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Super Bowl XXX

Super Bowl XXX
Super Bowl XXX logo
DAL 10 3 7 727
PIT 0 7 0 1017
Date January 28, 1996 (1996-01-28)
Stadium Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona
MVP Larry Brown, Cornerback
Favorite Cowboys by 13.5[1][2]
Referee Red Cashion
Attendance 76,347[3]
Future Hall of Famers
Cowboys: Troy Aikman, Larry Allen, Charles Haley, Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith.
Steelers: Dermontti Dawson, Rod Woodson.
National anthem Vanessa Williams
Coin toss Joe Montana representing previous Super Bowl MVPs
Halftime show Diana Ross
TV in the United States
Network NBC
Announcers Dick Enberg, Phil Simms and Paul Maguire
Nielsen ratings 46.0
(est. 94.08 million viewers)[4]
Market share 68
Cost of 30-second commercial US$1.085 million
 < XXIX Super Bowl XXXI > 

Super Bowl XXX was an American football game between the National Football Conference (NFC) champion Dallas Cowboys and the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Pittsburgh Steelers to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 1995 season. The Cowboys defeated the Steelers by the score of 27–17.[5] The game was played on January 28, 1996, at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona, the first time the Super Bowl was played in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Both teams entered the game trying to tie the San Francisco 49ers for the most Super Bowl wins by a franchise (5). The Cowboys, who posted a 12–4 regular season record, were making their eighth Super Bowl appearance, while the Steelers, who recorded an 11–5 regular season record, were making their fifth appearance. This game was also the fifth rematch between Super Bowl teams. Moreover, it was the third meeting between the two longtime rivals in a Super Bowl (after Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII), which is currently the most between any two NFL teams.[5] With the win, Dallas became the first team to win three Super Bowls in four years. For Pittsburgh, it was their first Super Bowl loss in team history.

Dallas' Larry Brown, a 12th-round draft pick, became the first cornerback to be named Super Bowl MVP by recording two interceptions in the second half, which the Cowboys converted into two touchdowns to prevent a Steelers comeback.[5] Dallas built a 13–0 lead in the second quarter before the Pittsburgh scored with 13 seconds left in the half to cut their deficit to 13–7. Midway through the 3rd quarter, Brown made his first interception and returned it 44 yards to the Pittsburgh 18-yard line to set up running back Emmitt Smith's 1-yard touchdown run. The Steelers then rallied to cut their deficit to 20–17 in the 4th quarter. But Brown recorded his second interception on Pittsburgh's next drive, and returned it to 33 yards to the Steelers 6-yard line to set up Smith's 4-yard rushing touchdown.

The NBC television broadcast averaged 95.13 million people in the United States, breaking the then-record for most watched sporting event ever on American television, and the second-most watched program of all, trailing only the final episode of M*A*S*H.[6]


Tempe was originally chosen as the venue for Super Bowl XXVII on March 13, 1990. However, the NFL pulled the game away from Arizona after the league joined a massive, nationwide tourist boycott by various groups to protest the state’s refusal to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. After Arizona finally adopted the federal holiday in 1992, the NFL again began to consider Tempe. NFL owners voted to award Super Bowl XXX to Tempe, Arizona during their March 23, 1993 meeting in Palm Desert, California.[5]

Super Bowl XXX was the last to be hosted in a stadium containing bleacher seats, and would also be the last Super Bowl to be held on a college campus, as the stadium sits on the campus of Arizona State University.[5]

Super Bowl XXX was also the last Super Bowl to have a team wear jerseys with screen printed numbers as was the case with the Cowboys.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys entered the 1995 regular season attempting to win three out of the last four Super Bowls. They had previously won Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII but their chance of a "three-peat" (winning three consecutive championships) was thwarted when they lost the NFC Championship Game to the San Francisco 49ers, the eventual Super Bowl XXIX champions. This was the Cowboys’ 8th appearance in the Super Bowl, the most of any franchise; the Steelers tied this record in 2010 when that team advanced to Super Bowl XLV. The Patriots became the third team to tie this record in 2014 when that team went on to win Super Bowl XLIX.

