Super Bowl XXIII was an American football game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Cincinnati Bengals and the National Football Conference (NFC) champion San Francisco 49ers to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1988 season. The 49ers defeated the Bengals 20–16, winning their third Super Bowl. The game was played on January 22, 1989 at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami (now part of the suburb of Miami Gardens, which became a separate city in 2003). This was the first Super Bowl hosted in the Miami area in 10 years, and the first in Miami not held at the Orange Bowl.
This was the second meeting between these two teams in the Super Bowl; their first meeting was seven years earlier. The game was also the third rematch between Super Bowl teams after Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XVII. This was the Bengals' second Super Bowl appearance after finishing the regular season with a 12–4 record. The 49ers were making their third Super Bowl appearance after posting a 10–6 regular season record.
The game is best remembered for the 49ers' fourth-quarter game-winning drive. Down 16–13, San Francisco got the ball on their own 8-yard line with 3:10 on the clock and marched 92 yards down the field in under three minutes. They then scored the winning touchdown on a Joe Montana pass to John Taylor with just 34 seconds left in the game. The game was tight throughout. The teams combined for five field goals, and battled to a 3–3 score by the end of the second quarter, the first halftime tie in Super Bowl history. Cincinnati's only touchdown, a 93-yard kickoff return by Stanford Jennings in the third quarter, was quickly answered by a four-play, 85-yard drive that ended with San Francisco wide receiver Jerry Rice's 14-yard touchdown reception. Rice, who was named the Super Bowl MVP, caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl record 215 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing once for five yards.
|Super Bowl XXIII|
|Date||January 22, 1989|
|Stadium||Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, Florida|
|MVP||Jerry Rice, wide receiver|
|Favorite||49ers by 7|
|Current/Future Hall of Famers|
|Bengals: Anthony Muñoz|
49ers: Eddie DeBartolo, Jr. (owner), Bill Walsh (coach), Charles Haley, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, Steve Young
|National anthem||Billy Joel|
|Coin toss||Nick Buoniconti, Bob Griese, and Larry Little|
|Halftime show||"Be Bop Bamboozled" – South Florida-area dancers and performers including Elvis Presto, and 3-D effects|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen|
|Nielsen ratings||43.5 |
(est. 81.6 million viewers)
|Cost of 30-second commercial||$675,000|
NFL owners voted to award Super Bowl XXIII to Miami, Florida on March 14, 1985 during their March 10–15, 1985 meetings held in Phoenix. This was the sixth time that Miami hosted the game, and the first at Joe Robbie Stadium; the 5 previous Super Bowls in the area were played at the Miami Orange Bowl.
Originally, the selection was to be voted on during the May 23–25, 1984 meetings. However, after balloting for XXI took more than two hours, voting for XXIII was rescheduled. Twelve cities were part of the bidding process, which was scheduled to award two Super Bowls (XXIII and XXIV). The bidding cities included: Anaheim, Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, and Tempe. Miami entered as the favorite.
This was the last Super Bowl played on the second to last Sunday in January. From 1990 to 2001, the game was played on the last Sunday of January and since 2002, on the first Sunday in February (with the exception of Super Bowl XXXVII, which was played on January 26, 2003). This was also the last east coast Super Bowl that began under daylight.
For the 49ers, it was their first Super Bowl appearance since they defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. They had made the playoffs in the three seasons between Super Bowl XIX and Super Bowl XXIII, but were eliminated each time in the first round, primarily because of the poor performances by their offensive stars in those games; quarterback Joe Montana, receiver Jerry Rice, and running back Roger Craig all failed to produce a single touchdown. The previous season's 36–24 playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings had been a particularly low point for Montana, who had played so poorly that head coach Bill Walsh had benched him early in the third quarter.
In the 1988 season, San Francisco won the NFC West with a 10–6 regular season record, but it was a long uphill battle. The team had a quarterback controversy with Montana and Steve Young each starting during the season. But after a 6–5 start, Montana led the 49ers to win four of their final five regular season games.
Montana finished the regular season with 238 completions for 2,981 yards and 18 touchdowns, and also added 132 rushing yards. His favorite target was Rice, who recorded 64 receptions for 1,306 yards (a 20.4 yards per catch average) and 9 touchdowns. Craig was also a key contributor, leading the team in receptions (76) while finishing the season with a total of 2,036 combined rushing and receiving yards and 10 touchdowns, earning him the NFL Offensive Player of the Year Award. Fullback Tom Rathman also made a big impact, rushing for 427 yards and catching 42 passes for 387 yards. San Francisco also had a major special teams threat in second-year receiver John Taylor, who led the NFL in punt return yards (556), yards per return, (12.6), and touchdowns (2). He also gained 228 yards on kickoff returns and 325 receiving yards on just 14 receptions (a 23.2 yards per catch average).
The 49ers' defense was led by defensive backs Ronnie Lott, Eric Wright, Jeff Fuller, and Tim McKyer, who recorded a combined total of 18 interceptions. McKyer led the team with 7, while Lott recorded 5. Linebacker Charles Haley was also a big contributor with 11.5 sacks and 2 fumble recoveries.
