The San Francisco 49ers are back in the Super Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, at the same site of their last championship a quarter-century ago. It’s part of the rich history of football’s biggest game in Miami.
Twenty-five years ago, on Jan. 29, 1995, the 49ers crushed the San Diego Chargers to become the first team to win five Super Bowls, all in a 14-year span that defined greatness for the NFL before Bill Belichick and Tom Brady teamed up in New England.
One of the 49ers’ other championships also came in Miami: Super Bowl XXIII. That was the first time Miami had hosted the game at Joe Robbie Stadium, after the previous five had been at the Orange Bowl.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ last Super Bowl was 50 years ago in New Orleans, the only Super Bowl in a four-year span that wasn’t in Miami. New Orleans has hosted 10 Super Bowls, but 11 have been in Miami, or, more technically, the Miami area, since Hard Rock Stadium is located in the adjacent Miami Gardens.
This year will be the sixth Super Bowl at the venue, and quite fittingly for sport’s most corporate event, under its fifth different stadium name:
- Joe Robbie Stadium (1989, 1995)
- Pro Player Stadium (1999)
- Dolphin Stadium (2007)
- Sun Life Stadium (2010)
- Hard Rock Stadium (2020)
With Miami home to nearly 19 percent of all Super Bowls to date, it’s only natural the city has seen their its share of memorable football moments. Here are the most notable of the Miami Super Bowls so far.
Super Bowl III: Jets 16, Colts 7
When the 49ers walloped the Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX, that was expected. San Francisco was favored by 18.5 points, the largest spread in the game’s history. The only point spread even close was the Baltimore Colts favored by 18 over the New York Jets in Super Bowl III, also in Miami. That game, from January 1969, really put the Super Bowl on the map, thanks to a guarantee from Jets quarterback Joe Namath.
“I get up the podium and a guy in the back of the room is going, ‘Hey Namath, we’re going to kick your you know what,’” Namath recalled. “It was just, ‘I’ve been hearing that all week long. I’ve got news for you, buddy. We’re going to win the game, I guarantee it.’”
Namath has downplayed his guarantee as an offhand response to a heckler, but it matched the tone of what Namath was saying all week leading up the game, albeit not without the word “guarantee” that created the legend.
The Jets won, 16-7, fulfilling Namath’s promise while also further legitimizing the AFL two seasons before the two leagues merged into what would become the modern NFL.
Super Bowl V: Colts 16, Cowboys 13
Just two years after representing the NFL in the Super Bowl, the Colts were now in the AFC in the first season of the merger. The Colts won a close, but sloppy contest over the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13, on a field goal with nine seconds remaining by Jim O’Brien. It was the first of seven Super Bowls with a go-ahead score in the final minute or in overtime. The first two of these games were in Miami, along with the 49ers’ win in Super Bowl XXIII.
Though Baltimore won Super Bowl V, Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley took home Super Bowl MVP honors, the only player from a losing team to win the award.
Super Bowl XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31
The Pittsburgh Steelers and Cowboys met again in 1979, a rematch of their Super Bowl three years earlier, also in Miami. Both games were close in the fourth quarter until Pittsburgh pulled away. But this one was more of a shootout, the first of only three Super Bowls to feature both teams scoring at least 30 points.
The key play here came in the final minutes of the third quarter, with Dallas trailing by seven points. On third-and-3 from the 10-yard line, Roger Staubach found Jackie Smith wide open in the end zone, only to have the tight end drop the potential tying score.
“Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America,” said Verne Lundquist on the Cowboys radio call.
Dallas settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown, which seems significant since they lost by just four points.
Super Bowl XXIII: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
Jerry Rice has three of the top nine receiving-yard games in Super Bowl history, and two of those happened in Miami. The first came in 1989, against the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl XXIII. Rice caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl-best 215 yards and a touchdown.
Rice was such a focus of Cincinnati’s defense that he was essentially a decoy on the deciding play, a 10-yard touchdown pass zipped by Joe Montana to John Taylor with 34 seconds left to secure the come-from-behind victory. Rice still walked away with the Super Bowl MVP Award.
Six years later, Rice caught three of Steve Young’s record six touchdown passes in Super Bowl XXIX, tying a receiving record that still stands. He caught 10 passes for 149 yards against the Chargers, which amazingly wasn’t even his best Super Bowl at Joe Robbie Stadium.
Super Bowl XXIX: 49ers 49, Chargers 26
Steve Young was at the peak of his powers during the 1994 season, leading the league with 35 touchdown passes and a then-record 112.8 quarterback rating. Efficiency was the name of Young’s game, and that year he became the first quarterback to complete 70 percent of his passes with at least 400 pass attempts.
Young won two previous championships with the 49ers, but as the backup to Joe Montana. Now in his fourth season as San Francisco’s starter, Young finally got past the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game, avenging playoff losses to Dallas in the two years prior. Against San Diego, Young was sublime, throwing for six touchdown passes that remains unmatched in Super Bowl history.
“Someone take the monkey off my back, please,” Young jokingly implored his teammates on the sideline in the final minutes of the game.
Super Bowl XXXIII: Broncos 34, Falcons 19
While this game between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons was certainly memorable for the record-tying seven field goal attempts (though both teams combined to make only four), you might remember this as John Elway’s final game.
Elway completely flipped the script on his personal legacy in his final two seasons. He was headed for the Hall of Fame either way, but before 1997 he had no championships and three Super Bowl losses, none of which were particularly close. The Broncos then won two Super Bowls in Elway’s final two seasons. Elway threw for 336 yards in an MVP performance against Atlanta, beating his former coach Dan Reeves — with whom he and the Broncos lost three Super Bowls — in the process.
It was a true storybook ending.
Miami has given us a plethora of memorable Super Bowls, but we’re overdue for another. Five of the first six Super Bowls in Miami were close, decided by single digits. But beginning with that Young/Rice domination in 1995, the last four Miami Super Bowls have been blowouts, with an average victory margin of 16 points.
The AFC won six of the 10 previous Super Bowls in Miami, but the 49ers have two of the four NFC victories.
The history of Miami Super Bowls
|II||1968||Packers 33, Raiders 14||Orange Bowl|
|III||1969||Jets 16, Colts 7||Orange Bowl|
|V||1971||Colts 16, Cowboys 13||Orange Bowl|
|X||1976||Steelers 21, Cowboys 17||Orange Bowl|
|XIII||1979||Steelers 35, Cowboys 31||Orange Bowl|
|XXIII||1989||49ers 20, Bengals 16||Joe Robbie Stadium*|
|XXIX||1995||49ers 49, Chargers 26||Joe Robbie Stadium*|
|XXXIII||1999||Broncos 34, Falcons 19||Pro Player Stadium*|
|XLI||2007||Colts 29, Bears 17||Dolphin Stadium*|
|XLIV||2010||Saints 31, Colts 17||Sun Life Stadium*|
|LIV||2020||49ers vs. Chiefs||Hard Rock Stadium*|
It’s been 10 years since the last Super Bowl in Miami, matching the longest drought for the city. The last time Miami had to wait so long, we saw the 49ers and Bengals give us a classic. Maybe the 49ers and Chiefs can also give us an exciting game this Sunday in South Florida.