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A deep dive into Super Bowl games I – LVI: Highlights from the 1966-2021 seasons

Written By | Feb 11, 2022
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Super Bowl LVI

LOS ANGELES — For the 56th time, America is getting ready for Super Bowl Sunday. In the days leading up to the game, the entire history of every season in the Super Bowl era deserves attention.

The National Football League began playing in the 1920s. In 1960, an upstart league known as the American Football League came into existence. A war broke out between the AFL and NFL, and the teams agreed in 1966 to start playing a game at the end of the year between the best team in each league. That game would eventually be known as the Super Bowl, inspired by AFL founder Lamar Hunt seeing his daughter playing with a “super ball.”

The leagues merged in 1970, forming the modern NFL.

The NFL teams formed the National Football Conference and the AFL teams formed the American Football Conference. The AFC Title Game winner claims the Lamar Hunt Trophy while the NFC Title Game winner receives the George Halas trophy. “Papa Bear” Halas was the founder, owner, and coach of the Chicago Bears. The Super Bowl winner takes home the Vince Lombardi Trophy named after the late Green Bay Packers coach who won the first two Super Bowls.

Super Bowl LVI (56) will be played on Sunday, February 13, 2022.

Here is a history of every Super Bowl since 1966 first brought us this biggest of big games.




Super Bowl I, 1966 –

The Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Title game 34-27 when the Packers intercepted a pass from the two-yard line in the end zone as time ran out. The Kansas City Chiefs were the AFL champions, and they and the Packers met in Super Bowl I.

The Packers were heavy favorites, and their Coach Vince Lombardi did not want to lose to what he considered a Mickey Mouse League. Although the Packers only led 14-10 at the half, a key interception broke the game open, and the Packers crushed Kansas City in the second half. 35-10 Packers.

Super Bowl II, 1967 –

The Packers again defeated the Cowboys in the NFL Title Game. The game was known as the Ice Bowl since the game was played in 13 degrees below zero weather. Down 17-14 on the last play of the game from the one-yard line, the Packers went for the win instead of the tie due to the cold. Quarterback Bart Starr followed Jerry Kramer’s block, and the Packers won 21-17.

Green Bay played the Raiders in Super Bowl II. The game was only 13-7 in the second quarter, but a fumbled punt set up a Green Bay field goal before the half. Like the previous year, the Packers romped in the second half, including Herb Adderly’s interception return for a touchdown. It was the fifth Packer championship in seven years, and their second Super Bowl win. Vince Lombardi, who the trophy is now named for, retired after the game. 33-14 Packers.

Super Bowl III, 1968 –

With Lombardi retired, the Packers were done. The Baltimore Colts represented the NFL. The New York Jets, led by Broadway Joe Namath, defeated the Raiders 27-23, in the AFL Title Game for the right to play in Super Bowl III. The Colts were 18-point favorites, and Joe Namath angered the Colts and his own teammates by saying, “We’re going to win. I guarantee it.”

The world laughed, but on the second play of the game, Colts defensive star Rick Volk went out with an injury. Running back Matt Snell carried 30 times following left tackle Winston Hill. Colts quarterback Earl Morrall was intercepted four times. The Jets led 16-0 in the fourth quarter when injured legend Johnny Unitas replaced Morrall. It was too little, too late. The Jets had shocked the world. The AFL was no longer an inferior league. 16-7 Jets.

Super Bowl IV, 1969 –

The Minnesota Vikings represented the NFL. The Chiefs were the best AFL team. Although the Vikings were favored in Super Bowl IV, the Chiefs smothered them. Len Dawson was calm at quarterback, and the Kansas City defense was relentless. Kicker Jan Stenerud added three field goals as the Chiefs raced to a 16-0 lead and never looked back. The AFL had tied the NFL at two Super Bowls apiece. The leagues merged the next year. 23-7 Chiefs.

Super Bowl V, 1970 –

The Cowboys finally got to the Super Bowl, representing the NFC. The AFC team was represented by the old NFL team the Colts from two years earlier. Super Bowl V was known as the Blunder Bowl, with the teams combining for 11 turnovers. Dallas led 13-6, and were one yard away from a 14-point lead. They fumbled the ball away.

Still leading 13-6, an intercepted pass set up the tying touchdown late in the game. Another interception set up rookie Jim O’Brien for a 32-yard field goal to win the game. O’Brien had an extra point blocked earlier, but his kick was good as the Colts had won at the gun. This was the only Super Bowl where the MVP, Chuck Howley, played for the losing team. 16-13 Colts.

Super Bowl VI, 1971 –

The Cowboys got back again, and the AFC was represented by the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys were heavy favorites, and Super Bowl VI was the only game until 2018 where the losing team failed to score a single touchdown. Miami Coach Don Shula was also the coach for the Colts in their shocking loss to the Jets three years earlier. Tom Landry had yet to become a Dallas legend. The game was uneventful, as Dallas coasted. 24-3 Cowboys.



Super Bowl VII, 1972 –

The Washington Redskins represented the NFC, with the Dolphins again representing the AFC. The Dolphins were unbeaten and looking to make history. The Dolphins led 14-0 late in the game when a field goal attempt to lock up the game went awry. The kick was blocked, and kicker Garo Yopremian tried to pick it up and throw it. It was picked out of the air by Mike Bass, who returned it 49 yards for a Redskins touchdown.

The Redskins did get the ball back but went nowhere. This was the first Super Bowl where the offense for the losing team did not score at all. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only team in NFL history to get through a season unbeaten, finishing 17-0. Every year when the last team to lose a game do so, members of the 1972 Dolphins pop champagne corks. 14-7 Dolphins.

Super Bowl VIII, 1973 –

Super Bowl VIII featured the defending Super Bowl champion Dolphins against the NFC champion Vikings. The game was a blowout, as the Dolphins ran 20 first-quarter plays to only three for Minnesota. Miami led 14-0 at that point, and due to the running of Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka, and Jim Kiick, Miami only threw the ball seven times. Miami won back-to-back titles, and the Vikings became the first team to lose two Super Bowls. 24-7 Dolphins.

Super Bowl IX, 1974 –

The Minnesota Vikings reached their third Super Bowl. The three-time AFC Champion Miami Dolphins were finally knocked out by the Oakland Raiders 28-26 in the classic “Sea of Hands” game. For three straight years, the AFC Title Game between the Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers was more epic than the Super Bowl. In 1972, the Steelers defeated the Raiders in the “Immaculate Reception” game. In 1973, the Raiders throttled the Steelers. Both teams lost to the Dolphins. In 1974 the Raiders and Steelers were the big dogs. The Raiders led 10-3 in Oakland after three quarters but collapsed in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh exploded for 21 points and a 24-13 win.

The Super Bowl had the Purple People Eaters vs the Steel Curtain. It was all defense. The first half featured only safety and a 2-0 Steelers lead. A fumbled kickoff return to start the second half produced a Pittsburgh touchdown run by Franco Harris. Minnesota’s only touchdown came on a blocked punt. The extra point was no good. Pittsburgh led 9-6. Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers on the only real drive for either team in the entire game. 70 yards consumed the clock and led to the final touchdown and Pittsburgh’s first title. The Vikings had lost their third. 16-6 Steelers.

Super Bowl X, 1975 –

The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Vikings 17-14 in a very controversial NFC Divisional game. Roger Staubach completed a Hail Mary to Drew Pearson with less than one minute to play as Minnesota insisted that Pearson committed offensive pass interference against Nate Wright.

The AFC Title Game again featured the Raiders and Steelers. In ice-cold Pittsburgh, the Steelers led 3-0 after three quarters. The field itself was a block of icy granite. The offenses did get going, but the Raiders had their final drive end at the five-yard line as the clock ran out. Pittsburgh prevailed 16-10.

Super Bowl X had the Cowboys leading 10-7 after three quarters. Early in the fourth, a blocked punt for safety cut the gap to 10-9. Momentum swung, and Pittsburgh led 21-10 with time running out. Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to within four points, but this time his Hail Mary on the final play of the game was intercepted in the end zone. 21-17 Steelers.

Super Bowl XI, 1976 –

The Vikings reached their fourth Super Bowl. For the third straight year, the Raiders and Steelers met in the AFC title game. The Raiders had the best record in the NFL at 13-1. The last week of the season, with home-field advantage locked up, the Raiders could have lost their final game against the Cincinnati Bengals, rested their team, and eliminated Pittsburgh from playoff contention. By winning, Pittsburgh would be in. Many speculated the Raiders would lose to avoid Pittsburgh. This enraged the team, who throttled the Bengals and demanded to face Pittsburgh.

In the AFC Divisional round, Oakland defeated New England 24-21 on a Ken Stabler quarterback sneak with 10 seconds remaining to avenge their only loss of the season. The Raiders then finally beat Pittsburgh, destroying them 24-7.

Super Bowl XI was not close, with the image of cornerback Willie Brown returning an interception 75 yards for Oakland’s final touchdown. Minnesota lost their fourth Super Bowl, and Oakland won their first. Owner Al Davis and coach John Madden finally reached the top. 32-14 Raiders

Super Bowl XII, 1977 –

The Raiders got back to the AFC Title Game for the fifth straight year, a record that would stand for nearly 40 years. Oakland faced their archrival, the Denver Broncos. Denver came out on top 20-17 when a Denver fumble short of the goal line was incorrectly ruled a touchdown.

The Cowboys represented the NFC in Super Bowl XII. Broncos quarterback Craig Morton was the losing quarterback for Dallas in the fifth Super Bowl. Roger Staubach led Dallas in their win the year later. In this game, Denver committed seven turnovers in the first half, as Morton completed four passes to each team. Staubach won again, as Dallas cruised. It was their fourth Super Bowl, and they had won and lost twice. 27-10 Cowboys.

Super Bowl XIII, 1978 –

The Steelers returned after a two-year absence, against defending champions Dallas. This was the rematch of Super Bowl X. Pittsburgh led 21-14 when a short pass to a wide-open Jackie Smith was dropped in the end zone when he slipped and fell. Instead of the tying touchdown, a field goal cut the gap to 21-17.

A pair of touchdowns 18 seconds apart put Pittsburgh up 35-17, and they hung on for a four-point win for their third Super Bowl win. Dallas lost their third Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw throwing bombs to Lynn Swann led to four catches for Swann and 164 yards. 35-31 Steelers.

Super Bowl XIV, 1979 –

In the AFC Title Game, Pittsburgh played the Houston Oilers for the second straight year. Pittsburgh crushed Houston the previous year, but this was a closer game. Houston thought they scored the tying touchdown, but it was ruled out of bounds. Pittsburgh won 27-13.

The Los Angeles Rams, only 9-7 in the regular season, became the first team in NFL history to win their division for the seventh straight year. That record would stand for nearly 40 years and remains an NFC record. The Rams dominated in previous years, but could not get past Minnesota and Dallas.

Super Bowl XIV was supposed to be a Pittsburgh blowout, but the Rams led 19-17 after three quarters. Nevertheless, the Steelers took the lead when Terry Bradshaw delivered a bomb to John Stallworth. They sealed the game when Pat Haden was intercepted. The Steelers had their fourth Super Bowl win in six years. 31-19 Steelers.

The 1980s was about more than just glam rockers and big hair. Great traditions began in the National Football League. President Ronald Reagan called the Super Bowl champions. The first wave of major football video games was created. The Gatorade dumping on winning coaches began. John Madden and Pat Summerall were soothing, and Alcoa presented “fantastic finishes.” The Super Bowl became a larger-than-life event.

