Super Bowl XXVII
|Super Bowl XXVII|
|Date||January 31, 1993|
|Stadium||Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, California|
|MVP||Troy Aikman, Quarterback|
|Favorite||Cowboys by 6½|
|Future Hall of Famers|
|Bills: Marv Levy (coach), Jim Kelly, James Lofton, Andre Reed, Bruce Smith, Thurman Thomas.
Cowboys: Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith.
|National anthem||Garth Brooks|
|Coin toss||O.J. Simpson|
|Halftime show||Michael Jackson|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Dick Enberg and Bob Trumpy|
(est. 90.99 million viewers)
|Cost of 30-second commercial||US$850,000|
Super Bowl XXVII was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Buffalo Bills and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1992 season. The Cowboys defeated the Bills by the score of 52–17, winning their third Super Bowl in team history, and their first one in fifteen years. The Bills became the first team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls, and just the second team to play in three straight (the Miami Dolphins played in Super Bowls VI-VIII, winning VII and VIII). The game was played on January 31, 1993 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, the seventh and most recent Super Bowl that the Greater Los Angeles Area has hosted.
The Bills advanced to their third consecutive Super Bowl after posting an 11–5 regular season record, but entered the playoffs as a wild card after losing tiebreakers. The Cowboys were making their sixth Super Bowl appearance after posting a 13–3 regular season record. It was the first time that the two franchises had played each other since 1984.
Dallas forced a Super Bowl record nine turnovers—four interceptions and five lost fumbles—en route to their win over Buffalo. Thirty-five of the Cowboys' points came off of those turnovers, including three first half touchdowns. Bills backup quarterback Frank Reich, who replaced injured starter Jim Kelly in the second quarter, threw a 40-yard touchdown on the final play of the third quarter to cut the lead to 31–17, but Dallas scored three more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. In the game's most memorable play, another Cowboys touchdown could have been scored on defensive lineman Leon Lett's fumble return, but he was stripped of the ball by Buffalo wide receiver Don Beebe as Lett started to showboat just before crossing the Buffalo goal line, and the football rolled into the Buffalo endzone and out of bounds for a touchback. Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman was named Super Bowl MVP, completing 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and four touchdowns for a passer rating of 140.6, while also rushing for 28 yards.
Michael Jackson performed during the entire halftime show, starting the NFL's trend of signing top acts to appear during the Super Bowl to attract more viewers and interest.
- 1 Background
- 2 Television and entertainment
- 3 Game summary
- 4 Starting lineups
- 5 Officials
- 6 Footnotes
- 7 References
Arizona's Martin Luther King Day controversy
Super Bowl XXVII was originally scheduled to be played at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, the home of the Phoenix Cardinals. However, a controversy over the state's recognition of a newly created federal holiday changed things.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill creating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a national holiday honoring African-American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1986, the first year that the holiday was observed, Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, had issued an executive order creating the holiday after the state legislature voted against it. Babbitt's successor, Republican Evan Mecham, rescinded the order on the grounds that Babbitt did not have the authority to issue such an order and Arizona ceased to observe MLK Day for the time being. Mecham also made his displeasure for the holiday widely known, saying that King did not deserve a holiday and that black supporters of the law should have been more concerned about getting jobs. In response, Dr. King's widow Coretta Scott King and musician Stevie Wonder spearheaded a complete entertainment and convention boycott of Arizona. Blacks across the nation supported the boycott. In 1989, after Mecham had been removed from office the state legislature did approve the holiday but opposition to it forced the holiday to be put on the November election ballot in 1990.