After taking over the Cowboys in 1989, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones and head coach Jimmy Johnson rebuilt the team into a Super Bowl contender with young talent. Both had different ideas on the future personnel plans for the Cowboys, and both wanted equal credit for the team's recent success. As a result, Johnson eventually left the team after their Super Bowl XXVIII win and was replaced by former University of Oklahoma head coach Barry Switzer, who had one of the highest winning percentages of any college football coach in history, with a mark of .837.[5]

In 1995, the Cowboys finished with a 12–4 regular season record, the best in the NFC. Pro Bowl quarterback Troy Aikman finished the regular season completing 280 out of 432 passes for 3,304 yards and 16 touchdowns, with only 7 interceptions. Pro Bowl running back Emmitt Smith won his fourth and last league rushing crown in his career with 1,773 yards, and broke a league single-season record with 25 rushing touchdowns. Smith was also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, recording a career-high 62 receptions for 375 yards.[5] Fullback Daryl Johnston added 111 rushing yards, while also catching 30 passes for 248 and scoring three touchdowns. Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael Irvin led the team in receiving with 111 catches for 1,603 yards and 10 touchdowns. Kevin Williams was another a big receiving threat with 38 receptions for 613 yards, while also racking up 1,274 return yards on special teams. Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek had 62 receptions for 705 yards and 5 touchdowns. Dallas' offensive line was led by Pro Bowlers Larry Allen, Ray Donaldson, Nate Newton, and Mark Tuinei.[5] However, Donaldson suffered a season ending injury late in the season and would be replaced by Derek Kennard.

Dallas' major acquisition before the season was four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Deion Sanders. Coincidentally, Sanders won the Super Bowl the year before with San Francisco. However, Sanders only played nine regular season games for the Cowboys in 1995 due to injuries, and thus only recorded 24 tackles and 2 interceptions for 34 yards.[5] However, safety Darren Woodson was named to the Pro Bowl with 89 tackles and 2 interceptions for 46 return yards and a touchdown. Cornerback Larry Brown led the team in interceptions with 6 for 124 return yards and 2 touchdowns. Pro Bowl defensive end Charles Haley led the team in sacks with 10.5, while defensive end Chad Hennings added 5.5. Safety Brock Marion recorded 6 interceptions, returning them for 40 yards and a touchdown.[5]

After starting fast at 8–1, the Cowboys hit a major bump in the road, losing big at home to the 49ers, 38–20 (they trailed 31–14 at half time). Coincidentally, the 49ers, the previous Super Bowl champion, also suffered a blowout loss at home the prior season (40–8 to the Philadelphia Eagles). Adding insult to injury, the 49ers were without starting quarterback Steve Young and fullback William Floyd. The game was highly anticipated, with verbal exchanges between the teams during the week, and it marked the beginning of a difficult stretch for the team. The following four games resulted in two more losses for the Cowboys. However, after a narrow 21–20 win against the New York Giants, the Cowboys regained their dominating form, trouncing the Arizona Cardinals (who were playing their home games at Sun Devil Stadium) 37–13 on Christmas night in Arizona as part of Monday Night Football, and then cruising through the playoffs with convincing wins against the Philadelphia Eagles and the Green Bay Packers. Brown foreshadowed his Super Bowl XXX heroics with a key interception against Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre late in the NFC Championship Game.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Super Bowl XXX was the first time that the Steelers advanced to the league championship game since winning Super Bowl XIV and the first under head coach Bill Cowher. Cowher took over the team in 1992 after longtime head coach Chuck Noll retired after a 23-year tenure and leading the team to four Super Bowl wins. During Cowher's first year, the Steelers captured the #1 AFC playoff seed with an 11–5 regular season record, but were eliminated in their first playoff game against the Buffalo Bills, 24–3.[5] Cowher then led the Steelers into the playoffs in 1993 and 1994, but were also eliminated, including a 17–13 upset loss to the San Diego Chargers in the 1994 AFC Championship Game.[5]

