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The National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys defeated the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Buffalo Bills, 30–13. This was the first time in Super Bowl history that the same two teams met in two consecutive years. The Cowboys won their fourth Super Bowl in team history, tying the Pittsburgh Steelers and the San Francisco 49ers. The Bills became the first team to both appear in and lose 4 consecutive Super Bowls.
Dallas scored 24 unanswered points in the second half. Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith was named the Super Bowl MVP, with 30 carries for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also catching 4 passes for 26 yards.
The Cowboys' journey to Super Bowl XXVIII was not easy. Pro Bowl running back Emmitt Smith held out the first two regular season games over a contract dispute, and Dallas lost both of those contests. Pro Bowl quarterback Troy Aikman, along with a few other key players, missed games due to injuries. But Dallas clinched the best regular season record in the NFC at 12-4 after defeating the New York Giants in their final regular season game.
Aikman finished the regular season completing 271 out of 392 passes for 3,100 yards, 15 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. Smith recorded 1486 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns, while catching 57 passes for 414 yards and another touchdown. Pro Bowler Michael Irvin was once again the team's leading wide receiver with 88 catches for 1,330 yards and 7 touchdowns. Wide receiver Alvin Harper had 36 catches for 777 yards and 5 touchdowns, while Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek had 44 receptions for 445 yards and 1 touchdown. Pro Bowlers Mark Stepnoski, Erik Williams, and Nate Newton anchored the offensive line.
The Bills also finished at the top of the AFC by clinching the conference's best regular season record at 12-4. Quarterback Jim Kelly once again led Buffalo's no-huddle offense by passing for 288 out of 470 regular season completions for 3,382 yards, 18 touchdowns, with 18 interceptions. Thomas gained 1,315 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns, while also catching 48 passes for 387 yards. Running back Kenneth Davis rushed for 391 yards and 6 touchdowns, while also recording 21 receptions for 95 yards. Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Reed led the team with 52 receptions for 854 yards and 6 touchdowns; wide receiver Bill Brooks had 60 receptions for 714 yards and 5 touchdowns; and wide receiver Don Beebe recorded 31 receptions for 504 yards and 3 touchdowns. Also, Pete Metzelaars led the Bills tight ends with 68 receptions for 609 yards and 4 touchdowns. And Pro Bowl offensive lineman Howard Ballard anchored the line.
Buffalo's defense was still the team's weakness, ranking 28th (then-last) in the league, giving up 5,810 total yards. The defense did have a few good contributors such as Pro Bowl lineman Bruce Smith (14 sacks, 1 fumble recovery), Pro Bowl linebacker Cornelius Bennett (5 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries), along with linebacker Darryl Talley (101 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 interceptions) and defensive back Nate Odomes, who led the NFL with 9 interceptions and recorded 1 fumble recovery.
Buffalo's first opponent was Los Angeles Raiders, led by quarterback Jeff Hostetler, who had led the New York Giants to victory over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV 3 years earlier. In this game, the Raiders built up a 17-13 halftime lead, but Buffalo stormed back with 16 second half points. First they scored on Kelly's 25-yard touchdown pass to Brooks. Then on their next drive, kicker Steve Christie made a 29-yard field goal to give the Bills a 24-17 lead. Los Angeles managed to respond with an 86-yard scoring strike from Hostetler to receiver Tim Brown, but Buffalo stormed right back with Brooks' 22-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. The Bills ended up winning the game 29-23, having scored 16 points in a span of 6:18 in the second half. Kelly had a superb performance in the game, throwing for 287 yards and 2 touchdowns with no interceptions.
One week later, the Bills advanced to their fourth consecutive Super Bowl by blowing away the Kansas City Chiefs 30-13 in the AFC championship game. Thomas had a phenominal performance in the game, rushing for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns, and catching 2 passes for 22 yards. On defense, the Bills limited Chiefs future hall of fame quarterback Joe Montana to just 9 of 23 completions for 125 yards and no touchdowns, with 1 interception. In addition, Kansas City's future hall of fame running back Marcus Allen was held to just 50 rushing yards on 18 carries.