Earlier that year, in March, the NFL had its annual meeting in Orlando and one of the items on its agenda was to determine a host city for Super Bowl XXVII. Among the cities being considered was Tempe, and Arizona civil rights activist Art Mobley was sent to the meeting to make sure that the Arizona ballot initiative was a talking point at the discussion. The vote was conducted and Tempe was awarded the game, but committee chairman and Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman warned that if the MLK Day ballot initiative went against adoption of the holiday, the NFL would not hesitate to pull the game from Arizona and move it somewhere else. The fact that the majority of NFL players were African-American was a big factor into this threat, as many of them felt uncomfortable of having the Super Bowl in a state that didn't recognize a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
The opposition to the holiday in Arizona was large, however, and the voters defeated the law at the polls. The NFL responded by making good on its threat to remove the Super Bowl from Tempe and held another vote, with Pasadena chosen as the site for the first time since Super Bowl XXI was played there six years earlier. Meanwhile, after having lost out on millions of dollars in revenue from the boycott of the state by entertainers and the loss of the Super Bowl, Arizona voters finally approved the MLK Day holiday in the 1992 elections and the NFL responded by awarding Tempe Super Bowl XXX at their 1993 meeting.
The resurrection of the Dallas Cowboys
Super Bowl XXVII saw the resurrection of the Cowboys. Between 1966 and 1985, the team made the playoffs 18 out of 20 seasons under coach Tom Landry, including 5 Super Bowl appearances and 2 Super Bowl wins. But in the late 1980s, the team suffered several losing seasons, including a 3–13 regular season record in 1988. Then Jerry Jones bought the team on February 25, 1989, and in a controversial move, proceeded to promptly fire Landry, the only head coach Dallas ever had. Jones replaced Landry with University of Miami head coach, Jimmy Johnson.
With Johnson as head coach and Jones as his own general manager, people in the league thought they could take advantage of them. Both lacked NFL experience, and instead of hiring coaching assistants with experience in the league, they hired ones that worked with Johnson in Miami. Compounding this issue was the departure of the two men that brought previous success to Dallas: its founding president Tex Schramm and its famed personnel man Gil Brandt.
The Cowboys' 3–13 record in 1988 did have a silver lining, it was the worst in the league and thus gave the Cowboys the first pick in the 1989 NFL Draft. Jones and Johnson picked UCLA quarterback Troy Aikman, who would eventually go on to be selected to the Pro Bowl 6 times in his NFL career. Meanwhile, Jones and Johnson immediately started to shuffle the team's depth chart to find players talented enough to build a winning team. Linebacker Ken Norton Jr., one of the few holdovers from Landry's last losing seasons, would later claim that he would often go into a player huddle and meet new teammates for the first time.
Then, Jones and Johnson made a move midway through the 1989 season that shocked many in the league: they traded their only Pro Bowl player, running back Herschel Walker, to the Minnesota Vikings for five veteran players and eight draft choices. Although the Cowboys finished the 1989 season with a 1–15 record, their worst record since the team's inception, the foundations for the Cowboys' return to glory had been set. Although Dallas had the league's worst record, they traded away the first pick in the 1990 draft so they could get backup quarterback Steve Walsh in the supplemental draft. Then with the 17th pick, they drafted running back Emmitt Smith, and the trifecta of Aikman, Smith, and wide receiver Michael Irvin (who was drafted by Landry in 1988) was now set. Dallas also signed veteran tight end Jay Novacek away from Phoenix, who went on to make the Pro Bowl in five of his six years with the Cowboys.
Johnson also started to rebuild the team by drafting players who were fast, quick, and athletic. The defense was designed to become aggressive, while the offense was made to be a conservative one that did not make mistakes. The Cowboys finished 7–9, but Smith won the NFL Rookie of the Year Award and Jimmy Johnson was selected as NFL Coach of the Year. By the 1991 season, the Cowboys finished with an 11–5 record and made the playoffs for the first time in six years.
In 1992, the Cowboys finished with a 13–3 regular season record, the second best in the league. Although not a single one of their defensive players made the Pro Bowl, Dallas was ranked as the number one defense in the league (allowing only 4,278 yards), fourth in points (allowing 243) and ranked as the number one defense against the run (allowing only 1,244), bringing back many fans memories of the Doomsday Defenses of old. The defensive line was anchored by Jim Jeffcoat (10.5 sacks) and Tony Tolbert (8.5 sacks), along with Charles Haley (six sacks), who had led the NFC in sacks in 1990 and had been acquired by Dallas in a trade with San Francisco. While Norton along with defensive rookie of the year Robert Jones anchored the linebacking core, the team's solid secondary was led by defensive backs Kenneth Gant and James Washington, who both recorded 3 interceptions each, and rookie cornerback Kevin Smith.