The Bengals were also a team on the rebound. During the strike-shortened 1987 season, quarterback Boomer Esiason and head coach Sam Wyche had openly feuded, and the team finished with a miserable 4–11 record, including 0-3 in games played by replacement players. The coach and quarterback worked out their differences in the offseason, and Esiason ended up having the best season of his career en route to Super Bowl XXIII. During the regular season, he threw for 3,572 yards and 28 touchdowns with only 14 interceptions, while also rushing for 248 yards and a touchdown on 43 carries. Esiason's performance made him the top-rated quarterback in the league with a 97.4 passer rating and earned him the NFL Most Valuable Player Award.
Cincinnati had a number of offensive weapons, boasting six Pro Bowl selections. Wide receiver Eddie Brown was the top receiver on the team, with 54 receptions for 1,273 yards and 9 touchdowns, setting franchise records for most receiving yards in season, highest yards per catch average in a season (24.0) and most receiving yards in a single game (216 against the Pittsburgh Steelers). Wide receiver Tim McGee and Pro Bowl tight end Rodney Holman were also major threats, combining for 75 receptions, 1,213 yards, and 9 touchdowns. Rookie fullback Ickey Woods was their top rusher with 1,066 yards and 15 touchdowns, while also catching 21 passes for 199 yards and gaining a lot of media attention with his "Ickey Shuffle", a dance routine he did in the end zone to celebrate his touchdowns. Multi-talented running back James Brooks was also a key contributor, gaining a total of 1,218 combined rushing and receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. And the Bengals' offensive line was led by such Pro Bowl players as right guard Max Montoya and left tackle Anthony Muñoz. Muñoz was named the NFL Offensive Lineman of the Year for the third time in his career, and was selected to play in the Pro Bowl for the 8th season in a row. With all these weapons, Cincinnati's offense led the NFL in scoring (448 points), rushing yards (2,710), and total yards (6,302).
The Bengals' defense ranked 17th in the league, allowing 5,556 yards and 329 points during the regular season. Cincinnati had a superb defensive line, led by Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tim Krumrie, along with linemen Jim Skow (9.5 sacks), David Grant (5 sacks), and Jason Buck (6 sacks). Their linebacking corps was led by 13-year veteran Reggie Williams, one of six players remaining from their 1981 Super Bowl team. Pro Bowl defensive backs Eric Thomas and David Fulcher combined for 12 interceptions, while safety Lewis Billups added 4 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries. The team ended up winning the AFC Central with a 12–4 record.
The Bengals went on to defeat the Seattle Seahawks in the AFC Divisional playoff game 21–13, and the Buffalo Bills in the AFC Championship Game 21–10. Woods was the key contributor in both wins, rushing for a combined total of 228 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cincinnati's 17th-ranked defense during the season made a major improvement in the playoffs, holding both their opponents to a combined total of 23 points and recording 5 interceptions.
Meanwhile, Bill Walsh guided the 49ers to crushing playoff wins over the Minnesota Vikings, 34–9 and the Chicago Bears, 28–3. With the win over the Bears, the 49ers became the first road team to win an NFC Championship Game since the 1979 season.
Despite the Bengals' superior regular season record and Esiason's MVP award, the 49ers were heavily favored to win the Super Bowl, mainly because of Montana. Montana had already led the 49ers to two previous Super Bowls and both times left with a championship ring and Super Bowl MVP honors. Esiason was also suffering from a sore left (throwing) shoulder, although the Bengals tried to keep it under wraps and made up for a lack of big-play passing attack with a run-heavy offense led by Woods and Brooks against their first two playoff opponents, Seattle and Buffalo.
While Montana had his ups and downs during the regular season, he appeared to be playing his best in the postseason, throwing for 466 yards and 5 touchdowns in his two playoff games, with only 1 interception. In contrast, the sore-shouldered Esiason had thrown for only 202 yards and 1 touchdown, with 2 interceptions, in the Bengals' two playoff victories.
While in Miami, Cincinnati suffered a major blow even before the game began. On the night before the Super Bowl, Stanley Wilson, the Bengals' best fullback and their third-leading rusher during the season with 398 yards, was caught using cocaine in his hotel room. The Bengals had no choice but to leave him off the roster. It was Wilson's third violation of the league's drug policy, and as a result he was banned from the league for life.
Both coaches had a long history with each other. In 1979, 49ers coach Bill Walsh had talked Sam Wyche out of retirement to come and join the team as an assistant coach. Wyche remained on Walsh's coaching staff until 1982, winning a Super Bowl ring against the Bengals in Super Bowl XVI.
The rematch was the third time in Super Bowl history two teams were meeting for a second time. Miami and Washington met in Super Bowls VII and XVII, with the teams splitting the games. Dallas and Pittsburgh met in Super Bowls X and XIII, with Pittsburgh winning both of those games. Both Dallas-Pittsburgh matchups were in Miami at the Orange Bowl. Pittsburgh and Dallas would later meet in Super Bowl XXX (which the Cowboys won by 10) to become the first two teams to ever meet three times in the Super Bowl. The Cowboys and Bills (Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII), Rams and Patriots (Super Bowls XXXVI and LIII), Eagles and Patriots (Super Bowls XXXIX and LII), and Giants and Patriots (Super Bowls XLII and XLVI) have also met in two Super Bowls each.
