Headline: Ron Wolf, Mike Holmgren, and Brett Favre usher in new era in Green Bay
Regular Season Record: 9 – 7 (Second Place NFC Central Division)
Offseason Highlights: On November 27 1991, Ron Wolf was hired to replace Green Bay Packers’ General Manager Tom Braatz, who had been chosen in 1987 as the franchise’s first Director of Football Operations. Wolf began in 1963 as a scout for the Oakland Raiders and, during his 24 year association with Raiders Owner Al Davis, helped draft such notable players as Art Shell, Gene Upshaw, Ken Stabler, Jack Tatum, Howie Long, Marcus Allen, and Matt Millen, leading to 11 winning seasons in 12 years and an overall record of 115-42-11. Said Wolf, “It would be easy to say Al Davis picked everybody. But Al Davis did not know everybody. You had to steer him to guys he needed to see. He couldn’t sit there and look at 750 players. And you had to be able to present to him an argument why this guy was so important.”
In 1975, at the age of 36, Wolf became VP of Operations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, helping build the team that would advance to the 1979 NFC Championship Game in only their fifth year of existence after losing their first 26 games. However, he would not be around to see his Tampa squad develop as he resigned his position with the Buccaneers in February 1978 citing “personal matters”. “I think what it came down to is that (Coach) John McKay wanted more power and say,” said Ken Herock, Wolf’s assistant at the time. “I think Ron also wanted more power and say. (Owner) Culverhouse sided with McKay, which in my mind at that time was a mistake.”
Wolf would later interview with the Green Bay Packers in 1987 for the position of Executive Vice President of Football Operations. But, after one day, he backed out because he thought there was a lot of interference from the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee. Braatz would get the job instead. For the next five years, Wolf worked for respected New York Jets General Manager Dick Steinberg as the Director of Player Personnel. After Green Bay Packers President Bob Harland revamped the general manager position in 1991, he once again went after Ron Wolf. “I told Ron I was going to keep talking to him until he said ‘yes’,” Harlan quipped. This time, Wolf said yes.
After accepting the job as Green Bay’s new General Manager, Wolf started by reviewing the team and its operations. What he saw did not impress him. “Here’s a team that’s 3-9 and the practices had a country club atmosphere, very lackadaisical and no sense of urgency.” Thus, on December 22, Wolf’s first major decision was to fire Head Coach Lindy Infante, one day after the Packers last game of the 1991 season, and initiate a search for the Green Bay’s next head man. Infante ended his Packers career with a 24-40 record. Rumors began swirling about the possibility of former New York Giants Head Coach Bill Parcells joining Wolf in Green Bay. Years later, Wolf admitted that Parcells likely would have been the Packers coach had he not suffered a heart attack in December 1991.
Finally, on January 11 1992, Wolf hired San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator Mike Holmgren to replace Infante. Holmgren, one of the highest paid assistants in the league, coached the 49ers’ quarterbacks from 1986-88 under Head Coach Bill Walsh, working with Steve Young, whom he also coached at BYU, and Joe Montana. When George Seifert took over as head coach, Holmgren became the team’s offensive coordinator from 1989 to 1991. In this stretch, Joe Montana won his two MVP awards and had the best season of his career in 1989. Holmgren was pursued by no fewer than six NFL teams in the market for a head coach following the 1991 season before casting his lot with Green Bay. “I think he was head and shoulders above everybody mentally,” said Wolf. “Really, really sharp. He could have been a success in any profession. It was unbelievable how good he was.”
Wolf’s second major decision was to find a quarterback who could lead the team back to a championship. Said Wolf, “You have to have a quarterback to be successful in this business. And we didn’t have one in Green Bay. But I had somebody in mind.” On February 11 1992, Wolf traded the second of the Packers’ 1992 1st round picks (19th overall) for Atlanta Falcons backup quarterback Brett Lorenzo Favre. Less than a week after Wolf was hired as general manager, a December 1 game between Green Bay and Atlanta cemented his conviction that Favre was the savior capable of ending Green Bay’s two decade drought. Falcons counterpart Ken Herock dangled a carrot in front of Wolf, alerting him to Favre’s pre-game throwing session. “He basically decided that day in Atlanta that he was going to make a trade for Brett Favre,” Harlan later explained.
As early as 1990, while with the Jets, Wolf rated Favre as the No. 1 player in the 1991 draft and intended to select him. However, New York had forfeited its 1st round pick by selecting a player in the previous year’s supplemental draft. Instead, Favre was taken by the Falcons in the 2nd round, one pick ahead of the Jets. Fortunately for Wolf, Atlanta Head Coach Jerry Glanville did not approve of the drafting of Favre, and he quickly fell out of favor, primarily due to his fondness for the Atlanta nightlife. Glanville once said it would take a plane crash for him to put Favre into the game. Favre’s first pass in an NFL regular season game resulted in an interception returned for a touchdown. He only attempted four passes in his career at Atlanta, was intercepted twice, and completed none of them. Favre took one other snap, which resulted in a sack for an 11 yard loss.
Together, these three men would form the core of what became the Green Bay Packers winningest era since the departure of the great Vince Lombardi.
The Green Bay Packers’ 1992 draft also yielded three players that would go on to play significant roles in assisting with Green Bay’s return to glory during the 1990s. Third round selection WR Robert Brooks (62nd overall) from South Carolina would play 7 seasons with the Packers, coming into his own in 1995 when he led Green Bay with 102 receptions and 13 touchdowns while racking up 1,497 receiving yards, a franchise record. Brooks would start 67 out of 96 games, catching 306 passes for 4,225 yards (13.8 yards per catch) for 32 touchdowns before injuries ended his career in 1998. Said Wolf, “I know that I really liked Robert Brooks. We had Brooks rated as a first round player.”
