Tuesday, May 19, 2009
It is the biggest game in sports and its relevance is undeniable. Every year, everyone in the world tunes in to see who will win the Super Bowl; the National Football League's championship game. The game rarely disappoints. With its heart-stopping moments, intensity, and many times, highest level of play, the Super Bowl brings history and excellence to its world audience. Today, I count down the 10 games that, in my opinion, were the best Super Bowls in the history of the NFL.
10) Tie: Super Bowl X (Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17) and Super Bowl XIII (Pittsburgh 53, Dallas 31)
I had a tough time with this list from the start. All of these games were so legendary and each have their place in making the Super Bowl, barring the Olympics, the biggest sporting event in the world. The Pittsburgh Steelers and their "Steel Curtain" defense cemented their legacy with these two wins over the Dallas Cowboys.
For Super Bowl X, the CBS broadcast intro featured a light shining over every inch of the Vince Lombardi trophy. It was a fitting prediction to Lynn Swann's performance. After being hospitalized for a concussion following the AFC Championship game, Swann went on to win the MVP of the game setting a Super Bowl record with 161 receiving yards. He would be the first receiver to ever win Super Bowl MVP. But it was the "Steel Curtain" defense that would continue to show up. Particularly at the end of the game with an end zone interception by Steeler safety Glen Edwards. Pittsburgh also went through the entire game without a single penalty.
In Super Bowl XIII, it was Terry Bradshaw's turn to take the title as Super Bowl MVP. It didn't come without adversity. Bradshaw threw one pick and lost 2 fumbles in the game. But, he would go on to throw for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns; both stats set Super Bowl records. He also tied Hall of Famer, Johnny Unitas for the longest pass play in Super Bowl history with a 75-yarder in the 2nd quarter. Bradshaw became the first player to win both league MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same year. In beating the defending champion Dallas Cowboys, the Steelers became the first team to win three Super Bowls.
9) Super Bowl XXXII (Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24)
The 1997 Denver Broncos came into the playoffs as a wildcard team and ended the season as champions. They were the underdog in this game and they entered into the championship having lost all 4 previous Super Bowl appearances. Their star running back, Terrell Davis, left the game in the second quarter after suffering from a severe migraine. But, they somehow managed to pull of a monstrous upset in beating the Green Bay Packers and quarterback Brett Favre, who was in the prime of his career.
This was John Elway's first Super Bowl win and he had a stellar cast to help him. RB Terrell Davis was able to recover from the migraine and went on to become the game's MVP. There was also WR Ed McCaffery and TE Shannon Sharpe to share the offensive load. Defensively, they were led by linebacker Bill Romanowski and defensive back Tyrone Braxton. It was the defense that stepped up in the end and prevented the Packers from tying the game.
8) Super Bowl III (Jets 16, Colts 7)
This was the first game to wear the Super Bowl name. Most people remember this game, not for what happened during it, but for the guarantee made before the game. Jets QB Joe Namath guaranteed victory over the Baltimore Colts three days before the game. It was a bold thing to do in itself, but it was borderline crazy considering the Jets were 18 point underdogs.
Somehow, the Jets played loose and confident in that game. They wore down the Baltimore Colts and shocked the world by winning Super Bowl III. RB Art Snell of the Jets would later say that the Colts walked away from this game tired and confused about the loss. And Namath? He would go on to win the Most Valuable Player trophy without even throwing a touchdown.
7) Super Bowl XXV (Giants 20, Bills 19)
The 1990 Giants were all about toughness. With the "Big Blue Wrecking Crew" defense led by Lawrence Taylor and an offense specializing in long drives, New York was skilled at wearing down and running over opponents. In Super Bowl XXV, they would have to go with Jeff Hostetler in place of the injured Phil Simms. With the Buffalo Bills heavily favored to win the game, head coach Bill Parcells and then defensive coordinator Bill Belichick devised a defensive plan to hold back Buffalo and quarterback Jim Kelly.
With a one point lead and 8 seconds left on the clock, the Giants could only watch as the Bills set up Scott Norwood for a 47-yard field goal. Both sidelines held hands in anticipation as the ball sailed wide right. The Giants won the game with their running back Otis Anderson winning the MVP trophy. Coach Bill Parcells and defensive coordinator Belichick would go on to have long illustrious careers as defensive coaching geniuses in the NFL.
6) Super Bowl XXXVIII (New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29)
This game started with all defense. In fact, no one scored a single point until late in the second quarter. New England got on the board first with a touchdown to Deion Branch. It took 26 mins. and 55 secs. before the first points were scored in the game. Which, is still the record for the longest elapsed time without a score in the Super Bowl. But when the scoring got going, this game made for a spectacular competition.
Carolina will always be remembered for the valiant effort they displayed in the game. It came right down to the wire as the Panthers tied the game with only 1:08 to play. But, this was classic Tom Brady situational football. He calmly and coolly led the Pats down the field until they were in field goal range. And when you have kicker Adam Vineteri, "Mr. Clutch" himself, there is no doubt that you will win the game if it comes down to a field goal. This win was the second Super Bowl win in three seasons for the New England Patriots.
5) Super Bowl XXXIV (St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16)
This game undoubtedly keeps Titans fans up at night. For most of the game, they kept the high-powered St. Louis Rams offense in check. Known as the "Greatest Show On Turf", the Rams were known for their quick touchdowns and high scoring games. But, at the half, they only held a 9-0 lead over the Titans.