Led by Aikman, who had the best season of his career by completing 302 out of 473 passes (ranking second and fourth in the league) for 3,445 yards (fourth in the league) and 23 touchdowns (third in the league) while throwing only 14 interceptions, producing a quarterback rating of 89.6 (third best in the league), Dallas' spectacular and efficient offense finished second in the league in scoring with 409 points. Superstar running back Emmitt Smith led the NFL in rushing for the second year in a row with 1,713 yards and scoring 18 rushing touchdowns, while also catching 59 passes for 335 yards and another touchdown. Fullback Daryl Johnston was also an asset in the backfield, providing Smith with effective blocking and hauling in 32 receptions. Irvin, the team's emotional lightning rod, caught 78 passes for 1,396 yards and 7 touchdowns. Other contributors on the offense included wide receiver Alvin Harper (35 receptions for 562 yards and 4 touchdowns) and Novacek (68 receptions for 630 yards and 6 touchdowns). Dallas' dominant offensive line, later dubbed "The Great Wall of Dallas", was led by Pro Bowlers Nate Newton and Mark Stepnoski.
With all this talent the Cowboys would be considered by many to be one of the deepest and most talented teams to ever take to the gridiron.
The Buffalo Bills' third attempt for a Super Bowl title
The Bills entered Super Bowl XXVII trying to avoid becoming the first team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls. Once again the team was loaded with Pro Bowl players, boasting 12 Pro Bowl selections. During the regular season, Buffalo's no-huddle offense ranked as the number two offense in the league (6,114 yards) and ranked as the number one rushing offense (2,436). Running back Thurman Thomas rushed for 1,487 yards and 9 touchdowns during the regular season, while also catching 58 passes for 626 yards and another 3 touchdowns. Running back Kenneth Davis rushed for 613 yards, caught 15 passes for 80 yards, and added another 251 yards returning kickoffs. Quarterback Jim Kelly had 269 out of 462 completions for 3,457 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. Wide receiver Andre Reed led the team with 65 receptions for 913 yards and 3 touchdowns, receiver James Lofton contributed 51 receptions for 786 yards and 6 touchdowns, and wide receiver Don Beebe caught 33 passes for 554 and 2 touchdowns. Also tight end Pete Metzelaars recorded 30 receptions for 298 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Bills also had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, led by Pro Bowlers Will Wolford, Jim Ritcher, and Howard Ballard, along with center Kent Hull.
On defense, the line was anchored by end Bruce Smith (14 sacks) and nose tackle Jeff Wright (6 sacks, 1 fumble recovery), who were fully recovered after missing almost all of the previous season due to injuries. The Bills were once again led by their trio of linebackers Darryl Talley (77 tackles, 4 sacks), Shane Conlan (66 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception), and Pro Bowler Cornelius Bennett (52 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries). The defensive secondary was aided by the emergence of second year safety Henry Jones, who tied for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions, returning them for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. Safety Mark Kelso recorded 7 interceptions, while Pro Bowl cornerback Nate Odomes had 5.
However, the Bills quest for a third consecutive Super Bowl suffered a major setback when they lost the final game of the season to the Houston Oilers. The loss caused the Bills to finish with an 11–5 record, losing out on the AFC East title to the Miami Dolphins based on tie-breaking rules, and thus making them a wild card team for the playoffs. Thus, even if they won their first playoff game, they would have to win two on the road to make the Super Bowl. To make matters worse, Kelly also suffered strained knee ligaments during the loss to the Oilers and had to miss the first 2 playoff games. Furthermore, their first opponent in the playoffs ended up being the Oilers. A headline on a Buffalo newspaper stated the Bills situation: "Bills Begin The Longest Road Today."
The Cowboys easily defeated their first playoff opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, 34–10. Dallas' defense held the Eagles to only 178 offensive yards and sacked quarterback Randall Cunningham 5 times. Meanwhile, the Cowboys recorded 160 rushing yards and 185 passing yards. Aikman completed 15 of 25 passes and 2 touchdowns, while Smith ran for 114 yards and a touchdown.
