Jan-31-1988: The Quarter

Super Bowl XXII featured NFL MVP John Elway and the Denver Broncos against the Washington Redskins.  The Redskins were led by NFL/USFL veteran Doug Williams, who began the season as a backup to Jay Schroeder and took over the starting job on the last game of the regular season.  Williams was the first African-American quarterback to start in the Super Bowl.

fumbleIt was the Redskins’ third Super Bowl appearance in six years, but the second straight for the Broncos (Denver had lost 39-20 in Super Bowl XXI) who barely made it after the Cleveland Browns Ernest Byner fumbled en route to what would have been the winning touchdown in the AFC Championship Game.  The oddsmakers favored Denver by 3 points mainly because of Elway.

I lived in Washington at the time and watched Denver take a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, scoring on their first two drives, while at a graduation party in McLean, Virgina.  As the quarter ended, I drove across the Potomac to my apartment on Washington’s Connecticut Avenue barely seeing a single car as I crossed Washington main avenues.


1988_super_bowl_006273734finalThe second quarter would be different  The only possession the Redskins did not score on was when Doug Williams took a knee with seconds remaining.  In between the Redskins below the game open scoring 35 unanswered points.

In the second quarter alone, Williams completed 9 of 11 passes for 228 yards and 4 touchdowns; Timmy Smith rushed 5 times for 122 yards and a touchdown; and Wide Receiver Ricky Sanders caught 4 passes for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Williams would go on to be selected Super Bowl MVP.

Washington would add another touchdown in the second half as the Redskins went on to  win 42-10 and set Super Bowl records for total offensive yards (602), total offensive rushing yards (280), most touchdowns in a game (6), most points in a quarter and half (35), and most touchdowns in a quarter (5).*

For Elway it was one of the worst days of his career – as he was 14 of 38 for 257 yards and 1 TD, but with 5 sacks and three interceptions and a passer rating of 36.8.

*All of these records still stand except San Francisco scored 8 touchdowns in Super Bowl XXIV also against Denver and Dallas and San Francisco scored 7 touchdowns in Super Bowl XXVII and XXIX respectively.


Williams won only five more games the rest of his career. He split time in 1988 with the Canadian-born Mark Rypien, and lost the job to him early in 1989

Two years later, Elway would return to the Super Bowl and have an even worse game. Elway had a passer rating of 19.4 as the San Francisco 49ers crushed the Broncos 55-10 in the biggest rout in Super Bowl history.

Elway returned again in 1998, leading the Broncos to victory over the Green Bay Packers 31-24.  Then, on the 11th anniversary of The Quarter, Elways played his final game leading the Broncos over the Atlanta Falcons 34-19.



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