In 1995, the Steelers overcame a 3–4 start (including a 20–16 upset loss to the expansion Jacksonville Jaguars) to win eight of their final nine games and finished with an 11–5 record, the second-best in the AFC. Their offense was led by quarterback Neil O'Donnell, who completed 246 out of 416 passes for 2,970 yards and 17 touchdowns, with only 7 interceptions.[5] Pro Bowl wide receiver Yancey Thigpen was the team's leading receiver with 85 receptions for 1,307 yards and 5 touchdowns. Other contributors in the passing game included wide receivers Andre Hastings (48 catches for 502 yards and 1 touchdown) and Ernie Mills (39 receptions for 679 yards and 8 touchdowns), who both also excelled as returners on special teams. Mills gained 1,306 yards returning kickoffs, while Hastings returned 48 punts for 474 yards and a touchdown.[5] The Steelers' rushing attack was led by Erric Pegram, who recorded 813 yards and 5 touchdowns, and Bam Morris, who had 559 yards and 9 touchdowns. On special teams, newly acquired kicker Norm Johnson led the NFL in both field goals made (34) and field goals attempted (41), while also successfully making all 39 of his extra point attempts.[5] Leading the offensive line was future Hall of Fame center Dermontti Dawson, who made the Pro Bowl for the third consecutive year.

The Steelers' defense ranked second in the league in total yards allowed (4,833). Pro Bowl linebacker Kevin Greene led the team with 9 sacks, while another Pro Bowl linebacker, Greg Lloyd, led the team with 86 tackles, while also collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 interceptions. The secondary was led by Pro Bowl defensive back Carnell Lake and Willie Williams, who led the team with 7 interceptions and 122 return yards. The secondary also had future Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson, who missed almost the entire season with a knee injury, but returned in time for the playoffs. He is still the only NFL player to return from a torn ACL to play in the same season.


For more details on this topic, see NFL playoffs, 1995-96.

The Cowboys first defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, 30–11. The score was tied 3–3 into the 2nd quarter until Dallas scored 27 consecutive points to put the game out of reach.[5] First, Deion Sanders scored a 21-yard touchdown on an end around play. Emmitt Smith then capped off a 79-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run before halftime. Kicker Chris Boniol later scored two field goals in the 3rd quarter, and Troy Aikman completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Michael Irvin in the 4th quarter, giving the Cowboys a commanding 30–3 lead. Meanwhile, Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham was limited to just 11 of 26 completions for 161 yards and no touchdowns, with one interception. Philadelphia could only score a single field goal and Cunningham's meaningless 4-yard touchdown run late in the 4th quarter.[5]

Dallas then advanced to their fourth consecutive NFC Championship Game, where they faced the Green Bay Packers, who had eliminated the San Francisco 49ers in the other NFC Divisional Playoff Game. Dallas jumped to an early 14–3 lead with a pair of 1st-quarter touchdown passes from Aikman to Irvin.[5] But Packers quarterback Brett Favre threw two touchdowns to take a 17–14 lead midway through the 2nd quarter: a 73-yard strike to wide receiver Robert Brooks and a 24-yard pass to tight end Keith Jackson. Dallas stormed right back with a Boniol field goal, and a record 99-yard drive to score on Smith's 1-yard touchdown run, giving them a 24–17 halftime lead.[5] In the 3rd quarter, Green Bay regained the lead, 27–24 with a field goal and another touchdown pass from Favre to Brooks. But Dallas scored two unanswered touchdowns in the 4th quarter to put the game away, 38–27. A 90-yard drive was capped with Smith's second touchdown run. Then on Green Bay's ensuing drive, Larry Brown intercepted a pass from Favre and returned it 28 yards to set up Smith's third touchdown run. Smith finished the game with 150 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns, while also catching 2 passes for 17 yards. Aikman threw for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns, with no interceptions. Irvin caught 7 passes for 100 yards and 2 touchdowns.[5]