Dallas then defeated the San Francisco 49ers, 30–20, in the NFC Championship Game. This was the first time that the two teams met in the NFC Championship since the 49ers narrowly beat the Cowboys during the 1981 season on a late touchdown pass known as "The Catch". The 49ers came into the game with the league's best regular season record at 14–2 and led the league in scoring with 431 points. But in this game, the Cowboys built a 24–13 lead going into the fourth quarter, as Aikman capped a nine-minute drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Smith. However, 49ers quarterback Steve Young's 5-yard touchdown pass to Jerry Rice cut the lead 24–20 with 4:22 left in the game. But instead of trying to run out the clock with a running play, Aikman threw a 70-yard completion to Harper. Three plays later, Aikman threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Kelvin Martin to clinch the victory (the extra point was blocked). Aikman finished with 332 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, with no interceptions.
The Bills first defeated the Houston Oilers, 41–38 in overtime, in what became known as "The Comeback". Nothing seemed to go right for the Bills in the first half. In addition to playing without Kelly and Bennett, Thomas was knocked out of the game with a hip injury. The Bills offense could only score a single field goal, while their defense played even worse, as Oilers quarterback Warren Moon passed for 222 yards and 4 touchdowns, and Houston jumped to a 28–3 halftime lead. Then, backup quarterback Frank Reich's first pass of the second half was intercepted by Bubba McDowell and returned 58 yards for a touchdown, making the score 35–3. However, the Bills suddenly stormed back to score 5 unanswered touchdowns to overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds. First, Davis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. Then Buffalo recovered an onside kick and immediately scored again on Reich's 36-yard touchdown pass to Beebe. Reich then threw touchdowns of 26 and 18 yards to Reed. In the fourth quarter, Reich hit Reed with a 17-yard score to give the Bills a 38–35 lead. The Oilers kicked a field goal late in the game to send it into overtime, but Odomes' interception in the extra period set up kicker Steve Christie's game winning field goal to give the Bills the biggest comeback win in NFL history.
Buffalo then recorded a 24–3 win on the road against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the AFC Central champions with the AFC's best regular season record at 11–5. Although Kelly and Thomas had not recovered enough to play for this game, Reich threw for 160 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions, while Davis rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, the defense redeemed themselves for giving up 38 points against the Oilers by holding the Steelers to only a field goal.
The Bills then defeated the Miami Dolphins, 29–10, in the AFC Championship. The Dolphins were coming off a 31–0 blowout playoff win over the San Diego Chargers. But Buffalo's defense dominated the Dolphins offense, intercepting quarterback Dan Marino twice, recovering 3 fumbles, and limiting Miami to just 33 rushing yards. Although Buffalo's offense had trouble scoring touchdowns because Kelly and Thomas were rusty coming back from their injuries, Christie scored 5 field goals to make up for the difference. Kelly did connect with Thomas on a screen pass for a 17-yard touchdown, and Ken Davis ran it in from two yards out for another score. As a result, the Bills became the fourth wild-card team to advance to the Super Bowl.
This marked the first time since the AFL-NFL merger that the two Super Bowl teams each won their conference championship on the road. Dallas winning in San Francisco and Buffalo in Miami.
Super Bowl pre-game news and notes
Even though the Bills had more experienced players than the Cowboys, Dallas was favored to win Super Bowl XXVII based on the recent dominance of NFC teams in the Super Bowl. Some writers and fans were starting to compare Buffalo to the Super Bowls losers Minnesota Vikings and the Denver Broncos.
Still, many thought that the inexperienced Cowboys might panic under the pressure of playing in their first Super Bowl, and thus make a number of mistakes. Also, some thought Buffalo's no-huddle offense could eventually wear down and dominate Dallas' young defense.
Finally, Jimmy Johnson was looking to become the first head coach to win a college football national championship (University of Miami in 1987) and a Super Bowl. As of 2014, Johnson, Cowboys successor Barry Switzer, and Pete Carroll remain the only coaches ever to achieve this goal.
