American Football Database

The NFL playoffs following the 1989 NFL season led up to Super Bowl XXIV.

This was the last season in which the NFL used a 10-team playoff format. The league would expand the playoffs to 12 teams next season.

For this year only, the starting times for the Conference Championship Games were changed from the then-customary 12:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. EST to 1:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. EST. This was to accommodate the fact that the Denver Broncos and the San Francisco 49ers hosted the AFC and NFC championship games in the Mountain Standard Time Zone and Pacific Standard Time Zone, respectively — thus avoiding a locally played game at 9:30 a.m. PST or 10:30 a.m. MST.

Playoff seeds
1 Denver Broncos (West winner) San Francisco 49ers (West winner)
2 Cleveland Browns (Central winner) New York Giants (East winner)
3 Buffalo Bills (East winner) Minnesota Vikings (Central winner)
4 Houston Oilers Philadelphia Eagles
5 Pittsburgh Steelers Los Angeles Rams

Note: As per the rules of the NFL playoffs prior to the 1990 regular season (notwithstanding the strike-shortened 1982 season), the San Francisco 49ers (the NFC 1 seed) did not play the Los Angeles Rams (the 5 seed) in the Divisional playoff round because both teams were in the same division.


*Note: Two teams from the same division were not allowed to play against each other in the Divisional playoff round.
Divisional Playoffs
    January 7 - Giants Stadium        
NFC Wild Card Game NFC Championship
 5  L.A. Rams (OT)  19
December 31 - Veterans Stadium     January 14 - Candlestick Park
 2*  N.Y. Giants  13  
 5  L.A. Rams  21  5  L.A. Rams  3
January 6 - Candlestick Park
 4  Philadelphia  7      1  San Francisco  30   Super Bowl XXIV
 3  Minnesota  13
    January 28 - Louisiana Superdome
 1*  San Francisco  41  
 N1  San Francisco  55
January 6 - Cleveland Stadium
AFC Wild Card Game AFC Championship    A1  Denver  10
 3  Buffalo  30
December 31 - Astrodome     January 14 - Mile High Stadium
 2  Cleveland  34  
 5  Pittsburgh (OT)  26  2  Cleveland  21
January 7 - Mile High Stadium
 4  Houston  23      1  Denver  37  
 5  Pittsburgh  23
 1  Denver  24  

Wild Card playoffs

December 31, 1989

NFC: Los Angeles Rams 21, Philadelphia Eagles 7

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 14 0 0 7


Eagles 0 0 0 7


at Veterans Stadium, Philadelphia

The Los Angeles Rams played the Philadelphia Eagles in Philadelphia in the opening game of the playoffs. Rams quarterback Jim Everett threw two touchdown passes in the first half as the Rams allowed only one Eagles touchdown in the fourth quarter. Everett connected on a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Henry Ellard and a 4-yarder to tight end Damone Johnson. After Philadelphia running back Anthony Toney scored on a 1-yard rushing touchdown, Los Angeles running back Greg Bell, who rushed for 124 yards, scored on a 7-yard touchdown to clinch the victory.

AFC: Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Houston Oilers 23 (OT)

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 7 3 3 10


Oilers 0 6 3 14


at Astrodome, Houston, Texas

Steelers defensive back Rod Woodson recovered a fumble to set up Gary Anderson's winning 50-yard field goal in overtime to give Pittsburgh the win. The Steelers scored first with running back Tim Worley's 1-yard rushing touchdown. But from that point on until the fourth quarter, the two teams exchanged 6 field goals. In the final period, Oilers quarterback Warren Moon, who finished the game with 315 passing yards, threw two touchdowns to wide receiver Ernest Givins, an 18-yarder and a 9-yarder. However, Pittsburgh running back Merrill Hoge tied the game on a 2-yard rushing touchdown with 46 seconds left in regulation.

Hoge finished the game with 100 rushing yards on just 17 carries, along with 3 receptions for 26 yards.

Divisional playoffs

January 6, 1990

AFC: Cleveland Browns 34, Buffalo Bills 30

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Bills 7 7 7 9


Browns 3 14 14 3


at Cleveland Stadium, Cleveland, Ohio

In a shootout, Browns linebacker Clay Matthews intercepted Bills quarterback Jim Kelly at the Cleveland 1-yard line with 3 seconds remaining to preserve a 34-30 victory. Kelly threw for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns while Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar threw for 251 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. Browns receiver Webster Slaughter had the best postseason performance of his career with 3 receptions for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Buffalo scored first with wide receiver Andre Reed's 72-yard touchdown reception. But Cleveland struck back with a 45-yard field goal by Matt Bahr and a 52-yard touchdown pass from Kosar to Slaughter. Kelly's 33-yard touchdown pass to James Lofton put the Bills back in the lead, 14-10, but Browns retook the lead with Ron Middleton's 3-yard catch shortly before the end of the first half.

On the opening drive of the second half, Kosar hooked up with Slaughter for another touchdown pass, this one 44-yards, to increase their lead to 24–14. Buffalo responded with a 6 yard touchdown catch by running back Thurman Thomas, who tied an NFL playoff record with 13 receptions for 150 yards. But Browns running back Eric Metcalf returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown to give his team a 31–21 lead by the end of the third quarter. After an exchange of field goals, Thomas caught a three yard touchdown pass. But the extra point failed, forcing the Bills to attempt to score a touchdown instead of a field goal on their final drive. With time running out, Kelly led the Bills to Cleveland's 11-yard line. But fullback Ronnie Harmon dropped a potential game winning catch in the end zone [1] and Kelly was intercepted by Matthews on the next play.