Fourth round selection RB Edgar Bennett (103rd overall) from Florida State would play 5 seasons for Green Bay, gaining over 1,000 yards in 1995 before a ruptured Achilles tendon in the 1997 preseason cut short his Packer’s career. Bennett would start 62 out of 80 games, rushing for 3,353 yards on 936 attempts (3.6 yards per rush) and 19 touchdowns before ending his career with the Chicago Bears in 1999. Finally, 6th round selection TE Mark Chmura (157th overall) out of Boston College would play his entire 7 year career for Green Bay, in the process becoming a 3 time Pro Bowl selection, before suffering a career ending spinal injury during a game against the Detroit Lions in 1999. Chmura would start 62 out of 89 games, catching 188 passes for 2,253 yards (12.0 yards per catch) and 17 touchdowns.
Lastly, Wolf picked up a largely unknown offensive lineman prior to the 1992 season, 5 year veteran C Frank Winters. Winters was a “Plan B” free agent acquisition, coming from the Kansas City Chiefs after previously playing for 2 seasons with the Cleveland Browns and one season for the New York Giants. Winters went on to anchor the Packers offensive line for 11 seasons (1992-2002). He was a steadfast center who played in 156 games, starting 141 during his career. He blocked for some of the most productive offensive units in team history, including the 1996 team that amassed 456 points, the second highest total in Packers history.
Incidentally, 1992 was the final year for “Plan B” free agency, implemented by team owners in 1989, as a new collective bargaining agreement was finally negotiated with the NFL Players Association in 1993, six years after the old agreement had expired. For the first time, players would achieve true free agency. Little did Packers fans know how beneficial free agency would be for the Green Bay franchise.
Overall, the 1992 NFL draft was notable only because, for the first time since 1958, one team, the Indianapolis Colts, held the first two overall picks. Unfortunately for Indianapolis, neither the 1st overall selection, DT Steve Emtman from Washington, nor the 2nd overall selection, LB Quentin Coryatt from Texas A&M, would make significant contributions during their NFL careers. Also, to date, no one from the 1992 draft has been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 1992 was also the final NFL Draft featuring 12 rounds of selections. The league would reduce the rounds to 8 in 1993 and then to its current format of 7 rounds in 1994.
Finally, of note, the Atlanta Falcons began the 1992 season playing in their new home, the Georgia Dome. Also, beginning with the 1992 season, the instant replay system that had been in effect since 1986 was repealed. Instant replay would not return to the league until the 1999 season.
Regular Season Highlights: The turnaround was fast under new Green Bay Packers’ Head Mike Holmgren. Green Bay won 5 more games in 1992 than in 1991, giving them a 9-7 record, good for second place behind only the 11-5 Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Central division. The emergence of QB Brett Favre brought the Packers to the brink of the playoffs, losing out on the third NFC Wild Card position to the 9-7 Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins by the slimmest of margins.
In the second game of the 1992 season, Green Bay played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers were leading 17-0 at half time when Holmgren benched starting QB Don Majkowski and Favre played the second half. On his first regular season play as a Packer, Favre threw a pass which was deflected and caught by himself. Favre was tackled and the completion went for −7 yards. The Packers lost the game 31-3, chalking up only 106 yards passing.
In the next game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Majkowski injured a ligament in his ankle, an injury severe enough that he would be out for the next four weeks. Favre replaced Majkowski for the remainder of the contest, fumbling 4 times during the course of the game, a performance poor enough that the crowd chanted for Favre to be removed in favor of another Packers backup quarterback at the time, rookie Ty Detmer. However, down 23-17 with 1:07 left in the game, the Packers started an offensive series on their own 8 yard line. Still at the quarterback position, Favre completed a 42 yard pass to WR Sterling Sharpe. Two plays later, Favre threw the game winning 35 yard touchdown pass to WR Kitrick Taylor with 13 seconds remaining for a come from behind 24-23 victory.
Starting Week 4’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Farve completed 14 out 19 passes for 210 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions achieving an astonishing 144.6 QB Rating and a 17-3 victory. Thus began the longest consecutive starts streak for a quarterback in NFL history. During the remainder of the season, Favre helped put together a 6 game winning streak for Green Bay, the longest winning streak for the club since 1965.
Favre finished his first season as a Packer with 302 completions out of 471 attempts (64.1%) for 3,227 yards, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and an overall QB Rating of 85.3, helping him to his first Pro Bowl. Farve tied for 2nd overall in passes completed, behind only Miami Dolphins’ QB Dan Marino, was 6th overall in QB Rating, 8th overall in touchdown passes, and 9th overall in passing yards. WR Sterling Sharpe once again led Green Bay in receiving with 108 receptions for 1,461 yards and 13 touchdowns, finishing first in the NFL in receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. RB Vince Workman led Green Bay in rushing with 631 yards in 159 attempts (4.0 yards per carry).
Overall, Green Bay finished 21st in rushing, 9th in passing, and 17th in total offense scoring 276 points. Defensively, the Packers showed little improvement over 1991, finishing 16th against the run, 23rd against the pass, and 15th in total defense allowing 296 points.
The San Francisco 49ers finished with the NFL’s best record at 14-2, winning the NFC West title and the NFC’s top playoff seed. The Dallas Cowboys won the NFC East title with a 13-3 record, good for the second playoff seed, while the Minnesota Vikings won the NFC Central title and the third playoff seed with a 11-5 record. The 12-4 New Orleans Saints (fourth seed), the 11-5 Philadelphia Eagles (fifth seed), and the 9-7 World Champion Washington Redskins (sixth seed) were the NFC’s Wild Card teams. Washington was the third NFC Wild Card based on a better conference record than Green Bay (7-5 to the Packers’ 6-6).