The Rams scored midway throughout the third quarter to go up 16-0, but the Titans came roaring back with 16 unanswered points. It was the biggest deficit overcome in a Super Bowl and there was only 2:12 left on the game clock. Rams QB Kurt Warner immediately responded with a touchdown to Isaac Bruce to take the lead again. Once the Titans regained the ball, they quickly drove down to the 10-yard line.
On the final play of the game, Titans QB Steve McNair threw the ball toward the end zone to wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Dyson was tackled one yard short of the goal line to end the game. Warner received the MVP honor for the game. But the play of the game was made by Rams linebacker Mike Jones who tackled Dyson before he could tie the game.
4) Super Bowl XXIII (San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinatti Bengals 16)
This one was Joe Montana at his best. It was also Bill Walsh's last game as 49er head coach. The first half was marred by injuries, punts, and errors. At one point, 49er kicker Mike Cofer missed a 19 yard field goal; the shortest missed field goal in Super Bowl history. Alas, this game was not remembered for its great plays during the bulk of the game. It was remembered for the ending drive that would define Joe Montana's legacy.
The drive began on their own 8-yard line. With 92 yards to go until pay dirt, Joe Montana lightened the mood in the huddle by pointing in the stands and saying "Hey! Isn't that John Candy?" It was John Candy and Montana's reputation for nerves of steel in the face of ultimate pressure had just taken its place in sports history. Montana would lead his team down the field and it culminated in a 10 yard touchdown pass to John Taylor to win the game 16-13 over the Bengals. Legendary 49er wide receiver Jerry Rice would win the MVP honors. But, it was Joe Montana who walked away from that game as one of the best of all time.
3) Super Bowl XXXVI (New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17)
This game could have easily been #1 on this list. Most fans would have to agree that it is at least in the top 3 best Super Bowls of all time. It featured the heavily favored St. Louis Rams against an New England Patriots team that no one really took seriously. For one thing, the starting quarterback was a guy that just showed up out of nowhere.
Tom Brady was the back up QB for veteran Drew Bledsoe, who was injured during the second game of the season. Brady had only thrown 3 regulation passes the year before. Not only did he lead the team to a 11-5 regular season record, he would eventually take them all the way to this Super Bowl game. And, he had the audacity to believe that he could win it.
Shock and awe was the theme of this game. New England's Ty Law intercepted Rams QB Kurt Warner and took the pick all the way to the house to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead in the 2nd quarter. Pat's DB Otis Smith intercepted Warner in the third quarter and that led to a field goal to increase New England's lead 17-3. The Rams would storm back, however and tie the game late in the 4th quarter.
Seeing that the Patriots had no timeouts, legendary commentator John Madden suggested to the viewers that the Patriots should run out the clock and try to win the game in overtime. But, New England head coach Bill Belichick knew he had "Mr. Clutch", kicker Adam Vinateri on the roster. He also had a lot of faith in new quarterback Tom Brady. Brady did his best Joe Montana impersonation and led a Hall of Fame worthy drive to put the Pats in field goal position with 7 seconds left on the clock. Adam Vinateri kicked the 48-yard game winner for the Patriots first Super Bowl win.
2) Super Bowl XLIII ( Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23)
Our most recent Super Bowl checks in at the #2 spot on our list. The Pittsburgh Steelers were seeking their record 6th Super Bowl and the Arizona Cardinals were seeking their first. Fans were eager to see the match up between a team seeking to improve their dynasty and a team seeking to prove its destiny.
Both teams displayed the highest level of play in the final game of the season. Pittsburgh would jump out to a 17-7 lead at the half. The Cardinals were driving in the final seconds of the 2nd quarter when linebacker James Harrison intercepted Cardinal QB Kurt Warner and took the pick 100 yards to the end zone. It was deemed the longest play in Super Bowl history.
The Steelers were still ahead 20-7 when Arizona rallied with 16 unanswered points. The point fury included a 64-yard touchdown reception by Cardinal star receiver Larry Fitzgerald. But, with only 2:34 left in the game, big Ben Roethlisberger led a drive 78 yards down field that ended in a 6 yard toss to Santonio Holmes for the winning touchdown. Holmes won MVP honors, but Roethlisberger solidified his legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era.
1) Super Bowl XLII (New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14)
The down-to-wire, spectacular Super Bowl from two years ago between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots tops our countdown this week. New England was on their way to an undefeated season. It would have been the first time a team has won every game since the 16 regular season game schedule began. In their final regular season game, New England went to New York to play the Giants in their quest for perfection. For the first time ever, NFL aired the game simultaneously on three networks because of massive fan interest in the game. New England won the game, but had to overcome a 12 point deficit in the third quarter to do so.
When New York and New England met again in the Super Bowl, it was seen as the rematch for the ages. Again, the Pats faced the Giants who stood in the way of their undefeated season. Tom Brady did what he always does and led the team down the field to score late in the game. He threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Randy Moss to give them a 14-10 lead. It looked as if, once again, Tom Brady and the Patriots would win the Super Bowl with a miraculous drive.
But, the Giants were not ready to quit. In the play that would serve as the highlight of the game, Giants QB Eli Manning kept his own drive alive by escaping a tackle and throwing a 32-yard completion to wideout David Tyree. Tyree balanced the ball against his helmet as he was tackled to the ground. Eli Manning was in the zone. A few plays later he would hit Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress on the "SluGo" route for the winning touchdown. The Giants accomplished one of the greatest upsets in sports history and left the Patriots with an undefeated regular season that ended with a defeat in the Super Bowl.
Those are my top ten Super Bowl games of all time. I know there many more games that could have made this list. After all, we are talking about the Super Bowl; the best game in sports today. All of them are great for the historical and legendary implications each game brings. But, it is the level of play that inspires us and keeps us coming back every year.