Super Bowl XXI

Super Bowl XXI

Infobox SuperBowl
sb_name = XXI

visitor = Denver Broncos
home = New York Giants
visitor_abbr = DEN
home_abbr = NYG
visitor_conf = AFC
home_conf = NFC
visitor_total = 20
home_total = 39

visitor_qtr1 = 10
visitor_qtr2 = 0
visitor_qtr3 = 0
visitor_qtr4 = 10

home_qtr1 = 7
home_qtr2 = 2
home_qtr3 = 17
home_qtr4 = 13

date = January 25, 1987
stadium = Rose Bowl Stadium
city = Pasadena, California
attendance = 101,063
odds = Giants by 9½
MVP = Phil Simms, Quarterback
anthem = Neil Diamond
coin_toss = Willie Davis
referee = Jerry Markbreit
halftime = "Salute to Hollywood's 100th Anniversary" with Southern California high school drill teams and dancers
network = CBS
announcers = Pat Summerall and John Madden
rating = 45.8
share = 66
commercial = $600,000
last = XX
next = XXII

Super Bowl XXI was an American football game played on January 25, 1987 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion following the 1986 regular season. The National Football Conference (NFC) champion New York Giants (17-2) won their first Super Bowl by defeating the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos (13-6), 39–20. The Giants scored 26 consecutive points during the second, third, and fourth quarters, and a Super Bowl record 30 points in the second half.

New York quarterback Phil Simms was named the Super Bowl MVP, finishing the game with 22 of 25 passes completed for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Simms also had 25 rushing yards on 3 carries. His 22 out of 25 (88%) completion percentage not only set a Super Bowl record, but also an NFL postseason record for 21 years.


NFL owners voted to award Super Bowl XXI to Pasadena, California during their May 23-25, 1984 meetings. This was the fourth time that Pasadena hosted the game, and the sixth time it was held in the Greater Los Angeles Area.

New York Giants

The Giants advanced to their first Super Bowl in team history, and were playing for their first league championship since they lost to the Chicago Bears in the 1963 NFL Championship Game. The Giants were led by quarterback Phil Simms, who threw for 3,487 yards and 21 touchdowns (but also 22 interceptions). Simms' main target was tight end Mark Bavaro, who caught 66 passes for 1,001 yards and 4 touchdowns. Although the Giants did not have one great wide receiver, they did have several good ones. Receivers Stacy Robinson, Bobby L. Johnson, and Phil McConkey combined for 76 receptions and 1,307 yards.

However, running the ball was the Giants' primary offensive attack. Running back Joe Morris finished the regular season with a then franchise record 1,516 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns, while also catching 21 passes for 223 yards and another touchdown. One reason for his success was fullback Maurice Carthon, who provided Morris with excellent blocking and was the team's second leading rusher with 260 yards. Another reason was the play of their offensive line, led by Pro Bowl tackles Brad Benson and Karl Nelson.

The Giants also had a lot of weapons on their defense, nicknamed The "Big Blue Wrecking Crew". After giving up 31 points in their opening regular season loss to the Dallas Cowboys, the Giants had not given up more than 20 points in a game until the last game of the season, in a 55-24 win over the Green Bay Packers. The Giants' defensive leader was Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor who led the league with 20½ sacks during the regular season, won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award for the third time in his career, and became just the second defensive player to ever win the NFL Most Valuable Player Award. At 6'3 and 245 pounds, Taylor was big enough to break through the offensive lines of many teams, but he still had enough speed to chase down running backs. The Giants' other starting linebackers, Gary Reasons, Carl Banks, and Harry Carson, did not get as much media attention as Taylor, but both Reasons and Carson had been selected to play in the Pro Bowl, while Banks recorded 6.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries. Defensive tackle Jim Burt and right end Leonard Marshall, who were also both selected to the Pro Bowl, anchored the defensive line. Marshall recorded 12 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries, and 1 interception during the season.

With the play of their defense, the running attack led by Morris, and Simms' passing game, the Giants earned a 14-2 regular season record.

Denver Broncos

The Broncos won the AFC West with an 11-5 regular season record, largely through the play of their quarterback John Elway. In just his fourth season in the league, Elway made an impact to the team with his ad-libbing skills. During the regular season, he had thrown for 3,480 yards and 19 touchdowns, while also rushing for 257 yards, the third leading rusher on the team.