Meanwhile, the top three AFC seeds, the Central Division winner Pittsburgh Steelers, East Division winner Miami Dolphins, and West Division winner San Diego Chargers, all finished with an 11-5 record. Pittsburgh was the top AFC playoff seed, Miami the second playoff seed, and San Diego the third playoff seed based on their conference records (Steelers’ 10-2 to Dolphins’ 9-3 to Chargers’ 9-5). Miami finished ahead of the 11-5 Buffalo Bills for the AFC East title based on better conference record (9-3 to Bills’ 7-5), giving the Bills a Wild Card berth and the AFC’s fourth playoff seed. The Houston Oilers (fifth seed) and the Kansas City Chiefs (sixth seed), both 10-6, were the AFC’s other two Wild Card teams. Houston was the second AFC Wild Card based on a head to head victory over Kansas City.
San Diego began the season trying to improve on 1991’s 4-12 record. Bobby Ross was named the team’s head coach prior to the 1992 season after having spent the previous 5 years as a college coach at Georgia Tech. The Chargers would lose their first 4 games but rally to an 11-5 finish, making the playoffs for the first time in 10 years as well as becoming the first, and to this day only, NFL team to start 0-4 and still make the playoffs. There was an unusual deviation between good teams and bad teams in the NFL in 1992. Only one team, the Denver Broncos, finished with 8 wins and 8 losses, 9 teams had at least 11 wins, and 8 teams had at least 11 losses. Only 6 teams had between 7, 8, or 9 wins.
Lastly, San Francisco QB Steve Young won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award as well as Offensive Player of the Year. Seattle Seahawks’ DT Cortez Kennedy won Defensive Player of the Year. Cincinnati Bengals’ WR Carl Pickens won Offensive Rookie of the Year while Kansas City CB Dale Carter won Defensive Rookie of the Year. Pittsburgh’s first year Head Coach Bill Cowher won Coach of the Year.
Post Season Highlights: In the NFC Wild Card Playoffs, the sixth seed Washington Redskins traveled to the HHH Metrodome to play the NFC Central Champion and third seed Minnesota Vikings while the fourth seed New Orleans Saints hosted the fifth seed Philadelphia Eagles in the Louisiana Superdome. In the AFC, the fourth seed Buffalo Bills hosted the fifth seed Houston Oilers in Rich Stadium while the AFC West Champion and third seed San Diego Chargers hosted the sixth seed Kansas City Chiefs in Jack Murphy Stadium. The winners would advance to their respective Divisional Playoffs.
On January 2 1993, although the Minnesota Vikings scored on their opening drive of the game, they were quickly crushed by the Washington Redskins, who massively outgained them in total yards 358-148, rushing yards 162-75, and time of possession 42:43 to 17:17. Vikings QB Sean Salisbury was held to just 6 out of 20 completions, intercepted twice, and sacked 4 times.
Minnesota scored first on a 74 yard opening drive, featuring a 42 yard completion from Salisbury to WR Chris Carter, that ended with RB Terry Allen’s 1 yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. However, Washington controlled the game from that point forward. Redskins DB Martin Mayhew’s 44 yard interception return set up their first score on K Chip Lohmiller’s 44 yard field goal with 53 seconds left in the first quarter, cutting the Viking lead to 7-3. Less than 5 minutes into the second quarter, the Redskins picked off another Salisbury pass, returning it 6 yards to the Vikings 33 yard line. Washington cashed in on this turnover with RB Earnest Byner’s 3 yard rushing touchdown, giving the Redskins a 10-7 lead.
Late in the second quarter, the Redskins faced 4th and 4 at the Minnesota 44 yard line. RB Brian Mitchell rushed for 38 yards on a fake punt to give the team a first down and later finished the drive with an 8 yard touchdown run for a 17-7 lead. QB Mark Rypien’s 24 yard touchdown pass to WR Gary Clark in the third period closed out the scoring, giving Washington a 24-7 victory.
Later that day, the San Diego Chargers shut out the Kansas City Chiefs, outgaining them in total yards 342-251 and rushing yards 192-61. Kansas City never moved the ball farther than the San Diego 34 yard line.
The game remained scoreless until 5:53 remained in the third period when the Chargers faced 2nd and 2. On the next play, RB Marion Butts took a pitch, ran through a large hole in the right side of the line, evaded a tackle, and outraced the rest of the defense for a 54 yard rushing touchdown and a 7-0 lead. San Diego DE Leslie O’Neal intercepted a pass from QB Dave Krieg at the Chiefs 26 yard line on Kansas City’s next drive to set up K John Carney’s 34 yard field goal, extending their lead to 10-0.
In the final period, the Chargers put the game away with a 90 yard drive, featuring a 44 yard completion from QB Stan Humphries to WR Anthony Miller. LB Steve Hendrickson, who lined up as a running back, finished the drive with a 5 yard touchdown run for a 17-0 San Diego victory, their first since the 1982 season.
On January 3, in a game that came to be known simply as “The Comeback”, the Buffalo Bills mounted the greatest comeback in NFL history, overcoming a 35-3 deficit against the Houston Oilers. The Bills were without star QB Jim Kelly and All-Pro LB Cornelius Bennett while also losing Hall of Fame RB Thurman Thomas to a hip injury in the second half.
Houston dominated the game early, as QB Warren Moon completed 19 of 22 passes for 220 yards and 4 touchdowns in the first half, while the Oilers held the ball for 21:12, keeping the Bills’ high powered offense off the field for most of the first two quarters. On the opening possession of the first quarter, Moon completed 6 of 7 passes on an 80 yard scoring drive that took over 9 minutes off the clock and ended with his first touchdown throw to WR Haywood Jeffires for 3 yards, giving the Oilers a 7-0 lead. Buffalo responded on their ensuing drive, as RB Kenneth Davis returned the kickoff 33 yards to the 44 yard line.