NFC: San Francisco 49ers 41, Minnesota Vikings 13

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Vikings 3 0 3 7


49ers 7 20 0 14


at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, CA

49ers quarterback Joe Montana threw for 241 yards and four touchdowns as San Francisco dominated the Vikings. Minnesota scored first on a 38-yard field goal by Rich Karlis, but then Montana completed 4 unanswered scores: a 72-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerry Rice, an 8-yarder to tight end Brent Jones, an 8-yarder to wide receiver John Taylor, and a 13-yarder to Rice. 49ers defensive back Ronnie Lott returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown, and running back Roger Craig rushed for a 4-yard score. Craig finished the game with 125 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Rice caught 6 passes for 114 yards and 2 scores. One of the few bright spots of the game for Minnesota was tight end Steve Jordan, who caught 9 passes for 149 yards

January 7, 1990

NFC: Los Angeles Rams 19, New York Giants 13 (OT)

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 0 7 0 6


Giants 6 0 7 0


at Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey

The Rams upset the Giants with quarterback Jim Everett's 30-yard touchdown pass to Flipper Anderson with 1:06 gone in overtime. New York jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first quarter with two field goals by kicker Raul Allegre. With 17 seconds left in the first half, Anderson caught a 20-yard touchdown reception from Everett to take a 7-6 lead. In the third quarter, Giants running back Ottis Anderson scored on a 2-yard touchdown. But in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles kicker Mike Lansford made two field goals to tie the game, the second one coming with 3:01 left in regulation.

Rams receiver Henry Ellard had the best postseason performance of his career with 8 receptions for 125 yards.

AFC: Denver Broncos 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 23

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Steelers 3 14 3 3


Broncos 0 10 7 7


at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

For the second game in a row, Steelers running back Merril Hoge had a superb performance, rushing for 120 yards on 16 carries and catching 8 passes for 60 yards. But this time it wasn't enough to lift his team to victory. Broncos receiver Mark Jackson caught 5 passes for 111 yards.

A 71-yard Broncos drive was capped by Melvin Bratton's 1-yard touchdown run with 2:27 remaining to win the game. The Steelers jumped to a 10-0 early lead with a 32-yard field goal by Gary Anderson and a 7-yard touchdown by Hoge. Bratton's 1-yard touchdown cut the deficit to 10-7, but Pittsburgh responded with quarterback Bubby Brister's 9-yard touchdown to wide receiver Louis Lipps. Denver kicker David Treadwell then made a 43-yard field goal before halftime to cut the Steelers' lead, 17-10. In the third quarter, Broncos defensive back Tyrone Braxton recovered a fumble at the Pittsburgh 37-yard line, setting up quarterback John Elway's 37-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Vance Johnson. Anderson later kicked two field goals to give the Steelers a 23-17 lead before Bratton scored the winning touchdown.

Conference championships

January 14, 1990

AFC Championship: Denver Broncos 37, Cleveland Browns 21

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Browns 0 0 21 0


Broncos 3 7 14 13


at Mile High Stadium, Denver, Colorado

Quarterback John Elway led the Broncos to a 37-21 victory with 385 passing yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, while also leading the Broncos in rushing with 39 yards on the ground. Denver jumped to a 10-0 halftime lead with kicker David Treadwell's 29-yard field goal and wide receiver Michael Young's 70-yard touchdown reception. However, the two teams scored a combined 5 touchdowns in the third period. Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar completed a 27-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brian Brennan, but Elway countered with a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Orson Mobley. Running back Sammy Winder's 7-yard rushing touchdown extended the Broncos lead to 24-7. However, Cleveland scored two touchdowns in a span of 2:11 to cut the lead to 24-21: a 10-yard touchdown reception by Brennan and 2-yard touchdown run by Tim Manoa. But then Denver scored 13 unanswered points in the final period to clinch the victory: Winder's 39-yard touchdown reception and two field goals by Treadwell.

NFC Championship: San Francisco 49ers 30, Los Angeles Rams 3

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
Rams 3 0 0 0


49ers 0 21 3 6


at Candlestick Park, San Francisco

The 49ers crushed the Rams with 442 total yards and held the ball for 39:48. Los Angeles jumped to a 3-0 lead in the first quarter with a 23-yard field goal by Mike Lansford, but that eventually was their lone score of the game. While the Rams had momentum early in the game, it shifted to San Francisco's favor for good when safety Ronnie Lott batted down a pass intended for a wide open Flipper Anderson. Had Anderson made the catch, he would have scored easily, giving the Rams a 10–0 lead. The Lott knockdown inspired the 49ers while deflating the Rams. From this point on, San Francisco dominated and led 21–3 at half. San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana threw 2 touchdown passes in the second period: a 20-yarder to tight end Brent Jones and an 18-yarder to wide receiver John Taylor. Running back Roger Craig recorded a 1-yard rushing touchdown, while kicker Mike Cofer made 3 field goals in the second half. Montana showed much precision and finished the game with 26 of 30 completions for 262 yards and 2 touchdowns. Fullback Tom Rathman rushed for 63 yards and caught 6 passes for 48.

Super Bowl

Game summary
1 2 3 4 Total
49ers (NFC) 13 14 14 14


Broncos (AFC) 3 0 7 0


at Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

  • Date: January 28, 1990
  • Game attendance: 72,919
  • Referee: Dick Jorgensen
  • TV announcers (CBS): Pat Summerall and John Madden


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