super bowl

My Top Ten Super Bowls of All-Time

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Super Bowl XLIV is just days away. That of course means it is time for a Top 10 countdown.

10. Super Bowl III- NY Jets 16, Baltimore 7: Thanks to Joe Namath, this is one of the landmark games in league history. The bluebloods of the NFL lost to the redheaded stepchild of the AFL. Ouch.  It’s a terrible game but for historical significance few have been more meaningful. If you ever want to see grown men sad, watch the America’s Game documentary on the 1970 Colts. Clearly still carrying the burden of losing to the Jets years later, they are obviously still bitter about that game. While Don Shula coached the ’72 Dolphins, he managed to cough up Super Bowl III as head master of the Colts.

9. Super Bowl XIII- Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31: While this was a fun game, chock full of characters and Hall of Famers, it’s one of the most overrated Super Bowls of all-time. Seriously, people talk about this game with such reverence but it was 35-17 at one point in the second half. To be considered an epic clash, onside kicks can’t be involved in the last minute. However, this game does get into the Top 10 easily because it remains the only Super Bowl where the starting quarterbacks owned a couple of rings at the time of the game.

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8. Super Bowl XLIII – Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23: For a few fleeting moments it seemed that the Arizona Cardinals were going to win the Super Bowl. However, Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes took care of that by making a mad dash to end zone on Pittsburgh’s final drive.

As a whole, it was a funky game with a mediocre first quarter and change until James Harrison’s game-changing (at the time) interception return for a score. A sleepy third quarter ensued but the fourth quarter developed into pure pandemonium thanks to Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, whom nearly stole a Super Bowl for the Cards.

7.  Super Bowl XXXIV- St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16: The Greatest Show on Turf scratched out the only Super Bowl win in franchise history in this heart stopper. Despite going 13-3 in the regular season, the Rams entered this game at a bit of a disadvantage. They had already lost to Tennessee earlier in the regular season and just finished playing a bruising and controversial 11-6 NFC title game against Tampa Bay a week earlier (there was no extra week off for this Super Bowl).

Yet, St. Louis chewed up yardage early but couldn’t get into the endzone. They led 9-0 and 16-6 before Jeff Fisher and the Titans decided they had enough. Utilizing RB Eddie George’s bruising running style and the precision passing game of QB Steve McNair, the Titans battled back to tie the game 16 in the fourth quarter. Eventual Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner went up top to Isaac Bruce on the next possession for a 73-yard TD to give St. Louis the 23-16 advantage. The NFL Films viewing of this game is great and gives you an idea just how gassed the Rams were trying to deal with McNair on the final drive. Mike Jones stopped Kevin Dyson at the one yardline to seal the victory on the game’s final play. A tremendous finish to a solid game.

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6. Super Bowl XXIII- San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16: What a strange season for the 49ers in 1988. They split with the Falcons who were 5-11 and coached by the “Swampfox” Marion Campbell; the Raiders rolled into town and beat them 9-3; and to make matters worse seemed to be in the process of trying to phase out Joe Montana in favor of future Hall of Famer Steve Young. Funny thing happened on the way to getting rid of Joe. They won another Super Bowl.

The Niners managed to overcome their issues, go 10-6 and win the NFC title in freezing temperatures at Chicago. In Miami, the 49ers held off the Bengals after trailing 16-13 with only a few minutes to go. After starting the drive from their own 8 yardline, the Niners launched their famous march which gave San Fran its third Super Bowl title of the decade. While Jerry Rice did the heavy lifting on that day by catching 11 passes for a SB record 215 yards, it was John Taylor who caught the game winning pass in a scintillating matchup.

5. Super Bowl XXXVIII- New England 32, Carolina 29: This game stamped the Pats as a legit Super Bowl winner for those who thought the ’01 Pats were a fluke. A back and forth fourth quarter culminated with Adam Vinatieri providing another Super Bowl winning kick to overcome the Panthers. Tom Brady grabbed his second Super Bowl MVP and incredibly led the Pats to its second Super Bowl title in three years.

While the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction was certainly memorable, that’s not my favorite story or memory from this big game. Earlier in the season, ESPN analyst Tom Jackson ripped the Patriots for letting go of safety Lawyer Malloy. Jackson was so headstrong about his beliefs that the Patriots were wrong for doing it. On one Sunday NFL Countdown show, he said the Patriots “hate their coach” for getting rid of team favorite Malloy. Well, Coach Belichick got wind of this comment and he didn’t forget it. Moments after the Pats defeated the Panthers, Jackson offered his congratulatory handshake to Belichick on the field. The icy former Giants defensive coordinator blew him off and said “f— you” to Jackson.