For the Steelers, they started their playoff run with a 40–21 win over the Buffalo Bills. Pittsburgh dominated the Bills right from the start, building up a 23–7 halftime lead. Buffalo scored two touchdowns in the second half, but Bam Morris' two rushing touchdowns in the 4th quarter ended any thoughts of a Bills comeback.[5] The Steelers' defense limited Buffalo's Jim Kelly to just 135 passing yards and one touchdown, while intercepting him three times. Bills running back Thurman Thomas, who had rushed for 158 yards and caught 3 passes for 42 yards in Buffalo's wild card playoff win over the Miami Dolphins, was held to just 46 rushing yards and 12 receiving yards. Meanwhile, Morris rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns, while kicker Norm Johnson made four field goals.[5]

Pittsburgh then narrowly defeated the Indianapolis Colts, 20–16 to advance to their first Super Bowl since the 1979 season.[5] In the second quarter, Neil O'Donnell's controversial 5-yard touchdown pass to Kordell Stewart gave Pittsburgh a 10–6 halftime lead (replays showed that Stewart stepped on the end line before making the catch, which would have made him ineligible). Stewart later said after the game: "I was hit in the end zone for pass interference earlier but (the refs) didn't throw a flag, so what goes around comes around." After the teams exchanged field goals in the 3rd quarter, Indianapolis quarterback Jim Harbaugh threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Floyd Turner to give the Colts a 16–13 lead in the 4th quarter. The Steelers drove 67 yards on their final drive (keyed by a 4th-and-3 conversion and a 37-yard pass play from O'Donnell to Ernie Mills) to score the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard run by Morris with 1:34 left. Mills broke up what would have been a game-clinching interception by Colts linebacker Quentin Coryatt several plays earlier. The Colts responded by driving to the Steelers 29-yard line, and on the game's final play, Harbaugh threw a hail Mary intended for wide receiver Aaron Bailey in the end zone. Bailey attempted to make a diving catch, but the pass was batted away at the last second by Randy Fuller and ruled incomplete.[5]

Television and entertainment

The game was broadcast in the United States by NBC, with play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg and color commentators Phil Simms and Paul Maguire. Greg Gumbel hosted all the events with the help of then-NBC analysts Ahmad Rashad, Mike Ditka, Joe Gibbs, and Joe Montana.[5] The Lombardi Trophy presentation for this game was the first to be held on the field instead of inside the winners' locker room; all subsequent trophy presentations have been held in this manner.

All three Super Bowl wins for the Cowboys in the 1990s were broadcast on NBC, who later gained majority control of its affiliate in the Dallas area, KXAS-TV.

Following the game, NBC broadcast an hour-long episode of Friends, restarting a trend in which the prized post-Super Bowl time slot was given to an established program. Previously, networks typically used the occasion to premiere a new show, with little success. Of the new series premiering after the Super Bowl from 1983–95, only The A-Team (NBC, after Super Bowl XVII), The Wonder Years (ABC, after XXII), and Homicide: Life on the Street (NBC, after XXVII) had lengthy runs.[5]

The radio broadcast was carried by CBS Radio, with Jack Buck and Hank Stram announcing. It proved to be Buck's last NFL broadcast.[5]

Super Bowl XXX was broadcast to over 150 countries around the world, including Australia on Network Ten, Canada on CTV, Germany on Tele 5, Mexico on Canal 5, the Philippines on the GMA Network, and the United Kingdom on Channel 4.

Some weeks before Super Bowl XXX, it was found that some proxy servers were blocking the web site for the event. The reason: The game's Roman numeral (XXX) is usually associated with pornography.

Super Bowl XXX is the subject of the NFL's Greatest Games episode Duel in the Desert, based on the Super Bowl highlight film of the same name, which was narrated by Earl Mann.

Pregame ceremonies

The pregame show held before the game featured dancers in celebration of the culture of Native Americans in the United States, the traditions of the American Old West, and the great outdoors.

Actress and singer Vanessa Williams later sang the national anthem.