Super Bowl XV, 1980 –

All five AFC playoff teams had identical 11-5 records. The Oakland Raiders beat the Houston Oilers indoors, the Cleveland Browns 14-12 in the snow, and the San Diego Chargers in the rain that slowed down the passing attack of Don “Air” Coryell and quarterback Dan Fouts. The Raiders were led by Jim Plunkett, who only a couple of years earlier was thought to be washed up. The owners of Oakland and San Diego hated each other. Chargers owner Gene Klein blamed Raiders owner Al Davis for the rain, insisting that Davis hired a crop duster to seed the clouds. Davis never denied this ludicrous assertion that burnished his outlaw image.

The NFC had three teams at 12-4, and the Cowboys defeated the Atlanta Falcons before falling to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 10-7 in a regular-season game where Plunkett was sacked eight times. Super Bowl XV was revenge.

Rod Martin had three interceptions, and Jim Plunkett showed his talent. A swing pass to Kenny King went for 80 yards and a touchdown, and the special teams blocked a field goal. The Raiders won their second Super Bowl. Coach Tom Flores, who had replaced the retired Madden a year earlier, reached the top. From a cultural standpoint, it was the first win with a Mexican head coach and quarterback. 27-10 Raiders.

Super Bowl XVI, 1981 –

The NFC title game was an epic battle between the Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, led by Coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana. In the final minute, Montana’s touchdown pass to Dwight Clark would forever be known as, “The Catch.” The 49ers won 28-27 despite six turnovers. The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC and defeated the San Diego Chargers 27-7 in the brutal cold.

The 49ers led 20-0 at the half. Down 20-7, the Bengals drove to the 49ers’ one-yard line. The 49ers then mounted an inspired goal-line stand, with four plays gaining nothing. The Bengals did eventually cut the gap to 20-14, but a couple of field goals by the 49ers put the game out of reach. The Bengals scored again with 17 seconds left, but could not recover the onside kick. The 49ers began one of the great NFL dynasties. 26-21 49ers.

Super Bowl XVII, 1982 –

A strike-shortened season had Roger Staubach’s successor Danny White leading the Cowboys to the NFC Title Game for the third straight year. This year they played their hated rivals, the Washington Redskins. For the third straight year, playing on the road, the Cowboys lost. The Redskins faced the Miami Dolphins in a rematch of the Super Bowl ten years earlier. The Dolphins survived the New York Jets 14-0 in a mud bowl mess thanks to three interceptions by A.J. Duhe.

With the Redskins trailing 17-13, Joe Theismann had his pass tipped, with a certain interception to put the Dolphins up by 11. At the last second, Theismann knocked the ball from the Miami “Killer B’s” defense for an incompletion. This kept the game within reach, and the Redskins took a 20-17 lead. Facing a fourth and one at the Miami 44, “The Diesel” John Riggins burst through and rumbled all the way for a touchdown to ice the game. It was the first Super Bowl win for the Redskins, and the second loss for the Dolphins to even out their two wins. 27-17 Redskins.

Super Bowl XVIII, 1983 –

The Redskins returned and faced the Raiders, who were now located in Los Angeles. Earlier in the year, the Redskins defeated the Raiders 37-35 in a game for the ages. That game had a 99-yard touchdown pass from Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch and a 97-yard punt return for a touchdown by Greg Pruitt. The Redskins led 20-7 before the Raiders exploded for four touchdowns and a 35-20 lead. The Redskins then came back with a touchdown, a perfectly executed onside kick, a field goal, and a final touchdown by Theismann to Joe Washington with 20 seconds remaining for the win. Only a missed field goal and a missed extra point during the season separated the Redskins from a 16-0 season.

Super Bowl XVIII was not close. Marcus Allen rushed for 191 yards and Plunkett threw a pair of touchdowns. The Raiders scored on a blocked punt touchdown by Derrick Jensen and an interception for a touchdown by Jack Squirek. The Redskins only touchdown was followed by the extra point being blocked. To quote Joe Theismann, “They handed us our ass on the tray, and the tray was bent.” The Raiders won their third Super Bowl in eight years, and the Redskins lost their second one. 38-9 Raiders.

Super Bowl XIX, 1984 –

Dan Marino Shredded the NFL for 5084 yards in leading the Dolphins to a 14-2 record and the team’s second Super Bowl appearance in three years. Joe Montana led the 49ers to a 15-1 record and their second appearance.

The Dolphins led Super Bowl XIX 10-7 early on, but the 49ers took the game over. They led 28-10 when the Dolphins kicked a field goal before the half, recovered a fumble on the kickoff, and added another field goal before halftime. The second half was uneventful, as the 49ers shut down the Dolphins and extended their lead. San Francisco won their second Super Bowl, and Miami lost their third Super Bowl in five appearances. 38-16 49ers.

Super Bowl XX, 1985 –

The Chicago Bears did their Super Bowl Shuffle, and their defense, led by Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, may have been the greatest of all time. Fiery coach Mike Ditka, with intense defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, was unrelenting. Maverick quarterback Jim McMahon led the offense, with legendary running back Walter Payton leading the running game. William “The Refrigerator” Perry provided the entertainment.

The New England Patriots won three road games, starting out by beating the Jets. They then shocked the Raiders and the Dolphins, who were both considered superior. The Dolphins were the only team to beat the 15-1 Bears that year. Perhaps neither the Raiders nor the Dolphins would have won the Super Bowl that year, but they would not have been intimidated. The Patriots opened and closed the scoring in Super Bowl XX, but the Bears had an avalanche of points in between. 46-10 Bears.

Super Bowl XXI, 1986 –

The New York Giants won an NFL Championship in 1956 and in 1958 lost “the greatest game ever played” to the Baltimore Colts. This was the Giants’ first Super Bowl. They played the Denver Broncos, who were led by John Elway. The Broncos defeated the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Title Game in overtime 23-20 after Elway led a 98-yard masterpiece comeback known as “the drive.”

The Broncos led Super Bowl XXI 10-7, but a safety cut the gap to 10-9. Denver kicker Rich Karlis missed field goals of 23 and 34 yards, deflating the team. The Giants’ defense poured it on in the second half, led by Harry Carson, George Martin, and Lawrence Taylor. Phil Simms had a Super Bowl record for accuracy, completing 22 of 25 passes.

Head coach Bill Parcells became the victim of a new ritual that season that is now cliché. Harry Carson was the guy behind the idea of dumping the Gatorade bucket on the coach’s head. It was a way of getting back at the often irascible Parcells. During the Super Bowl, Parcells nervously looked around for the bucket, but was ambushed anyway. This was also the first year that the MVP, in this case, Simms, announced that he was going to Disneyland. 39-20 Giants.

Super Bowl XXII, 1987 –

In another strike season, the Washington Redskins prevailed in the NFC. The Broncos returned for the second straight year after again defeating Cleveland 38-33 in a game decided by “the fumble.”

Denver’s first play from scrimmage was a touchdown bomb. At the end of the first quarter, the Broncos led 10-0. A blowout was shaping up, but not for Denver. Washington had the best quarter in Super Bowl history, scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter, including four touchdown passes by Doug Williams. He was the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl, and he flourished.

Unheralded running back Timmy Smith only lasted three years in the league. He rushed for 204 yards, a current record. A 10-0 deficit became a 35-10 Redskins lead at the half. The uneventful second half saw Denver lose for the third time and Washington win their second Super Bowl in four appearances. 42-10 Redskins.

Super Bowl XXIII, 1988 –

After 11 games, the 49ers were only 6-5, having just taken a beating to the Raiders. Joe Montana was sacked eight times in the 9-3 loss. The 49ers regrouped, finished 10-6, reached the NFC Title Game, and shocked the heavily favored Bears 28-3. The Niners faced the Bengals, who defeated the Bills in the AFC Title Game.

This was a rematch of the Super Bowl seven years earlier. Super Bowl XXIII had Sam Wyche as Bengals instead of Forrest Gregg and Boomer Esiason at quarterback instead of Ken Anderson. The 49ers still had Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. They also now had a receiver who would become a legend in Jerry Rice. The night before the game, the Bengals starting running back Stanley Wilson cracked under the pressure. Just before the last pregame team meeting, he went to retrieve his playbook and went on a cocaine binge in his hotel room. He was scratched from the game, never to play football ever again.

The game was 3-3 at the half. With three minutes left, the Bengals led 16-13. The 49ers were 92 yards away, and Montana earned his icy cool reputation by relaxing his teammates. With all of the pressure on him, Montana said to his team, “Hey, is that John Candy in the stands? Cool.”

The team relaxed, and Montana threw a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left to win the game. Walsh retired after the game, and the 49ers had their third Super Bowl win. The Bengals lost their second. Joe Montana’s legacy was not done. 20-16 49ers.

Super Bowl XXIV, 1989 –

The 49ers returned for their fourth appearance in nine years, this time with a dominating 14-2 record. The Broncos returned for their third appearance in four years. All three times they defeated the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Title Game en route to the Super Bowl. However, Denver was mauled in those Super Bowls, each time by a larger margin, losing by 17, 19, and 32 points. Super Bowl XXIV was worse, the biggest blowout in history. A 45 point shellacking earned the 49ers their fourth Super Bowl win and the Broncos their fourth loss. 55-10 49ers.

Super Bowl XXV, 1990 –

The 49ers had the repeat but fell just short of the three-peat. They were 14-2, including a thrilling 7-3 defensive win over the New York Giants. Both of those teams started 10-0, and they met again in the NFC Title Game, which was another defensive thriller. The most brutal NFC Title Game ever played saw Leonard Marshall blow up Joe Montana with a blindside hit so hard that it knocked Montana out of the game and out of football for two years. The Giants kicked five field goals. The fourth one cut San Francisco’s lead to 13-12. In trying to run out the clock, Roger Craig fumbled. Lawrence Taylor recovered, and Matt Bahr’s fifth kick on the final play gave the Giants the 15-13 win.

The 13-3 Giants went on to the Super Bowl to face Buffalo, to whom the Giants lost earlier in the season. The Bills only won 17-13 in that earlier game, but they had one of the greatest offenses of all time. The Bills scored a combined 95 points in their two playoff wins.

The Giants held the ball for over 40 minutes in the rematch to keep Buffalo’s offense off of the field. A safety by Buffalo seemed to be the difference since their final drive had them down by one point instead of three. Jeff Hostetler played smart football after taking over for an injured Simms several weeks earlier. Hostetler could only watch as Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas threw and ran the ball to get within field goal range.
A 47-yard attempt by Scott Norwood on the final play had the world watching. The kick was wide right. The Giants had their second Super Bowl win. Bill Parcells retired for the first of many times after the game. 20-19 Giants.

Super Bowl XXVI, 1991 –

The Bills returned and faced the Redskins. The Redskins were 14-2, losing one game on a Hail Mary and another on the last play in the final game when they had rested their starters. Like their 1983 team, the 1991 Redskins again flirted with 16-0.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Redskins proceeded to dominate, leading 17-0 at the half, and cruising to a 37-10 lead. Buffalo scored late to make the score close, and quarterback Mark Rypien was the MVP. The Redskins won their third Super Bowl in ten years. What made it more amazing was that Coach Joe Gibbs did it with three different quarterbacks. 37-24 Redskins.

