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On This Date: Bengals lost Super Bowl XVI to the 49ers

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We take a look back on this date in history, which is a day when the Cincinnati Bengals appeared in their second Super Bowl, a real tale of two halves. Cincinnati nearly staged an amazing comeback before falling short late in the fourth quarter.

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Super Bowl XXIII receives most of the attention in Cincinnati because it featured entertaining characters, dancing, a rap song and a head coach with the most iconic moment in Bengals history. Plus it was a close game that was decided with 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. It was also the second Super Bowl that Cincinnati played in.

The first was Super Bowl XVI, which was played 33 years ago, on January 24, 1982.

A few years ago I re-watched the game wrote several notes:

  • This was a tale of two halves. The 49ers outscored the Bengals 20-0 in the first half. Cincinnati staged a furious comeback in the second half, outscoring the 49ers 21-6 in the second half. The 49ers went three and out on their first three drives.
  • Ross Browner and Reggie Williams were studs.
  • Pete Johnson had a running style and makeup that resembled Rudi Johnson.
  • Rookies in this game included Cris Collinsworth and Ronnie Lott.
  • Jim Breech had two kickoffs roll out of bounds.
  • If the ball bounced on the ground, the Bengals kickoff return team looked lost.
  • Joe Montana was the Super Bowl MVP. But Kenny Anderson, other than two interceptions, had far superior numbers. Of course, with a 20 point lead going into the third quarter, San Francisco's offense shut it down.
  • Cincinnati scored a touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and were an onside kick away from a game-winning possession. Dwight Clark hauled in the onside and won the game for San Francisco.
  • Forrest Gregg could be the inspiration for Craig T. Nelson's look in the old T.V. show Coach. He never really got mad or reacted -- but he just looked pissed off for 59 minutes of the game.

Former wide receiver Cris Collinsworth said: "We had such a good team and to have four turnovers and we’re down 20-0. Forrest Gregg’s halftime speech was ‘Hey, just go give it a shot in the second half. You (screwed) it up so bad in the first half, you can’t (screw) it up any worse.’ And we almost won the game."

SB XVI Game Summary

Other notes:

  • Today you see celebrities and white collar folk get most of the tickets at the Super Bowl. For the most part, today's Super Bowl crowd is there to be part of an event. The crowd at Super Bowl XVI resembled that of a college football game. One half of the stadium was 49er fans and the other half were Bengals fans. If their team did something good, a mass group of fans in that section would stand and cheer. Seems like as time rolls on, that type of atmosphere has died; the big game is primarily a VIP members only club with big money. You and I... not invited.
  • This was the first Super Bowl with the Pat Summerall/John Madden tandem. One of the funniest moments I've heard in a long time came from Madden. The ball was spotted and a measurement was required. Madden with his coach mentality said "it's good". Summerall wasn't so sure. So Madden quips, "Through 20 years of coaching, I've never been wrong on a spot". Summerall silent.
  • This was the first non-warm weathered Super Bowl; the game took place in Detroit.

A FEW NOTES on the players:

Dan Ross: Former Bengals tight end Dan Ross earned one Pro Bowl selection, two All-Pro selections and was one of Kenny Anderson's favorite targets in 1981 and 1982. During that two-year stretch, he accumulated 127 receptions for 1,634 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. Against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XVI, Ross posted 11 receptions for 104 yards receiving and two touchdowns, nearly leading one of the greatest comebacks in Super Bowl history. Jerry Rice, Deion Branch and Wes Welker have since matched Ross' 11 receptions, but no tight end has come close.

Ken Anderson: The Bengals were well on their way to getting blown out during Super Bowl XVI. San Francisco's first three scoring possessions were sustained drives of 11 (touchdown), 12 (touchdown) and 13 (field goal) plays. Archie Griffin fumbled a kickoff with 18 seconds remaining in the first half, giving San Francisco an easy field goal to take a 20-0 half-time lead. It felt over. It wasn't. Anderson led the Bengals in the second half, outscoring the 49ers 21-6, completing 17 of 20 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns (two passes, one rushing). Unfortunately the Bengals were doomed from the start, turning the football over four times in the game and failing to overcome a 20-point disadvantage.

Cris Collinsworth: Collinsworth is one of a handful players that played in both of Cincinnati's Super Bowls with the Bengals. As a rookie against the 49ers in Super Bowl XVI, Collinsworth generated 107 yards receiving on five receptions, including a 49-yarder that reached the 49ers 14-yard line in the third quarter -- unfortunately the Bengals turned it over on downs during San Francisco's goalline stand. Collinsworth finished his career with nine Super Bowl receptions for 147 yards receiving. He retired following Super Bowl XXIII.

Reggie Williams: One of the select few that played in both of Cincinnati's Super Bowls, Reggie Williams generated 14 tackles, a quarterback sack and a pass defensed in both Super Bowls combined. Against the 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII, Williams posted a team-leading nine tackles and a sack during a game that was defined by defense.

Ross Browner: Browner was a former first-round pick for the Bengals who spent nine seasons in Cincinnati. In Super Bowl XVI, he set a record for most tackles (10) in a Super Bowl by a defensive lineman, also contributing a quarterback sack early in the third quarter.

Jim Breech: One of the few Bengals to play in both Super Bowl games, Breech converted three field goals against the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIII. His first field goal, early in the second quarter, tied the game at three. His next field goal, early in the third quarter, gave the Bengals a 6-3 lead. With 3:20 remaining in the game, Breech converted a 40-yarder to give Cincinnati a 16-13 lead.