In the NFC, Dallas' first opponent in the playoffs was the Green Bay Packers, who were coming off a thrilling 28-24 win in the wildcard round in which quarterback Brett Favre had thrown the winning touchdown pass to Sterling Sharpe with only 55 seconds left in the game. In this game, the Packers scored first with a field goal, but Dallas stormed back with 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. First Aikman threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Harper. Then with time running out the period, Dallas scored again on an Eddie Murray field goal. Green Bay then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, allowing the Cowboys to score again with Aikman's 6-yard pass to Novacek. The Cowboys went on to stave off an attempted Packers comeback in the second half and win the game 27-17. Aikman finished the game with 28 of 37 completions for 302 yards and 3 touchdowns, with 2 interceptions. Irvin recorded 9 catches for 126 yards and 2 touchdowns.
One week later, Dallas faced the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game for the second year in a row. The last time the 2 teams played, Dallas narrowly escaped with a victory after Aikman thwarted a 49ers attempted comeback with a touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter. But this time, the game was extremely one-sided. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on 4 of their 5 first half possessions. By the time the end of the half, Dallas had a commanding 28-7 lead and were on their way to a surprisingly easy 38-21 win. Although he missed most of the second half due to injury, Aikman had a superb performance in the game, completing 14 of 18 passes for 177 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions, while also rushing for 25 yards. Smith was also a key contributor, rushing for 88 yards, catching 7 passes for 85 yards, and scoring 2 touchdowns.
Super Bowl pregame news and notes
Many sports writers and fans were a bit upset that the Bills advanced to their fourth consecutive Super Bowl. They were tired that Buffalo lost the three previous Super Bowl games and did not want to see them lose again. Some Bills fans appeared to be defensive about their team's presence in the game; during Buffalo's victory in the AFC championship game a week earlier, one fan displayed a banner defiantly proclaiming, "We're back; deal with it, America!"
Therefore, the Super Bowl hype was more focused onto Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and head coach Jimmy Johnson. Although the two rebuilt the team with young talent that eventually won the previous year's Super Bowl, both men had huge egos that conflicted with each other. Both had different ideas on the future personnel plans for the Cowboys and both wanted equal credit for the team's recent success (eventually, Johnson would leave the team after the season).
Television and entertainment
The game was broadcast in the United States by NBC with play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and color commentator Bob Trumpy. Jim Lampley hosted all the events with the help of Mike Ditka and Joe Gibbs.
It was the first time a network had held consecutive Super Bowls outright, and the only time a Super Bowl would be bid, not assigned by the television contract. The five-year NFL contract signed in 1989 had a provision where the last Super Bowl in the contract (XXVIII) would not be rotated, but would be bid. NBC, which had held XXVII, was the only network to bid on XXVIII.
Previously, the league alternated the Super Bowl broadcast among its television networks, except for Super Bowl I in which both NBC and CBS televised it simultaneously. CBS broadcasted Super Bowl II, then the league rotated the broadcast between CBS and NBC until 1985 when ABC entered the rotation when they broadcast Super Bowl XIX.
The pregame show held before the game was titled "Georgia Music Makers" and featured performances by the rap music duo Kris Kross, the rock band Georgia Satellites, country musician Charlie Daniels, and the Morehouse College Marching Band.
Later, singer Natalie Cole, accompanied by the Atlanta University Center Chorus, sang the national anthem.
The halftime show was titled "Rockin' Country Sunday" and featured country music stars Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, and Wynonna Judd. The show's finale included a special appearance by Naomi Judd who joined Wynonna in performing The Judds' single "Love Can Build a Bridge", to which everyone eventually joined in.
This was the first Super Bowl halftime show in which the main stadium lights were turned off for the performance. The show including dancers with yard-long light sticks.
The Bills seemed to have control of this game by halftime. But it ended up like the previous three Super Bowls—a loss by Buffalo.
Dallas kick returner Kevin Williams returned the opening kickoff 50 yards to the Buffalo 48-yard line. Then the Cowboys began the drive with quarterback Troy Aikman's 20-yard pass to wide receiver Michael Irvin. But with third down and six from 24-yard line, Aikman threw and incomplete pass and the Cowboys had to settle for kicker Eddie Murray's 41-yard field goal.