Super Bowl XXVII, 1992 –

In the 1970s, it was the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers battling for supremacy. In the 1990s, it was the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. The AFC was an afterthought, with the Bills reaching the game for the third straight year in 1992.

The Bills did overcome a 35-3 third-quarter deficit to stun the Houston Oilers 41-38 in the Divisional round for the biggest comeback in NFL history. In the NFC Title Game, after a 10-10 tie at the half, Dallas took over and beat San Francisco 30-20. This was revenge for “The Catch” in the 1981 season, although that could have been revenge for Dallas defeating San Francisco in consecutive seasons in the early 1970s.

Super Bowl XXVII was a blowout, as Buffalo turned the ball over nine times after taking an early 7-0 lead. Down 14-7, an interception by the Cowboys in the end zone prevented Buffalo from tying the game. Dallas won by 35 points and would have set a record for points had Leon Lett not showboated and fumbled near the goal line. Jimmy Johnson yelled, “How ’bout them Cowboys!” The Gatorade bucket lore gained a new wrinkle when the players messed up Johnson’s perfect hair and owner Jerry Jones showed up on the sideline with a comb to fix it. 52-17 Cowboys.

Super Bowl XXVIII, 1993 –

This was a rematch of the year before. The Bills reached the Super Bowl for the fourth straight year. The Cowboys and 49ers met again in the NFC Title Game, an easy 38-21 Dallas win.

Buffalo actually led Dallas 13-6 at the half, but on the second play of the second half, Thurman Thomas was hit and fumbled. The ball was returned for a touchdown to tie the game, and Dallas never looked back. The Cowboys only led 20-13 after three quarters, but put the game away in the fourth quarter.

Troy Aikman and MVP Emmitt Smith brought Dallas its fourth Super Bowl win and gave Buffalo a record fourth straight Super Bowl loss. Despite back-to-back titles, an internal feud led to Jerry Jones firing Jimmy Johnson in the offseason and replacing him with Barry Switzer. 30-13 Cowboys.

Super Bowl XXIX, 1994 –

For the third straight year, the Cowboys and 49ers battled in the NFC. This time the 49ers triumphed 38-28. The AFC had an overachieving San Diego Chargers team in their first Super Bowl. Head coach Bobby Ross worked miracles, and quarterback Stan Humphries was tough. San Diego defeated superior opponents in Miami and Pittsburgh and seemed happy to just be in their first Super Bowl.

Steve Young, desperate to escape the legacy of Joe Montana, threw six touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Young had the highest quarterback rating ever for a Super Bowl. As expected, it was a blowout. While many credited Bill Walsh with building the team from George Seifert’s first Super Bowl win five years prior, Coach Seifert finally escaped the shadow of his predecessor with this win. The 49ers became the first team to win five Super Bowls, with zero losses. 49-26 49ers.

Super Bowl XXX, 1995 –

The Cowboys and 49ers were expected to meet for the fourth straight year in the NFC Title Game, but a Green Bay Packers team led by Coach Mike Holmgren, aka The Walrus, and a young maverick quarterback named Brett Favre, upset the matchup. Favre was the league MVP, and Green Bay shocked the 49ers in the playoffs. In the NFC Title Game, the Packers led Dallas after three quarters as well, before Dallas took over.

In the AFC, The Steelers survived a Hail Mary attempt on the final play to survive against the Colts and go to the game they felt they should have been in a year earlier. For the third time in Super Bowl history, Dallas and Pittsburgh met.

Dallas was the better team, but the Steelers kept hanging around. Dallas led 13-0 and 20-7, but Pittsburgh closed to within 20-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left after a perfectly executed onside kick call by Bill Cowher led to a touchdown. With a chance to pull off the upset, Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O’Donnell threw his second interception to Larry Brown, whose gift in his breadbasket led to the ten-point finale. Dallas had their fifth Super Bowl title in eight appearances, and third in four years. Pittsburgh had their first loss in five trips. Jerry Jones and Barry Switzer won without Jimmy Johnson. 27-17 Cowboys.

Super Bowl XXXI, 1996 –

Brett Favre led the Green Bay Packers back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 years. The New England Patriots reached the game for the first time in 11 years. New England again benefitted from better teams being knocked out.

The first quarter was the highest-scoring in Super Bowl history, with New England leading 14-10. By halftime, the Packers led 27-14. After the Patriots closed to 27-21, Super Bowl XXXI MVP Desmond Howard returned the kickoff 99 yards for the final points of the game. Bill Parcells took his second team to the Super Bowl but did not prevail. 35-21 Packers.

Super Bowl XXXII, 1997 –

The Packers returned with relative ease for the NFC, while the AFC featured the Broncos. The previous year, the Broncos were favored in the AFC and were shocked in the playoffs. The players even cried afterward, saying they let John Elway down. Elway had three Super Bowl losses, but this time the Broncos had running back Terrell Davis.

The game was tied 24-24 in the fourth quarter when Elway made a leaping run for a first down. He spun like a pinwheel in the air but got the necessary yardage. Denver took the lead, and Brett Favre’s final drive stalled around midfield. Broncos owner Pat Bowlen held the trophy and exclaimed, “This one’s for John!” The Packers lost their first Super Bowl, and the Broncos finally won one. 31-24 Broncos.

Super Bowl XXXIII, 1998 –

The Minnesota Vikings’ offense torched the league to a 15-1 record with a revived Randall Cunningham throwing bombs to rookie receiver Randy Moss. A lock to finally win the big one, they collapsed in the NFC Title game.

The Atlanta Falcons trailed 20-7, but fought back. With time running out, Minnesota still led 27-20, with Gary Anderson attempting a 40-yard field goal to lock up the game. He had been perfect all year, going an NFL record 40 for 40. He missed this one from 39 yards out, stunning the crowd. Atlanta tied the game. Even though Minnesota got the ball first in overtime, it was Morton Anderson who kicked the winning field goal for the 30-27 overtime shocker. Coach Dan Reeves was taking his second team to the Super Bowl. It was the first trip for the Falcons.

In the AFC, the Broncos cruised during the regular season but faced a tough Jets team led by Bill Parcells in the AFC Title game.


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Parcells was trying to take a third team to the Super Bowl. The Jets blocked a punt and led 10-0 in the third quarter, but the Jets could not overcome six turnovers as the Broncos won 23-10.

On the day before the game after winning an offseason man of the year award, Falcons defensive back Eugene Robinson was arrested for soliciting prostitution from an undercover police officer. Super Bowl XXXIII was not close, as the Broncos coasted to their second straight Super Bowl win. Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan took delight in beating Reeves, who fired Shanahan as an assistant in Denver. John Elway retired after the game. 34-19 Broncos.

Super Bowl XXXIV, 1999 –

The St. Louis Rams, formerly of Los Angeles, had been terrible for a decade. When Trent Green went down in the 1999 preseason with a knee injury, former supermarket checkout clerk Kurt Warner became a legend. For the next three years, the Rams offense was the “Greatest Show on Turf.”

Dick Vermeil had returned to the Super Bowl after a 19-year absence. Vermeil retired from the Eagles in 1982, citing burnout, only to return to the league with the Rams in 1997. Marshall Faulk was the star running back and offensive coordinator Mike Martz was a mad scientist calling plays. The Rams struggled in the NFC Title Game, but a late touchdown defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-6. Twenty years earlier, the Rams had defeated the Bucs in the NFC Title Game, 9-0.

The Tennessee Titans, formerly the Houston Oilers, were led by Buddy Ryan’s disciple Jeff Fisher. In the 1999 Divisional round, the Buffalo Bills took a 16-15 lead at Tennessee on a field goal with 16 seconds left. The Titans needed a miracle and got one in the form of a designed kickoff return play known as Home Run Throwback.

A lateral all the way across the field from Frank Wychek to Kevin Dyson gave the Titans the 22-16 win and forever became known as the “Music City Miracle.”

The Rams led 16-0 in the Super Bowl, but the Titans fought back and tied the game 16-16 with two minutes left.

One play later, Super Bowl XXXIV MVP Kurt Warner threw a 73-yard bomb for the go-ahead touchdown. He passed for 414 yards on the day. Steve McNair led the Titans back to within striking distance with five seconds left. McNair’s pass to Kevin Dyson fell one yard short when Mike Jones made “the tackle.” Vermeil retired after the game. The Rams avenged a 24-21 regular-season loss to the Titans in a thriller. 23-16 Rams

Super Bowl XXXV, 2000 –

The Vikings were again cruising when a late-season collapse cost them home field. They reached the NFC Title Game, but were throttled by the New York Giants 41-0. Back to back home losses had the Giants reeling at 7-4 when Coach Jim Fassell made a bold prediction. He was considered laid back, but told the press that “This team is going to the playoffs.”

The AFC featured a Baltimore Ravens team with one of the greatest defenses in history. Cocky coach Brian Billick, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, and fearsome defensive standout Ray Lewis backed up the talk. They knocked out Tennessee’s Steve McNair from a brutal Divisional round game in Nashville that was tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter with Tennessee lining up for the go-ahead field goal. The Ravens blocked the kick and returned it for a touchdown. Then a pass to Eddie George was ripped out of his hands by Lewis for the interception return to seal the 24-10 win.

The Ravens then went on the road and knocked out Rich Gannon from the AFC Title Game, eliminating the Oakland Raiders.

The Ravens had almost no offense, going five straight games during the season without an offensive touchdown. Quarterback Trent Dilfer was considered a stiff by many.

In the Super Bowl, Dilfer threw an interception to Jason Sehorn for a touchdown, but it was called back by a penalty. The Ravens led 10-0 at the half. An interception returned for a touchdown put the Ravens up 17-0. This was followed by a kickoff return for a touchdown by the Giants. The Ravens then took the next kickoff for a touchdown. Three touchdowns on three straight plays put the Ravens up 24-7.

The Giants had lost their first Super Bowl. The Ravens were the former Cleveland Browns. Art Modell ignored the death threats, moved his team, and had his first trophy. Due to the controversy surrounding Lewis, Dilfer got the Disneyland commercial. It did not matter, as Dilfer became the first winning Super Bowl quarterback to be traded before the next season. The Giants became the second team in Super Bowl history to score zero points on offense in the big game. 34-7 Ravens.

Super Bowl XXXVI, 2001 –

The Rams returned to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years, exploding to a 14-2 record. They were facing a Patriots team who started the season with Drew Bledsoe and finished with Tom Brady. The Patriots had defeated the Oakland Raiders in the Divisional round in overtime in a blizzard in a controversial game that would forever be known as the “Tuck Rule” game.

The Rams were led by Mike Martz. The Patriots were led by Bill Bellichick, who was determined to escape the shadow of his mentor Bill Parcells. The Rams defeated the Patriots 24-17 in Foxboro in a 2001 regular-season game that was not that close. Yet Super Bowl XXXVI featured a Rams team that perhaps was overconfident.

Ty Law returned an interception for a touchdown and a 7-3 Patriots lead. The Patriots led 17-3 in the fourth quarter when the Rams finally woke up. With under two minutes left, the Rams had tied the game 17-17. The Patriots’ defense was out of gas, but Tom Brady had 90 seconds with which to work.

Brady had only 75 yards passing up to that point, but on the last play of the game, a 48-yard field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri was dead center. Perhaps the biggest upset since the Jets in Super Bowl III had taken place. 20-17 Patriots.