To honor the 30th Super Bowl game, several past Super Bowl MVPs joined the coin toss ceremony. Joe Montana, MVP of Super Bowls XVI, XIX, and XXIV, tossed the coin.[5]

Halftime show

Diana Ross performed during the halftime show, titled "Take Me Higher: A Celebration of 30 years of the Super Bowl". The show featured a number of her songs along with pyrotechnics, special effects, and stadium card stunts. The show ended with Ross singing "Take Me Higher" from her 1995 album of the same name, and then she was taken from the field in a helicopter.[7]

Game summary

Super Bowl XXX began with Dallas wide receiver Kevin Williams returning the opening kickoff 18 yards to the 29-yard line. On the Cowboys' first possession, Troy Aikman completed a 20-yard pass on second down to wide receiver Michael Irvin, which was followed by a 23-yard run by Emmitt Smith to advance to the Pittsburgh 28-yard line. The run would be Smith's longest of the day and the longest for either team. On 3rd down and 8 from the 26-yard line, Williams could only gain 2 yards on a reverse play, forcing Dallas to settle for a 42-yard Chris Boniol field goal.

On the Steelers' first possession, the Dallas defense forced a three-and-out and subsequent punt, which Cowboys cornerback Deion Sanders returned 11 yards to the 25-yard line. After two Smith runs, Aikman completed two quick passes, the first to Irvin for an 11-yard gain and the second to Sanders (who was brought in on offense as an extra receiver) for 47 yards. Sanders became the only player in Super Bowl history to record a Super Bowl interception on defense and a reception on offense (he recorded an interception as a 49er a year earlier in Super Bowl XXIX). Four plays later, Aikman completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jay Novacek (playing in what would be his last game, as Novacek missed the following season due to back injuries before retiring), increasing Dallas' lead to 10–0. It was the second Super Bowl in which Novacek scored Dallas' first touchdown (he also scored their first touchdown in Super Bowl XXVII).

After the Steelers managed to advance to the Dallas 36-yard line on their ensuing drive, the possession fell apart due to a miscue by center Dermontti Dawson. Pittsburgh had lined up in the shotgun formation, and Dawson's snap sailed over quarterback Neil O'Donnell's head. O'Donnell managed to recover the fumble, but the Steelers were unable to recover from the 13-yard loss, and they had to punt two plays later.

After the punt, Dallas drove to the Steelers' 24-yard line. However, a pass interference penalty on Irvin nullified a 24-yard touchdown reception and moved the ball back to the 34-yard line. On the next play, Aikman completed a 19-yard pass to Novacek, bringing up 2nd down and 1 from the 15-yard line. However, the Steelers' defense stopped Smith for no gain on the next play, and then tackled him for a 3-yard loss on 3rd down. Boniol then kicked a 35-yard field goal, increasing Dallas' lead to 13–0.

After an exchange of punts, Steelers wide receiver Andre Hastings returned John Jett's punt 11 yards to the Pittsburgh 46-yard line. After O'Donnell's 1st-down pass fell incomplete, Dallas linebacker Charles Haley then sacked the Steelers quarterback for a 10-yard loss, forcing 3rd down and 20. O'Donnell's next pass was a 19-yard completion to Hastings, and then a 3-yard run on 4th down by wide receiver/backup quarterback Kordell Stewart netted a 1st down. Nine plays later, O'Donnell threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Yancey Thigpen with just 13 seconds left in the half, cutting Pittsburgh's deficit to 13–7. Thigpen made the catch despite being shoved by Sanders prior to making the reception.

After the 3rd quarter began with another exchange of punts, the Steelers advanced the ball to their own 48-yard line. However, on 3rd down, Cowboys cornerback Larry Brown intercepted O'Donnell's pass at the Dallas 38-yard line and returned it 44 yards to the Pittsburgh 18-yard line. Aikman then completed a 17-yard pass to Irvin to reach the 1-yard line, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Smith to increase Dallas' lead to 20–7.

On their next drive, the Steelers had 2nd down and 2 on their own 47-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs after running back Bam Morris was tackled for no gain on three consecutive running plays: a draw play to the left, a run to the left, and one to the middle. The Steeler defense held, however, forcing Dallas into a three-and-out; after a 6-yard run by Smith and an incompletion, Aikman's 3rd-down pass was broken up by defensive back Rod Woodson (who had missed most of the season due to a knee injury), forcing the Cowboys to punt.

