One Worth Watching
After several Super Bowls that were mostly hype followed by few thrills, XXIII turned out to be better than its advance billing. During the preceding week, the traditional media overkill was somewhat upstaged by a real killing, as Miami was the scene of bloody riots precipitated by a police shooting. The tragic events put the importance of a football game--even the Super Bowl--into perspective.
Nevertheless, more than 75,000 paid $8.1 million for tickets to Joe Robbie Stadium to watch the Bengals and 49ers, and advertisers shelled out $675,000 for each 30-second chance to reach more than 100 million television viewers. For once, the money may have been well spent.
The first half was a defensive struggle, punctuated by two key injuries. On the first series after the kickoff, San Francisco OT Steve Wallace was sidelined with a broken ankle, depriving the 49ers of one of their best blockers. After an exchange of punts, Cincinnati's All-Pro NT Tim Krumrie was injured on a freak play when he planted his foot and his left leg snapped in two places. The injury came on the first play of a 73-yard, 13-play San Francisco drive that culminated in Mike Cofer's 41-yard field goal. At the end of the first quarter, the 49ers started another drive from their 30 that finished at the Cincinnati two. But Cofer's attempt at a second field goal was foiled by a bad snap.
The Bengals tied the score late in the second quarter on Jim Breech's 34-yard field goal after a short drive from midfield.
The defensive battle continued into the third period. The Bengals took the kickoff and drove 61 yards, despite three penalties. Two passes from Boomer Esiason to Cris Collinsworth paced the drive. When Cincinnati stalled at the 49er 25, Breech kicked his second field goal to make the score 6-3.
San Francisco came back to tie the game late in the third quarter. Rookie LB Bill Romanowski intercepted Esiason at the 23 with 2:22 remaining. Four plays later, Cofer kicked a 32-yard field goal to knot the score again. The tie lasted until the ensuing kickoff. The Bengals' Standford Jennings took the ball at his seven and burst 93 yards to a touchdown and put Cincinnati back in front 13-6.
Joe Montana led his team downfield in four plays from his own 15, completing a 31-yard pass to Jerry Rice and a 40-yarder to Roger Craig. From the Cincinnati 14, Montana threw into the endzone and into the hands of Bengals CB LewisBillups, but he dropped the ball. On the next play, Montana threw left to Rice for a touchdown to tie the score again at 13-13.
Cincinnati was unable to gain and punted to San Francisco at the 49er 18. On the first play, Montana hit Rice for 44 yards. When two running plays and a pass failed to pick up the first down, Cofer tried for a field goal from the Cincinnati 49, but his attempt was wide right. The Bengals drove to the San Francisco 22, with the key play being a third-and-12 pass from Esiason to Ira Hillary. Breech kicked his third field goal, a 40-yarder, to give the Bengals a 16-13 lead with 3:20 remaining.
It was time for the drive of the game. Montana started from his own eight with short passes to John Frank and Rice. At the 35, he connected with Rice for 17 yards to move the ball into Cincinnati territory. A 13 yarder to Craig put the ball at the 35, but a penalty sent the 49ers back to the 45. With 1:15 on the clock and a 2nd-and-20 situation, Montana threw over the middle to Rice, who was finally hauled down at the Bengals' 18. A quick pass over the middle to Craig gained eight. Then Montana hit John Taylor in the endzone for the winning touchdown, completing an 11-play, 92-yard drive. Cincinnati was unable to do anything in the 34 seconds they had left, and San Francisco had its third Super Bowl victory of the 1980s.