Backup QB Frank Reich subsequently led the Bills to the Oilers 18 yard line, where K Steve Christie made a 36 yard field goal, to cut the score to 7-3. But Moon struck right back, leading the Oilers on a second quarter scoring drive that was nearly identical to their first one, completing 6 of 7 passes on another 80 yard drive, and finishing it with a 7 yard touchdown pass to WR Webster Slaughter for a 14-3 lead. Then, after forcing the Bills to a three and out, Moon threw a 26 yard touchdown pass to WR Curtis Duncan, increasing the score to 21-3. Later on, with 1:15 left in the half, the Oilers drove for another touchdown, aided by an encroachment call against the Bills on 4th and 1. Moon completed the drive with his second touchdown pass to Jeffires, this one a 27 yarder, and the Oilers went into their locker room with a 28-3 halftime lead.
With only 1:41 elapsed in the third quarter, Reich threw a pass that bounced off the hands of TE Keith McKeller and went into the arms of DB Bubba McDowell, who returned the interception 58 yards for a touchdown, increasing the Houston lead to 35-3. However, on the kickoff, the wind shifted the ball just before it was kicked by Al Del Greco. As a result, it became an unintentional squib kick that the Bills recovered with great field position at midfield. Buffalo then drove 50 yards in 10 plays, including a pass to TE Pete Metzelaars that went right through the hands of LB Eddie Robinson, and scored with a 1 yard touchdown run by Davis, cutting the deficit to 35-10.
On the drive, Reich completed a 24 yard pass to Metzelaars and a 16 yard strike to WR Andre Reed while Davis kept the drive going with a 5 yard run on 4th and 2 before finishing it off with a touchdown with 8:52 left in the third quarter. Christie then recovered his own onside kick and the Bills scored on the fourth play of their ensuing drive, with Reich’s 38 yard touchdown pass to WR Don Beebe. One of Beebe’s feet went partially out of bounds during the run before he made the catch and it should have been ruled by the officials as an illegal touching of the football. However, the score counted and Buffalo was now down 35-17 with 7:46 left in the third quarter.
Houston was then forced to punt for the first time in the game on their next drive and Greg Montgomery’s 25 yard kick gave Buffalo great field position at their own 41 yard line. Reich started out the ensuing drive with an 18 yard completion to WR James Lofton. Davis gained 20 yards on a screen pass and then Reich threw a 26 yard touchdown pass to Reed, trimming the lead to 35-24. On the first play of the Oilers’ ensuing possession, Moon’s pass bounced off the hands of Slaughter, Bills’ S Henry Jones intercepted it, and returned the ball 15 yards to the Houston 23 yard line. Three plays later, Buffalo faced 4th and 5 on the 18 yard line. Rather than attempt a field goal, Reich connected with Reed for the touchdown. With the score, the Bills had cut their deficit from 32 points to just 4 in a span of only 6:52.
On the Oilers’ next drive, LB Darryl Talley forced a Moon fumble while sacking him. Houston recovered the fumble but were forced to punt. Montgomery’s 24 yard kick again gave Buffalo great field position at its 48 yard line. This time, however, the Bills could not take advantage of their good fortune and had to punt. Moon’s run and shoot offense then began to move the ball effectively again. Despite two sacks on the drive, Houston reached the Buffalo 14 yard line. Del Greco attempted a field goal to increase the Oilers’ lead but Montgomery fumbled the snap and Talley recovered the ball on the 26 yard line.
After two plays, Buffalo faced 3rd and 4. With Houston’s defense dropping back and expecting a pass, Reich handed the ball off to Davis, who stormed through the line and took off for a 35 yard gain. Then Reich went back to passing the ball, completing a short pass to Reed at the Oilers’ 17 yard line on 3rd and 2 for the first down. With just 3:08 left in the fourth quarter, Reich threw a 17 yard touchdown pass to Reed, giving Buffalo its first lead of the game, 38-35. For the first time all season, the Houston defense (9th in fewest points allowed) had allowed over 29 points.
But Moon led Houston downfield on a 63 yard drive to score the tying 26 yard field goal from Del Greco, sending the game into overtime at 38-38. A key play on the drive was an 18 yard completion to Slaughter on 4th and 4 from the Bills’ 34 yard line. Houston won the coin toss and got the ball at its 20 yard line. Two plays later, Moon was intercepted, ultimately enabling Christie to kick the winning field goal for an unbelievable 41-38 come from behind Buffalo victory.
Later in the day, the Philadelphia Eagles overcame a 20-10 New Orleans Saints lead late in the third quarter by scoring 26 points in the final period, just one point short of the NFL posteason record set by the Chicago Bears in 1934. This was Philadelphia’s first playoff win since the 1980 season.
New Orleans scored first on RB Craig Heyward’s 1 yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead. However, it was countered by Philadelphia QB Randall Cunningham’s 57 yard touchdown pass to WR Fred Barnett for a 7-7 tie. The Saints then went ahead 17-7 before halftime with K Morten Andersen’s 35 yard field goal and WR Quinn Early’s 7 yard touchdown reception from QB Bobby Herbert. The two teams exchanged field goals in the third quarter, a 42 yarder by Andersen and a 40 yarder by Roger Ruzek, for a 20-10 New Orleans lead going into the final period. Unfortunately for the Saints, their final six drives of the second half resulted in an interception, a punt, another interception, a safety, another interception, and time expiring in the game.
Meanwhile, Cunningham closed the gap to 20-17 with a 35 yard touchdown completion to Barnett with less than 11 minutes left in regulation. Then, on the first play of the Saints’ next possession, the Eagles intercepted a Herbert pass and returned it 14 yards to the Saints 26 yard line, setting up RB Heath Sherman’s 6 yard touchdown, and giving Philadelphia their first lead, 24-20. After New Orleans got the ball back, Eagles DE Reggie White sacked Hebert in the end zone for a safety and a 26-20 lead. Ruzek then added a 39 yard field goal and, 19 seconds later, DB Eric Allen intercepted another Hebert pass, returning it 18 yards for a touchdown, securing a 36-20 come from behind Philadelphia victory.