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4. Super Bowl XLII- NY Giants 17, New England 14: Regardless of your rooting interests, the fourth quarter was as compelling as it gets. There were three lead changes, two cataclysmic interception drops (seriously, Asante Samuel has to go to bed every night for the rest of his life knowing that he had a 19-0 interception on his fingertips), perhaps one of the greatest catches in league history and a last gasp by the Pats which featured Randy Moss narrowly missing a game saving catch on the game’s final drive.

In all, it was your classic underdog versus superpower matchup that occasionally happens in the Super Bowl. The first three quarters were a tad uneventful but still gripping considering what was on the line. Unless the Pats win another Super Bowl or two, they maybe more so remembered for what happened on February 3, 2008 than their three previous Super Bowl wins. Just think, Eli Manning and David Tyree may not have to pay for another drink or dinner in New York City for the rest of their lives.

3. Super Bowl XXXII- Denver 31, Green Bay 24: It seemed the AFC’s draught of winning a Super Bowl was going to last a lifetime. It had reached 23 years by this classic tilt. To make matters more interesting, it looked like John Elway’s last chance at winning the big one. He would have to go through the defending World Champion Packers to do it.  Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan decided to turn the game over to RB Terrell Davis instead of putting the burden on Elway’s shoulders again. Davis steamrolled the Packers en route to winning Super Bowl MVP.

However, three-time league MVP Brett Favre and the Packers didn’t go easily. After trailing for much of the game, the Packers tied it at 24-24. Yet, Davis punched in his third touchdown of the day to put Denver ahead for good 31-24. The sight of John Elway being carried off the field is on my favorite images in Super Bowl history.

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2. Super Bowl XXV- NY Giants 20, Buffalo 19: Games like this are great. Two teams with completely contrasting styles going head to head with tremendous players on each side of the ball. A backdrop of war and increased security around Tampa, Florida made this Super Bowl one of the most unique viewing experiences ever. The game was a gem. The Giants held the ball for over 40 minutes and it still almost was not enough. With their passing game disarmed for much of the evening, the Bills turned to Thurman Thomas who ran for 135 yards and a touchdown. When the Bills got the ball back late down 20-19, they put together one last drive to try to win the game. It was not to be though as Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal sailed wide right. It was Buffalo’s best chance to win a Super Bowl in their four tries.

By the way, a hidden big play in that game came in the second quarter. With the Bills leading 10-3, Giants QB Jeff Hostetler stumbled into the endzone and was sacked for a safety. On the play, Bills DE Bruce Smith reached out for Hostetler’s right arm to strip the football. Hostetler held onto it and was sacked for a safety. If Smith strips him there and the Bills fall on top of it in the endzone, it’s 17-3 Buffalo. I wouldn’t like Hoss’s chances playing catch up two scores down against that Buffalo team. Instead it was 12-3 and the Giants got scored on the next possession which changed the tide of the game.

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1. Super Bowl XXXVI- New England 20, St. Louis 17: This is by far the most important game of the decade. It also is the single most unbelievable game I’ve ever watched. The Patriots were an 11-5 team with some relative unknown guy in his first year as the team’s starting quarterback. Meanwhile, the Rams were 14-2 and had won Super Bowl XXXIV and people in New Orleans were starting to throw the “d” word around. Although they had lost earlier in the season to St. Louis 24-17, the Pats weren’t taken seriously as a legitimate threat to defeat the mighty Rams. Ty Law’s interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter was a pivotal play that showed the Rams that New England was for real.

Amazingly, the Rams stumbled through the first three quarters and were extremely fortunate to even be in the game. Rams head coach Mike Martz’s game plan was too glam and not enough slam. He would not put the ball in the hands of all-world RB Marshall Faulk. He opted to try to pass his way to glory which was a fatal mistake. In the David Halberstam book The Education of a Coach, it detailed Rams players pleading with Martz during the game to change the plan of attack. He not so politely told them he was going to win it his way.

In contrast, Belichick’s defensive game plan was to beat up the receivers and most importantly, keep all-world RB Marshall Faulk in check. The Rams fought back though. St. Louis scratched and clawed to tie the game at 17. Then in one of the more famous broadcasting moments in Super Bowl history, FOX’s John Madden said the Pats should just sit on the ball and play overtime (in retrospect, considering how the Rams were playing at that moment it would have been a gigantic mistake to go to an extra session).

As I watched Adam Vinatieri’s field goal sail through the uprights, my jaw hit the floor. The Pats had pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history. With a country still hurting from 9/11, it offered a nice moment for the country to see the underdog get over the top.

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