Celebrating Super Bowl 50: Flynn’s Top 10 Super Bowls
The most watched annual event around the world celebrates its golden anniversary with Super Bowl 50 on February 7th. Let’s take a look back at the other forty-nine editions of the championship game of the highest level of football. There were many great Super Bowls that failed to make the list, but these games stood out the most.
- XXXVI (2002) Patriots 20, Rams 17
Representing a nation five months removed from the 9/11 attacks, the Patriots, 14 point underdogs, raced to a 17-3 lead before St. Louis’ high-powered offense scored twice late to tie the game. Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired and this game marked the beginning of the ongoing Patriots dynasty featuring Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The three-time game MVP had replaced an injured Drew Bledsoe earlier in the season and never looked back, establishing himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game.
- XXXII (1998) Broncos 31, Packers 24
This game has to be on the list. Not only did the game come down to the last play, but there is also the feel-good story of Broncos QB John Elway, who had to defeat the defending Super Bowl champions to get his first ring. The defining moment of the game was Elway’s helicopter play late in the third quarter. Denver running back Terrell Davis, who left earlier in the game due to a concussion, came back and was named game MVP, running for 157 yards and three touchdowns. The Broncos won again the year after, and then Elway retired.
- XXIII (1989) 49ers 20, Bengals 16
This game finally delivered what the Super Bowl was supposed to be about. Most of the first 22 games were either blowouts or sloppy games. The Bengals took a 16-13 lead on a late field goal, but 49ers QB Joe Montana had to take his team on a 92-yard drive to win the game. 49ers wide-out Jerry Rice caught 11 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown to earn MVP honors.
- III (1969) Jets 16, Colts 7
This edition made this list because of the impact the game had on the sport, as it convinced both the AFL and NFL to merge so they could compete with each other. Jets QB Joe Namath publicly guaranteed three days before the game that the Jets would win. The Jets dominated the game before Hall of Famer Johnny Unitas took the Baltimore Colts to their only score.
- XLVII (2013) Ravens 34, 49ers 31
There was everything in this edition. It had everything from a blackout, a 109-yard kickoff return, and an incredible attempt at a comeback that fell short. This game featured the Harbaugh brothers coaching the two teams: Jim for the 49ers, and John for Baltimore. It was an incredible game, including a wild second half featuring the blackout. It would have been higher on my list if the Niners won because I picked them to beat the Ravens in the Super Bowl before the 2012 season began. They were one good play call in the fourth quarter away from doing that.
- XLIII (2009) Steelers 27, Cardinals 23
This was one of my favorite games of all time. I remembered I rooted hard for Arizona because they had never made the big game, and the Steelers would have become the first team to win six titles in the Super Bowl era. This was a fantastic game from start to finish, including James Harrison’s 100 yard interception return for a touchdown, Larry Fitzgerald’s long touchdown that gave Arizona the lead, then Ben Roethlisburger led Pittsburgh on a final drive, culminating in Santonio Holmes’ touchdown in the end zone. Here’s the problem: four Super Bowls were better than this one.
- XLIX (2015) Patriots 28, Seahawks 24
Last year’s game was unbelievable. Seattle jumped out to a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter before Brady led his team to two touchdown drives. Next, the crazy happened. There was that big play to Marshawn Lynch for about 30 yards just before the two minute warning, then the acrobatic one-handed catch by Jermaine Kearse to put Seattle on the brink of back-to-back championships. Then, there was Malcolm Butler, a rookie, making one of the most clutch defensive plays in NFL history – intercepting a Russell Wilson pass at the goal line. There was controversy since Seattle coach Pete Carroll decided to run a pass play instead of running it with Marshawn Lynch, known as “Beast Mode”
- XLII (2008) Giants 7, Patriots 14
This is the game Giants fans, myself included, will remember for the rest of our lives. We had the undefeated Pats, looking to become the greatest team ever, against a surprise Giants team that had to beat Dallas and Green Bay on the road to get to this game. Eli Manning then threw for two fourth quarter touchdowns, including the one to Plaxico Burress to put the Giants ahead to stay. Also, who could ever forget the helmet catch by David Tyree? Tyree, a player that came out of nowhere, made the catch that saved the team.
- XXXVIII (2004) Patriots 32, Panthers 29
This was a wild and crazy game, where all 61 points came in the 2nd and 4th quarters. Most of the first half was scoreless, then the first points came with a few minutes left in the half. Each team had two scoring drives at the end of the half, then most of the 3rd quarter was scoreless. In the 4th quarter, the two teams combined for 37 points, a Super Bowl record for 4th quarter points, including Adam Vinatieri’s game winner with a few seconds left in the game. Tom Brady threw for 348 yards and three touchdowns to earn game MVP honors once again.
- XXXIV (2000) Rams 23, Titans 16
This is the greatest Super Bowl game of all time: First off, the Titans defense showed endless resilience in the first half. The Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense moved the ball so well up and down the field, but only scored three field goals. There was a bad snap on another attempt.
After a Rams touchdown put the Rams up 16-0, Tennessee running back Eddie George ran for touchdowns on consecutive drives to cut the score to 16-13.
After the Titans tied in on a field goal, Rams QB Kurt Warner threw for 73 of his 414 yards overall on a beautiful touchdown spiral pass down the sidelines to future Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce.
Then came the drama. Tennessee had to drive the ball 88 yards to tie the game. They got 87 because on the last play of the game, Rams LB Mike Jones tackled Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson at the one yard line as time expired. The play would not have been possible without the play prior, where Tennessee’s Steve McNair had to break multiple tackles to get a pass off to set up the last play.
Super Bowl XXXIV is, in my mind, the definition of a championship game. The game had a combination of everything, from championship defense to franchise-defining moments.