Television and entertainment
The game was broadcast in the United States by NBC, Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties with color commentator Bob Trumpy in the broadcast booth. Bob Costas hosted all the events with analyst Mike Ditka, who joined NBC almost immediately after he was fired as head coach of the Chicago Bears earlier in January. Other contributors included Will McDonough (assigned to Buffalo's locker room); Todd Christensen; Tonight Show host Jay Leno; Cris Collinsworth (participating in an NFL Experience piece with Christensen as well as reporting from the Dallas locker room); former Los Angeles Lakers great Magic Johnson (then working as a commentator for the NBA on NBC; assigned to an interview with Dallas Cowboys Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin); Paul Maguire; Gayle Gardner; Jim Lampley (who would replace Costas as host of NFL Live for the following season); Dateline NBC correspondent Deborah Roberts (producing a special report on the Michael Jackson halftime show). Also included was an interview with former New York Jets defensive end Dennis Byrd and his wife Angela in the first one-on-one interview since Byrd suffered a paralyzing neck injury (which he eventually recovered from) suffered in a collision with teammate Scott Mersereau during their game against Kansas City. After the game, Homicide: Life on the Street premiered on NBC. This would be the third successful series to premiere after a Super Bowl (The A-Team which premiered after Super Bowl XVII and The Wonder Years which premiered after Super Bowl XXII were the other two successful series).
Super Bowl XXVII was broadcast to 125 countries around the world. In addition to the United States, this Super Bowl was also broadcast in Canada on CTV, in Germany on Tele 5, in Mexico on Canal 5, in Australia on Network Ten, in the Philippines on the GMA Network and the United Kingdom on Channel 4.
This was the last of five Super Bowls at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Two other Super Bowls were played nearby at the Los Angeles Coliseum. As previously mentioned, this would be the seventh and final (to date) Super Bowl in the Los Angeles area, tying New Orleans at the time for the city to host the most Super Bowls.
The NFL's Greatest Games episode A Man and His Moment features Jimmy Johnson reading excerpts from his book Turning the Thing Around: My Life in Football, interspersed with game footage and audio from Super Bowl XXVII. It was based on the Super Bowl XXVII highlight film, which had the same title as this episode.
Country music singer Garth Brooks sang the national anthem. He was accompanied by actress Marlee Matlin, who signed the anthem for the deaf fans. Brooks very nearly did not perform the anthem—he left the stadium less than an hour before he was slated to sing, because of a dispute with NBC, regarding a video he asked them to air for the song We Shall Be Free. Television producers spotted rocker Jon Bon Jovi in the crowd and were prepared to have him perform the anthem, until Brooks was finally coaxed back into the stadium.
Michael Jackson performed during the halftime show. Unlike many previous years, he was the only performer in the entire halftime show. Jackson started the performance by being catapulted on stage and then simply standing frozen in one of his famous 'Dangerous' poses. Jackson's set included songs "Jam" (with the beginning of "Why You Wanna Trip On Me"), "Billie Jean" and "Black or White". The finale featured an audience card stunt, a video montage showing Jackson participating in various humanitarian efforts around the world, and a choir of 3,500 local Los Angeles area children singing "We Are The World", later joining Jackson as he sang his single "Heal the World".
Part of the halftime show can be found on Michael Jackson's Dangerous - The Short Films DVD. However, the DVD only features the "Heal The World" performance of the halftime show, and omits the show opening and a medley of "Jam", "Billie Jean" and "Black Or White".
Because of Jackson's star power, the Fox network declined to broadcast counter-programming against the halftime show like they did during Super Bowl XXVI's show in the previous year (Fox aired a special live edition of In Living Color on that occasion). Fox would never broadcast counter-programming again against the Super Bowl; on December 19, 1993, the network signed an agreement to broadcast NFL (replacing CBS as the NFC television broadcaster) starting in 1994.
It was the first Super Bowl where the audience figures actually increased during the half-time show. The selection of Jackson for the halftime show was in response to sagging interest in recent performances, notably in the two years immediately prior. NFL and network officials decided it was necessary to sign top acts for the halftime in future years to boost future viewership and interest. This performance is still considered today as one of the most watched television broadcasts in American television history.