Super Bowl XXXVII, 2002 –

The Raiders, who had relocated back to Oakland from Los Angeles several years earlier, were seeking to avenge their disputed playoff heartache from a year earlier. They had difficult playoff wins over the Jets and Titans. The Raiders started 4-0, fell to 4-4, and finished 11-5. Rookie head coach Bill Callahan led the team, replacing Jon Gruden, who left to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The entire 2002 NFC was full of shockers. The 12-4 Packers had never lost a playoff game at home. In 2002 with snow flurries coming down, they were stunned by the Atlanta Falcons, who were led by young sensation Michael Vick. The Buccaneers played the NFC Title Game at the heavily favored Eagles, who had beaten them six straight times. The Buccaneers had never won a playoff game when the temperature was below 40 degrees.

The Eagles led 7-0 one minute into this cold-weather game, but this time the Bucs shocked the Eagles. Ronde Barber’s 92-yard interception returned sealed the 27-10 win and sent Gruden to face his old team.

The Raiders intercepted a pass on the third play of the game and led 3-0. The Bucs then crushed them, with a 34-3 lead. The Raiders fought back with a blocked punt for a touchdown and were within 34-21 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. However, NFL MVP Rich Gannon was intercepted for a touchdown. On the game’s final play, another interception was returned by Tampa Bay for a touchdown. The Bucs intercepted five Gannon passes, returning three for scores. Jon Gruden exclaimed, “How ’bout those Tampa Bay Buccaneers?”

The team who started 0-26 and wore orange pants were now pewter-wearing champions. Tampa Bay won the battle of pirates. “Chucky,” the nickname for the scowling Gruden, knew the entire Raider playbook in advance. As John Lynch said, “We saw these plays in practice.” Lynch, Derrick Brooks, and Warren Sapp delivered the win and made the Hall of Fame. 48-21 Buccaneers.

Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2003 –

The Patriots finished 14-2 and faced the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, who were led by Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben was 14-0 as a starter. The Steelers crushed the injured Patriots during the regular season. The healthy Patriots were favored in the rematch and won handily 41-27 in the AFC Title Game.

The Eagles were in their third straight NFC Title Game, determined to avenge their shocker from the previous year. They were at home against the Carolina Panthers, a 1995 expansion team who reached the NFC Title Game in 1996. The Panthers injured Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb in the game, although he played the whole game. Carolina won 14-3, and Philly had lost again.

Super Bowl XXXVIII was a thriller. The first 25 minutes were scoreless, but a flurry of offense in the last two minutes had the Patriots up 14-10 at the half. After a scoreless third quarter, the fourth quarter was an aerial show. Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme rained bombs, and Delhomme tied the game at 29-29 with little time left.

The Panthers would have been ahead by three, but they failed on three two-point conversion attempts.

Coach Jon Fox regretted calling them afterward. The kickoff after the tying touchdown went out of bounds, allowing the Patriots to start at their own 40-yard line. For the second time in three years, Adam Vinatieri nailed a 48-yarder on the final play of the game for the win. 32-29 Patriots.

Peyton Manning of the Colts and Tom Brady of the Patriots were torching the league, and the 2004 NFL Draft added three-star quarterbacks. The San Diego Chargers with the top pick drafted Peyton’s younger brother Eli Manning, who refused to play for them. Eli Manning was traded to the San Diego Chargers for several picks, one of which was used to draft Philip Rivers. Adding Rivers led the Chargers to get rid of Drew Brees two years later. Brees went to the New Orleans Saints. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger. More than ever, the NFL was going to be a quarterback-driven league. Super Bowls held from 2004 through 2007 reflected star quarterbacks at their best.

Super Bowl XXXIX, 2004 –

The New England Patriots with Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady returned to the big dance for the second straight year and the third time in four years. In the NFC, Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles reached their fourth straight NFC Title game and third consecutive one at home. The Eagles finally got over the hump by defeating Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons.

The Super Bowl was tied 7-7 and 14-14, but the Patriots had a 24-14 lead late in the game. Donovan McNabb launched a furious rally, cutting the gap to three points. The Eagles did get the ball back but ran out of time well short of field goal range. New England’s third Super Bowl win in four years made them a dynasty, with each win coming by three points. 24-21 Patriots

Super Bowl XL, 2005 –

The Pittsburgh Steelers were 7-5 and on the verge of playoff elimination before running the table. They would play all of their playoff games on the road. After dispatching their division rival Cincinnati Bengals, next came the Indianapolis Colts. Indy was led by calm coach Tony Dungy and megastar quarterback Peyton Manning. This year the Colts started 13-0, secured the home field, and avoided archrival New England. The Colts were stunned at home by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Steelers jumped to a 21-3 lead. The Colts closed to 21-18 when Jerome Bettis, aka “The Bus,” was rumbling near the goal line for the clinching Steelers touchdown. Bettis was hit and fumbled. A Colts defender picked up the ball and was racing down the field for what appeared to be a miracle touchdown for the Colts. Ben Roethlisberger made the touchdown-saving tackle at midfield. On the final play, Mike Vanderjagt missed the tying field goal. He simply choked, saving Bettis from becoming the goat.

That game was also perspective for Dungy, who tragically lost his son a few weeks earlier. The Steelers easily dispatched Denver in the AFC Title Game. The Steelers played in Super Bowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks, who were playing their first Super Bowl. They were led by Mike Holmgren, who was trying to win with his second team.

The game itself had several controversial calls, and with the Steelers leading 14-10, Willie Parker ran for a 75-yard touchdown to ice the game. After 15 seasons, Coach Bill Cowher finally had his ring. The Steelers had their fifth Super Bowl win in six tries. Cowher would retire a year later. 21-10 Steelers.

Super Bowl XLI, 2006 –

The Colts finally got rid of the demons. They throttled the Patriots in the regular season and defeated them in one of the greatest AFC Title Games in history. From Raiders vs. Steelers to Cowboys vs. 49ers, the league was now Colts vs. Patriots.

The San Diego Chargers were 14-2, but like previous Marty Schottenheimer coached teams, the Chargers melted in the playoffs against the Patriots. An interception for a touchdown had the Patriots up 21-3 against the Colts, and it looked like the Colts were collapsing again. Manning throwing the ball was not getting it done, but Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes on the ground were chewing up yardage.

Time-consuming drives wore down the New England defense.

The game was tied at 21-21, 28-28, and 31-31. The Patriots took the lead 34-31, but this time Peyton Manning finally lived up to his legacy. Keeping the ball on the ground, Addai ran it in for a touchdown with exactly one minute left. Tom Brady led the final drive as Manning watched. Brady had won their playoff games. Not this time. He was intercepted, and the Colts won 38-34.

Indianapolis played the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. The NFC was awful that year, and any of the top four AFC teams would have been favored.

Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman was the most criticized at his position since Trent Dilfer in 2000. The Bears had the most electrifying return man in the history of the game in Devon Hester. Not since Billy “White Shoes” Johnson had a return man been so celebrated.

Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Bears led 7-0 seconds into the game. Tony Dungy and Manning stayed patient, and led 22-17 in the fourth quarter. Grossman had critical interceptions in the fourth quarter, with the last one being returned for a touchdown to ice the game. Playing in Miami rain, the mud did not stain Dungy and Manning’s ring. Culturally, Dungy and Bears Coach Lovie Smith offered the first Super Bowl with two black head coaches. The men embraced after the game. 29-17 Colts

Super Bowl XLII, 2007 – 

The preordained AFC Title Game was again supposed to be the Patriots and Colts. The Patriots regained the upper hand by adding Randy Moss to their potent offense. In the regular season, the Colts led 20-10 in the fourth quarter but the Patriots fought back and won 24-20. In the playoffs, Norvelous Norv Turner, backup quarterback Billy Volek, and the Chargers stunned the Colts 28-24. The Chargers lost to the Patriots.

The NFC featured even bigger shocks by the New York Giants. Led by no-nonsense coach Tom Coughlin and Peyton’s brother Eli Manning, Big Blue stunned superior opponents. The Giants defeated the 13-3 Cowboys 21-17, intercepting Tony Romo in the end zone on the final play. The Packers were also 13-3, and Brett Favre was favored to get back to the Super Bowl. The Giants defeated Green Bay 23-20 in overtime after Favre’s final pass as a Packer was intercepted.

The Giants and Patriots played in the regular-season finale in New York. The Patriots won a thriller 38-35. The Giants finished 10-6. More shockingly, the Patriots finished 16-0 and looked to make history. The 1972 Miami Dolphins nervously held their champagne bottles, knowing that their status as the only undefeated team in history at 17-0 was tenuous. The Patriots, thanks to a schedule lengthened in 1978, we’re shooting for 19-0. The Giants were looking to shock the world. An expected offensive shootout was a defensive slugfest.

Unknown David Tyree was the Giants’ fourth receiver.

When Manning found him for a five-yard touchdown pass, the Giants led 10-7 with 11 minutes remaining in the game. Brady was getting hit on every play, but led the Patriots 89 yards, eating up over eight minutes of clock.

On third down and goal, a touchdown pass to Moss put the Patriots up 14-10 with 2:42 remaining. The Giants took over at their own 17-yard line. On fourth and one from their own 37, battering ram Brandon Jacobs got the first down, and the Giants called their first timeout with 1:28 left. On third and five from the Giants 43 with 1:15 left, the NFL witnessed what may have been the greatest play in Super Bowl history. Manning was caught in the pocket. Two or three Patriots had a shot, and one had him by the Jersey for a certain sack. Manning somehow spun out and heaved the ball deep before being hit.

This was only half of the miracle play that could have forever been known as “the Scramble.” His Fran Tarkenton impersonation was fabulous, but the reception was even more spectacular. Tyree, with Rodney Harrison defending him perfectly, caught the ball against his helmet one-handed. Harrison tried to pry it loose, but somehow Tyree kept the ball lodged between his hand and his helmet. Going to the ground, the ball never touched the ground or came loose.

From the New England 14, Manning lobbed an end zone pass to Plaxico Burress.

Burress faked out Ellis Hobbs, who had intercepted Manning earlier. The touchdown with only 35 seconds remaining saw history smashed, obliterated, and poured upside down. It was sweet vindication for Coughlin, who was almost fired before the season, and for defensive standout Michael Strahan, who contemplated retirement before the season. Strahan retired after the game. Tyree was out of football a few years later but is forever known as the hero who made “the helmet catch.” 17-14 Giants.

For most of the first three decades, the Super Bowl trophy belonged to football royalty. The Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers all won multiple Super Bowls. After the millennium, new franchises finally reached the big game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won it all in 2002 and the Carolina Panthers reached the big game one year later. The end of the decade would see that trend continue as the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints finally reached the Super Bowl. Only one of them would be celebrating as the other suffered a gut-wrenching loss.

Super Bowl XLIII, 2008 –

The entire season was crazy. Records meant nothing. Tom Brady went down for the season in Week 1 with a knee injury. The Patriots went 11-5, but missed the playoffs. The 12-4 Colts entered the playoffs having won nine straight but lost their wild-card game to the 8-8 Chargers. The top three NFC seeds, the 12-4 Giants, 11-5 Panthers, and 10-6 Vikings all lost.

The top AFC seeded 13-3 Tennessee Titans were led by Kerry Collins, who took over in Week 1 from an injured Vince Young. Three teams reached the playoffs with rookie head coaches. The Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens also possessed rookie quarterbacks. The 2007 1-15 Dolphins improved to 11-5 in 2008 under team President Bill Parcells. Nobody went 16-0, but the Detroit Lions became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16.