In the Divisional Playoffs, the AFC Central Champion and top seed Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the fourth seed Buffalo Bills in Three Rivers Stadium while the sixth seed Washington Redskins traveled to Candlestick Park to play the NFC West Champion and top seed San Francisco 49ers. Meanwhile, the NFC East Champion Dallas Cowboys hosted the fifth seed Philadelphia Eagles in Texas Stadium while the AFC West Champion San Diego Chargers traveled to Joe Robbie Stadium to play the AFC East Champion Miami Dolphins. The winners would advance to their respective Conference Championship games.
On January 9, the Buffalo Bills forced 4 turnovers and 7 sacks as they held the Pittsburgh Steelers to just a field goal. Buffalo QB Frank Reich threw for 160 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions while RB Kenneth Davis rushed for 104 yards.
Pittsburgh scored first with K Gary Anderson’s 38 yard field goal on their opening drive for a 3-0 lead. This would turn out to be the Steelers only points of the game. On their subsequent drive, QB Neil O’Donnell lost a fumble while being sacked which Buffalo recovered on the Bills 41 yard line. Buffalo then advanced 59 yards to score on Reich’s 1 yard touchdown pass to Mitch Frerotte, an eligible lineman, for a 7-3 lead. On the opening drive of the second half, the Bills moved the ball 80 yards and scored with Reich’s 17 yard touchdown pass to WR James Lofton, increasing their lead to 14-3. In the final period, a botched Steelers field goal attempt set up a 44 yard drive that ended with Bills K Steve Christie’s 43 yard field goal and a 17-3 lead. The next time Buffalo got the ball, they drove 86 yards and scored on a 1 yard run by RB Carwell Gardner for a 24-3 victory.
Later that day, despite committing 4 turnovers, San Francisco 49ers QB Steve Young passed for 227 yards and 2 touchdowns to beat the Washington Redskins.
On their first drive, San Francisco advanced 83 yards, including a 35 yard reception by WR Jerry Rice and a 22 yard catch by TE Brent Jones, scoring on Young’s 5 yard touchdown pass to WR John Taylor for a 7-0 lead. The 49ers seemed to be in prime position to score again when a 29 yard punt gave them a first down on the Washington 49 yard line. However, DE Fred Stokes eventually stripped the ball from Young and the Redskins recovered the fumble. Washington then drove 61 yards to cut the score to 7-3 on a 19 yard field goal by K Chip Lohmiller. San Francisco responded with a 23 yard field goal from K Mike Cofer to go up 10-3 in the second quarter.
After forcing a punt, the 49ers moved the ball from their own 1 yard line to the Washington 29 yard line but lost another turnover when the Redskins intercepted Young’s pass at the 5 yard line. However, Washington promptly gave the ball back when RB Brian Mitchell lost a fumble that was recovered by San Francisco with 1:09 left in the half. Four plays later, Young threw a 16 yard touchdown pass to Jones, who fumbled the ball when hit by S Brad Edwards at the 1 yard line but managed to recover it in the end zone, giving San Francisco a 17-3 halftime lead.
In the second half, Washington converted two Young fumbles into 10 points. The 49ers got a great scoring opportunity after intercepting a Mark Rypien pass in the third quarter. But, while scrambling for a first down, Young lost a fumble without being touched and the Redskins recovered it. This led to a 71 yard drive finished off by Lohmiller’s 32 yard field goal, cutting Washington’s deficit to 17-6. On the next series, the ball again slipped out of Young’s hands, this time on a pass attempt, and the Redskins recovered it on the San Francisco 15 yard line. Three plays later, Rypien scored on a 1 yard sneak, knocking the score down to 17-13 early in the fourth quarter.
Following a 49ers punt, Washington moved the ball 52 yards to the 49ers 23 yard line. But, with 9:52 left, Mitchell fumbled a botched handoff attempt by Rypien and the 49ers recovered the fumble. San Francisco then marched 59 yards in 14 plays, featuring a 16 yard completion from Young to Rice on 3rd and 10, on a drive that consumed more than 7 minutes, scoring on K Mike Cofer’s game clinching 33 yard field goal, to make the final score 20-13. Washington got the ball back with 2:15 remaining and one last chance to drive for a tying score but could only advance a few yards before turning the ball over on downs, as Rypien’s final 2 passes were dropped by wide open targets, WR Ricky Sanders and TE Ron Middleton.
This would be the last game of Joe Gibbs’ 12 year tenure as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins when he retired prior to the beginning of the 1993 season.
On January 10, the Dallas Cowboys defense had 5 sacks while holding the Philadelphia Eagles offense to 178 yards and 10 points.
Philadelphia scored first on a 32 yard field goal by K Roger Ruzek for a 3-0 lead. However, Dallas then proceeded to score 34 consecutive points. First the Cowboys responded to the field goal with QB Troy Aikman’s 1 yard touchdown pass to TE Derek Tennell, who had been signed by the team as a free agent only a week before this game, to take a 7-3 lead. In the closing minutes of the first half, Dallas drove 67 yards and scored another touchdown on Aikman’s 6 yard pass to TE Jay Novacek, to extend their lead to 14-3. Then the Cowboys recovered an Eagles fumble on the ensuing kickoff, enabling Lin Elliott to kick a 20 yard field goal before halftime, putting them up 17-3.
Dallas RB Emmitt Smith, who finished the game with 114 rushing yards, scored a 23 yard touchdown run on the opening drive of the second half, extending the Cowboys lead to 24-3. RB Derrick Gainer later added a 1 yard touchdown and Elliott kicked another field goal to put the team up 34-3. Meanwhile, all the Eagles could do was score a meaningless touchdown on QB Randall Cunningham’s 18 yard pass to WR Calvin Williams with 50 seconds left in the game to make the final score 34-10.
Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins defense shut out the San Diego Chargers, holding QB Stan Humphries to just 18 of 44 completions for 140 yards and intercepting him 4 times as they snuffed out San Diego’s 8 game winning streak. Overall, the Chargers gained just 202 yards and 10 first downs while losing 5 turnovers.