On their next drive, the Steelers advanced from their own 20-yard line to the Dallas 19. However, Dallas defensive end Tony Tolbert sacked O'Donnell on third down for a 9-yard loss, forcing Pittsburgh to settle for kicker Norm Johnson's 46-yard field goal with 11:20 left in the game, cutting the deficit to 20–10.

On the ensuing kickoff, Pittsburgh surprised the Cowboys by executing a successful onside kick, with defensive back Deon Figures recovering the ball for Pittsburgh at their own 47-yard line. O'Donnell hit Hastings on two consecutive passes for 23 total yards. His next pass went to wide receiver Ernie Mills for 7 yards, and then Morris ran for 5 yards and caught a pass for a 6-yard gain to the Dallas 11-yard line. Three plays later, Morris scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, cutting Pittsburgh's deficit to 20–17.

With the aid of linebacker Levon Kirkland's 8-yard sack of Aikman, the Cowboys were forced to punt on their next drive, and Pittsburgh regained possession of the ball at their own 32-yard line with 4:15 remaining. However, on 2nd down, Brown intercepted another O'Donnell pass and returned it 33 yards to the Steelers' 6-yard line. The play was a mirror image of O'Donnell's first interception to Brown; a throw in the right flat thrown under a heavy Cowboy blitz into the arms of Brown with no Steeler in sight. After the game, O'Donnell said that he was throwing in the spot he expected receiver Corey Holliday to be on the second interception, stating that he expected Holliday to make an out-cut instead of an in-cut. Mills responded by questioning why O'Donnell would throw to a spot and not a man in a Super Bowl. Brown said he was all alone on both picks because he expected O'Donnell to throw to the outside to seemingly get rid of the ball amidst the Cowboy blitz.

Two plays following the interception, Smith scored once again with 3:43 left in the game, increasing the Cowboy lead to 27–17. Despite being held to 49 yards on the ground and only 9 in the second half, Smith scored the game-clinching touchdown by making a devastating cutback on Kirkland, the best player on Pittsburgh's defense that day. The Steelers responded by driving to the Dallas 40-yard line, but after O'Donnell threw four consecutive incompletions, Pittsburgh turned the ball over on downs with 1:42 left in the game. After that, Dallas ran out most of the clock with three quarterback kneels and an intentional delay of the game penalty before punting the ball back to the Steelers. Pittsburgh regained possession of the ball with three seconds remaining, but O'Donnell's hail mary pass was intercepted by Dallas safety Brock Marion on the final play of the game.

The Steelers had outgained the Cowboys in total yards, 310–254 (201–61 in the second half), had 25 first downs compared to the Cowboys' 15, and limited Dallas' powerful running attack to just 56 yards. However, they were unable to overcome O'Donnell's interceptions, which led to two Cowboy touchdowns. The irony of the game was that O'Donnell entered Super Bowl XXX as the NFL's all-time leader in fewest interceptions per pass attempt.

Troy Aikman finished the game with 15 out of 23 completions for 209 yards and a touchdown (Aikman became just the third quarterback to win three Super Bowls; Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana each won four). Smith was the Cowboys' leading rusher with 49 yards and 2 rushing touchdowns (Smith became just the 5th player to score a touchdown in three different Super Bowls, joining Lynn Swann, Franco Harris, Thurman Thomas, and Jerry Rice; he also became the first player to rush for two touchdowns in two different Super Bowls). Irvin was Dallas' top receiver with 5 catches for 76 yards. Novacek caught 5 passes for 50 yards and a touchdown. Defensive end Chad Hennings recorded 2 sacks.

Although his 3 interceptions were costly, O'Donnell recorded 28 of 49 completions for 239 yards and a touchdown. Morris was the top rusher of the game with 73 yards and a touchdown, and also caught 3 passes for 18 yards. Hastings was the top receiver of the game with 10 receptions for 98 yards, and returned 2 punts for 18 yards. Mills caught 8 passes for 78 yards and gained 79 yards on 4 kickoff returns, giving him 157 total yards. A knee injury he sustained in the 4th quarter would keep him out for most of the 1996 season.