The AFC Title Game saw a brutal defensive bone lock between the Pittsburgh Steelers and their arch-nemesis Ravens, who had knocked off Tennessee in a head-crusher 13-10. The Steelers led 16-14 late when their star safety Troy Palomalu ran an interception back 40 yards to ice the game.

The NFC Title Game featured a pair of nine-win teams. The 9-7 Cardinals finished 2-4 down the stretch before shocking the Falcons at home and the Panthers on the road. The Eagles were 5-5-1 before surging and finishing 9-6-1. They beat the Vikings and stunned the defending champion Giants, both on the road. In the NFC Title Game, the Cardinals led 24-6. The Eagles came back to lead 25-24 but the Cardinals finished the scoring for a gritty 32-25 win.

The Cardinals benched Matt Leinart before the season and Kurt Warner led the Greatest Show in the Desert.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt was passed over for the Pittsburgh job in favor of the current coach Mike Tomlin. The Cardinals made their first Super Bowl appearance, and the Steelers wanted to be the first team to win six rings. On the last play of the half with the Cardinals going in for a touchdown to take the lead, Warner had a pass intercepted by James Harrison and returned 100 yards for a touchdown.

Warner rallied the Cardinals with a slant pass to Larry Fitzgerald that went for a 64-yard touchdown. Fitzgerald looked at himself on the jumbotron as the Cardinals had the lead 23-20 with under three minutes to play. Big Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers. With about one minute to go, Roethlisberger fired to the corner of the end zone over three defenders. Santonio Holmes made a ridiculous ballet catch where he somehow got both feet down in bounds. The Cardinals had one final shot, but Warner was hit and fumbled. Mike Tomlin became the youngest head coach to win a ring at age 34. 27-23 Steelers.

Super Bowl XLIV, 2009 –

This was the first year since 1993 where both top seeds made it to the show. It was also the first time where two teams started 13-0. In the NFC, the Saints lost their final three games to finish 13-3. The AFC Colts got to 14-0 before benching players and finishing 14-2. Colts President Bill Polian deliberately decided not to chase 16-0, preferring to ignore history and get players healthy.

In the AFC, the 9-7 New York Jets under Rex Ryan shocked Norv Turner’s 13-3 San Diego Chargers 17-14. The Jets led 17-6 in the AFC Title Game before Peyton Manning and the offense got going as the Colts won 30-17.

In the NFC, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals beat the Packers 51-45 in an overtime thriller. The Saints dispatched the Cardinals 45-14 and faced off against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Title Game. The Gunslinger and his offense outplayed the Saints, but six turnovers killed the Vikings. With the Vikings in long field goal range with seconds to play in a tie game, Favre rolled out and threw across his body to the middle of the field. For the second time in three years with twi different teams, Favre’s last NFC Title Game pass was an interception. In overtime, the Saints won 31-28 after some very controversial calls.

The Saints and Drew Brees were a feel-good story centered around Hurricane Katrina.

Sean Payton was coaching his first Super Bowl. The Colts were a corporate machine. Rookie head coach Jim Caldwell stuck with the successful Tony Dungy model. Manning was looking to be the greatest quarterback of all time. The Colts took a 10-0 first-quarter lead and led 10-6 at halftime.

Sean Payton called an onside kick to start the second half, the first time an onside kick had been called in a Super Bowl before the fourth quarter. Payton was rewarded for his bold move. From the Saints’ 42, Brees quickly got it done, hitting Marquis Colston for a 16-yard touchdown and a 13-10 Saints lead.

The Saints held the ball for 12 1/2 minutes in the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter. A see-saw game saw the Colts up 17-16 when Indianapolis missed a very long field goal. In the fourth quarter, Brees hit Jeremy Shockey for the two-yard touchdown as the two-point conversion put the Saints up 24-17.

With 3 1/2 minutes to go, the Colts faced third and five from the Saints 31.

Manning was destined to tie the game 24-24. Perhaps the Super Bowl would go to overtime for the first time. Manning was about to create a Super Bowl memory. Unfortunately for him and Colts fans, it was a bitter one.

Manning was intercepted by Tracy Porter. Manning tried to make the tackle, but unlike a two-time Super Bowl winner who made one in 2005 to preserve a win and beat the Colts, Manning is not a tackler. Porter was off to the races, pumping his fists as the French Quarter erupted in celebration. The only turnover of the game had the Colts needing a miracle.

Manning rallied the Colts, but on fourth and goal from the five, his pass to Reggie Wayne at the goal line was dropped. MVP Brees finished a ridiculous 32 for 39 for 288 yards. The 32 completions tied a Super Bowl record. The Saints’ first championship lifted up the entire Gulf region. 31-17 Saints.

Super Bowl XLV, 2010 –

The early preseason favorite Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings collapsed and their coaches got fired. Brett Favre did not repeat the magic carpet ride of the previous year as his 20th and final season was brutal. Favre’s understudy Aaron Rodgers flourished in Green Bay. Despite devastating injuries, the Packers closed strong to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs as the lowest seed. The Seattle Seahawks were the first team to win their division with a losing 7-9 record. The Seahawks won their opening playoff game when they eliminated the defending champion New Orleans Saints but fell to Chicago. Green Bay became the first sixth seed in the NFC to ever win three road games. They intercepted Michael Vick with seconds to play to beat the Eagles 21-16 throttling the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons 48-21.

They beat their archrival Chicago Bears 21-14 in an NFC Title Game not as close as the score indicated.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots continued their winning tradition by finishing 14-2. The Indianapolis Colts struggled but finished strong to barely make the playoffs at 10-6. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens split a pair of defensive head knockers, both finishing 12-4 with Pittsburgh winning the tie-breaker.

The lowest seed for the second straight season was the New York Jets, and Rex Ryan insisted they would run the table on the road.

The Jets backed up their talk, stunning the Colts and Peyton Manning in Indy on the final play 17-16. Then the Jets went to New England, where several weeks earlier they had lost 45-3. The Jets shocked the Patriots 28-21. For the second straight year, the Jets reached the AFC Title Game.

New York played at Pittsburgh, who won another tough playoff battle over the Ravens 31-24. Several weeks earlier the Jets went into Pittsburgh and won 22-17. This time the Steelers jumped to a 24-0 lead and withstood a furious Jets comeback to hang on for a gritty 24-19 win.

With Vince Lombardi and Art Rooney in heaven, a pair of the most storied NFL franchises competed against each other. The 1960s Packers won five NFL Championships including two Super Bowls. The 1970s Steelers won four Super Bowls. The Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996 and lost it in 1997. The Steelers lost one in 1995, then won it in 2005 and 2008. The Steelers were seeking to become the first team to win seven Super Bowls.

The Packers jumped to a 21-3 but only led 21-17 after three quarters.

With the Steelers driving for the lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, Rashard Mendenhall was blasted by Clay Matthews, resulting in a fumble that led to a 28-17 Packers lead. The Steelers closed to 28-25 and Aaron Rodgers tried to run out the clock. The Pittsburgh defense held Green Bay to a field goal. Roethlisberger had one final chance to be the hero. He led the winning drive three years earlier, but this time the two-minute drill went nowhere and the Packers held on defense.

Mike McCarthy joined Mike Holmgren and Vince Lombardi in having a street named after him. MVP Aaron Rodgers escaped the shadow of Favre and etched his own legacy. While Roethlisberger and Rodgers would reach the playoffs many times in the decade after this game, neither one got back to the Super Bowl.

Charles Woodson played in the Super Bowl eight years earlier with a broken leg in a loss.

This time he broke his collarbone in the first half and watched the second half from the sidelines. His fiery halftime speech was one part of a game that led him after 13 years to finally being a champion. He promised the Packers would go to the White House to visit the president, a Bears fan. With the win, the Packers got their trip to the Oval Office. 31-25 Packers

The turn of the century featured some thrilling Super Bowls and some bizarre phenomena. There was Tebowmania and David Tyree’s helmet catching. The winning touchdown in one Super Bowl was scored by accident. On the sad side, some original owners passed away. It was the end of an era as Al Davis of the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders, Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, and Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens departed.

Super Bowl XLVI, 2011 —

This was 2007 all over again. The New York Giants were 7-7 and Tom Coughlin was on the hot seat. In the last week of the season, the Giants defeated the archrival Dallas Cowboys to win the division and eke into the playoffs at 9-7. They crushed the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons 24-2. Then they shocked the 15-1 defending champion Green Bay Packers 37-20. The Giants won a defensive overtime slugfest against the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers 20-17 in the NFC Title Game. San Francisco return man Kyle Williams fumbled one punt in the fourth quarter and another in overtime that allowed the outplayed Giants to survive.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots were 13-3 and the top seed for the second straight year.

They crushed the 8-8 Denver Broncos and ended Tebowmania for the year. The Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers all finished 8-8, but Denver won the tie-breaker as the Tim Tebow story cast aside the story of the death of Al Davis.

In the AFC Title Game, New England and the Baltimore Ravens played a thriller. The Patriots trailed 20-16 and faced fourth and goal at the one in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady leapt over the top to put the Patriots in front. With seconds left in the game, the Ravens with Joe Flacco thought they had the winning touchdown pass. Lee Evans had it in is hands. At the last moment, Patriots defender Sterling Moore chopped it out.
Moore began the year on the Raiders practice squad. Now he was a hero on his way to the Super Bowl. The Ravens still could have tied the game, but Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed saw their trip to the Super Bowl wash away as the Patriots’ 23-20 victory was yet another three-point win in a decade of three-point victories.

The Giants and Patriots met in the regular season in New England.

A 0-0 game at the half became a quarterback thriller late. Brady put the Patriots ahead by three points with only 1:36 remaining. That was enough for Eli Manning. Rather than play for the tie, Manning passed the Giants to a 24-20 win in front of a stunned home crowd.

The Patriots led the Super Bowl rematch 17-15 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining when a third-down pass from Brady to Wes Welker was catchable but high and incomplete. Welker could have all but sealed the game. Instead, the Giants took a lead with the strangest touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Ahmad Bradshaw was supposed to stop at the one-yard line so the Giants could bleed the clock.

The Patriots were letting him score, and Bradshaw tried to stop but fell backward into the end zone. The Giants had the lead but Brady still had over one minute to work another miracle. On the final play of the game, Brady’s Hail Mary reached the end zone and hung in the air forever before falling incomplete.

Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl ring and surpassed older brother Peyton in the house that Peyton built, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Tom Coughlin over several weeks went from the verge of the unemployment line to a legitimate contender for the Hall of Fame. With his second ring, Coughlin tied his former boss Bill “The Tuna” Parcells. 21-17 Giants.

Super Bowl XLVII, 2012 —

Three of the four teams from the previous year’s Conference Title Games returned. In the NFC, the 49ers were at the Atlanta Falcons and trailed 17-0 at halftime. The 49ers mounted a furious rally and led by four points late when the Falcons drove to the San Francisco 10 yard line in the closing seconds. With everything on the line, the 49ers held on defense for the 28-24 win.

In the AFC, Peyton Manning was now with the Denver Broncos. Denver led the Baltimore Ravens 35-28 with barely more than 30 seconds to play. The Ravens needed a miracle and got one. Joe Flacco threw a 70-yard bomb that was completed to Jacoby Jones when the defender mistimed the jump. In double overtime, an interception of Manning led to the winning field goal for Baltimore 38-35.

