Miami Dolphins 16
Super Bowl XIX featured a pair of future hall of fame quarterbacks and two of the more explosive offenses in the league, so it's not surprising that most were expecting the game to hinge on the play of the offenses, but it was defense that ultimately decided the outcome of this game.
In just his second year in the NFL, Dan Marino was nearly unstoppable, torching the league for a season-record 48 touchdowns and 5,084 yards passing. And he had the Dolphins out to a 10-7 lead at the end of the first period, completing nine of his first 10 passes for 103 yards. But it was a shift in the 49ers defense that frustrated the Dolphins passing attack and shifted the momentum of the game.
In the second quarter, the 49ers switched to a nickel defense while the line used stunts designed to put pressure on center Dwight Stephenson, Miami’s best lineman. The change in defense confused the Dolphins and allowed the defensive line to pressure Marino consistently. Throughout the regular season, Marino was sacked just 13 times, but the 49ers took him to the turf four times.
After San Francisco’s opening drive stalled, Marino needed just six plays, starting with a 25-yard pass to running back Tony Nathan, to set up the game’s first score; a 37-yard field goal by Uwe Von Schamann at the 7:36 mark of the first quarter.
The 49ers, led by mild-mannered quarterback Joe Montana, quickly answered back by taking the lead on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Carl Monroe with 3:12 left in the period, but the lead would not last long.
Using a quick huddle to cross up the 49ers, Marino led the Dolphins quickly down the field before tossing a two-yard TD strike to tight end Dan Johnson, which allowed Miami to recapture the lead before the end of the quarter. And with the score at 10-7 at the end of the first, a Super Bowl record for most points scored in the opening period, it appeared as if the game was shaping up to be the shootout most fans expected.
Miami head coach Don Shula had figured that if his team’s passing attack could force the 49ers into using their nickel alignment, it would open up the running game. But instead, the 49ers defensive line held the Dolphins running backs to a season low 25 yards while still getting pressure on Marino.
The 49ers took control of the game in the second quarter, holding the Dolphins to no first downs and only one net yard of offense in nearly a 12-minute span. In that same period of time, San Francisco scored three touchdowns, opening up a 28-10 lead.
With little time left in the first quarter, Marino suddenly regained his confidence and quickly led the Dolphins into scoring position, setting up a 31-yard field goal with 12 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, a squib kick, San Francisco guard Guy McIntyre picked up the bouncing ball and began to run with it before Joe Carter knocked the ball loose. The Dolphins’ Jim Jensen recovered the ball at the 49ers’ 12-yard line with four seconds left in the half and Von Schamann connected on the 30-yard field goal attempt to make the score 28-16 at halftime.
The second half was all 49ers, as the defense held the Dolphins scoreless while the offense controlled the clock with its short passes and running game. The 49ers added a 27-yard field goal by Ray Wersching, and an eight yard touchdown pass from Montana to running back Roger Craig in the third quarter to close out the scoring, making the final 38-16 and giving San Francisco its second Super Bowl championship.
Montana, who completed 24-of-35 passes for a Super Bowl-record 331 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed five times for 59 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown, was named the game‘s MVP. Craig set a Super Bowl record by scoring three touchdowns, two on pass receptions of eight and 16 yards and one on a run of two yards.