On January 16, a Hispanic Miami police officer shot and killed a speeding black motorcyclist in the Overtown section of Miami. A large crowd gathered and turned violent, leading to rioting and looting which lasted into January 18. A television van and several automobiles and buildings were set on fire, and police used tear gas against the rioters. A teenager was shot and killed in the melee and more than $1 million worth of damage was done.
Rumors began that the Super Bowl might be moved to Tampa, and the incident later prompted the NFL to look at the league's hiring of minorities and its lack of black coaches at the time (the following season, Art Shell, became the first African-American NFL head coach of the modern era with the Los Angeles Raiders).
The game was broadcast in the United States by NBC with Dick Enberg handling the play-by-play duties and color commentator Merlin Olsen in the broadcast booth. This would be Olsen's final Super Bowl broadcast, as he was demoted the following season to make room for retiring 49ers head coach Bill Walsh. Bob Costas and Gayle Gardner hosted the Super Bowl Live! pregame (2 hours), halftime, and postgame coverage with analysts Paul Maguire and then-Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula. Also assisting with NBC's coverage were pregame roving reporter Jim Gray (who was also working as a researcher for NBC Sports at the time) and Marv Albert, who interviewed Sam Wyche and Boomer Esiason after the game. Meanwhile, during NBC's pregame coverage, Ahmad Rashād and John Candy hosted the Diet Pepsi Talent Challenge at the Miami Seaquarium. Also, Frank Deford narrated a special segment profiling recently deceased Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney.
This was also the first NFL game that NBC covered with their new "Quantel Cypher" graphics system, which was introduced during their coverage of the 1988 Seoul Olympics (they had used Chyron for their graphics prior to Super Bowl XXIII). NBC also introduced their "cursive font" logo during this broadcast. Before, it was just the 1986 peacock logo with "NBC SPORTS" in their generic corporate font.
With the win, the 49ers became the first team to win Super Bowls televised on three different networks (CBS–XVI, ABC–XIX, and NBC). Since then, the Washington Redskins (in 1992), the Green Bay Packers (in 1997), the Pittsburgh Steelers (in 2006), the New York Giants (in 2008), and the New England Patriots (in 2015) have accomplished this same feat.
The movie Brotherhood of the Rose aired after the game.
This game also marked the debut of the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter. The first winner of the annual survey was an ad from American Express starring Saturday Night Live stars Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz, who went to the game with different credit cards – Carvey with American Express, Lovitz with AmEx rival Visa.
The game aired on Channel 4 in the United Kingdom, and simulcast on CTV in Canada and Televisa's Canal de las Estrellas in Mexico. For viewers watching the game on AFN TV Europe (Armed Forces Network), AFN and NBC broke for a commercial just before the Montana-Taylor touchdown play. AFN continued their announcements and did not get back to the game until after the touchdown. AFN viewers saw the winning touchdown in replay.
On radio, The game was broadcast in the United States by CBS with Jack Buck handling the play-by-play duties and color commentator Hank Stram in the broadcast booth. Brent Musburger hosted the pregame, halftime, and postgame coverage with analysts Dick Butkus, Irv Cross and Will McDonough, all from CBS' The NFL Today. Locally, Super Bowl XXIII was broadcast by WKRC-AM in Cincinnati with Phil Samp, Ken Anderson and Dave Lapham and by KGO-AM in San Francisco with Lon Simmons (calling his final game as 49ers play-by-play announcer), Wayne Walker and Joe Starkey.
The pregame festivities honored the Miami and South Florida areas, along with a tribute to NASA.
Singer Billy Joel later sang the national anthem. He also sang the national anthem at Super Bowl XLI, which coincidentally was held at the same venue. The coin toss ceremony featured former Miami Dolphins players Nick Buoniconti, Bob Griese, and Larry Little.
This was the last outdoor Super Bowl to start earlier than 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, as it started just after 5 p.m.
The halftime show was titled "Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D" and featured Elvis Presto (played by then-Solid Gold dancer Alex Cole) and hundreds of South Florida-area dancers and performers. Ironically, not one actual Elvis Presley song was performed. Several scenes included computer generated 3-D images. Prior to the game, Coca-Cola distributed 3-D glasses at retailers for viewers to use. At the onset of the halftime show, primary sponsor Diet Coke aired the first commercial in 3-D (Coca-Cola had originally planned to use the 3-D Diet Coke commercial as part of the 1987–1988, aired in 3-D season finale of Moonlighting, but withdrew plans due to the 1988 Writers Guild of America Strike).
Super Bowl XXIII started out with devastating injuries on both sides. On the third play of the game, 49ers tackle Steve Wallace was taken off the field with a broken ankle. Later on, Bengals defensive lineman Tim Krumrie twisted his ankle nearly 180 degrees, shattering two bones in his left leg.
After the two teams traded punts on their first drives of the game, the 49ers, aided by a roughing the passer penalty and a 17-yard screen pass to fullback Tom Rathman on 3rd-and-10, marched 73 yards from their own 3-yard line to the Bengals 24. But dropped passes, including one by receiver Mike Wilson on the 2-yard line (the first time in a Super Bowl that instant replay was used to reverse a call), forced them to settle for a 41-yard field goal from kicker Mike Cofer.
