29. Super Bowl XXII, 1988: Washington 42—Denver 10
John Elway’s Broncos came in heavily favored a year removed from experiencing Super Bowl disappointment. They dominated the first quarter, led 10-0 and appeared to be the better team on both sides of the ball. Then all hell broke loose. In the most dramatic turnaround in the game’s history, Washington hit a switch and scored 35 second-quarter points, essentially ending the game at halftime.
Competitiveness: 5 out of 10. Setting the final score aside, it is difficult to overstate how dominant Denver appeared during the first fifteen minutes of the game. The Broncos scored on their first play from scrimmage and appeared unblockable on defense. Washington appeared helpless.
Star Power: 5 out of 10. John Elway, Joe Gibbs and Art Monk are your headliners. Not too much after that.
Intrigue/Controversy: 9 out of 10. Doug Williams became the first African-American quarterback to start a Super Bowl. This was a huge story in 1988. After Williams overcame a sprained knee to torch every existing Super Bowl record, it became an even bigger story — a signal moment in the history of the game.
Aftermath: 7 out of 10. Joe Gibbs’ Washington teams were one of the great squads of the ’80s and early ’90s and continued to contend year in and out until his retirement in 1992. The Broncos would suffer another humiliating defeat in the following year’s Super Bowl, but legendary QB John Elway would hang on long enough to redeem his earlier efforts.
Aggregate Score: 26 out of 40.
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