The AFC Title Game was a rematch, again in New England. The Patriots led 13-7 at halftime, but this time there would be no suspense. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and the Baltimore Ravens defense took the Patriots and hit them in the mouth for a 28-13 win.

The Super Bowl was the “Harbowl,” since Ravens coach John Harbaugh and 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh are brothers.

When Jacoby Jones returned the second-half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, the Ravens were cruising with a 28-6 lead. Then things got bizarre as the power went out in the stadium.

After a 34-minute delay, the momentum changed and the 49ers clawed back to within five points with a chance to win it. Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Baltimore five-yard line. Four chances yielded nothing as the Ravens survived a thriller. To avoid a blocked punt, the Ravens gave up an intentional safety to preserve the win. Ray Lewis retired after the game and Ed Reed played his final game for Baltimore by going out on top. 34-31 Ravens

Super Bowl XLVIII, 2013 —

It was supposed to be the game of the year, but Super Bowl XLVIII turned out to be a giant mismatch. Only a few weeks after the Seahawks beat up Eli Manning and the Giants, they returned to Metlife Stadium in the greater New York metropolitan area and humiliated his older brother Peyton. The Seahawks barely survived the NFC Title Game against their hated rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. Late in the game, the 49ers trailed 23-17 and were only a few yards from the winning touchdown. Colin Kaepernick went to the end zone for Michael Crabtree. Richard Sherman made a spectacular tip on the ball to his teammate Malcolm Smith, who intercepted it to lock up the win.

In the AFC Title Game, Peyton Manning finally out-dueled Tom Brady again as the Denver Broncos took a 23-3 lead over the New England Patriots after three quarters and hung on to win 26-16. The Super Bowl itself began awkwardly when Super Bowl III hero Joe Namath flipped the coin before the calling of heads or tails by Denver. His flub was quickly forgotten by a flub once the game began.

Seattle lowered the Legion of Boom on Denver’s offense on the first play from scrimmage and never let up.

From the Denver 14-yard line, confusion at the snap caused the ball to be snapped high over Peyton Manning’s head for a safety. The Seahawks led 2-0 only 12 seconds into the game. After the free kick, Steve Hauschka hit field goals from 31 and 33 yards out to make it 8-0 Seahawks. The first quarter would end with the Broncos having only one-yard rushing and zero first downs.

In the second quarter after Denver nearly fumbled it away, on the next play Manning was intercepted by safety Kam Chancellor, setting Seattle up at the Denver 37. Defensive pass interference on Denver led to Marshawn Lynch banging in from one yard out to make it 15-0 Seahawks.

Manning finally got the offense going with an eight-minute drive. On third and 13 from the Seattle 35, Manning was hit by Cliff Avril as he threw the ball. The previous week’s hero Malcolm Smith intercepted it and raced 69 yards for a touchdown as the Seahawks had a 22-0 lead over the shell-shocked Broncos with only 3 1/2 minutes left in the half.

The previous year after the Super Bowl second-half kickoff was returned for a touchdown, the lights were turned out due to an electrical problem in the Superdome. This year, a short kickoff was deliberately done to avoid Percy Harvin. Harvin took it on a high bounce, broke tackles, and raced 87 yards for a touchdown. Just like in the first half, it took exactly 12 seconds into the second half for the Seahawks to score. The 29-0 lead did not affect the electricity, but this time it was the Seahawks who turned out the lights.

Manning went deep to Denarius Thomas, but Thomas had the ball chopped out of his hands.

Malcolm Smith recovered the fumble. From the Denver 23, a short pass to Jermaine Kearse went for a touchdown when five Denver defenders forgot how to tackle. The Broncos had mailed it in as the Seahawks led 36-0. The Broncos avoided the shutout but gave up one more touchdown as well. The 35-point blowout was tied for the third-largest margin in Super Bowl history. Manning lost his second Super Bowl to go with to his one victory. He is still one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but discussion of him as the very best was put on hold.

The 2013 Legion of Boom Seahawks defense will not rank with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens, or the Steel Curtain of the 1970s, but they are now in the history books. The Pacific Northwest saw the Seahawks win its first Vince Lombardi Trophy in two trips while the Broncos became the first NFL team to lose five Super Bowls to go along with their two wins.

Pete Carroll became the third coach to win championships at the college and NFL levels. Carroll was given two Gatorade baths by his players instead of one. In one of many postgame interviews, the joyful Carroll said,

“We’re not sleeping tonight. This party is getting started as soon as you guys let me go.

Malcolm Smith became the third linebacker to win the MVP trophy. Russell Wilson became the fourth quarterback to win the Super Bowl in his first two seasons. A bizarre moment occurred during Smith’s postgame interview when a deranged man seized the microphone and yelled that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the American government. Smith remained relaxed and mentioned that somebody should “check his press pass.”

The normally loquacious Richard Sherman, who created a storm after Seattle won the NFC Title Game, was very relaxed and mellow after the Super Bowl. He knows that Manning likes to simulate defenses in practice, but pointed out that it is tough to simulate the speed and aggression of the Seattle defense. He refused to call the Seahawks the best defense ever, simply saying he was glad they were even in that conversation mix. When asked if he was the best cornerback in the league right now, he smiled and said, “Yes, sir.” The normally quiet Marshawn Lynch remained that way. 43-8 Seahawks.

Super Bowl XLIX, 2014 —

The NFC playoffs were pure chaos.  ( NFL 2014 NFC Playoff Permutations, Combinations and Predictions)  Detroit Lions totally outplayed the Dallas Cowboys in the Wildcard round but lost when Calvin Johnson’s winning catch was ruled a non-catch. Johnson soon retired. The Cowboys totally outplayed the Green Bay Packers but lost in the Divisional round. In the NFC Title Game, the Packers dominated the Seattle Seahawks but somehow lost. With 5 minutes left the Packers led 19-7 as Russell Wilson was intercepted for the fourth time. Yet the Seahawks finally scored to get within 19-14. On the onside kick, a Packers player who was supposed to just block tried to field the ball. He fumbled it and the Seahawks recovered.

The Seahawks took a 22-19, and Aaron Rodgers in the final seconds led a drive for a field goal to send the game into overtime. Wilson threw his third touchdown pass in 5 minutes as the Seahawks won a stunner 28-22. Rodgers after the game said the Packers would take the loss to the graves. The guy who fumbled the onside kick was cut.

The AFC was supposed to be Manning and Brady again.

But the Denver Broncos were stunned at home by Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 24-13. Broncos coach John Fox, despite being in the Super Bowl one year earlier, was fired after the game. In the AFC Title Game, the New England Patriots carpet-bombed the Colts 45-7. After the game, a scandal involving deflated footballs would engulf the Patriots for two years.

The Seahawks had a 24-14 lead after three quarters. Seattle faced a critical 3rd and 2 at the Patriots 47. Wilson went deep and had Jermaine Kearse for a long gain, but Kearse dropped the ball. Seattle missed a chance to turn out the lights as the game went to the fourth quarter. Brady led two touchdown drives to give the Patriots the 28-24 lead with 2:02 to play.

From the New England 38, Wilson went deep to Jermaine Kearse.

Kearse was well-covered, but he bobbled the ball and made a juggling catch that was every bit as ridiculous as the David Tyree miracle in this same stadium seven years ago. Tom Brady could only watch helplessly as the Seahawks had the ball at the New England 5 yard line with 1:06 to play. Lynch got the carry and gained 4 yards down to the one, and now it was Bill Belichick who inexplicably refused to take a timeout. With 26 seconds to play, the entire world expected Beast Mode to get the carry. Instead, from the shotgun, Wilson threw a slant pass over the middle that was intercepted in the end zone.

A stunned Seattle defense and the entire 12th man looked in disbelief. Seahawks Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell was nearly burned in effigy. Seattle missed out on becoming a dynasty. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and big fat Vince Wilfork won their fourth Super Bowl in six tries over the last fourteen years. 28-24 Patriots

Super Bowl L, 2015 —

In the NFC, the Carolina Panthers started 14-0 and finished the season 15-1. They smashed everything in their path, including a 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Title Game. In the AFC, the New England Patriots started 10-0 but went 2-4 down the stretch with a patchwork offensive line. The Denver Broncos also went 12-4. The Broncos had a home-field advantage in the AFC Title Game because they had beaten the Patriots in the regular season.

Peyton Manning missed several games with an injured foot, and Brock Osweiler led the stirring comeback win over the Patriots. In the regular-season finale with the offense lethargic, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak benched Osweiler and brought Manning back in. In the AFC Title Game, a missed extra point had the Patriots trailing 20-12 instead of 20-13. Tom Brady led a stirring comeback in the final seconds. On 4th and goal, he threw the touchdown pass. However, forced to go for a 2 point conversion, Brady’s pass bounced wildly in the air and was intercepted. The Broncos survived 20-18 as Michelin Man Wade Philips’s defense got the job done. After the game, Manning hugged rival coach Bill Belichick and said this might be his “last rodeo.”

Joe Montana tossed the coin.

Despite breezing through the season, Cam Newton was harassed in the Super Bowl by a Denver defense led by Von Miller.

Nevertheless, the Panthers were only down 16-10 with a full four minutes left in the game. From deep in their own territory. Newton went back to pass and had the ball knocked out of his hand again. Newton had a chance to dive on it and backed away. Perhaps he thought it was an incomplete pass. Denver recovered at the Carolina five-yard line. On 3rd and goal, Manning threw high and incomplete. Yet in a game where the Panthers made far too many mistakes, the last one killed them. Defensive holding meant 1st and goal at the two. On the next play, Anderson got the carry and stretched just past the plane of the goal. to lock up the win.

Von Miller was named the game’s MVP.

Peyton Manning won his 200th game, breaking a tie he held with Brett Favre. Favre was elected to the Hall of Fame one day earlier. Manning did retire after the game and entered the Hall of Fame in 2021. John Elway got his first win as an executive two years after a nightmarish loss in the big game. It was the third Super Bowl win in Broncos history against five defeats. The Panthers lost in the big game for the second time, having yet to win one. Both Manning brothers Peyton and Eli won two Super Bowls. Peyton Manning also lost twice in the big game. Elway’s backup quarterback Gary Kubiak was now a Super Bowl-winning head coach. Former head coach and beloved defensive coordinator Wade Phillips got his first ring after 38 years of coaching.

In a beautiful tribute of things coming full circle, Elway mentioned owner Pat Bowlen, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Two decades after Bowlen shouted, “This one’s for John,” Elway held up the trophy and thundered, “This one’s for Pat.” Like Elway, Manning went out on top. 24-10 Broncos.

Super Bowl LI, 2016 —

The Atlanta Falcons played the New England Patriots in the 51st Super Bowl. After the 2015 boring slugfest, Super Bowl LI in 2016 will be talked about until the end of time itself. The 11-5 Falcons were in the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. The 14-2 Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl a record ninth time. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were appearing in their seventh Super Bowl, having won four of their previous six appearances. Brady was suspended for the first four games of the season due to his role in the Deflategate scandal from two years earlier. He entered with a determination to prove he could win games honestly. This was expected to be a Patriots coronation.