Charles Haley became the first player to win five Super Bowls, winning two with San Francisco (XXIII and XXIV) and two previously with Dallas (XXVII and XXVIII). Barry Switzer became the second head coach, after former Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson, to win a college football national championship (University of Oklahoma 1974, 1975, 1985) and a Super Bowl title.

After a many-year long tradition of presenting the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the winning team in its locker room after the game, the NFL instituted an on-the-field presentation ceremony for Super Bowl XXX. This new tradition has been followed by the NFL ever since.

The outcome of the game had rather large ramifications for two soon-to-be free agents after their performances. Larry Brown, who was named Super Bowl MVP for his two interceptions, parlayed his performance into a lucrative free agent contract with the Oakland Raiders. However, he was not very effective and was cut from the team after two injury-plagued seasons. Neil O'Donnell left the Steelers in the offseason and signed a long-term free agent contract with the New York Jets, accepting New York's more lucrative offer. O'Donnell's tenure in New York, like Brown's in Oakland, was plagued by injuries and ineffective play, and he was released from his contract following the 1997 season. Both players finished their careers as backups, Brown returning to the Cowboys in 1998 and O'Donnell playing for the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans until his retirement in 2003.

Both teams would post 10–6 records in 1996 and would win their opening playoff games by sizable margins before losing in the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. Pittsburgh would reach the AFC Championship Game in 1997 before breaking up most of the team's nucleus during the 1998 and 1999 offseasons. Coach Bill Cowher and defensive back Willie Williams were the team's lone links to be a part of the Super Bowl XL championship team. The team would acquire running back Jerome Bettis in the 1996 offseason after releasing Morris for possession of illegal drugs months after Super Bowl XXX. Pittsburgh eventually reclaimed the record for most Lombardi Trophies with six, following their victory in Super Bowl XLIII.

Super Bowl XXX served as the final Super Bowl victory for the Cowboys' dynasty of the 1990s. Dallas would win only one more postseason game until 2009. Injuries forced Michael Irvin and fullback Daryl Johnston to retire after the 1999 season, and Aikman also retired due to injuries one year later. Smith became the NFL's all-time leading rusher in 2002 before he was released by the team after that season. 1995 was statistically the best season for the Cowboys' triplets, although all three have stated that the 1995 Super Bowl was easily the toughest of the three Super Bowl runs. The Cowboys also became the first team to win Super Bowls under three different head coaches (Tom Landry in Super Bowls VI and XII, Jimmy Johnson in Super Bowls XXVII and XXVIII, and Switzer). Two other teams have since won Super Bowls under three different coaches, with the Green Bay Packers winning under Vince Lombardi, Mike Holmgren, and Mike McCarthy, and the Pittsburgh Steelers winning under Chuck Noll, Cowher, and Mike Tomlin.

Box score

1 2 34Total
Cowboys 10 3 7727
Steelers 0 7 01017

at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, Arizona

  • Date: January 28, 1996
  • Game time: 4:21 p.m. MST
  • Game weather: Script error: No such module "convert"., sunny

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  • DAL – FG: Chris Boniol 42 yards 3–0 DAL
  • DAL – TD: Jay Novacek 3-yard pass from Troy Aikman (Chris Boniol kick) 10–0 DAL
  • DAL – FG: Chris Boniol 35 yards 13–0 DAL
  • PIT – TD: Yancey Thigpen 6-yard pass from Neil O'Donnell (Norm Johnson kick) 13–7 DAL
  • DAL – TD: Emmitt Smith 1-yard run (Chris Boniol kick) 20–7 DAL
  • PIT – FG: Norm Johnson 46 yards 20–10 DAL
  • PIT – TD: Byron "Bam" Morris 1-yard run (Norm Johnson kick) 20–17 DAL
  • DAL – TD: Emmitt Smith 4-yard run (Chris Boniol kick) 27–17 DAL