Things started out well in the beginning for Buffalo. On their first possession, the Cowboys were forced to a three-and-out. Bills special teams expert Steve Tasker then blocked the ensuing punt, knocking the ball out of bounds at the Cowboys 16-yard line. Four plays later, Thurman Thomas scored on a 2-yard touchdown run to give the Bills the 7–0 early lead.
Dallas then reached their own 40-yard line on their next drive, but an illegal formation penalty nullified running back Emmitt Smith's 12-yard run. Troy Aikman then threw two consecutive incompletions, and the Cowboys were forced to punt again. The Bills subsequently advanced to midfield with the aid of a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty on Cowboys defensive lineman Leon Lett and a 21-yard reception by wide receiver Andre Reed.
Then the wave of turnovers began. On the next play, a blitz by reserve defensive back Kenneth Gant forced a pass by Jim Kelly that Dallas safety James Washington intercepted and returned 13 yards to the Bills' 47-yard line. The Cowboys then drove 47 yards in 6 plays to tie the game on Aikman's 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jay Novacek.
On the Bills' first play of their next drive, Dallas defensive end Charles Haley sacked Kelly and forced a fumble. Cowboys defensive tackle Jimmie Jones picked the ball out of the air at the 2-yard line and dove into the end zone for a touchdown to give his team a 14–7 lead. Dallas had scored 2 touchdowns in a span of 15 seconds, the fastest pair in Super Bowl history.
Early in the second quarter, Kelly's 40-yard completion to Reed gave the Bills a first down at the Cowboys 4-yard line. But the Bills failed to score on 3 rushing attempts. On fourth down, Kelly's pass was intercepted in the end zone by safety Thomas Everett.
On Buffalo's next drive, linebacker Ken Norton, Jr. hit Kelly, re-injuring the quarterback's knee that he sprained earlier in the season, and playoff hero Frank Reich took Kelly's place. Reich started out well, completing his first 2 passes, including a 38-yard completion to Reed to advance the ball to the Dallas 22-yard line. But then Thomas was stopped for no gain on third down and 1 at the 4-yard line. Rather than attempt another fourth down play near the goal line, the Bills settled for Steve Christie's 21-yard field goal to cut their deficit to 14–10 with 3:24 left in the half.
The Cowboys then stormed down the field on their next possession, scoring in just 5 plays. After a pair of completions by Aikman for 17 yards, Smith's 38-yard run gave the Cowboys a first down inside the Bills' 20-yard line. Aikman then finished the drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Irvin, increasing his team's lead to 21–10. On the first play of the Bills' ensuing drive, Thomas caught a swing pass, but fumbled the ball while being tackled by Lett, and Jones recovered it at the Bills 18-yard line. Aikman then threw his second touchdown pass to Irvin to give the Cowboys a 28–10 lead. (Irvin's two touchdown receptions made him the 7th player to do so in a Super Bowl. Irvin also became the second player, after Washington Redskins wide receiver Ricky Sanders in Super Bowl XXII, to catch two touchdowns in a single quarter. Furthermore, Irvin's two catches occurred in a span of 18 seconds, the fastest pair of touchdowns ever scored by a single player in Super Bowl history).
With about a little over a minute left in the first half, Buffalo barely avoided another turnover when running back Kenneth Davis recovered a fumbled handoff from Reich. But 2 plays later, defensive back Larry Brown intercepted Reich's pass at the Dallas 28-yard line to preserve the Cowboys' 18-point lead at halftime.
Dallas then took the opening drive of the second half and advanced 77 yards in 11 plays, featuring a 25-yard reception by Irvin. However, on third down and 2, Aikman's pass to Novacek in the end zone was overthrown, forcing Dallas to settle for Lin Elliot's 20-yard field goal. This increased their lead to 31–10. Both teams were unable to score on each of their next possessions, but on the period's final play, Reich threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Bills receiver Don Beebe, despite Cowboy complaints that the touchdown should have been nullified because Reich, while scrambling to avoid the Cowboy rush, crossed the 40-yard line for what should have been ruled an illegal forward pass. So despite 5 first half turnovers, the Bills were only trailing Dallas 31–17 going into the final period, and after their comeback from the 32-point deficit in the playoffs, a 14-point comeback seemed perfectly within their capabilities.
