Super Bowl LI kicks off in six hours and 20 minutes in Houston.
Why do I have the feeling this Super Bowl will be just like two involving the 49ers?
Super Bowl XXIV was the fourth played in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (then the Louisiana Superdome). The 49ers came in as the defending champions and had mauled most of their competition during the season. San Francisco lost only two games by a combined total of five points (13-12 to the Rams, 21-17 to the Packers, who had their best season in the 19-year period from 1973 through 1991, but did not qualify for the playoffs). The 49ers were 8-0 on the road. They won their playoff games vs. the Vikings and Rams by a combined score of 71-16.
The Broncos were in the Super Bowl for the third time in four seasons. They were embarrassed by the Giants in XXI and the Redskins in XXII. They recovered from an 8-8 campaign in ’88 to go 11-5 in ’89, which got them home field advantage in a weak AFC. Denver’s defense was much improved from what it had been in 1986 and ’87, but it was still all about John Elway.
Unlike the 49ers, the Broncos had a tough time in the playoffs. They barely survived the wild card Steelers 24-23 in the divisional round, then pulled away to defeat the Browns 37-21 for the AFC championship, the third time in four seasons Denver and Cleveland met with a trip to
In the two weeks leading up to Super Bowl XXIV, there were only two players anyone cared about. One, Joe Montana, was going for his fourth Super Bowl ring in eight years. The other, John Elway, was on the verge of joining Fran Tarkenton as the only starting quarterbacks to go 0-3 in the Super Bowl.
Nobody outside Colorado gave the Broncos a chance. I’m sure many in Colorado didn’t, either.
Guess what? They were right.
San Francisco 55, Denver 10.
The game got so bad I turned it off at halftime. Yes, I turned off a Super Bowl at halftime, something I had not done since I started watching football reglulary in 1983.
Five years later, the 49ers were back in the Super Bowl. Steve Young, Montana’s backup for the 1988 and ’89 championships, was the NFL’s MVP, and he posted the highest quarterback rating in NFL history at that time. The 49ers went on a spending spree in the second year of free agency, and the first year of the salary cap, signing numerous high price veterans to rich contracts, including Deion Sanders, who played out his rookie contact with the Falcons and was looking desperately for a ring.
The 49ers started the year 3-2, losing to the Chiefs–led by Joe Montana, who was traded to Kansas City in April 1993–and the Eagles. The latter was an embarrassment, as Young was pulled late with the 49ers hopelessly behind. Philadelphia left San Francisco with a 40-8 victory.
After the loss to the Eagles, the 49ers won 10 straight before a meaningless loss in the regular season finale in Minnesota. In the playoffs, San Francisco destroyed Chicago 44-15, then took out two years of frustration against the Cowboys, spiking the Cowboys 38-28 for the NFC championship in a game which wasn’t that close.
San Francisco’s opponent in Super Bowl XXIX was another AFC West squad.
Going into 1994, the San Diego Chargers had never been to the Super Bowl. The Chargers lost back-to-back AFC championship games in 1980 to the Raiders and 1981 to the Bengals, the latter in Cincinnati when the temperature was 9 below zero with a wind chill of 37 below (reported as 59 below under the wind chill chart in use at the time).
The ’94 Chargers were a far cry of the Air Coryell days of the early 1980s, when Dan Fouts was throwing bombs all over the place to Kellen Winslow, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson (early) and Wes Chandler (later). These Chargers preferred the ground game, led by Natrone Means, a bruising 240-pounder.
San Diego’s defense was good enough to win the AFC West, but it was shredded very badly by the 49ers in December. San Francisco won 38-15 at San Diego, and football experts proclaimed they did not want to see a rematch in Miami.
If the Dolphins and Steelers could have held playoff leads, then the Chargers-49ers rematch would never have materialized.
Miami held a 21-6 halftime lead in San Diego in the divisional round, only to fall 22-21. Less than one calendar year later, Don Shula was no longer coaching the Dolphins.
The Chargers then shocked the Steelers in Pittsburgh 17-13 for the AFC championship.
If nobody gave Denver a chance to beat San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIV, then absolutely nobody gave San Diego a shot.
It would have been better if the NFL had canceled the game and just given the 49ers the Vince Lombardi Trophy. It would have saved a lot of time and money.
The 49ers won 49-26, and it should have been far, far worse.
Even worse than the game was the way Frank Gifford drooled all over the public address microphone when he announced his wife would sing the national anthem.
1995 was a horrible year for me. Really horrible. That Super Bowl fit perfectly.
Man, I hope this Super Bowl isn’t a rout. But something tells me Thomas John Brady is a man on a mission, and he will destroy the Falcons, much the way John Elway did to Atlanta in Super Bowl XXXIII.