On the 49ers' next drive, Montana threw a pass to wide receiver Jerry Rice, who first tipped it to himself and then made a one-handed catch before stepping out of bounds at the San Francisco 45-yard line.
Then after reaching the Cincinnati 42-yard line, Montana spotted defensive back Lewis Billups trying to cover Rice one-on-one and made him pay for it by completing a pass to the receiver at the 10. But two plays later on a third-down play, Bengals safety David Fulcher made a touchdown saving tackle at the 2 to keep Rathman from scoring. Cofer then attempted a 19-yard field goal, but a poor snap from center Randy Cross (though NBC's Dick Enberg initially blamed backup guard Chuck Thomas; who lined up next to Cross and split long-snapping duties; primarily on punts) threw off the kicker's timing and his kick sailed wide left. Cofer succeeded Rich Karlis, who missed a 21-yard field goal in Super Bowl XXI, as the kicker with the shortest missed field goal in Super Bowl history, a record that still holds.
The 49ers then forced the Bengals to punt on their next drive. On the play, San Francisco Pro Bowl punt returner John Taylor misplayed punter Lee Johnson's kick, and it sailed over his head, bouncing all the way to the 49ers 9 to make it a then-Super Bowl record 63-yard punt. But Taylor made up for his mistake by chasing the ball down and returning it for a then-Super Bowl record 45 yards to the Bengals 46. Thanks to Taylor, a seemingly routine punt had turned into a double record setter. Taylor's Super Bowl record for longest punt return stood for 27 seasons until Super Bowl 50, when Denver Broncos' return specialist Jordan Norwood had a 61-yard return. Johnson's Super Bowl record for longest punt stood for 30 seasons until Super Bowl 53, when Los Angeles Rams' punter Johnny Hekker had a 65-yard punt.
However, the 49ers were unable to take advantage of their excellent starting field position. On first down, running back Harry Sydney fumbled a pitch from Montana and was downed for a 10-yard loss after he dove on the ball. On the next play, Montana was sacked by defensive lineman David Grant (who replaced Krumrie at nose tackle). Then on third down, Fulcher forced a fumble from 49ers running back Roger Craig, and Bengals defensive end Jim Skow recovered the ball on his own 41. Cincinnati then drove to the San Francisco 42, but after two incomplete passes and defensive end Danny Stubbs's eight-yard sack on Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason, they were forced to punt. However, Johnson pinned the 49ers back at their own 11. Then the Cincinnati defense limited the 49ers to just one yard on their ensuing drive, and ended up with great field position after defensive back Ray Horton returned San Francisco punter Barry Helton's 37-yard punt five yards to the 49ers 44.
On their ensuing drive, the Bengals managed to get into scoring range by driving 28 yards to the San Francisco 16, assisted by an 18-yard completion from Esiason to receiver Tim McGee. But after Esiason's third down pass intended for wide receiver Eddie Brown was overthrown, they were forced to settle for kicker Jim Breech's 34-yard field goal with 1:15 left in the half.
The two teams went into their locker rooms tied 3–3, the first halftime tie in Super Bowl history, and the lowest halftime score since the Pittsburgh Steelers took a 2–0 halftime lead over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.
On their opening possession in the second half, the Bengals managed to get a sustained drive going, moving the ball 61 yards in 12 plays and taking 9:15 off the clock. Esiason, who completed only 4 of 12 passes for 48 yards in the first half, completed 3 of 4 passes for 54 yards on the drive, including a 20-yard completion to James Brooks and 23-yard and 11-yard completions to Cris Collinsworth, setting up a 43-yard field goal from Breech to give the Bengals their first lead of the game, 6–3. Cincinnati then forced San Francisco to punt, but on the first play of their next drive, 49ers rookie linebacker Bill Romanowski intercepted a pass from Esiason at the Bengals 23. However, after a dropped pass by Rice, the 49ers' offense could not get a first down, and they had to settle for Cofer's 32-yard field goal to tie the game, 6-6.
With less than a minute left in the third quarter, it appeared that this would become the first Super Bowl ever to go three quarters without either team scoring a touchdown. But on the ensuing kickoff, Stanford Jennings received the ball at the 7, ran straight up the middle behind a wedge of blockers, and burst out of the pack into the open field. 49ers receiver Terry Greer managed to chase him down and trip him up at the 1, but he still fell into the end zone for a 93-yard touchdown return, giving the Bengals a 13–6 lead. Jennings joined Fulton Walker as the only other player at that time to return a kickoff for a touchdown in the Super Bowl. In the next three Super Bowls played in what is now Hard Rock Stadium, players duplicated Jennings' feat: Andre Coleman returned a kickoff against the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX for the San Diego Chargers, Tim Dwight did so for the Atlanta Falcons against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII, and Devin Hester did so for the Chicago Bears against the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
But the 49ers immediately responded with a touchdown of their own on an 85-yard, 4-play drive. First, Montana threw a short pass to Rice, who turned it into a 31-yard gain.
Then the San Francisco quarterback completed a 40-yard pass to Craig on the first play of the fourth quarter, moving the ball to the Bengals 14. Montana's next pass was dropped by Bengals cornerback Lewis Billups in the end zone. On the next play, Montana threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Rice to tied the game at 13.
