting for XXI took over two hours to complete, XXII was also voted on, but the voting for XXIII and XXIV was postponed. San Diego was awarded the game, marking the second time consecutive Super Bowls were played in the same state, with Pasadena hosting Super Bowl XXI. This has now happened three times in NFL history; Super Bowls II and III were both played at the Miami Orange Bowl and Super Bowls XLIII and XLIV were played in Florida (at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa and Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens).

Washington Redskins

The primary storyline surrounding Super Bowl XXII was that Washington's Doug Williams was the first African-American quarterback ever to start in a NFL league championship game, let alone a Super Bowl.

Williams had taken a rather unconventional route to the Super Bowl. He began his career as the first round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1978. After five seasons (including a trip to the NFC championship game in 1979), a contract dispute caused him to leave the team and sign with the Oklahoma Outlaws of the newly formed USFL. When that league folded a few years later, Williams found himself out of a job until Redskins coach Joe Gibbs asked him to join the team to be the backup for quarterback Jay Schroeder. Williams played just one game in 1986, and spent most of the 1987 season on the bench. But injuries and inconsistent play from Schroeder made Gibbs promote Williams to starting quarterback.

Williams had played extremely well in his five regular season games, passing for 1,156 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. The Redskins' main receiving threat was wide receiver Gary Clark, who caught 56 passes for 1,066 yards, an average of 19 yards per catch. Wide receivers Ricky Sanders and Art Monk were also deep threats, combining for 80 receptions and 1,130 yards. Running back George Rogers was Washington's leading rusher with 613 yards. However, Rogers saw limited action in Super Bowl XXII due to injuries that would force him into early retirement. Rookie running back Timmy Smith started in his place. Fullback Kelvin Bryant also was a big contributor, rushing for 406 yards, and catching 43 passes for 490 yards during the 1987 season.

The Redskins also had an excellent defensive unit, led by defensive backs Barry Wilburn, who recorded nine interceptions for 135 return yards and one touchdown; Todd Bowles, who intercepted four passes; and Darrell Green. Their line was anchored by defensive ends Charles Mann, who led the team with 9.5 sacks and recovered a fumble; and Dexter Manley, who recorded 8.5 sacks.

The Redskins finished the 1987 strike-shortened regular season as NFC East champions with an 11–4 record and the third seed in the NFC playoffs.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos advanced to their second consecutive Super Bowl, overall the third appearance in team history. Quarterback John Elway had another excellent season, passing for 3,198 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was also the team's second leading rusher with 304 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receivers Vance Johnson and Ricky Nattiel, and tight end Clarence Kay, combined for 104 receptions and 1,754 yards. Running back Sammy Winder was the leading rusher with 741 yards and six touchdowns, while fullback Gene Lang rushed for 304 yards and caught 17 receptions. The Broncos also possessed a solid defensive unit, led by outside linebacker Karl Mecklenburg, who recorded 7 sacks and picked off three passes, and defensive back Mike Harden with four interceptions. Defensive end Rulon Jones led the line with 7 sacks.

The Broncos finished the strike-shortened 1987 season winning the AFC West with a 10–4–1 record and the number one seed in the AFC playoffs. Dan Reeves was the coach.


The Broncos routed the Houston Oilers in the Divisional round of the playoffs, 34–10, jumping to a 14–0 first-quarter lead off of two quick Oilers turnovers, with Elway completing 14 of 25 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns in the game. Vance Johnson recorded four catches for 105 yards, including a 55-yard reception to set up Elway's second touchdown pass. However, Johnson was injured during the game and had to miss the AFC Championship game, and would play sparingly in the Super Bowl.

Denver then won the AFC Championship Game in exciting fashion over the AFC Central champion Cleveland Browns, 38–33 for the second consecutive year. The Broncos seemed to be in control of the game during the first half, taking a 21–3 lead. But behind quarterback Bernie Kosar, Cleveland rallied back and tied the score 31–31 in the fourth quarter. Elway responded with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Winder, taking the lead back with less than five minutes left in regulation. The Browns took the ball back and drove to the Denver 8-yard line, but the drive ended with a play that became known as The Fumble, resulting in more bad luck in Cleveland professional sports lore: Denver defensive back Jeremiah Castille stripped the football from Browns running back Earnest 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 key play was a 52-yard punt return for a touchdown by Redskins defensive back Darrell Green for the go-ahead touchdown. The Bears' Kevin Butler kicked a field goal to close the deficit to 21–17, but the Bears could get no closer. Noteworthy was the Redskins trailed 14–0 early in the game.