Miami QB Dan Marino threw 3 touchdown passes in the second quarter, all of them set up by interceptions. With 11:30 remaining in the second quarter, rookie DB Troy Vincent intercepted a Humphries pass and returned it to the San Diego 48 yard line. Nine plays later, Miami cashed in with Marino’s 1 yard scoring pass to RB Tony Paige for a 7-0 lead. With less than 2 minutes left in the half, Humphries threw a pass that slipped out of the hands of WR Nate Lewis and was picked off again by Vincent on the Chargers 37 yard line. Marino threw a 28 yard completion to WR Mark Duper on the next play, finishing the drive with a 9 yard touchdown toss to TE Keith Jackson, extending the lead to 14-0.
Then, on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Miami intercepted another Humphries pass and returned it 7 yards to the San Diego 42 yard line. Four plays later, Marino’s 30 yard touchdown pass to Jackson gave Miami a 21-0 halftime lead. In the second half, Miami relied primarily on their running game to protect their lead. RB Aaron Craver led the team with 8 carries for 72 yards, including a 25 yard touchdown burst in the fourth quarter. Before that, the Dolphins also scored on a 22 yard field goal from K Pete Stoyanovich. The final score of 31-0 marked a record setting day for the Dolphins offense, who had scored just 6 touchdowns in their last 6 games. The 21 points was the highest single quarter amount they had ever scored in a playoff game and their 31 point margin of victory was also a franchise postseason record.
On January 17, the Miami Dolphins hosted the AFC Championship at Joe Robbie Stadium against the Buffalo Bills while the Dallas Cowboys traveled to Candlestick Park to play the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship and the right to represent their respective conferences in Super Bowl XXVII.
In the AFC, the Buffalo Bills intercepted Miami Dolphins QB Dan Marino twice, recovered 3 fumbles, forced 4 sacks, and held Miami to just 33 rushing yards. Although the Buffalo offense had trouble getting into the end zone, K Steve Christie made an NFL playoff record tying 5 field goals.
Midway through the first quarter, Buffalo recovered a Marino fumble while sacking him, setting up a 21 yard field goal by Christie and a 3-0 lead. Miami struck back on their next drive with a 51 yard field goal from K Pete Stoyanovich to tie the score at 3-3. After the ensuing kickoff, Kelly led the Bills 64 yards in 7 plays, finishing the drive with a 17 yard touchdown pass to RB Thurman Thomas early in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead. Later on, Buffalo intercepted another Marino pass on the Dolphins 24 yard line, setting up Christie’s second field goal and giving the Bills a 13-3 lead by the end of the first half.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Miami fumbled the ball and Buffalo recovered it on the Dolphins 25 yard line. Five plays later, RB Kenneth Davis scored on 2 yard touchdown, giving the Bills a 20-3 lead. Buffalo’s defense took over the rest of the third quarter, holding the Dolphins offense to just 2 yards while Christie added two more field goals (21 and 31 yards) to increase the Bills lead to 26-3. Marino completed a 15 yard touchdown pass to WR Mark Duper in the final period to cut the Buffalo lead to 26-10. However, Christie subsequently kicked his fifth field goal of the game to clinch a 29-10 victory.
In the NFC, even though the Dallas Cowboys had only one more yard of total offense than the San Francisco 49ers (416-415), Dallas forced 4 critical turnovers that helped them earn the win.
On San Francisco’s first drive of the game, a holding penalty nullified a 63 yard touchdown completion from QB Steve Young to WR Jerry Rice and the 49ers had to punt. Despite a 19 yard reception from QB Troy Aikman to WR Michael Irvin on Dallas’ first play of their first drive, the Cowboys also had to punt. But San Francisco fumbled the punt and Dallas recovered it on the 49ers 22 yard line. The Cowboys restarted their drive with a completion to Irvin, this one a 21 yard gain, to the 1 yard line. But the San Francisco defense managed to hold Dallas on three consecutive plays, forcing them to settle for K Lin Elliot’s 20 yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
San Francisco 49ers RB Marc Logan returned the ensuing kickoff 50 yards to the Cowboys 48 yard line. Aided by a 16 yard run from RB Ricky Watters, San Francisco drove 48 yards and scored with Young’s 1 yard touchdown to take a 7-3 lead. Dallas was forced to punt on their next drive after Aikman was sacked twice for 19 total yards and the 49ers returned the football to the Cowboys 47 yard line. San Francisco then drove to the Dallas 29 yard line, but the drive stalled, and K Mike Cofer missed a 47 yard field goal try. After a punt, Watters lost a fumble that was recovered by the Cowboys. Aided by a defensive holding call on third down, Dallas took a 10-7 lead with RB Emmitt Smith’s 4 yard touchdown.
A 21 yard reception by Rice from Young sparked a 49ers drive to the Cowboys 10 yard line, where Cofer made a 28 yard field goal, to tie the game with less than 2 minutes left in the second quarter. Cofer’s kickoff subsequently went out of bounds, giving Dallas a chance to score before the end of the half. Aikman managed to lead them to the 49ers 25 yard line, but Elliot’s 43 yard field goal attempt went wide right, and the game was tied 10-10 going into halftime. After receiving the second half kickoff, the Cowboys marched 78 yards, featuring a 38 yard leaping catch by WR Alvin Harper, scoring on RB Daryl Johnston’s 3 yard touchdown run, to take a 17-10 lead. San Francisco struck back with a 35 yard completion from Young to Rice that set up a 43 yard field goal by Cofer, cutting the score to 17-13.
However, Dallas put together a 79 yard drive which consumed 9 minutes, with a key 31 yard reception by TE Jay Novacek. This second long drive was capped by Aikman’s 16 yard touchdown pass to Smith, giving the Cowboys a 24-13 advantage. On San Francisco’s ensuing drive midway into the fourth quarter, the Cowboys intercepted a Young pass and returned it to the 49ers 45 yard line. Dallas subsequently marched to the 7 yard line. Rather than attempt a field goal on 4th and 1, Smith attempted to run for the first down but was tackled for no gain. The 49ers then drove 93 yards to score on Rice’s 5 yard touchdown reception from Young, cutting the lead to 24-20 with 4:22 left in the game.