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Final statistics

Source: Super Bowl XXX

Statistical comparison

Dallas Cowboys Pittsburgh Steelers
First downs 15 25
First downs rushing 5 9
First downs passing 10 15
First downs penalty 0 1
Third down efficiency 2/10 9/19
Fourth down efficiency 1/1 2/4
Net yards rushing 56 103
Rushing attempts 25 31
Yards per rush 2.2 3.3
Passing – Completions/attempts 15/23 28/49
Times sacked-total yards 2–11 4–32
Interceptions thrown 0 3
Net yards passing 198 207
Total net yards 254 310
Punt returns-total yards 1-11 2-18
Kickoff returns-total yards 3-37 5-96
Interceptions-total return yards 3–77 0–0
Punts-average yardage 5–38.2 4–44.8
Fumbles-lost 0-0 2–0
Penalties-total yards 4-25 2–15
Time of possession 26:11 33:49
Turnovers 0 3

Individual leaders

Cowboys Passing
Troy Aikman 15/23 209 1 0
Cowboys Rushing
Car2 Yds TD LG3
Emmitt Smith 18 49 2 23
Daryl Johnston 2 8 0 4
Kevin Williams 1 2 0 2
Troy Aikman 4 -3 0 0
Cowboys Receiving
Rec4 Yds TD LG3
Michael Irvin 5 76 0 20
Jay Novacek 5 50 1 19
Kevin Williams 2 29 0 22
Deion Sanders 1 47 0 47
Daryl Johnston 1 4 0 4
Emmitt Smith 1 3 0 3
Steelers Passing
Neil O'Donnell 28/49 239 1 3
Steelers Rushing
Car2 Yds TD LG3
Bam Morris 19 73 1 15
Erric Pegram 6 15 0 4
Kordell Stewart 4 15 0 7
Neil O'Donnell 1 0 0 0
John L. Williams 1 0 0 0
Steelers Receiving
Rec4 Yds TD LG3
Andre Hastings 10 98 0 19
Ernie Mills 8 78 0 17
Yancey Thigpen 3 19 1 7
Bam Morris 3 18 0 10
Corey Holliday 2 19 0 10
John L. Williams 2 7 0 5

1Completions/attempts 2Carries 3Long gain 4Receptions

Starting lineups


Hall of Fame ‡
Dallas Position Pittsburgh
Kevin Williams WR Ernie Mills
Mark Tuinei LT John Jackson
Nate Newton LG Tom Newberry
Derek Kennard C Dermontti Dawson
Larry Allen RG Brenden Stai
Erik Williams RT Leon Searcy
Jay Novacek TE Mark Bruener
Michael Irvin WR Yancey Thigpen
Troy Aikman QB Neil O'Donnell
Emmitt Smith RB Erric Pegram
Daryl Johnston FB John L. Williams
Tony Tolbert LE Brentson Buckner
Leon Lett LDT-NT Joel Steed
Russell Maryland RDT-RE Ray Seals
Charles Haley RE-LOLB Kevin Greene
Dixon Edwards LOLB-LILB Chad Brown
Robert Jones MLB-RILB Levon Kirkland
Darrin Smith ROLB Greg Lloyd
Larry Brown LCB Carnell Lake
Deion Sanders RCB Willie Williams
Darren Woodson SS Myron Bell
Brock Marion FS Darren Perry


  • Referee: Red Cashion (#43)
  • Umpire: John Keck (#67)
  • Head Linesman: Paul Weidner (#87)
  • Line Judge: Dale Orem (#51)
  • Field Judge: Don Hakes (#96)
  • Side Judge: Bill Carollo (#63)
  • Back Judge: Dick Creed (#61)
  • Alternate Referee: Bernie Kukar (#86)
  • Alternate Umpire: Hendi Ancich (#115)

Popular culture

A portion of this Super Bowl was "predicted" six years earlier by NBC series Quantum Leap. In the January 17, 1990 episode "All Americans", Al (Dean Stockwell) says in conversation with Sam, "I've been watching Super Bowl XXX. Ooo, Sam, the Steelers are down by 3. You wouldn't believe..." The Steelers were the AFC team in the game. They trailed by 3 twice in the game: unremarkably, early in the second quarter (3–0); but again at the critical turning point late in the 4th quarter (20–17) that ultimately gave the Cowboys the win and would lend credence to Al's suspense at the game's ending.


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