Elway did not really have a particular receiver who caught the most of his passes during the regular season, but wide receivers Mark Jackson, Vance Johnson, Steve Watson, and tight end Orson Mobley all combined for 136 receptions and 2,132 yards. Pro Bowl running back Sammy Winder was the Broncos' top rusher with 789 yards and 9 touchdowns, while also catching 26 passes for another 171 yards and 5 touchdowns. Fullback Gerald Willhite also contributed by rushing for 365 yards and 5 touchdowns, while also leading the team in receptions with 64, good for 529 yards and 3 touchdowns. The Broncos also had a powerful offensive line, led by Pro Bowl guard Keith Bishop.

The Broncos also led the AFC with the fewest rushing yards allowed (1,651). The defensive line was anchored by Pro Bowl defensive end Rulon Jones, who recorded 13.5 sacks and a fumble recovery. Denver's linebacking core, led by three time Pro Bowler Tom Jackson and Karl Mecklenburg, who recorded 9.5 sacks, was viewed as comparable to the Giants' Pro Bowl linebackers. Their secondary was led by Pro Bowl cornerbacks Dennis Smith and Louis Wright, along with Mike Harden, who intercepted 6 passes and returned them for 179 yards and 2 touchdowns. Louis Wright, Steve Foley, and Tom Jackson, the last remnants of Denver's Orange Crush Defense of the 1970's, all retired after this Super Bowl.


Elway's ad-libbing skills helped Denver to barely make it through the playoffs, narrowly defeating the New England Patriots, 22-17, and the Cleveland Browns, 23-20, in the AFC Championship Game. The AFC Championship Game against the Browns was particular significant because Elway displayed why many NFL experts thought Super Bowl XXI would be the first of many Super Bowls for him. In what became known as "The Drive", the Broncos started from their own 2-yard line, trailing 20-13, with 5:32 left to play. But in 15 plays, Elway led Denver 98 yards for a game-tying touchdown pass with 39 seconds left. The Broncos then won in overtime after Elway's led them 60 yards in 9 plays to set up kicker Rich Karlis' game winning field goal.

Meanwhile, the Giants went on to only allow a combined total of 3 points in their playoff victories over the San Francisco 49ers, 49-3, and the Washington Redskins, 17-0.

uper Bowl pregame news

Much of the pregame hype centered around the confrontation between Elway and Taylor, and whether or not Taylor would be able to hurry Elway's throws or sack him.

Television and entertainment

The game was broadcast in the United States by CBS and featured the broadcast team of play-by-play announcer Pat Summerall and color commentator John Madden. Brent Musburger of "The NFL Today" anchored the pregame, halftime and postgame coverage. Helping Musburger were reporters Irv Cross and Will McDonough and analysts Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Theismann and Dan Dierdorf (in his final CBS assignment before moving on to ABC's "Monday Night Football" for the following season).

The pregame show was a salute to California and featured the pop music group The Beach Boys. Singer Neil Diamond performed the national anthem. The coin toss ceremony featured Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Willie Davis.

The halftime show was a "Salute to Hollywood's 100th Anniversary" featuring an introduction by George Burns (who was only nine years younger than Hollywood at the time) and a performance by the Southern California high school drill teams and dancers.

Super Bowl XXI MVP Phil Simms was the first athlete to appear in a "I'm Going to Disney World!" television ad.

The postshow was supposed to feature the song "One Shining Moment" but due to postgame interviews taking so long, CBS never aired it. They ultimately changed the lyrics from "The ball is kicked" to "The ball is tipped", and now airs it at the end of their NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Coverage. CBS also debuted the theme music that would be used for their NCAA football coverage during this game.

Game summary

On the Broncos' first play after receiving the opening kickoff, quarterback John Elway faked a handoff, then spun around and ran in the opposite direction for a 10-yard gain to the Denver 34-yard line. Then on third down, his 24-yard completion to receiver Mark Jackson advanced the ball to the New York 39-yard line. However, the Giants' "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" defense tighened up and halted the drive at the 30-yard line, forcing Denver to settle for Rich Karlis's 48-yard field goal to give them a 3-0 lead.