But, on the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Aikman threw a 14 yard pass to Harper, who then ran for a 70 yard gain to the San Francisco 9 yard line. Three plays later, WR Kelvin Martin scored on a 6 yard touchdown reception from Aikman, making the score 30-20 (the extra point was blocked) with 3:43 to play. The 49ers attempted one last drive but Young was again intercepted at the 2:00 warning, thus ending any hope of a 49er comeback and ensuring a 30-20 Dallas victory.
Thus, the Dallas Cowboys would play the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. For Buffalo, it was their third consecutive Super Bowl appearance, becoming only the second team since the Miami Dolphins to play in three straight Super Bowls. The Bills were also only the fourth wild card team to advance to the Super Bowl. Dallas was seeking their third World Championship in the Super Bowl history and their first in 15 years.
Super Bowl Highlights: On January 31 1993, at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena CA, the NFC Champion Dallas Cowboys, led by fourth year Head Coach Jimmy Johnson, played the AFC Champion Buffalo Bills, led once again by sixth year Head Coach Marv Levy, in Super Bowl XXVII. This was the seventh and most recent Super Bowl hosted in the Greater Los Angeles Area.
In 1992, although not a single one of Dallas’ defensive players made the Pro Bowl, the Cowboys were ranked as the No. 1 defense in the league (allowing only 4,278 yards), fourth in fewest points allowed (243), and first against the run (allowing only 1,244 yards), bringing back many fans’ memories of the 1970’s “Doomsday Defense”. The defensive line was anchored by DE Jim Jeffcoat (10.5 sacks) and DT Tony Tolbert (8.5 sacks), along with future Hall of Fame DE Charles Haley (6 sacks), who had been acquired by Dallas in a trade with the San Francisco 49ers. While Ken Norton and Defensive Rookie of the Year Robert Jones anchored the linebacking corps, the team’s solid secondary was led by DBs Kenneth Gant and James Washington, who both recorded 3 interceptions each, and rookie CB Kevin Smith.
Dallas’ offense finished second in the league in scoring with 409 points. QB Troy Aikman had the best season of his career, completing 302 out of 473 passes (ranking 2nd and 4th in the league) for 3,445 yards (4th in the league) and 23 touchdowns (3rd in the league) while throwing only 14 interceptions, producing a quarterback rating of 89.6 (3rd best in the league). Superstar RB Emmitt Smith led the NFL in rushing for the second year in a row with 1,713 yards and scoring 18 rushing touchdowns, while also catching 59 passes for 335 yards and a touchdown. RB Daryl Johnston was also an asset in the backfield, providing Smith with effective blocking and hauling in 32 receptions for 249 yards. WR Michael Irvin, the team’s emotional lightning rod, caught 78 passes for 1,396 yards and 7 touchdowns.
Other contributors on the offense included WR Alvin Harper (35 receptions for 562 yards and 4 touchdowns) and TE Jay Novacek (68 receptions for 630 yards and 6 touchdowns). Dallas’ dominant offensive line, later dubbed “The Great Wall of Dallas”, was led by Pro Bowl OG Nate Newton and C Mark Stepnoski along with 10 year veteran OT Mark Tuinei. With all this talent on both offense and defense, Dallas would be considered by many to be one of the deepest and most talented teams to ever take to the gridiron.
Buffalo entered Super Bowl XXVII trying to avoid becoming the first team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls. Once again, the team was loaded with Pro Bowl players, boasting 12 selections. During the regular season, Buffalo’s no huddle offense ranked 2nd in the league (6,114 yards) while ranking 1st in rushing offense (2,436 yards). RB Thurman Thomas rushed for a career high 1,487 yards and 9 touchdowns during the regular season while also catching 58 passes for 626 yards and another 3 touchdowns. RB Kenneth Davis rushed for 613 yards, caught 15 passes for 80 yards, and added another 251 yards returning kickoffs.
QB Jim Kelly had 269 out of 462 completions (58.2%) for 3,457 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions for a QB Rating of 81.2. WR Andre Reed led the team with 65 receptions for 913 yards and 3 touchdowns, WR James Lofton contributed 51 receptions for 786 yards and 6 touchdowns, and WR Don Beebe caught 33 passes for 554 and 2 touchdowns. Also, TE Pete Metzelaars recorded 30 receptions for 298 yards and 6 touchdowns. The Bills had one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, led by Pro Bowl OTs Will Wolford and Howard Ballard, OG Jim Ritcher, and C Kent Hull.
On defense, Buffalo ranked 2nd in the league against the run, allowing only 1,395 yards. The line was anchored by DE Bruce Smith (14 sacks) and NT Jeff Wright (6 sacks), who were fully recovered after missing almost all of the previous season due to injuries. The Bills were once again led by their trio of LBs Darryl Talley (77 tackles, 4 sacks), Shane Colan (66 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 interception), and Pro Bowler Cornelius Bennett (52 tackles, 4 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries). The secondary was aided by the emergence of second year S Henry Jones, who tied for the NFL lead with 8 interceptions, returning them for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns. S Mark Kelso recorded 7 interceptions while Pro Bowl CB Nate Odomes had 5 interceptions.
Things started out well for Buffalo. Dallas was forced into a three and out on their opening possession. Bills special teams expert Steve Tasker then blocked the ensuing punt, knocking the ball out of bounds at the Cowboys 16 yard line. Four plays later, Thurman Thomas scored on a 2 yard touchdown run to give the Bills an early 7-0 lead. Dallas then reached their own 40 yard line on their next drive, but an illegal formation penalty nullified Emmitt Smith’s 12 yard run. Troy Aikman then threw 2 consecutive incompletions and the Cowboys were forced to punt again. The Bills subsequently advanced to midfield with the aid of a 15 yard roughing the passer penalty and a 21 yard reception by Andre Reed.
