In the spirit of Super Bowl week, I have assembled my list of the Top 10 Greatest Super Bowls! Enjoy and stay warm!
9. Super Bowl XLIV- New Orleans Saints def. Indianapolis Colts, 31-17: Both the Saints and Colts spent the majority of the regular season undefeated until suffering late losses. For the Saints, the Super Bowl meant redemption for a long suffering franchise and hope for a city still suffering from hurricane Katrina. For the Colts, it meant further vindication for Peyton Manning as one of the greatest QBs ever. The game started slow, with the Colts holding a 10-6 lead at halftime. Saints Coach Sean Payton made the bold gamble of opening the second half with a successful onsides kick, which culminated in a TD pass to Pierre Thomas. After another Colts score, Sean Payton took a risk yet again when he went for two following the Saints' next score, which was also successful. This made the score 24-17 in the 4th Quarter, but left Peyton Manning with plenty of time to conduct one of his trademark comebacks. Just when it seemed the clock had struck midnight for New Orleans, Tracy Porter intercepted Mannings pass and took it back for a touchdown to seal the win for the long suffering Saints. Drew Brees was MVP, finishing 32-39 for 288 yards and 2 TDs. The image of him holding his son under the Super Bowl confetti has become priceless.
8. Super Bowl XXXVIII- New England Patriots def. Carolina Panthers, 32-29: Although this game is more remembered for its halftime show featuring Janet Jackson's exposed breast, it was actually one of the best game's in Super Bowl history. The Patriots were just two years removed from their first ever Super Bowl victory and the Panthers (appearing in their first ever Super Bowl) were two years removed from a 1-15 season. The game was a defensive struggle until the end of the first half when each team rattled off two quick scores. Both teams continued to trade scores throughout the second half, bringing the score to 29-29. It looked as if this would be the first OT Super Bowl when the Patriots received the ball after the Panthers tied the game with 1 minute left. After Tom Brady calmly engineered a drive down the field, Adam Vinatieri, who had missed his 2 FG attempts earlier in the game, lined up for the game-winning 41-yarder with 4 seconds left. The kick went through, and the rest is history.
7. Super Bowl XXIII- San Francisco 49ers def. Cincinnati Bengals, 20-16: In a game that cemented the 49ers dynasty and status as team of the 80s, "Joe Cool" was in his element. The game started, as many games on this list, as a defensive struggle, with both teams suffering key injuries. Both teams were evenly matched and the game came to a head when the score was 16-13 with 3:10 left in the 4th quarter. The 49ers started with the ball on their own 8. But as calm as ever, Joe Montana methodically marched his team down the field, inspiring confidence in them all. Every time it looked as if the drive would finally fail, the 49ers found a way to convert and keep hope alive. Then with 39 seconds left, Montana threw the game winning TD to John Taylor. The defense was able to seal the victory, giving the 49ers their third Super Bowl title in their third appearance.
6. Super Bowl XXXVI- New England Patriots def. St. Louis Rams, 20-17: The Rams had built a reputation as "The Greatest Show on Turf" and were 2 TD favorites going into the game with the Patriots and their virtually unknown QB, Tom Brady. Patriots Coach Bill Belichick's defensive prowess was on full display as the Patriots defense took center stage. Ty Law returned an INT for a TD and the defense forced a fumble that led to another score. After being grounded for most of the game, the Rams' high flying offense came to life in the 4th quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points and tying the score at 17-17. There was a minute and a half left in the game and the Patriots were out of timeouts. Tom Brady showed the nation his future as a Patriots QB as he drove New England down the field with smart clock management. Brady then spiked the ball to stop the clock and set up Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard FG with 7 seconds left. For the first time Vinatieri made a Super Bowl winning kick, Tom Brady was the MVP, and the Patriots were Champions.
5. Super Bowl XIII- Pittsburgh Steelers def. Dallas Cowboys, 35-31: It was to be the second Super Bowl meeting between two bitter rivals; two teams whose styles were polar opposite but were, without a doubt, the two most popular teams in America. The game also featured the NFL's two most dominant defenses in Dallas' Doomsday and the Steel Curtain. The Cowboys were defending Champs and both teams were looking to win a record third Super Bowl title. The game lived up to its billing. A shootout quickly developed as both teams were able to take advantage of the opponent's touted defense. The Steelers defense, however, proved more resourceful and was able to turn Dallas' mistakes into costly turnovers resulting in a 21-14 halftime lead. The Cowboys' most infamous blunder came in the 3rd quarter, as Roger Staubach found Jackie Smith wide open in the endzone only to drop the ball and force the Dallas to take a FG. Although this made the score 21-17, many have speculated that if Smith had only caught that TD, the Cowboys might have won the game. Nonetheless, bad luck continued for the Cowboys as two controversial penalties (a pass interference and delay of game) gave Pittsbugh a clear path to another TD. And if that wasn't enough, and accidental squib kick bounced off of Randy White's casted arm and into the hands of the Steelers who quickly scored again. In spite of everything, Staubach and the Cowboys refused to give up. Roger the Dodger captained a comeback of 14 unanswered points to bring the score to 35-31. With 22 seconds left, Dallas needed a successful onsides kick for any hope of their comeback dreams becoming fully realized. But it was not Dallas' night, as Pittsburgh recovered the kick, ran out the clock, and made history.