The Bills then responded with a 7-play, 43 yard scoring drive. Quarterback Jim Kelly's 24-yard pass to running back Thurman Thomas advanced the ball across the Dallas 40-yard line. But after a 3-yard run by running back Kenneth Davis, Kelly threw two straight incompletions. The Bills then tied the game, 3-3, with Steve Christie's 54 yard field goal, the longest field goal in Super Bowl history.
Buffalo forced Dallas to punt on their ensuing possession, but on their first play of their ensuing drive, Dallas safety James Washington forced Thomas to fumble and safety Darren Woodson recovered the ball at the midfield. Aided by receiver Alvin Harper's 24-yard reception, the Cowboys drove to the Bills 7-yard line, but once again could not get the ball into the end zone and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Murray to regain the lead, 6-3.
After receiving Murray's kickoff, the Bills could only reach their own 41-yard line before being forced to punt. However, Dallas cornerback Dave Thomas was penalized for running into the punter on the play, giving Buffalo a first down. Taking advantage of their second chance, Buffalo marched down the field with runs by Thomas and short completions by Kelly. Thomas eventually finished off the 17 play, 80-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run, giving the Bills a 10-6 lead early in the second quarter.
Dallas started out their ensuing drive with a 15-yard reception by Irvin and a 13-yard run by running back Emmitt Smith to get to midfield. They were eventually forced to punt, but Cowboys defensive end Matt Vanderbeek downed John Jett's 43-yard punt at the Bills' 1-yard line. A 19-yard completion from Kelly to receiver Andre Reed on the first play on their ensuing drive moved Buffalo out from the shadow of their own end zone, and they eventually reached the Cowboys 46-yard line, but they too were forced to punt. However, Chris Mohr matched Jett's feat with a 45-yard punt that was downed at tha Dallas 1-yard line by Buffalo special teams expert Steve Tasker.
Just like the Bills, the Cowboys managed to get out of their own territory and advance to the Buffalo 47-yard line. However, Bills defensive back Nate Odomes intercepted a pass intended for Irvin and returned it 41 yards to the Dallas 47-yard line with 1:03 left in the half. After a 1-yard run by Thomas, Kelly completed a pair of passes to Thomas and Reed for gains of 12 and 22 yards, respectively, to move the ball to the Cowboys 12-yard line. But the Dallas defense tighened up on the next 3 plays as Kelly threw a 3-yard completion to Thomas, an incomplete pass, and a completion to Thomas for no gain. Christie then kicked his second field goal as time expired in the half, increasing Buffalo's lead to 13-6.
But that was all that Buffalo could do as the Cowboys dominated the second half. Forty-five seconds into the third quarter, Thomas fumbled again while being tackled by Leon Lett, and Washington returned the fumble 46 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. Bills receiver Russell Copeland then returned the ensuing kickoff 22 yards to the Buffalo 37-yard line, but on third down, Cowboys linemen Jim Jeffcoat and Charles Haley shared a 13-yard sack on Kelly to force the Bills to punt.
The Cowboys subsequently scored on an 8-play, 64-yard drive in which Smith carried the ball on 7 of the 8 plays, gaining all but 3 of the 64 yards himself, and finished the drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to take a 20-13 lead.
Meanwhile, Dallas' defense continued to stop Buffalo's offense throughout the second half. Washington intercepted a pass from Kelly on the first play of the fourth quarter and returned it 12 yards to the Bills' 34-yard line. A false start penalty on the next play moved the ball back to the 39, but on the next 3 plays, Smith ran twice for 10 yards and caught a screen pass for 9. Aikman then completed a 16-yard pass Harper, giving Dallas a first and goal at the 6-yard line. The Bills managed to prevent a touchdown on the next 3 plays, but on fourth down and 1, Smith ran into the end zone for the score, giving the Cowboys a 27-13 lead.
The Bills started their ensuing drive from their own 22-yard line and managed to reach their own 36. But defensive lineman Jimmie Jones made two key plays, a second down tackle on Thomas for a one yard loss and a 13-yard sack on third down, to push the ball back to the 22-yard line and force Buffalo to punt.