From the Houston stadium where the Texans play, President George Herbert Walker Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush came out for the coin toss. Despite being in a wheelchair, Bush 41 flipped the coin to loud raucous cheers from fans and players on both teams. The Bushes are beloved in their home city of Houston, and it was a very classy display by the fans.

In the second quarter, Brady fired over the middle and never saw Robert Alford.

Alford jumped the route and returned the interception 82 yards for a touchdown. In front of the world, the Falcons led 21-0. With 8 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Falcons were winning a 28-3 laugher. By the end of the game, nobody would be laughing. Football fans worldwide would be gasping for air.

The Patriots needed more than a miracle. They needed several miracles. On a day when virtually nothing was going right for the Patriots, even after they scored a touchdown Stephen Gostkowski doinked the extra point off the upright no good. The Patriots were down 28-9 after three quarters. All the Falcons had to do was grind down the clock and they were Super Bowl champions. Call it lack of experience or bad luck. Call it terrible play-calling. What happened in the fourth quarter will be dissected forever.

Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator called Atlanta’s plays.

Throughout the game, he had Ryan taking snaps out of the shotgun. Matty Ice had a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating entering the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter up by 19, some coaches get attacked for being too conservative. Yet Shanahan went in the other direction. He went beyond aggressive to the point of recklessness. Several mind-numbing calls deserve to be scrutinized. As for the Falcons themselves, one field goal at any point in the fourth quarter would have iced the game. On 2nd and 1 from the New England 32, the Falcons were in field goal range. Then came offensive holding followed by a sack and a punt. A Patriots field goal got them within 28-12. They needed more miracles.

The Falcons soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 36 with 8 1/2 minutes left. All the Falcons had to do was run the ball straight up the middle. If they convert, the clock keeps grinding down. If they get stopped, they punt. It was the simplest decision in the world. Kyle Shanahan called a pass play. This was a horrendous decision because an incompletion would stop the clock. An incompletion would have been less of a disaster than what actually happened. Ryan went back to pass, was sacked for an 11-yard loss, and fumbled the ball.

The Patriots recovered at the Atlanta 25. The Atlanta defense had been heroes all game, and the offense was trying to give the game away. The Patriots after a touchdown and two-point conversion were within 28-20.

NFL MVP Matt Ryan still had the lead and a chance to put the game away. The Falcons had 2nd and 11 at the New England 23. Less than four minutes remained on the clock. All the Falcons had to do was run the ball, kick a short field goal, and win the game. Without doing anything, they were in position for a 40-yard try. Then Kyle Shanahan called another mindless play.

It was deja vu all over again. Ryan went back deep and was sacked for a 12-yard loss to set up 3rd and 23. A field goal try would be 53 yards, still very much in Bryant’s range. A run that gained nothing would still give Bryant a chance to finally put the game away. Bryant never got the chance. Shanahan called another pass play and offensive holding killed the Falcons. They punted, and the Patriots moved 91 yards to get the touchdown and two-point conversion. For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl was going to overtime.


The road to Super Bowl (54) LIV: Preview and Bettor’s Guide


The Falcons needed one break, and none were coming. The Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime. The only break would be that of the backs of the Atlanta defense. Brady put on a clinic. Four minutes into overtime, a two-yard touchdown pass ended things. The greatest collapse in Super Bowl history came courtesy of 31 unanswered points. Brady threw an NFL record 62 passes. He completed 43 of them for an NFL record 466 yards. Brady and Belichick became the first player and coaches to win 5 Super Bowls. Brady became the first player to be the Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time. 34-28 Patriots, OT

Super Bowl LII, 2017 —

The NFC Playoffs featured a pair of late-game heroics in the Divisional round, including a play for the ages. In one Divisional game, the New Orleans Saints overcame a 17-0 deficit to take a 24-23 over the Minnesota Vikings in Minnesota. The Vikings had the ball on their own 39-yard line. The hope was for a long completion to set up a winning field goal try. Case Keenum fired a sideline pass to Stefan Diggs. The defender mistimed the jump. Rather than go out of bounds, Diggs maintained his balance and raced all the way for the touchdown. The Vikings won 29-24 as the announcer screamed about the game that will forever be known as the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

In the other Divisional games, the Eagles led 15-10 over the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. With less than one minute to play, the Falcons moved to 1st and goal inside the 10. The Eagles defense forced 4 straight incompletions, including a fourth-down scare where Julio Jones slipped. The NFC Title Game was less eventful as the Eagles throttled the Vikings 38-7 to deny the Vikings a chance to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.

The AFC Champion New England Patriots were trying to win an NFL tying sixth Super Bowl.

The Patriots had a scare at home in the AFC Title Game. They faced a Jacksonville Jaguars team that outplayed the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42 in Pittsburgh in a game that was not as close as the final score. The Jaguars team President was Tom Coughlin, who had beaten the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl when he coached the Giants. The Jaguars led 20-10 in the fourth quarter but could not close out the game. A combination of their inexperience and Tom Brady’s deep experience allows the Patriots at home to survive 24-20.

The NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles lost to these Patriots in the Super Bowl 13 years ago when the men in Kelly green were led by third-generation West Coast Offense guru Walrus Lite Andy Reid. Now it was “little Andy,” fourth-generation West Coast Offense guru Doug Pederson, leading the Eagles.

Backup Nick Foles had an electric 2013 season under Reid, with 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

Yet soon after that he regressed and was practically out of football. He returned in 2017 as a clear backup. When starter and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz went down with an injury late in the season, Foles had to be the next Jeff Hostetler. He had to be the next Tom Brady, an unknown sixth-round pick in 2001 who only took the field when Drew Bledsoe was injured.

The Patriots had overcome a 28-3 deficit third-quarter deficit to win it all one year ago. They trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter three years ago before coming back to win it all. The Eagles had not won an NFL championship since 1960 when Chuck Bednarik gave Vince Lombardi’s Packers their only loss in an NFL Championship Game. This was a total mismatch. As ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman constantly reminds us, “That’s why they play the games.”

The Eagles stormed out to a 21-6 lead, but for the second year in a row, the Patriots came back.

The Patriots took their first lead of the game 33-32 with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

With 5 1/2 minutes left in a game with no defense, Doug Pederson made one of the boldest calls in Super Bowl history. He gambled on 4th and 1 from his own 45 and it paid off as Foles hit Zach Ertz for two yards. Foles would then throw a five-yard touchdown pass to Ertz. With 2:21 left, the Eagles led 38-33. The two-point try failed and Brady was in prime position for another comeback win.

On 2nd and 2 from their own 33 in a game with no defense, the Patriots finally became the victim of a defensive play. Brady had the ball knocked out of his hand by Brandon Graham. It bounced to Eagles defender Derek Barnett. 17 years after the Tuck Rule that started the Patriots dynasty, the referees were not able to bail out Brady this time. The entire world saw that when he finally moved his arm forward, it was with an empty hand. This fumble call stood. The Eagles kicked a field goal to lead by eight. Brady did get one more chance, but his Hail Mary to the end zone fell incomplete.

These teams combined for 1,151 yards, an NFL record not just for Super Bowls or playoffs but for any NFL game. Game MVP Foles finished with 373 yards passing and three touchdowns. Foles also caught a touchdown pass as well on a trick play now known as the “Philly Special.” The Eagles ran the ball for 164 yards and had 538 overall net yards of offense. Brady threw for a mind-blowing 505 yards and three touchdown passes. Had Brady’s Hail Mary been completed, he would have broken Norm Van Brocklin’s record of 554 yards passing in any NFL game. The Patriots had 613 years of total offense.

The Eagles finally had their first Super Bowl win after two prior losses, and their first NFL championship in 57 years.

The Patriots won five Super Bowls but have lost five as well. It was the third Super Bowl loss with Belichick and Brady at the helm. In a bizarre move that will be questioned, Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler did not play a single snap on defense. He was the hero of the Patriots Super Bowl win three years earlier with his goal-line interception. This year before the game he was crying during the national anthem. Apparently, he got the news right before the game that he would not play on defense. He did play on special teams. There was no explanation given for his benching other than a terse statement by Belichick that it was not a disciplinary issue. Butler’s replacement was torched most of the game. 41-33 Eagles.

Super Bowl LIII, 2018 —

These playoffs saw all the Wildcards go down in flames as the top two seeds from each conference reached the Conference Title Games. Both Conference Title Games were rematches of regular-season thrillers. In the NFC, the Rams fell behind the Saints 35-14 in the regular season, came back to tie the game 35-35, and saw the Saints close it out 45-35 in New Orleans. The NFC Title Game was also in New Orleans. The Saints took a 13-0 lead but the Rams fought back.

At the two-minute warning with the game tied 20-20, officials missed a blatant defensive pass interference call on the Rams.

Had it been called, the Saints could have taken the clock down and kicked the winning field goal. Instead, they went ahead 23-20 but still left time on the clock. The Rams led an inspired late drive, tied the game in regulation, and won it in thrilling fashion in overtime when Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein leveled a 57-yard field goal. In only their second season together, Sean McVay, Jared Goff, and Todd Gurley were going to the big game. It was a bitter home defeat for Sean Payton and Drew Brees.

The Patriots finished 11-5 and reached the AFC Title Game for the eighth straight year, an NFL record.

However, a shocking 34-33 road loss at the Miami Dolphins proved costly. The Dolphins won on some crazy laterals that included everything but the Stanford Marching Band. That game cost New England home-field throughout the playoffs. In the regular season in New England, the Patriots led the Kansas City Chiefs 24-9 at halftime. The Chiefs now had a phenom at quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and big-time playmakers like Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs rallied to tie the game 40-40 with 2 minutes left, but that was more than enough time for Tom Brady.

Stephen Gostkowski kicked the winning field goal at the gun for a 43-40 Patriots win.

The rematch was in Kansas City, which did have a home-field advantage. New England dominated early, taking leads of 14-0 and 17-7. The first three quarters were a slog. The fourth quarter was an epic shootout. Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 28-24 lead only to see Brady put the Patriots up 31-28 with only 39 seconds left. That was enough time for Mahomes to put them in position for a tying field goal and a 31-31 game headed to overtime. The Patriots won the coin toss and the Chiefs never saw the ball. A touchdown meant a 37-31 Patriots victory. They were heading to an NFL record 11th Super Bowl.

Despite a bevy of offensive playmakers on both sides of the ball, this was the lowest Super Bowl score in history.

The Patriots led 6-3 in the fourth quarter. Brady finally found Rob Gronkowski for the game’s only touchdown. In desperation mode down by two scores, a field goal attempt by the Rams with seconds left was no good. The Patriots won their sixth and last Super Bowl under Belichick and Brady. The following year the Patriots were knocked out of the playoffs before reaching the AFC Title Game.

Brady then left the team for Tampa Bay, where he would win a Super Bowl without Belichick. The Rams regressed and McVay traded away Gurley and Goff. With a different team, McVay got the Rams back to the Super Bowl in 2021. After the 2018 Super Bowl loss, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips retired after over 40 years in coaching. 13-3 Patriots.

Super Bowl LIV, 2019 —

After eight straight appearances, the New England Patriots were not in the AFC Title Game. The Tennessee Titans were led by Bill Belichick’s disciple Mike Vrabel. The Titans went on the road and hit the Patriots in the mouth 20-13. The Titans then on the road shocked the 14-2 Baltimore Ravens 28-12. Yet the third road game was too much and the Titans lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 35-24. The Chiefs had a ridiculous offense that scored at will. After falling behind at home to the Houston Texans 24-0 in the first quarter, the Chiefs were already ahead 28-24 at the half. The Chiefs destroyed the Texans 51-31, outscoring them 51-7 down the stretch. One year after falling just short in the AFC Title Game, the Chiefs hosted the game again and won.