The Redskins won a defensive battle against the surprising Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Championship Game, 17–10. The Vikings barely made the playoffs with an 8–7 record during the strike-shortened regular season, but advanced to the NFC championship by winning on the road against the teams with the best records in the NFL, defeating the 12–3 New Orleans Saints 44–10, and the 13–2 San Francisco 49ers 36–24. The experienced Redskins, who had narrowly defeated Minnesota in a 27–24 overtime game during Week 15 of the season, put an end to the Vikings' string of upsets, aided by Williams' go-ahead touchdown pass to wide receiver Gary Clark with five minutes remaining to lead 17–10. Then they sealed the victory with 56 seconds left when a hard hit by Green caused running back Darrin Nelson to drop a potential touchdown catch in the end zone on fourth down and four from the Redskins 6-yard line.

Super Bowl pregame news

Coming into Super Bowl XXII, the Broncos were favored to win (−3 as noted on the NFL Today show by Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder) because most experts thought both teams were equal in terms of talent with Elway presumed to be the superior quarterback to Williams. Elway had won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award and was selected to start for the AFC in the Pro Bowl, while Williams had played just five regular season games in the 1987 season.

Television and entertainment

The game was broadcast in the United States by ABC with play-by-play announcer Al Michaels and color commentators Frank Gifford and Dan Dierdorf. Keith Jackson hosted the pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage for ABC, joined by analysts Lynn Swann and Mike Adamle. (Bob Griese was originally supposed to co-host with Jackson, but had to bow out due to a family illness.) Also helping with ABC's coverage were Jack Whitaker, Jim Hill and Becky Dixon. This would be the first Super Bowl broadcast on ABC to have the broadcast team of Michaels, Gifford, and Dierdorf in the booth (as the 1987 season was the first year the trio was together, with Dierdorf moving to ABC from CBS; Gifford was the only holdover from ABC's Super Bowl XIX telecast). The trio would man the booth for ABC's Monday Night Football from 1987 to 1997 and call Super Bowls XXV and XXIX. It was simulcast in Canada on CTV and in the United Kingdom on Channel 4. It was also the first Super Bowl to be aired on Televisa in Mexico, airing on its Canal de las Estrellas.

The pregame festivities featured a tribute to entertainer Bob Hope, who was approaching the age of 85. Trumpeter Herb Alpert performed "The Star-Spangled Banner", while Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver Don Hutson participated in the coin toss ceremony (the game happened to coincide with Hutson's 75th birthday). Alpert's performance was the last non-vocal performance of the National Anthem in a Super Bowl to date.

The halftime show, produced by Radio City Music Hall, was titled "Something Grand" and featured performances by vocalist Chubby Checker, The Rockettes, and 88 grand pianos.

The Wonder Years premiered on ABC immediately following the game. This was only the second successful series to debut following a Super Bowl up to that time (The A-Team, which had premiered following Super Bowl XVII, was the first). The Wonder Years was a late switch by ABC; which had initially scheduled the two-hour premiere of China Beach for the post Super Bowl slot, but concerns about the game running long and potentially pushing the premiere episode's conclusion after midnight contributed to the program change. The NFL Films NFL's Greatest Games highlight film was titled Ambush at Super Bowl XXII; and was the first such highlight film to feature former Boston and Buffalo radio personality Jefferson Kaye as its narrator.

Game summary

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 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 (this record would be broken by Jerry Rice in Super Bowl XXIX, and later by Devin Hester in Super Bowl XLI). The Broncos quickly forced Washington to punt, and once again Elway displayed his superb scrambling skills. On the second play of Denver's ensuing possession, Elway completed a 32-yard pass to wide receiver Mark Jackson. Then he caught a 23-yard pass from halfback Steve Sewell, becoming the first quarterback ever to catch a pass in the Super Bowl (Elway had scored a touchdown on that play during opening day the previous year against the Raiders). The Redskins managed to halt Denver's drive on the 6-yard line, but kicker Rich Karlis kicked a field goal to increase the Broncos' lead to 10–0.

After yet another Redskins punt, Denver managed to drive to the Washington 30-yard line on their third possession with two runs by Gene Lang for a total of 24 yards and an 18-yard reception by Sewell. But this time they failed to score because Washington safety Alvin Walton sacked Elway for an 18-yard loss on third down, pushing the Broncos out of field goal range. This play would turn out to be the turning point in the game.