Cofer's ensuing kickoff went out of bounds, giving the Bengals the ball at their own 35. But they could only reach their 43 before being forced to punt. Taylor nearly turned the ball over by fumbling Johnson's punt, but teammate Darryl Pollard recovered the ball at the San Francisco 18. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Montana completed a 44-yard pass to Rice, and then Craig ran for seven yards, moving the ball to the Bengals 31. But after Craig was tackled for a one-yard loss on the next play, Fulcher broke up a third-down pass intended for Taylor, and then Cofer's 49-yard field attempt sailed wide right.
The Bengals took over from their own 32 and regained the lead with a 10-play, 46-yard drive, featuring a 17-yard reception by backup receiver Ira Hillary on third and 13, along with 21 yards on three carries from Ickey Woods and a 12-yard play-action sideline pass to James Brooks. At the end of the drive, Breech kicked a 40-yard field goal, giving the Bengals a 16–13 lead with 3:20 left in the game. The 49ers returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 15 with 3:10 on the clock, but an illegal block penalty on the play pushed the ball back half the distance to the goal line to the 8.
Montana then led an 11-play, 92-yard drive to score the winning touchdown. In order to calm his teammates in the huddle just before the final game-winning drive, Montana pointed into the stadium crowd and said "Hey, isn't that John Candy?" The tactic worked, and the 49ers were able to drive down the field for the win. It became the defining moment of Montana's "Joe Cool" reputation. Assuming that the Bengals would expect him to throw the ball near the sidelines (to enable the receivers to step out of bounds to immediately stop the clock), Montana first threw a pair of completions in the middle of the field, one to Craig and one to tight end John Frank. His next pass went to the right sideline, 7 yards to Rice, which was then followed up by a pair of runs by Craig to reach their own 35-yard line. Montana then completed a 17-yard pass to Rice to advance to the Bengals 48-yard line, and followed it up with a 13-yard completion to Craig to move them to the 35-yard line.
But on the next play, Montana threw his first incomplete pass of the drive, overthrowing Rice. After that, Cross committed an illegal man downfield penalty, which at the time was a 10-yard foul, moving the ball back to the 45 and bringing up second down and 20 with just 1:15 left in the game. But on the next play, Montana hit Rice with a 27-yard completion giving the 49ers the ball at the Cincinnati 18. An eight-yard pass to Craig then advanced San Francisco to the 10. Then with 39 seconds left, Montana finished the drive with a 10-yard TD pass to Taylor, giving the 49ers the lead for good.
Although Jerry Rice was named MVP, Montana had an MVP-worthy performance, completing 23 of 36 passes for a Super Bowl record 357 yards, throwing for two touchdowns, and gaining 14 rushing yards. Craig finished with 71 yards rushing, and eight receptions for 101 receiving yards. He was the first running back in Super Bowl history to gain 100 receiving yards. Taylor finished the game with a Super Bowl record 56 punt return yards. His 18.7 yards per return was also the highest average in Super Bowl history. Linebacker Charles Haley had six tackles and two sacks. For Cincinnati, Jennings rushed one time for three yards, and gained 117 yards and a touchdown on two kickoff returns. Woods had a game-high 79 rushing yards. The sore-armed Esiason was limited to completing 11 out of 25 passes for 144 yards and an interception. Collinsworth (who retired after the game) was the Bengals' top receiver of the game, but with just three catches for 40 yards.
The 49ers became the sixth team to win the Super Bowl over a team with a better regular season record. The 49ers also became the first team since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978 to win the Super Bowl after winning only 10 games during the regular season. Their six regular season losses were tied for the most ever by a Super Bowl champion, until the 9–7 New York Giants won Super Bowl XLVI following the 2011 season. Additionally, the 49ers' 13 combined regular season and postseason wins are tied for the lowest ever for a league champion, also tied with the 2011 New York Giants.
This was the final NFL game coached by the 49ers' Bill Walsh, as he retired from NFL coaching. After spending the next three seasons as a broadcaster for NBC, he then coached Stanford from 1992 to 1994. Walsh then returned to the 49ers' front office, first serving as the team's Vice President and General Manager from 1999 to 2001, and as a consultant from 2002 to 2004.
The Bengals have only recorded one postseason win since Super Bowl XXIII, a Wild Card Playoff game against the Houston Oilers on January 6, 1991, and currently hold the NFL's longest active drought between postseason victories.
On January 26, 2006, NFL.com ranked this game Number 1 on its list of the top 10 Super Bowls of all time.
|Cincinnati Bengals||San Francisco 49ers|
|First downs rushing||7||6|
|First downs passing||6||16|
|First downs penalty||0||1|
|Third down efficiency||4/13||4/13|
|Fourth down efficiency||0/1||0/0|
|Net yards rushing||106||111|
|Yards per rush||3.8||4.0|
|Passing – Completions/attempts||11/25||23/36|
|Times sacked-total yards||5–21||3–14|
|Net yards passing||123||343|
|Total net yards||229||454|
|Punt returns-total yards||2–5||3–56|
|Kickoff returns-total yards||3–132||5–77|
|Interceptions-total return yards||0–0||1–0|
|Time of possession||32:43||27:17|
1Completions/attempts 2Carries 3Long gain 4Receptions 5Times targeted
The following records were set in Super Bowl XXIII, according to the official NFL.com boxscore and the ProFootball reference.com game summary.