The Giants then took the ensuing kickoff and stormed right back on a 9-play, 78-yard drive. First quarterback Phil Simms completed a 17-yard pass to receiver Lionel Manuel. Then, running back Joe Morris ran for 11 yards to the Denver 41-yard line. The Giants then marched to the Denver 6-yard line with Simms' 18-yard pass to receiver Stacy Robinson, and then a 17-yard completion to tight end Mark Bavaro two plays later. Finally, Simms threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Zeke Mowatt, giving the Giants a 7-3 lead.

Denver kick returner Ken Bell gave his team great field position by returning the ensuing kickoff 28 yards to the Broncos 42-yard line. Then, Elway completed 3 consecutive passes: a 14-yard completion to running back Sammy Winder, an 11-yard completion to tight end Orson Mobley, and a 9-yard screen pass to Winder. Two 15-yard penalties against the Giants after Winder's screen pass (a late hit and an unsportsmanlike conduct foul) moved the ball to the New York 6-yard line. Three plays later, Elway scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Broncos a 10-7 lead.

On Denver's first drive of the second quarter, Elway dropped back to pass from his own 18-yard line on third down. The Giants' pass rush forced him to scramble out of the pocket, but it gave him time to find receiver Vance Johnson, who was wide open, for a 54-yard completion. Several plays later, the Broncos drove to a first down at the New York's 1-yard line, but Giants defense made a key defensive stand. First, Elway tried a run-pass option, but linebacker Lawrence Taylor broke through the line and tackled him for a 1-yard loss. Then, fullback Gerald Willhite tried to run through the middle, but linebacker Harry Carson tackled him for no gain. On third down, Elway pitched the ball to Winder, who tried to score on a run to the outside, but linebacker Carl Banks tackled him for a 4-yard loss. In total, the Broncos had ran 3 plays from the 1-yard line and lost 5 yards. Denver tried to salvage the drive with a 23-yard field goal attempt, but Karlis' kick was no good, making it the shortest missed field goal in Super Bowl history.

With 2:46 left to go in the second quarter, Giants defensive end George Martin sacked Elway in the end zone for a safety, cutting Denver's lead to 10-9. Then with less than a minute remaining in the half, Elway completed 31-yard pass to receiver Steve Watson and an 11-yard pass to Willhite, giving the Broncos a first down at the Giants 20-yard line. But the Giants defense forced 3 consecutive incompletions, and Denver ended the drive with no points after Karlis missed another field goal, this time from 34 yards. Karlis, who had made 11 of 12 field goals from under 40 yards during the season, later admitted his misses in the first half were devastating to the Broncos. "Both times I didn't get my hips all the way through the kicks. I was steering the ball, and I know better than that. I felt the team unravel after that. I really hurt them." []

In the second half, the Giants dominated the Broncos, outscoring them 30-10 with four touchdowns and a field goal on their first five possessions.

The Giants took the opening kickoff in the third quarter, but faced fourth down after their first 3 plays. Instead of kicking the ball to Denver, they ran a successful fake punt. Playing from the blocking back position on the punt formation, backup quarterback Jeff Rutledge took the snap and ran to the Giants 48-yard line for a first down. On the next play, Simms completed a 12-yard pass to Morris, and then followed it up with a 23-yard completion to running back Lee Rouson. Two plays later, Simms finished the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Bavaro to give the Giants a 16-10 lead. The Broncos were forced to punt on their next drive, and receiver Phil McConkey returned the punt 25 yards to Denver's 32-yard line. The Broncos managed to keep the Giants out of the endzone, but New York kicker Raul Allegre kicked a 21-yard field goal to increase their lead to 19-10.

Denver was again forced to punt on their ensuing possession. Afterwards, Simms completed a 17-yard pass to Manuel at the Broncos 45-yard line. Then the Giants fooled Denver on a flea flicker play: Morris took a handoff from Simms and ran up to the line of scrimmage as if it were a run play. But before he crossed the line, Morris pitched the ball back to Simms, who then passed the ball to McConkey, who was wide open at the 20-yard line. After catching the pass, McConkey ran all the way to the 1-yard line before being tackled. Morris then scored on a 1-yard touchdown run on the next play, increasing New York's lead to 26-10.