Mohr's punt went just 29 yards to the Cowboys 49. Dallas then put the game away with a 9 play, 49-yard scoring drive that took 4:10 off the clock. On their sixth play of the drive, Aikman completed a 35-yard pass to Harper to advance to the Bills 1-yard line. A false start penalty pushed them back to the 6-yard line, but the Cowboys ran the ball on their next 3 plays to force Buffalo to use up all of their timeouts. Murray then kicked a 20-yard field goal with 2:50 left in the game, increasing the Cowboys lead to 30-13, and effectively ending any chance of a Bills comeback.
Aikman was 19 out of 27 for 207 yards, with 1 interception. Harper was the top receiver for the Cowboys with 3 catches for 75 yards. Reed finished the game with 6 receptions for 75 yards. Receiver Don Beebe caught 6 passes for 60 yards and returned 2 kickoffs for 63 yards. Thomas was limited to just 37 rushing yards, but he also caught 7 passes for 52 yards. Kenneth Davis was the Bills' top rusher with 38 yards. Kelly finished the game 31-of-50 for 260 yards and 1 interception. His 31 completions were a Super Bowl record.
- DAL- FG Murray 41
- BUF- FG Christie 54
- DAL- FG Murray 24
- BUF- Thomas 4 run (Christie kick)
- BUF- FG Christie 28
- DAL- Washington 46 fumble return (Murray kick)
- DAL- E. Smith 15 run (Murray kick)
- DAL- E. Smith 1 run (Murray kick)
- DAL- FG Murray 20
- The first time in the history of the Super Bowl that the same two teams met in two consecutive years.
- The fourth and final game in a four-game streak of the Bills' Super Bowl losses, starting with Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Florida and ending with XXVIII.
- Broadcast in the United States by NBC.
- Joe Namath performed the coin toss.
- Fourth Super Bowl rematch (see also Super Bowl XVII, Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XXIII.
- Buffalo tied the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos for most Super Bowl losses, with 4. Their records still stand.
- Thurman Thomas became the first player to score in four Super Bowls.
- This was the fourth rematch in Super Bowl history. The Dolphins and Redskins met twice (VII and XVII), the Steelers and Cowboys (X and XIII) and 49ers and Bengals (XVI and XXIII). The Steelers and the Cowboys would also meet again, in Super Bowl XXX.
- This was only the 6th time a team overcame a halftime deficit to win a Super Bowl. Baltimore did it in Super Bowl V, Pittsburgh in both Super Bowls X and XIV, Washington in Super Bowl XVII and the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI. Washington was the only other one to overcome a 7-point halftime deficit. The rest were smaller.
- Kelly became the only played ever to throw 50 passes in 2 Super Bowls. In addition to his 50 passes in this game, he threw a Super Bowl record 58 passes in Super Bowl XXVI.
- The Bills joined Minnesota and Denver as the only teams to lose 4 Super Bowls.
- Thurman Thomas became the first player in Super Bowl history to score touchdowns in four Super Bowls. He scored one in each of the Bills appearances, Super Bowls XXV through XXVIII.
- This was the first Super Bowl ever to feature 2 punts that were downed on the opponent's 1-yard line at the end of 2 consecutive drives.
- Emmitt Smith became just the second player in Super Bowl history to run for 100 yards in back-to-back Super Bowls. The other being Larry Czonka who did it in Super Bowls VII and VIII. He became the fourth player to rush for touchdowns in back-to-back Super Bowls, joining Franco Harris, John Riggins and Thomas.
- Smith also became the first player to lead the league in rushing yards, win NFL Most Valuable Player Award, and win Super Bowl MVP all in the same season. He was also the fourth player, after Bart Starr (1966), Terry Bradshaw (1978), and Joe Montana (1989), to win both the NFL MVP and Super Bowl MVP during the same season.
- Referee: Bob McElwee
- Umpire: Art Demmas
- Head Linesman: Sid Semon
- Line Judge: Tom Barnes
- Field Judge: Don Orr
- Side Judge: Nate Jones
- Back Judge: Al Jury
- Super Bowl official website
- NFL Record and Fact Book(ISBN 193299436X)
- Total Football: The Official Encyclopedia of the National Football League (ISBN 0062701746)
- The Sporting News Complete Super Bowl Book 1995 (ISBN 089204523X)
- http://www.pro-football-reference.com - 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)