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Super Bowl XXII: Broncos suffer through the greatest quarter of play in NFL history

The Denver Broncos outscored the Washington Redskins 10-7 in three of the four quarters, but gave up 35 in the other.

Super Bowl 26 Photo by Owen C. Shaw/Getty Images

If you take away the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII, the Denver Broncos win 10-7. Instead, they lost 42-10 as the Washington Redskins put together the best single quarter of play in NFL history.

1987 was the year NFL MVP John Elway and the 10-4-1 Broncos were supposed to win it all. The Redskins were 11-2 in the regular season with a starting quarterback not named Doug Williams and 0-2 with him as the starter.

The Redskins squeaked by both the Chicago Bears and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC to reach the Super Bowl, while the Broncos trounced the Houston Oilers in the divisional round before needing “The Fumble” to overcome the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Championship game.

Super Bowl XXII was played on January 31, 1988 in Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, California.

The Good

John Elway connected with Ricky Nattiel on the Broncos first play from scrimmage for a 56-yard touchdown pass in what was then the earliest touchdown any team had ever scored in Super Bowl history.

The Broncos dominated the first quarter, leading 10-0. That’s about as good as it got for the Broncos as the rest of the game was entirely the Redskins.

The Bad

Once the Redskins had the lead, the Broncos still couldn’t get any momentum. As in Super Bowl XXI, Rich Karlis missed a field goal and Elway was intercepted three times trying to force throws to get the team back in the game.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Denver was entirely deflated. With over 9 minutes left in the game, they allowed the Redskins to run 13 times to eat up the clock all the way down to 0:00.

The Ugly

The Broncos gave up five touchdowns in one quarter of play. There was an 80-yard touchdown pass, a 27-yard touchdown pass, a 58-yard rushing touchdown, a 50-yard touchdown pass, and an 8-yard touchdown pass. In 15 minutes...

That’s about as ugly as it can get.

Williams, the eventual Super Bowl MVP, threw for 340 yards and four touchdowns. The Redskins running back, Timmy Smith, could have easily been the MVP too as he had 204 yards on the ground and another two touchdowns.

The Broncos Super Bowl misery was just getting started, with the crown jewel of blowout losses just two short years away.