Meanwhile, the Redskins could not generate any offensive momentum in the first quarter, with the Broncos' defense forcing a punt on every drive. To make matters worse, late in the period, quarterback Doug Williams twisted his leg while being sacked and had to leave the game. Backup quarterback Jay Schroeder was sacked by Denver's Karl Mecklenburg on his first snap, continuing the Redskins' offensive woes. By the time the quarter ended, the Broncos had more than twice as many total yards of offense (142) as the Redskins (64). With Denver leading 10–0, Washington seemed to face insurmountable odds; no team had ever overcome a 10-point deficit to win a Super Bowl.

However, the Redskin offense began to click upon Williams' return with 14:17 left in the second quarter, and much like they had in the second half of Super Bowl XXI against the New York Giants, the Bronco defense seemed to collapse.

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 Redskins 21-yard line, and once again, the Redskins stormed down the field to score. First, 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 three 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.

In the second quarter alone, Williams completed 9 of 11 passes for 228 yards and 4 touchdowns; Smith rushed 5 times for 122 yards and a touchdown; and Sanders caught 4 passes for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Redskins scored 35 points and gained 356 yards in total offense, both Super Bowl records.

By the end of the game, Elway was sacked five times and threw three interceptions, and Washington scored another touchdown on a 68-yard fourth-quarter drive featuring a 25-yard run by Clark on a reverse and three runs by Smith for 43 yards, the last a 4-yard touchdown to bring the game to its final score of 42–10.

Smith finished the game with a Super Bowl record 204 rushing yards, and scored 2 touchdowns. His 58-yard touchdown run in the second quarter tied Tom Matte in Super Bowl III for the third-longest run in Super Bowl history, and Smith's 9.3 yard per carry average was the third-highest. Sanders caught 9 passes for 193 yards and 2 touchdowns, and returned 3 kickoffs for 46 yards. His 193 receiving yards and his 235 total offensive yards were both Super Bowl records, and his 80-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter also tied a Super Bowl record. Clark caught 3 passes for 55 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing once for 25 yards. Wilburn recorded 2 interceptions, while Walton had 2 sacks. Meanwhile, running back Gene Lang was the Broncos' leading rusher, with only 38 yards on 5 carries. Elway finished the game with 14 out of 38 pass completions for 257 yards, 1 touchdown, and 3 interceptions. He was also Denver's second-leading rusher with 32 yards on 3 carries; this would be the only Super Bowl in which Elway played and did not score a rushing touchdown. Jackson was Denver's top receiver with 4 catches for 76 yards.

In 2015, on the occasion of Super Bowl 50, Slate writer Justin Peters watched all the games over a two-month period. He considered Super Bowl XXII to be the best Super Bowl ever, declaring it was, "The most significant Super Bowl ever played. The most unlikely comeback from the most unlikely quarterback, Doug Williams, who led his team to score 35 points in the second quarter: a single-quarter Super Bowl scoring record that still stands!"

Final statistics

Sources: Super Bowl XXII, Super Bowl XXII Play Finder Was, Super Bowl XXII Play Finder Den

Individual statistics

1Completions/attempts 2Carries 3Long gain 4Receptions 5Times targeted

Records Set

The following records were set in Super Bowl XXII, according to the official boxscore and the ProFootball game summary.

  • † Combined yardage category includes rushing, receiving, interception returns, punt returns, kickoff returns, and fumble returns.
  • Starting lineups


    Hall of Fame‡


  • Referee: Bob McElwee #95 first Super Bowl on field; alternate for XVII
  • Umpire: Al Conway #27 fourth Super Bowl (IX, XIV, XVI)
  • Head Linesman: Dale Hamer #104 second Super Bowl (XVII)
  • Line Judge: Jack Fette #39 fifth Super Bowl (V, VIII, X, XIII)
  • Field Judge: Johnny Grier #23 first and only Super Bowl
  • Side Judge: Don Wedge #28 first Super Bowl
  • Back Judge: Al Jury #106 second Super Bowl (XX)
  • Alternate Referee: Jerry Markbreit #9 alternate for XIX; four Super Bowls (XVII, XXI, XXVI, XXIX) on field
  • Alternate Umpire: Ben Montgomery #117 did not work Super Bowl on field
  • Following this game, Johnny Grier was promoted to referee, becoming the first African-American to lead an NFL officiating crew.

    Jack Fette retired following this game and became a replay official.


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