4. Super Bowl XLIII- Pittsburgh Steelers def. Arizona Cardinals, 27-23: Many consider this to be the greatest Super Bowl of all time. It was a redemption story for 37-year old Kurt Warner, who was making his first appearance in a Super Bowl since playing for the Rams in 2001. He had led the 9-7 Arizona Cardinals on an unlikely run through the playoffs to earn the team's first ever Super Bowl bid and first chance at any title since 1947. They were matched up against perennial contenders in the Steelers. Pittsburgh jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but Kurt Warner found a way to answer in the second quarter. With the score 10-7, the scales seemed to be tipping in Arizona's favor when Karlos Dansby intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and the Cardinals drove down to the Steelers' 1-yard line. Kurt Warner threw what looked like a sure TD pass with 18 seconds left in the half, only to have it intercepted by James Harrison who, with the help of his blocking teammates, returned the ball 100 yards for a TD. At the onset of the second half, the Cardinals refused to believe they had lost. After a safety and a lot of help from star WR Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona found itself with a 23-20 lead with 2:37 left in the game. But with a QB like Roethlisberger on the other team, 2 minutes was entirely too much time to be comfortable. In vintage Big Ben form, he drove the Steelers down the field and hit Santonio Holmes in the back corner of the endzone, who dragged his feet and made a beautiful catch. Kurt Warner then had 35 seconds to complete a second comeback, but eventually fumbled the ball (although I still think it was incomplete), giving the ball back to the Steelers with 5 seconds on the clock. Pittsburgh passed up Dallas and San Fran to become the first team with 6 Super Bowl titles.
3. Super Bowl XXXIV, St. Louis Rams def. Tennessee Titans, 23-16: This was the first Super Bowl I ever watched (and I was cheering hard for the Rams). It featured two teams that had gone from being consistent doormats to League heavyweights in a short time span. In his first year as a starter in the NFL, Kurt Warner led a dynamic offense into a game that meant a second chance for Rams Coach Dick Vermeil and the entire Titans organization, which had recently seen a bitter end as the Houston Oilers. The first half was all defense, as the Titans would bend, but rarely break, allowing the unstoppable Rams' offense only 9 points in the first half. The Titans, however could not hit pay dirt themselves at all. The game was 16-0 before the Titans came alive and rattled off 16 unanswered points to tie the game. But with 2 minutes left in the game, the Rams' offense would not be denied as Kurt Warner threw a 73-yard TD pass to Isaac Bruce to regain the lead over Tennessee. Tennesse was not ready to admit defeat either. The Titans answered and drove the ball all the way to the Rams' 10-yard line with 6 seconds on the clock. Steve McNair hit Kevin Dyson for the sure game-winning touchdown, but as Dyson stretched for the goal line, he was tackled. one yard short by St. Louis' Mike Jones. This clutch play became known as "The Tackle" and meant for the first time ever, the Rams were Super Bowl Champs and truly relevant.
2. Super Bowl XXV- New York Giants def. Buffalo Bills, 20-19: There were countless storylines surrounding this contest, but the over-arching theme was that of patriotism due to the onset of the first Gulf War. Key to the Giants' gameplan was to use a run-heavy offense and keep the ball out of the hands of Thurman Thomas and the explosive Bills' offense. Despite the Bills' early 12-3 lead, New York's philosophy slowly began to bear fruit as the Giants crept closer to Buffalo on the scoreboard. After a textbook 9 and a half minute drive, New York took the lead in the 3rd quarter, 17-12. At the end of the quarter, Buffalo stopped the Gaints on 4th and goal and marched the ball back down the field for a Thurman Thomas score. But a quick Bills score only meant that their defense would yet again have to endure another long Giants drive that ate clock and resulted in a FG. With the score 20-19 and 2 minutes left in the game, Jim Kelly was prepared to engineer a Montana-esque comeback, starting on his own 10-yard line. Kelly did his part, setting up kicker Scott Norwood for the 47-yard game winning kick with 8 seconds left. In the most infamous play in Buffalo history, the ball sailed wide right and the Giants won the game. This was the first of 4 Super Bowl losses in a row for the Bills, all to current NFC East teams.
1. Super Bowl XLII- New York Giants def. New England Patriots, 17-14: Although it pains me a bit as a Cowboys fan, I have to give the G-men the two top spots on my list (granted I was pulling hard for NY in this game). Nobody gave the Giants a chance in this game, as they were matched up against Tom Brady and the 18-0 Patriots. The Giants' crushing pass rush and just a little bit of luck proved key in their upset win. And as with so many upset wins, it appeared the Patriots had won before they got off the bus, with many ready to crown them the best team ever. New York's strategy was similar to theirs in Super Bowl XXV, keep the ball away from Brady and play punishing defense. Defenses slugged it out and after a series of punts and turnovers both teams entered the locker room with the Pats leading 7-3 at halftime. No team was able to score until the 4th quarter, when Eli Manning threw a TD to unknown David Tyree for the New York lead. The Patriots were able to answer and the Giants got the ball with 2:39 left in the game and a 4 point deficit. The Giants offense contiually escaped trouble and kept the drive alive. Then with 1:15 left, on 3rd and 5, New York made the single greatest play I have ever seen in a Super Bowl. Eli Manning somehow escaped being sacked three times and threw up a prayer to none other than David Tyree in the middle of the field. Tyree lept in the air, under tight coverage by Rodney Harrison, and firmly placed the ball against his helmet, making the catch. The drive culminated when Manning found Plaxico Burress in single-coverage in the endzone with 35 seconds left. Burress caught the TD, and on the Patriots ensuing possesion, Michael Strahan and the Giants did not allow a single yard to preserve the epic 17-14 upset victory. Eli Manning was no longer in his brother's shadow and the '72 Dolphins no longer had to worry about the hated Patriots stealing their title as undefeated Super Bowl Champs.