But early in the fourth quarter, Aikman threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper. Then on the second play of the Bills' next possession, Everett intercepted a pass from Reich and returned it 22 yards to Buffalo's 8-yard line, setting up another touchdown on Smith's 10-yard run. After Buffalo received the ensuing kickoff, Reich fumbled a high snap while in a shotgun formation. Norton recovered the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown, increasing the Cowboys' lead to 52–17. The 21 points by the Cowboys is the most ever for a team in the 4th quarter. The Cowboys also became just the second team to score two non-offensive touchdowns in a game. The Raiders also did so in Super Bowl XVIII with a blocked punt return and an interception return.
The most memorable moment of the game came well after the Cowboys had built an insurmountable lead. After both teams lost a fumble on their next possessions, the Bills managed to advance to the Cowboys' 31-yard line. But Reich lost a fumble while being sacked by Cowboys lineman Jim Jeffcoat. Lett picked up the ball with no one in front of him and appeared to be headed for a 64-yard touchdown return. As he started to showboat just before crossing the goal line, Don Beebe raced in from behind and knocked the ball out of Lett's arm and into the end zone. The ball then rolled out of bounds for a touchback. If Lett had scored the touchdown, the Cowboys would have topped the previous Super Bowl record of 55 points scored in a game that the 49ers had set three years prior.
Smith was the top rusher of the game, rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 6 passes for 27 yards. Irvin was the Cowboys' leading receiver with 6 receptions for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. Novacek added 7 receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Lett recorded a sack, a fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles.
Reich and Kelly combined for 22 out of 38 completions for 276 yards and a touchdown, but also threw 4 interceptions. Thomas, who gained 2,113 combined rushing and receiving yards during the season, was held to just 29 combined rushing and receiving yards in the game. Reed was the Bills' top receiver with 8 receptions for 152 yards. Bills running back Kenneth Davis was their leading rusher with 86 yards. Davis also caught 3 passes for 16 yards and returned a kickoff for 21 yards, giving him 123 total yards.
Irvin and Bills receiver Andre Reed each had over 100 yards receiving, making it the first time players from different teams had at least 100 yards receiving. Irvin had 114 yards while Reed had 152. Reed's total is the highest for a player on a losing team.
|Alvin Harper||WR||James Lofton|
|Mark Tuinei||LT||Will Wolford|
|Nate Newton||LG||Jim Ritcher|
|Mark Stepnoski||C||Kent Hull|
|John Gesek||RG||Glenn Parker|
|Erik Williams||RT||Howard Ballard|
|Jay Novacek||TE||Pete Metzelaars|
|Michael Irvin||WR||Andre Reed|
|Troy Aikman||QB||Jim Kelly|
|Emmitt Smith||RB||Thurman Thomas|
|Daryl Johnston||FB-WR||Don Beebe|
|Tony Tolbert||LE||Phil Hansen|
|Russell Maryland||LDT-NT||Jeff Wright|
|Tony Casillas||RDT-RE||Bruce Smith|
|Charles Haley||RE-LOLB||Marvcus Patton|
|Ken Norton, Jr.||LOLB-LILB||Shane Conlan|
|Robert Jones||MLB-RILB||Cornelius Bennett|
|Vinson Smith||ROLB||Darryl Talley|
|Larry Brown||LCB||James Williams|
|Kevin Smith||RCB||Nate Odomes|
|Thomas Everett||SS||Henry Jones|
|James Washington||FS||Mark Kelso|
- Referee: Dick Hantak #105
- Umpire: Ron Botchan #110
- Head Linesman: Ron Phares #10
- Line Judge: Dick McKenzie #41
- Field Judge: Donnie Hampton #44
- Side Judge: Dean Look #49
- Back Judge: Jim Poole #92
- Alternate Referee: Dale Hamer #104
- Alternate Umpire: John Keck #67
For the first (and to date only) time in Super Bowl history, the officials changed shirts at halftime. Officials wore their short-sleeved shirts during the first half and their long-sleeved shirts in the second half.
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