Some records have to meet NFL minimum number of attempts to be recognized. The minimums are shown (in parenthesis).
|Player Records Set |
percentage, career, (40 attempts)
|Most passing yards, game||357 yds|
|Most attempts, without
|Most yards, game||215 yds||Jerry Rice|
|Longest punt return||45 yds||John Taylor(SF)|
|Most punt return yards gained, game||56 yds|
|Most punt return yards gained, career||56 yds|
|Highest average, punt return
yardage, game (3 returns)
|18.7 yds |
|Longest punt||63 yds||Lee Johnson(Cin)|
|Most 40-plus yard field goals, game||2||Jim Breech(Cin)|
|Most completions, career||61||Joe Montana|
|Lowest percentage, passes had
intercepted, career, (40 attempts)
|Most receptions, game||11||Jerry Rice|
|Most kickoff returns for touchdowns, game||1||Stanford Jennings(Cin)|
|Team Records Set |
|Most yards passing (net)||341 yds||49ers|
|Highest average gain,
kickoff returns (3 returns)
|Most yards gained,
|Highest average gain,
punt returns (3 returns)
|18.7 yds |
|Most points, fourth quarter||14 pts||49ers|
|Fewest rushing touchdowns||0||Bengals |
|Fewest passing touchdowns||0||Bengals|
|Most kickoff returns for touchdowns||1|
|Records Set, both team totals |
|Most field goals made||5||2||3|
|Records tied, both team totals|
|Most field goals attempted||7||4||3|
|Fewest rushing touchdowns||0||0||0|
|Fewest times intercepted||1||0||1|
|Fewest interceptions by||1||1||0|
|Tim McGee||WR||John Taylor|
|Anthony Muñoz‡||LT||Steve Wallace|
|Bruce Reimers||LG||Jesse Sapolu|
|Bruce Kozerski||C||Randy Cross|
|Max Montoya||RG||Guy McIntyre|
|Brian Blados||RT||Harris Barton|
|Rodney Holman||TE||John Frank|
|Eddie Brown||WR||Jerry Rice‡|
|Boomer Esiason||QB||Joe Montana‡|
|James Brooks||RB||Roger Craig|
|Ickey Woods||FB||Tom Rathman|
|Jim Skow||LE||Larry Roberts|
|Tim Krumrie||NT||Michael Carter|
|Jason Buck||RE||Kevin Fagan|
|Leon White||LOLB||Charles Haley‡|
|Carl Zander||LILB||Jim Fahnhorst|
|Joe Kelly||RILB||Michael Walter|
|Reggie Williams||ROLB||Keena Turner|
|Lewis Billups||LCB||Tim McKyer|
|Eric Thomas||RCB||Don Griffin|
|David Fulcher||SS||Jeff Fuller|
|Solomon Wilcots||FS||Ronnie Lott‡|
The 1988 Cincinnati Bengals season was the team's 21st year in professional football and its 19th with the National Football League.
After coming off a disappointing 1987 season, the Bengals tied for the best record in the NFL in 1988, secured home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and won the AFC Championship, appearing in Super Bowl XXIII.
The Bengals went 8-0 at home in 1988. On the road, the Bengals were 4-4.
The 1988 Bengals were featured in the NFL Films series The Missing Rings, being included as one of the five best teams in NFL history not to have won the Super Bowl.1988 NFL season
The 1988 NFL season was the 69th regular season of the National Football League. The Cardinals relocated from St. Louis, Missouri to the Phoenix, Arizona area becoming the Phoenix Cardinals but remained in the NFC East division. The playoff races came down to the regular season’s final week, with the Seattle Seahawks winning the AFC West by one game, and the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers winning their respective divisions in a five-way tie, with the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants losing the NFC Wild Card berth to the Los Angeles Rams on tiebreakers.
This season marked the final coaching season for the legendary Tom Landry.
The season ended with Super Bowl XXIII when the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 20–16 at the Joe Robbie Stadium in Florida.1988 San Francisco 49ers season
The 1988 San Francisco 49ers season was their 43rd season in the National Football League. The season was highlighted by their third Super Bowl victory. In 1988, the 49ers struggled. At one point, they were 6–5 and in danger of missing the playoffs but rose to defeat the Washington Redskins on a Monday night, eventually finishing the season at 10–6. They gained a measure of revenge by thrashing the Minnesota Vikings 34–9 in the first round. The 49ers then traveled to Chicago's Soldier Field, where the chill factor at gametime was 26 degrees below zero. They defeated the Chicago Bears 28–3 in the NFC Championship.
For the 49ers, it was their first Super Bowl appearance since they defeated the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX. They had made the playoffs in the three seasons between Super Bowl XIX and Super Bowl XXIII, but were eliminated each time in the first round, primarily because of the poor performances by their offensive stars in those games; quarterback Joe Montana, receiver Jerry Rice and running back Roger Craig all failed to produce a single touchdown.