Elway barely avoided a turnover by recovering his own fumble on the last play of the third quarter, but on the first play of the fourth quarter, he threw an interception to Giants defensive back Elvis Patterson. After that, Simms completed a 36-yard pass to Robinson. Two plays later from Denver's 6-yard line, Simms threw a pass to Bavaro in the endzone. The pass bounced off Bavaro's fingertips, but fell right into the arms of McConkey for a touchdown, making the Giants lead 33-10

The Broncos finally managed to get a good drive going on their next possession, advancing the ball 74 yards in 13 plays and scoring on Karlis's 28-yard field goal, cutting their deficit to 33-13. But the Giants recovered Denver's ensuing onside kick attempt and stormed right back for another touchdown. On the drive, Rouson ran for 18 yards and then Simms ran for a 22-yard gain. Running back Ottis Anderson finished the drive off with a 2-yard touchdown run to make the score 39-13 after Allegre's extra point attempt failed.

Denver later managed to cut their deficit to 39-20 with Elway's 47-yard touchdown pass to Vance Johnson (the 100th TD in Super Bowl history), but by then there was only a little more than two minutes left in the game.

As the final seconds of the game ticked away, Carson drenched Giants head coach Bill Parcells with a container of gatorade, a common custom among winning teams in the NFL. But this time, the Giants took the additional step of drenching their quarterback with a container full of ice water, Courtesy of offensive linemen Brad Benson and Bart Oates. "I think it was very appropriate to cool the guy down," Oates explained, "as hot as he was in the game." []

Morris was the top rusher of the game, gaining 67 yards, and added another 20 yards on 4 receptions. Robinson was the Giants top receiver with 3 catches for 62 yards. Bavaro caught 4 passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. McConkey caught 2 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown, and returned a punt for 25 yards. Defensively; while the Broncos managed to bottle up Lawrence Taylor, Carl Banks had 14 tackles, 10 of which were unassisted and four of those for negative yardage. Elway finished the game with 22 out of 37 pass completions for 304 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He also was the Broncos' leading rusher in the game, with 27 rushing yards and a touchdown on 6 carries. Denver's Vance Johnson was the top receiver of the game, with 5 receptions for 121 yards, an average of 24.2 yards per catch, and a touchdown.

coring summary

*DEN - FG: Rich Karlis 48 yards 3-0 DEN
*NYG - TD: Zeke Mowatt 6 yard pass from Phil Simms (Raul Allegre kick) 7-3 NYG
*DEN - TD: John Elway 4 yard run (Rich Karlis kick) 10-7 DEN
*NYG - Safety: George Martin sacked John Elway in end zone 10-9 DEN
*NYG - TD: Mark Bavaro 13 yard pass from Phil Simms (Raul Allegre kick) 16-10 NYG
*NYG - FG: Raul Allegre 21 yards 19-10 NYG
*NYG - TD: Joe Morris 1 yard run (Raul Allegre kick) 26-10 NYG
*NYG - TD: Phil McConkey 6 yard pass from Phil Simms (Raul Allegre kick) 33-10 NYG
*DEN - FG: Rich Karlis 28 yards 33-13 NYG
*NYG - TD: Ottis Anderson 2 yard run (kick failed) 39-13 NYG
*DEN - TD: Vance Johnson 47 yard pass from John Elway (Rich Karlis kick) 39-20 NYG

tarting lineups

Source: [Neft, David S., Cohen, Richard M., and Korch, Rick. "The Complete History of Professional Football from 1892 to the Present". 1994 ISBN 0312114354 ]


*Referee: Jerry Markbreit
*Umpire: Bob Boylston
*Head Linesman: Terry Gierke
*Line Judge: Bob Beeks
*Field Judge: Pat Mallette
*Side Judge: Gil Mace
*Back Judge: Jim Poole

ee also

*1986 NFL season
*NFL playoffs, 1986-87



* [ Super Bowl official website]
*cite book | title=2006 NFL Record and Fact Book | publisher=Time Inc. Home Entertainment | id=ISBN 1-933405-32-5
*cite book | title=Total Football II: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League | publisher=Harper Collins | id=ISBN 1-933405-32-5
*cite book | title=The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995 | id=ISBN 0-89204-523-X
* - Large online database of NFL data and statistics
* [ Super Bowl play-by-plays] from USA Today (Last accessed September 28, 2005)
* [ All-Time Super Bowl Odds] from The Sports Network (Last accessed October 16, 2005)

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