The Super Bowl has a rich history and with this year being the 54th edition of the big game, it’s a great time for some reflection. Football’s biggest game has featured some thrilling finishes, great performances and its fair share of blowouts too. Here is a look at my top 13 championship games during the event’s 50-plus year run.
13) San Francisco 49ers 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21
January 24, 1982
Pontiac Silverdome, Pontiac, MI
After putting up a 20 to 0 halftime lead the 49ers held their breath as the Bengals scored 21 second half points. Quarterback Kenny Anderson was 25 of 34 with two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. But it wasn’t enough as the 49ers Ray Wersching completed four field goals in the 49ers first Super Bowl win. The game marked the first time in Super Bowl history that the losing team out gained the winners in yardage (356 to 275.)
12) Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13
January 17, 1971
Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
The first Super Bowl played on artificial turf turned out to be quite a defensive battle. The Colts only touchdown came off of a pass that deflected off of two players including the Cowboys’ Mike Renfro. Two interceptions by the Colts led to the touchdown and the game winning field goal with only 5 seconds remaining. Chuck Howley of the Cowboys was named MVP, the first for a defensive player and the only time the award was given to a player from the losing team.
11) New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts, 7
January 12, 1969
Orange Bowl, Miami, FL
It was the Super Bowl that started all the hype as Joe Namath guaranteed victory just days before the game. The Jets star backed his words with an MVP performance but it was the New York defense that secured the victory by intercepting the Colts three times. The game actually was not very close but the guarantee combined with the image of Namath running off the field holding up ‘number one’ has helped to make the Super Bowl what it is today.
10) Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
February 1, 2009
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Pittsburgh led the game 17–7 at the half and were up 20–7 at the start of the fourth quarter, only to see Arizona score 16 unanswered points, including a safety by Pittsburgh that led to Larry Fitzgerald’s 64-yard touchdown reception, to take the first lead of the game with 2:37 remaining. However, the Steelers put together a 78-yard scoring drive capped off by Santonio Holmes’ 6-yard game-winning touchdown grab with 35 seconds left on the clock.
9) San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16
January 22, 1989
Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami FL
Playing for their third Super Bowl victory in eight years the 49ers found themselves losing 16 to 13 with just 3:20 remaining in the game. That was plenty of time for Joe Montana and company. The two-time Super Bowl MVP drove his team 92 yards capping off the drive with a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left on the clock.
8) Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31
January 21, 1979
Orange Bowl, Miami FL
Quarterback Terry Bradshaw threw his fourth touchdown pass with just under 7 minutes remaining in the game. The 18-yard catch by Lynn Swan put the Steelers up 35 to 17. But the Cowboys would not give up easily. Roger Staubach led his team to two quick touchdowns thanks in large part to an onside kick. But a second attempt of an onside kick was recovered by the Steelers’ Rocky Bleier and Pittsburgh became the first team to win three Super Bowls.
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7) New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcon 28 (OT)
February 5, 2017
NRG Stadium, Houston TX
After trailing 28-3 in the third quarter, New England rallied to score 25 unanswered points and force overtime. The Patriots would go on to win their fifth Super Bowl. Tom Brady, who also broke single-game Super Bowl records with 43 completed passes, 62 pass attempts, and 466 passing yards, was named Super Bowl MVP for a record fourth time. While the comeback was amazing the game was a snooze fest for well over a half of play which is why it only comes in at No. 7 on our list.
6) New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
February 3, 2002
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA
The Rams out gained the Patriots by 160 yards, but the New England Defense forced three turnovers which the offense turned into 17 points. The final 3 points came at the end of the game. With 1:30 on the clock and no timeouts, Tom Brady drove his team into field goal range, setting up a 48-yard kick for Adam Vinatieiri. It was the first time in Super Bowl history that the game was decided on the last play.
5) New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
February 1, 2015
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
The Seahawks were one yard away from repeating as Super Bowl champs. With 26 seconds remaining in the game, they decided to pass the ball in a highly scrutinized play that resulted in Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler making a game-saving interception of Russell Wilson’s throw. Tom Brady was named the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) after a Super Bowl-record 37 completions on 50 attempts for 328 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.
4) New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29
February 1, 2004
Reliant Stadium, Houston, TX
This game set two Super Bowl records that seem contradictory. The two teams took the longest amount of time before a score, nearly 27 minutes, and then combined for the most points scored in one quarter, 37 in the fourth. Carolina tied the game with 1:08 remaining but it wasn’t enough as the Patriots quickly drove the ball into field goal territory. Adam Vinatieri kicked the game winner from 41 yards out.
3) St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16
January 30, 2000
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
While the high-powered Rams offense dominated the statistics they found themselves tied at 16 points at the two-minute warning. But on the next play Kurt Warner hooked up with Isaac Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown pass. Steve McNair did his best to lead his team downfield but the game ended when an outstretched Kevin Dyson landed just one yard short of a game-tying touchdown.
2) New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19
January 21, 1991
Tampa Stadium, Tampa, FL
With the country at war in the Persian Gulf and following a breathtaking rendition of the National Anthem by Whitney Houston, the two teams in their red, white and blue uniforms competed in one of the best games in the history of football. The Giants perfected the concept of ‘ball control’, possessing the ball for over 40 minutes. But the Bills had the lead late in the fourth quarter before a Matt Bahr field goal made it 20 to 19. Then, with just seconds remaining, Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal just missed to the right and the Giants won their second title.
1) New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
February 4, 2008
University of Phoenix Stadium, Scottsdale, AZ
David Tyree’s miraculous 32-yard reception setup Eli Manning’s game-winning TD strike to Plaxico Burress to seal the deal for the Giants. The Patriots were denied the shot at being the first team ever to finish 19-0 and their Super Bowl loss forever tarnished their perfect regular season, the first of its kind since the Miami Dolphins finished with undefeated in 1972.
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