The 49ers alternated quarterbacks as Montana and Steve Young both started at various points of the season. The broadcast booth of the 49ers radio network also saw change, as Joe Starkey substituted for longtime 49ers play by play announcer Lon Simmons during several games, mostly in October when Simmons called the Oakland Athletics 1988 American League Championship Series and 1988 World Series games for the Oakland A's flagship station, KSFO–AM. The 1988 season was the last for Simmons as 49ers broadcaster. With the regular season and postseason, the 49ers compiled a total of 13 victories (a .684 win percentage) on the season, a record-low for Super Bowl champions. In 2011, the New York Giants would tie this record (but with a .650 win percentage as they suffered seven losses as opposed to the 49ers six).1988–89 NFL playoffs
The National Football League playoffs for the 1988 season began on December 24, 1988. The postseason tournament concluded with the San Francisco 49ers defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII, 20–16, on January 22, 1989, at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida.
Due to Christmas, the two wild card playoff games were held in a span of three days.Barry Helton
Barry Bret Helton (born January 2, 1965) is a former American college and professional football player who was a punter in the National Football League (NFL) for four seasons during the 1980s and 1990s. He played college football for the University of Colorado, and earned All-American honors. He played professionally for the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams of the NFL, and played in Super Bowl XXIII and Super Bowl XXIV for the 49ers.
Helton was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado, where he played for the Colorado Buffaloes football team from 1984 to 1987.
Helton's son Bret is also a professional athlete, pitching in the Pittsburgh Pirates' minor league system.Calvin Nicholas
Calvin Lewis Nicholas (born June 11, 1964) is a former American football wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the 49ers in the eleventh round of the 1987 NFL Draft. Nicholas played college football at Grambling State University and attended McKinley Senior High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers team that won Super Bowl XXIII.Carl Zander
Carl August Zander, Jr (born April 12, 1963) is a former American football linebacker who played for the Cincinnati Bengals in the National Football League from 1985 to 1991. Selected in the second round of the 1985 NFL Draft, he was a member of the Bengals' starting lineup in Super Bowl XXIII. He played college football at Tennessee, where he was a captain of the Vols' 1984 squad.Darryl Pollard
Darryl Pollard (born May 11, 1964 in Ellsworth, Maine) is a former professional American football player who played cornerback for seven seasons in the National Football League (NFL). His listed highlights are the Super Bowl XXIII and XXIV championships, and playing on an undefeated Colorado State High School Championship team in 1981.Doug DuBose
Donald Douglas DuBose (born March 14, 1964) is a former American football running back who played two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League. He played college football at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and attended Montville High School in Oakdale, Connecticut. DuBose was also a member of the Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football. He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers team that won Super Bowl XXIII.Doug Mikolas
Douglas Adolph Mikolas (born June 7, 1961) is a former American football nose tackle who played two seasons in the National Football League with the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Oilers. Mikolas played college football at Oregon Tech and attended Scio High School in Scio, Oregon. He was also a member of the Denver Gold of the United States Football League, Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and the New York/New Jersey Knights of the World League of American Football. He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers team that won Super Bowl XXIII.Dwaine Board
Dwaine P. Board (born November 29, 1956) is a defensive line coach for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League. He is also a former American football defensive end who played for the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints from 1979 to 1988.
Board played college football at North Carolina A&T State University and was drafted in the fifth round of the 1979 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers, but they released him in the preseason and signed with the 49ers. In his 10 NFL seasons, Board recorded 45 sacks and 9 fumble recoveries. He was a member of the San Francisco 49ers' Super Bowl winning teams; Super Bowl XVI, Super Bowl XIX and Super Bowl XXIII as a player, and Super Bowl XXIX as a coach.
On March 25, 2015, he was hired as the defensive line coach for Seattle Seahawks.Gary Lane (gridiron football)
Gary Owen Lane (December 21, 1942 – June 27, 2003) was an American football quarterback and American football official.
After graduating from East Alton-Wood River High School in Wood River, Illinois in 1961, Lane played college football at the University of Missouri from 1963 to 1966 and later in the National Football League (NFL) for three seasons with the Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants from 1966 to 1968. He also played one season in the Canadian Football League for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in 1970. Following his playing career, Lane was an official in the NFL for 18 seasons from 1982 to 1999, serving as a side judge (1982-1991, 1998-1999) and referee (1992-1997). He retired prior to the start of the 2000 NFL season after failing a physical. As an official, Lane was assigned to Super Bowl XXIII in 1989 and Super Bowl XXXIII in 1999 and wore the uniform number 120. He was also the referee of the famous "Fake Spike" game in 1994 where Dan Marino faked a spike against the New York Jets and threw the winning touchdown pass at the old Meadowlands.
During the last three years of his life, Gary returned to his alma mater of East Alton - Wood River High School in Wood River, Illinois, and donated many hours as an assistant football coach; contributed his own funds to a scholarship program in his name; and served as a mentor for many of the football players during those years. Lane died unexpectedly in 2003 due to a heart attack. He is survived by his wife, Marcy, two children, and three stepchildren. The Gary Lane Foundation, a youth program, has been established in his honor.
Lane's son-in-law is former Major League Baseball catcher and former St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.Jim Fahnhorst
James John Fahnhorst (born November 8, 1958) is a former National Football League linebacker from 1984 through 1990. During that span he was a member of three Super Bowl Champions and started in Super Bowl XXIII: Super Bowl XIX, Super Bowl XXIII and Super Bowl XXIV for the San Francisco 49ers. Jim grew up in St. Cloud, Minnesota and graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School. He played college football at the University of Minnesota where he was First Team All-Big Ten at Linebacker AP/UPI in 1981. He is the younger brother of the late former 49ers' tackle Keith Fahnhorst. Graduating with a BA in Psychology, and a minor in Criminology.