The Chiefs lost the first Super Bowl in 1966 and won the fourth Super Bowl in 1969.

Exactly 50 years after winning their only Super Bowl, the Chiefs were back in the big game for the third time. The Chiefs had Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce leading their pinball offense.

The 49ers won four Super Bowls in the 1980s and a fifth Super Bowl in 1994.

They lost the Super Bowl in 2012 and were back in it for the seventh time. These teams were built completely differently. The Chiefs came in with a high-flying offense. The 49ers were built with defense. One year after going 4-12, a healthy Jimmy Garoppolo benefitted from a trio of running backs including Deebo Samuel and an imposing tight end in George Kittle. The 49ers stormed through two home playoff games, crushing the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers by identical 17 point margins.

Both coaches were desperate to exorcise playoff demons. Walrus Lite Andy Reid had been to the Conference Title Game seven times. He lost five of those games as well as the 2004 Super Bowl. Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls, but his son Kyle presided over the biggest collapse in Super Bowl history. As the offensive coordinator for the 2016 Atlanta Falcons 2016, his play-calling allowed the Falcons to blow a 28-3 third-quarter lead. Atlanta lost that game to the Patriots 34-28 in overtime.

The San Francisco defense bottled up Mahomes in ways he had never experienced before.

After three quarters, the 49ers led 20-10. Yet for the second time in four years, Shanahan’s stubborn refusal to run the ball in the fourth quarter with the lead was his undoing. In the NFC Title Game, Garoppolo only threw the ball eight times. In the Super Bowl, Shanahan kept calling passes and Garoppolo was not delivering. Mahomes hit Kelce for a touchdown with six minutes left and Darrell Williams for another touchdown to give the Chiefs the 24-20 lead with 2:44 to play.

With 1:40 left on 3rd and 10 from midfield, Shanahan decided to go for it all. Garoppolo went for the bomb and had an open receiver. The winning touchdown pass would add to the list of 49ers’ quarterbacks and Super Bowl heroics. It was not to be. The ball was overthrown for Garoppolo’s third straight incompletion. On 4th and 10 with 1:25 left, Garoppolo was sacked. The 49ers still had all three timeouts. A defensive stop would give them another chance. Instead, Williams ran for a 38-yard touchdown to ice the game.

A 21-0 Chiefs barrage in the final six minutes including two touchdowns in the final three minutes completely turned around the game.

Mahomes was the MVP. Both coaches came in obsessed with passing the ball, but the winning coach adapted. Shanahan played too conservative at the end of the first half and was for the second time in four years far too aggressive late in the game. Andy Reid was aggressive early but pounded the rock when necessary. After 21 years, Reid finally became a Super Bowl-winning head coach. He was no longer Walrus Lite. With the win, the future Hall of Fame coach was finally been upgraded to full walrus status. After 50 years, the Chiefs matched Hank Stram and Len Dawson. The 100th NFL season was now in the history books. 31-20 Chiefs.

Super Bowl LV, 2020 —

After 20 years and six Super Bowl championships with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady left the team and the conference to join the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2020 offseason. Brady led the Buccaneers to an 11-5 record and a Wildcard birth. The Buccaneers would have to win three road playoff games to get to the Super Bowl. In the Wildcard game, the heavily favored Buccaneers faced a surprisingly strong challenge at Taylor Heinicke and the Washington Redskins. The Buccaneers survived 31-23. In the Divisional Round, the Buccaneers faced their NFC South rival. The Saints swept the Buccaneers in the regular season, including humiliating them 38-3 in Tampa.

After three straight agonizing playoff losses on the final play including the Minneapolis Miracle, the Saints appeared to be the complete team ready for the Super Bowl. The Saints led 20-13, but a hail of uncharacteristic turnovers cost them as the Buccaneers won 30-20. Saints quarterback Drew Brees retired after the game, and coach Sean Payton left the team one year later.

In the NFC Title Game, the Buccaneers led the Packers in Green Bay 31-23. With five minutes left from eight yards out, Packers coach Matt LaFleur chose to kick a field goal rather than let Aaron Rodgers try and tie the game. The Packers never got the ball back as Brady ran out the clock for the 31-26 Buccaneers win. The Buccaneers were going to their second Super Bowl in team history. Brady was going to his 10th Super Bowl, his first one outside of New England.


Tom Brady, who lost three Super Bowls, quits football


In the AFC, the Steelers started 11-0 but collapsed down the stretch to finish 12-4. In their home Wildcard playoff game against 11-5 Cleveland, the Browns took a 28-0 lead and held on for a 48-37 win. The Browns had won their first playoff game since 1994. After ending their 26-year drought, they went to Kansas City and gave the Chiefs a surprisingly tough contest. Yet the Chiefs hung on in the Divisional matchup 22-17. The Buffalo Bills won their division for the first time since 1995 and reached the AFC Title Game for the first time since 1993. The Bills and Browns were both feel-good stories that were outmatched by Kansas City.

The Chiefs romped over the Buffalo Bills 38-24 in the AFC Title Game. The Chiefs had hosted the AFC Title Game for three straight years under Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. They were in their second straight Super Bowl, but it came at a cost. Mahomes suffered a toe injury in the win over Cleveland that was aggravated in the win over Buffalo. Even worse, the Chiefs lost both starting tackles in the AFC Title Game. After having a healthy offensive line for three seasons, Mahomes would play in the Super Bowl behind a patchwork offensive line.

The Super Bowl was played in Tampa, marking the first time a team playing in the Big Game would do so on their home field.

Whether home field played a role, the injuries to the Chiefs certainly did. The Buccaneers’ defense was not as legendary as their 2002 team, but they were very fast. The Chiefs became the third team in Super Bowl history not to score a single touchdown. The game was never really competitive. The Buccaneers led 21-6 at the half and put the game away in the third quarter. Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians at age 68 became the oldest coach to win a Super Bowl. Brady won an NFL record seventh Super Bowl. 31-9 Buccaneers.

Super Bowl LVI, 2021 —

The Kansas City Chiefs hosted the AFC Title Game for the fourth straight year under Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. On the verge of a dynasty, they risked becoming a dynasty that never was. The Cincinnati Bengals came out of nowhere and shocked the football world. The Bengals have never won the Super Bowl. After reaching the Super Bowl in 1981 and 1988, they were defeated both times by the San Francisco 49ers. The team won a playoff game in 1990. But then the Bengals endured a long and frustrating 31 years until winning their next playoff game. Zac Taylor took over in 2019 and the Bengals finished an NFL worst 2-14.

With the top overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, the Bengals selected quarterback Joe Burrow out of Louisiana State University. Burrow had just won a national college championship with LSU. Burrow and his new team were showing promise when he suffered a broken leg midway through his rookie season. The Bengals finished 4-11.

Burrow came back and exploded in his sophomore season. The Bengals won the AFC North.

Then they won three playoff games in cardiac fashion. In the Wildcard matchup, the Las Vegas Raiders trailed 23-16 late in the game. Then, Derek Carr led them to a 1st and goal situation inside the Cincinnati 10 yard line. With Burrow watching helplessly on the sideline, the previously unheralded Cincinnati defense came up with a goal-line stand in the waning seconds to preserve the win for the Bengals at home.

In the Divisional Playoff game, the top-seed Tennessee Titans, Burrow was hit again and again. The Tennessee defense sacked him nine times. A street fight led by both defenses meant a tie game with less than one minute left in regulation. The Cincinnati defense came up big when it mattered most. Their third interception of Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill led to rookie kicker Evan McPherson drilling a 52-yard field goal on the final play of regulation. The gutty 19-16 road win was the second straight game McPherson managed to hit on four field-goal attempts. McPherson told a teammate “I guess we are going to the AFC Title Game.” That was before he made the winning kick.

The AFC Title Game was a comeback contest for the ages.

Seeking to appear in their third straight Super Bowl, the Chiefs led 21-3. The Bengals made a valiant comeback, forcing the game into overtime. One week earlier, the Chiefs had won the overtime coin toss and never gave the ball up. After beating the Buffalo Bills 42-36 in an instant classic, The Chiefs won the overtime coin toss again. This time Mahomes was intercepted. McPherson came through again for the stunning 27-24 overtime victory that sent the Bengals to Super Bowl LVI.

The Rams were a losing franchise when Sean McVay took over for Jeff Fisher in 2017. While Fisher was a defensive-minded coach, McVay excelled on the offensive side of the ball. Blessed with quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, and the best defensive tackle in the game in Aaron Donald, the Rams reached the Super Bowl in 2018. After their Super Bowl loss that season, the Rams regressed. Gurley suffered a knee injury and the Rams traded him away. In the 2021 offseason, McVay made a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Lions. As a result, the Lions got Goff and the Rams got quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The front office in 2021 also pulled the trigger on some very big mid-season trades.

O’Dell Beckham Jr. was a phenomenally talented receiver who burned bridges with the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns. Von Miller was the 2015 Super Bowl MVP with the Denver Broncos but had missed the entire 2020 season injured. In mid-season 2021, Beckham and Miller joined a Rams team already loaded up on star players to win it all. After midseason stumbles that saw them lose three straight games, the Rams won the NFC West. In the Wildcard game, the Rams ran into a third matchup with the Cardinals. Each team had already won on the road. This time at home, the Rams won easily 34-11.

The Divisional game saw the Rams traveling to Tampa Bay to take on the defending champion Buccaneers. Had the Rams won their final regular-season game, they would have played the Buccaneers at home. Instead on the road, the Rams jumped to a 27-3 lead before doing everything possible to blow the game. After the Buccaneers tied the game 27-27 with less than one minute in regulation, Stafford definitively demonstrated the reason why the Rams brought him in from Detroit. A perfectly thrown Stafford bomb to Cooper Kupp led to the Matt Gay field goal that won the game 30-27 on the final play. Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady retired several days after the loss.

The NFC Title Game was a grudge match in Los Angeles against the San Francisco 49ers.

The 49ers had already won two road playoff games in stunning fashion over the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. Despite failing to score an offensive touchdown against the Packers, the 49ers blocked a punt late in the game for the 13-10 win. The 49ers had swept the Rams during the regular season. In the final game of the regular season in Los Angeles, the 49ers overcame a 17-0 deficit to win 27-24 in overtime. A loss would have eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention. The win let them sneak into the playoffs and nearly run the table. The 49ers led 17-7 in the fourth quarter of the NFC Title Game. Then the Rams defense took over. Aaron Donald battered Jimmy Garoppolo into an interception that preserved the 20-17 Rams victory.

The Rams have won the Super Bowl.

However, the Los Angeles Rams never have. The 1979 Rams fell short. The 1999 St. Louis Rams won it all. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s Patriots won their first and most recent Super Bowls over the Rams in 2001 and 2018 to begin and end their New England dynasty.

Now the Rams are back in the big game for the second time in four years.

For the second straight year, one of the two Super Bowl teams will be playing the game in their home stadium. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals play Super Bowl LVI at Sofi Stadium in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 13, at 6:30 PM (EST).

 

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Eric Golub

Brooklyn born, Long Island raised and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a politically conservative columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.”