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Super Bowl Countdown No. 17: Doug Williams Draws, Quarters Broncos

There have been 228 quarters – and one extra slice of Tom Brady – of Super Bowl lines. So. how can one choose the performance in a single stanza that tops all others?

Not easy, you might think. Ahhh, but it is simple, thanks to Doug Williams on Jan. 31, 1988.

Super Bowl Countdown No. 17: Doug Williams Draws, Quarters Broncos
Christian Petersen / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

It was Super Bowl XXII at San Diego’s Jack Murphy Stadium and what the Washington quarterback did stunned those who made expert Super Bowl picks and fans for his surgical and magnificent 15 minutes.

One could easily argue the second quarter against the Denver Broncos changed the quarterback position’s future.


Pregame and Halftime

The pregame was a celebration of Bob Hope. Herb Albert, of A&M Records and Tijuana Brass fame, played the anthem on his trumpet.

After Williams put on his show, it was left to the Rockettes and Chubby Checker to do the honors at halftime.

Forgive those who have forgotten the entertainment in the whirlwind of excellence that had been witnessed moments earlier.


Broncos Break Fast from the Gate

You would never know it by the final score. Denver did actually hold a double-digit lead after the first 15 minutes, going up 10-0.

John Elway connected with Ricky Nattiel on a 56-yard scoring play and Rich Karlis hit a field goal.

At that point, Broncos fans were thrilled. They had no idea what was about to hit them.


Williams, who needed a root canal the night before the game, did have help as Washington’s offense erupted. There was a 58-yard rushing touchdown sandwiched by four touchdown passes. Williams threw a pair, Tim Smith raced to paydirt and Williams completed the masterpiece with two more scoring throws.

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Touchdown Pass No. 1

The first punch came when Williams found Ricky Sanders for a play that went 80 yards. The shot seemed to daze Denver, which never recovered.


Touchdown Pass No. 2

Williams teamed with Gary Clark on the second scoring play that gave the Broncos the lead for good and suddenly had Super Bowl bettors wondering where their lead and confidence had gone.

Smith, basically an unknown to this point in NFL circles, ran for a 58-yard touchdown that built the advantage to double digits.


Running Wild

What can’t be lost in Williams’ second-quarter brilliance was the game Smith had. He rushed 22 times for 204 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

In the entire 1987 regular season, Smith had 29 carries for 126 yards and zero touchdowns.

There was no way Denver was prepared for his rushing onslaught.


Touchdown Pass No. 3

Enough with the ground game, it was time for Williams to reload Washington’s air force.

Sanders caught another TD pass, this one good for 50 yards. He had nine catches for 193 yards in the game, 130 coming on the two scoring plays.


Touchdown Pass No. 4

The final paint stroke on the masterpiece was an 8-yard TD throw from Williams to tight end Clint Didier.

At the break, Washington led 35-10 and Super Bowl history had taken a stunning turn.

What is remarkable is Williams threw 11 passes in the quarter, completing nine for 228 yards. For the game, he was 18 of 29 for 340 yards.

So, he had as many completions in the second quarter as he had in all the rest of the rout.


Second Quarter:

Washington – Sanders, 80 yard pass from Williams (Haji-Shiekh kick)

Washington – Clark, 27 yard pass from Williams (Haji-Shiekh kick)

Washington – Smith, 58 yard run (Haji-Shiekh kick)

Washington – Sanders, 50 yard pass from Williams (Haji-Shiekh kick)

Washington – Didier, 8 yard pass from Williams (Haji-Shiekh kick)

Everyone had expected Elway to be the star but Denver’s quarterback had a miserable evening.

He was sacked five times, threw three interceptions and completed 14 of 38 passes for 257 yards.

Not one Broncos receiver had as many yards in the entire contest as Sanders had on his 80-yard catch that opened the scoring for Washington.


Questions of the Day

Which team has better opportunities to make it to the Super Bowl?

The Philadelphia Eagles have shown they are built to play for the NFL championship.

Which team is underrated by the odds for the 2024 Super Bowl?

Do not sleep on the Jacksonville Jaguars at +1600. Other AFC teams have challenges and the Jags keep getting better.

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