Fahnhorst also played two years in the USFL for coaching legend George Allen in the spring/summer of 1983 and 1984 for the Chicago Blitz and Arizona Wranglers. He is currently a Financial Advisor and has coached college football at Division III Macalester College and at Wayzata and Maple Grove High Schools in the Minneapolis area.
Lewis Billups (October 10, 1963 in Tampa, Florida – April 10, 1994 in Orlando, Florida) was an American football cornerback who played seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers in the National Football League, recording 9 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries. Billups was known to wear an opponent’s T-shirt the day of the game to stay focused.Known as a tough corner who played with a chip on his shoulder, Billups was a defensive back who was very popular among teammates. Billups is often remembered for his critical dropped interception in Super Bowl XXIII. In the beginning of the fourth quarter with the Bengals up 13–6 over the San Francisco 49ers and the 49ers driving from the Bengals 10-yard line, quarterback Joe Montana threw a pass towards Billups that he dropped in the end zone. On the next play, the 49ers scored a touchdown, tying the game at 13. Towards the games conclusion, Montana threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to John Taylor to give San Francisco a 20–16 lead with 34 seconds left. The 49ers won the game 20–16.
When not playing football, Billups led a playboy life style, complete with the finest cars and an Orlando mansion. One of Billups closest of friends was Bengals wide receiver Tim McGee who was picked alongside Billups in the 1986 draft.Ron Hadley
Ronald Arthur Hadley (born November 9, 1963) is a former professional football player, a linebacker with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers in 1987 and 1988, when the 49ers won Super Bowl XXIII.
Hadley attended the University of Washington from 1982–86, and was selected by the New York Jets in the 5th round of the 1986 NFL Draft, the 132nd overall
He is a 1982 graduate of Boise High School, where he was the IHSAA A-1 Player of the Year in his senior season. He was a starter on both defense and offense (defensive end and tight end), and led the Boise Braves to the A-1 state championship as a junior and the state finals as a senior.Sam Wyche
Samuel David Wyche (born January 5, 1945) is a former American football player and current coach at Pickens High School in South Carolina. Wyche is a former player and former head coach for the Cincinnati Bengals and quarterbacks coach for the San Francisco 49ers. Perhaps best known for introducing the use of the No-huddle offense as a standard offense (as opposed to use at the end of the half), Wyche's greatest achievement as a head coach was leading the Bengals to Super Bowl XXIII, which they lost to the 49ers 20–16, relinquishing the lead with only 34 seconds remaining.
Wyche's 64 wins with the Bengals were the most by a coach in franchise history until October 30, 2011, when he was surpassed by Marvin Lewis.
Wyche also played for the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, and St. Louis Cardinals. He also coached at the University of South Carolina and Indiana University, and for the San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Buffalo Bills.Stanford Jennings
Stanford Jamison Jennings (born March 12, 1962) is a former American football running back in the NFL. Jennings played seven seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals (1984–1990), and one each for the New Orleans Saints (1991) and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1992). He played college football at Furman University. Jennings returned a 93-yard kickoff for a touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII.Stanley Wilson (running back)
Stanley Tobias Wilson Sr. (born August 23, 1961) is an American former professional football running back who played for the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals. He attended college at the University of Oklahoma and selected by the Bengals in the ninth round of the 1983 NFL Draft.
Wilson played high school football at Banning High School in Los Angeles, where he played with Freeman McNeil in the backfield and he was the 4A player of the year in 1978 and 1979.Tory Nixon
Torran Blake Nixon (born February 24, 1962 in Eugene, Oregon) is a former professional American football cornerback in the National Football League for the San Francisco 49ers. He played college football at San Diego State University and was drafted in the second round of the 1985 NFL Draft by the Washington Redskins.
In April 2018, Nixon was named Senior Executive Vice President of Umpqua Bank and the bank's first Chief Banking Officer. Previously, Nixon served as division president and managing director for California Bank & Trust in San Diego and Northern California. He also played for the San Francisco 49ers from 1985-1989 and was a member of the Super Bowl XXIII Championship team. Nixon holds a Master of Business Administration from the University of Southern California.
San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl XXIII champions
|Division championships (19)|
|Conference championships (6)|
|League championships (5)|
|Current league affiliations|
|Former league affiliation|
All-America Football Conference (1946–1949)
Championship seasons in bold
|Culture and lore|
|Division championships (9)|
|Conference championships (2)|
|Current league affiliations|
|Former league affiliation|
Championship seasons in bold
National Football League Championship Games (1933–present)
|NFL Championship Game|
|AFL Championship Game|
|AFL-NFL World Championship Games |
1 – From 1966 to 1969, the first four Super Bowls were "World Championship" games played between two independent professional football leagues, AFL and NFL, and when the league merged in 1970 the Super Bowl became the NFL Championship Game.
2 – Dates in the list denote the season, not the calendar year in which the championship game was played. For instance, Super Bowl XLI was played in 2007, but was the championship for the 2006 season.
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