Then the wave of turnovers began. On the next play, a blitz forced a pass by Jim Kelly that Dallas intercepted and returned 13 yards to the Bills 47 yard line. Six plays later, the Cowboys tied the game, 7-7, on Aikman’s 23 yard touchdown pass to Jay Novacek. On the Bills’ first play of their next drive, Dallas’ Charles Haley sacked Kelly and forced a fumble. The Cowboys’ DT Jimmie Jones picked the ball out of the air at the 2 yard line and dove into the end zone for a touchdown, giving his team a 14-7 lead. Dallas had scored 2 touchdowns in a span of 15 seconds, the shortest time between touchdowns in Super Bowl history.
Early in the second quarter, Kelly’s 40 yard completion to Reed gave the Bills a first down at the Cowboys 4 yard line. But the Bills failed to score on three rushing attempts. On fourth down, Kelly’s pass was intercepted in the end zone by S Thomas Everett. On Buffalo’s next drive, Ken Norton Jr. hit Kelly, re-injuring the quarterback’s knee that he sprained earlier in the season, and playoff hero Frank Reich took Kelly’s place. Reich started out well, completing his first 2 passes, including a 38 yard completion to Reed, to advance the ball to the Dallas 22 yard line. But then Thomas was stopped for no gain on 3rd and 1 at the 4 yard line. Rather than attempt another fourth down play near the goal line, the Bills settled for K Steve Christie’s 21 yard field goal to cut their deficit to 14-10 with 3:24 left in the half.
The Cowboys stormed down the field on their next possession, scoring in just 5 plays. After a pair of completions by Aikman for 17 yards, Smith’s 38 yard run gave the Cowboys a first down inside the Bills 20 yard line. Aikman then finished the drive with a 19 yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin, increasing his team’s lead to 21-10. On the first play of the Bills’ ensuing drive, Thomas caught a swing pass, fumbled the ball, and Jones recovered it for Dallas at the Bills 18 yard line. Aikman then threw his second touchdown pass to Irvin to give the Cowboys a 28-10 lead. With about a little over a minute left in the first half, Buffalo barely avoided another turnover when Kenneth Davis recovered a fumbled handoff from Reich. But, two plays later, Dallas intercepted Reich’s pass at the their own 28 yard line to preserve the Cowboys’ 18 point lead at halftime.
Dallas then took the opening drive of the second half and advanced 77 yards in 11 plays, featuring a 25 yard reception by Irvin. However, on 3rd and 2, Aikman’s pass to Novacek in the end zone was overthrown, forcing Dallas to settle for K Lin Elliots’ 20 yard field goal, increasing their lead to 31-10. Both teams were unable to score on each of their next possessions but, on the last play of the quarter, Reich threw a 40 yard touchdown pass to Don Beebe despite Cowboy complaints that the touchdown should have been nullified because Reich, while scrambling to avoid the Cowboy rush, crossed the 40 yard line for what should have been ruled an illegal forward pass.
So, despite 5 first half turnovers, Buffalo was only trailing Dallas 31-17 going into the fourth quarter. After their comeback from the 32 point deficit to the Houston Oilers earlier in the post season, a 14 point comeback seemed perfectly within their capabilities.
But, early in the final period, Aikman threw a 45 yard touchdown pass to Alvin Harper, increasing their lead to 38-17. Then, on the second play of the Bills’ next possession, Everett intercepted another Reich pass, returning it 22 yards to Buffalo’s 8 yard line, setting up another touchdown on Smith’s 10 yard run for a 45-17 lead. After Buffalo received the ensuing kickoff, Reich fumbled a high snap. Norton recovered the loose ball and returned it for a touchdown, further increasing the Cowboys’ lead to 52-17. The 21 points by the Cowboys is the most ever for a team in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys also became just the second team to score two non-offensive touchdowns in a Super Bowl.
The most memorable moment of the game came well after the Cowboys had built an insurmountable lead. After both teams lost a fumble on their next possessions, the Bills managed to advance to the Cowboys’ 31 yard line. But Reich lost a fumble while being sacked. DT Leon Lett picked up the ball with no one in front of him and appeared to be headed for a 64 yard touchdown return. As he started to showboat just before crossing the goal line, Beebe raced in from behind and knocked the ball out of Lett’s arm and into the end zone. The ball then rolled out of bounds for a touchback. If Lett had scored the touchdown, the Cowboys would have topped the previous Super Bowl record of 55 points set by the San Francisco 49ers three years prior.
As it was, Dallas had dominated Buffalo with a 52-17 victory, giving the Cowboys their third World Championship. Buffalo, on the other hand, became the first team to lose three consecutive Super Bowls in the Super Bowl era.
Dallas Cowboys’ QB Troy Aikman was named Super Bowl MVP, completing 22 of 30 passes for 273 yards and 4 touchdowns for a QB Rating of 140.6. RB Emmitt Smith was the top rusher of the game, rushing for 108 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 6 passes for 27 yards. WR Michael Irvin was the Cowboys’ leading receiver with 6 receptions for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. TE Jay Novacek added 7 receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Lett recorded a sack, a fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles. In total, Dallas’ defense had forced a Super Bowl record 9 turnovers.
For Green Bay Packers’ fans, 1992 was a welcome surprise. In just his first season as the Green Bay Packers Head Coach, Mike Holmgren had lead the Packers to their first winning season since 1989. And, with the emergence of Brett Farve, the franchise was hopeful it had finally found a worthy successor to Green Bay quarterback great Bart Starr. Now the question was, could the Packers achieve only their second consecutive winning season since the 1966-67 seasons? Was The Pack truly back? Only time would tell.
Attached is the NFL Films Super Bowl XXVII Highlight video. Enjoy!!
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