The 1989 Denver Broncos had the ultimate misfortune to take their number one ranked defense up against what was up until then the greatest offensive team in NFL history in Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. Not only that, the 49ers brought with them a top five defense,which proved to be a terrible place for the outmatched Broncos to be.
January 28, 1990 was a day that almost ruined football for me. Being a northern California kid who was the only Broncos fan anyone knew, living through the aftermath of this game was nearly insufferable. Apparently, it too was that way for John Elway and the Broncos as they would end their next season 5-11, which I felt was totally appropriate for the catastrophic ending to this Super Bowl.
It would take John Elway another eight seasons to shed the court jester stigma that this game left on his career and legacy. Fortunately it all worked out, but even I wondered if the Broncos would ever win the Super Bowl or whether I even wanted them to go back. Those were some trying times.
|1||10-Sep-89||Kansas City Chiefs||W 34–20||74,284|
|2||18-Sep-89||at Buffalo Bills||W 28–14||78,176|
|3||24-Sep-89||Los Angeles Raiders||W 31–21||75,754|
|4||1-Oct-89||at Cleveland Browns||L 16–13||78,637|
|5||8-Oct-89||San Diego Chargers||W 16–10||75,222|
|6||15-Oct-89||Indianapolis Colts||W 14–3||74,680|
|7||22-Oct-89||at Seattle Seahawks||W 24–21||62,353|
|8||29-Oct-89||Philadelphia Eagles||L 28–24||75,065|
|9||5-Nov-89||Pittsburgh Steelers||W 34–7||74,739|
|10||12-Nov-89||at Kansas City Chiefs||W 16–13||76,245|
|11||20-Nov-89||at Washington Redskins||W 14–10||52,975|
|12||26-Nov-89||Seattle Seahawks||W 41–14||75,117|
|13||3-Dec-89||at Los Angeles Raiders||L 16–13||87,560|
|14||10-Dec-89||New York Giants||L 14–7||63,283|
|15||16-Dec-89||at Phoenix Cardinals||W 37–0||56,071|
|16||24-Dec-89||at San Diego Chargers||L 19–16||50,524|
It's a shame, because the 1989 season for the Broncos was quite a respectable one. The defense dominated the opposition quite thoroughly all season long, not giving up more than 19 points in a game for the final eight games of the season, finishing with the leagues top ranked scoring defense.
However, if we had dug a little deeper into that performance, as I did earlier this week, one would have found a severe lack of quality offensive opponents that year. Still, come playoff time it became the John Elway show anyway as he led the Broncos over the Pittsburgh Steelers for a second time and headed to the AFC Championship game to face off against the Cleveland Browns for a third time.
In this game, even though the Browns had beaten the Broncos earlier in the season, the Broncos thoroughly manhandled them. There was no need for another "The Drive" or "The Fumble". Just a 37-21 beatdown and a third AFC Conference Title in four years.
|Divisional||7-Jan-90||Pittsburgh Steelers||W 24–23||75,868|
|Conference Championship||14-Jan-90||Cleveland Browns||W 37–21||76,005|
|Super Bowl||28-Jan-90||N San Francisco 49ers||L 55–10||72,919|
Then came the 49ers. Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, John Taylor, Roger Craig, Tom Rathman, Brent Jones, Charles Haley, Matt Millen, Bill Romanowski, Ronnie Lott, and for the hell of it throw in Steve Young. Yeah. Even as a Broncomaniac I am only someone certain I could name that many guys from that 1989 squad. Maybe 2-3 more. It's not because I like the 49ers, but rather those players are part of NFL history. They will always be remember as one of the greatest teams ever assembled.
It wasn't even close. By halftime, with the score 27-3 after a Jerry Rice touchdown near the end, I went outside to go play football with my friends. Even they, as 49er fans, knew the game was over and it was time to go play outside. I didn't even watch the rest of the game, but I did catch it on NFL Films. I'm glad to say, I spent my time wisely that day.
Rest easy though, as no great story ever ends without great trials and tribulation in the lead up to the grand finale. Looking back, I wouldn't trade any of these past Super Bowl experiences now.