The size of the championship payouts isn’t the only difference between the original Super Bowl I of 1967 and Super Bowl XLVIII played in another century.
Each of the NFL’s championship games has been its own animal. The Super Bowl is like a thunderstorm: They might look the same, but each one is a very different affair distinguished by its own identity.
The game’s various personalities and circumstances give it its uniqueness. And that doesn’t include the diversity of host cities, themes, entertainers and those commercials. Never forget the commercials.
“The five that we played in are my most memorable,” said Gil Brandt, for three decades the Cowboys’ director of player personnel in the pre-Jerry Jones era and today an NFL Draft analyst. “[Jim] O’Brien couldn’t kick an extra point but kicked a field goal to beat us. There’s just so many things like that.
“Last year, it wasn’t a very good game, but you marveled at what a good team Seattle had. When New England got beat after being undefeated, and [David] Tyree catches the ball on top of his helmet. They say they tried to execute the play in practice six times and he dropped all six.
Thurman Thomas couldn’t find his helmet after the national anthem and missed the first couple of plays. You can just go on and on and on.”
Super Bowl I
Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10, Jan. 15, 1967: Vince Lombardi’s Packers each earned $15,000 for victory in front of 61,964 in the 90,000-seat Los Angeles Coliseum and $23,500 for the postseason, eclipsing professional sports’ all-time high of $12,794 accrued by the Los Angeles Dodgers World Series champion in 1963.
Super Bowl II
Green Bay 33, Oakland 14, Jan. 14, 1968: In front of a sellout of more than 75,000 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Vince Lombardi closes his coaching career with a third consecutive NFL title — and five of the last nine — with a second straight Super Bowl triumph. “We’re a good football team and we were ready for them,” Lombardi told his jubilant team afterward.
Super Bowl III
N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7, Jan. 12, 1969: Joe Namath and the Jets, 18-point underdogs, shocked the Colts at the Orange Bowl, claiming the AFL’s first championship victory over the NFL. “It’s a victory for the entire American Football Conference,” said Namath, who initially declined to talk to the media about the game. “I only talk to the New York writers. They were the only ones who thought we had a chance.”
Super Bowl IV
Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7, Jan. 11, 1970: It wasn’t the Cowboys, but the Chiefs. A Tulane Stadium crowd of 80,562 witnessed Kansas City become the first football franchise founded in Dallas to win a Super Bowl ring, in New Orleans. Said the Star-Telegram at the time: “Those wastrels, the Kansas City Chiefs, winning the king’s ransom of pro football? Correct me, but aren’t they the same bunch forced to surrender the popularity war with the Cowboys in 1963, giving up their half of Big D? Verily, it’s so.” The first three Super Bowls featured marching bands, but at this one fans were treated to Carol Channing at halftime.
Super Bowl V
Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas 13, Jan. 17, 1971: “We beat ourselves,” a dejected Cowboys coach Tom Landry said. The Not-So-Super Super Bowl would have, according to one scribe, “taxed the patience of Job.” In fact, this one at the Orange Bowl has been called the worst Super Bowl, a game featuring 28 incompletions, nine turnovers and 14 penalties. Among them were three Craig Morton interceptions, including one that set up Jim O’Brien’s game-winning field goal, and a fumble by Duane Thomas at the Colts’ 1.
Super Bowl VI
Dallas 24, Miami 3, Jan. 16, 1972: A call from President Richard Nixon awaited coach Tom Landry after the Cowboys put behind them years of frustration at Tulane Stadium. Game MVP Roger Staubach took over the starting QB job on Nov. 7 and led the team to 10 consecutive victories. Meanwhile, silent running back Duane Thomas, who had a policy of not speaking to the media, broke his silence with a far-reaching interview: “Are you that fast?” Thomas was asked. / “Evidently.” / “Do you like football?” / “That’s why I’m a football player.”
Super Bowl VII
Miami 14, Washington 7, Jan. 14, 1973: The NFL’s only undefeated season was completed at the Los Angeles Coliseum, where 90,182 turned out. Though the Dolphins dominated the game, the most enduring memory is of Miami place-kicker Garo Yepremian picking up the rebound of a blocked field-goal try and then attempting the ugliest pass attempt in Super Bowl history. “I’ve got to work with Garo on his throwing,” said quarterback Bob Griese, laughing. “I told him we’ll work on that in the off-season.”
Super Bowl VIII
Miami 24, Minnesota 7, Jan. 13, 1974: The Super Bowl came to Texas for the first time, where Miss Texas Judy Mallett, the former Miss Haltom-Richland Area, helped entertain at halftime on her fiddle. The Dolphins, meanwhile, became the second team to repeat as champions in front of 71,882 at Rice Stadium. “I don’t think I ever saw a fullback play any better than Csonka did today,” Minnesota quarterback Fran Tarkenton said of Larry Csonka, who set records for carries and yards with 33 for 145. “He has to be the strongest fullback I’ve ever seen.”
Super Bowl IX
Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6, Jan. 12, 1975: The Steelers won the first of four in the 1970s — and the franchise’s first in its 42 years — at Tulane Stadium, the Steel Curtain holding the Vikings to 119 total yards and sending them to a third Super Bowl loss. The victory was vindication for oft-criticized Terry Bradshaw. “I’ve stated before that I’ve faced a lot of adversity. I’ve withstood all the trials,” Bradshaw said. “I’ve seen all sides. I’ve been a hero and I’ve been a jerk. So I think I can handle all this very well.”
Super Bowl X
Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17, Jan. 18, 1976: Uncle Sam’s bicentennial season opened with America’s Team falling at the Orange Bowl. Only a few weeks after the Hail Mary, the Cowboys almost got another, but this time Roger Staubach overthrew Drew Pearson on first down from the 37, leaving 12 seconds, and another incompletion to rookie Percy Howard, who claimed Jack Lambert interfered with him. “If I had not gotten hit, I would have had the touchdown,” Howard said afterward. “There should have been a flag, but there wasn’t. Dammit. How can they [the officials] do that?”
Super Bowl XI
Oakland 32, Minnesota 14, Jan. 9, 1977: The Rose Bowl was the stage of the obvious power shift that had taken place in the NFL when the John Madden-coached Raiders claimed the AFC’s fifth consecutive Super Bowl victory. “The absence of suspense, intensity and equality brought back memories of the Lombardian epoch,” wrote Star-Telegram columnist Galyn Wilkins, “when the Green Bay Packers taught grim, one-sided lessons to the brats from the new league. The brats now are running the schoolhouse.”
Super Bowl XII
Dallas 27, Denver 10, Jan. 15, 1978: The Super Bowl moved inside. The Cowboys, with Staubach still at the helm and rookie Tony Dorsett in the backfield, clinched their second title with “Toss 38,” a halfback lead and fullback Robert Newhouse pass to Golden Richards in the fourth quarter at the Superdome in New Orleans. “That caught us slightly by surprise,” Denver linebacker Tom Jackson said. Said Newhouse, the University of Houston product: “I had worked on it quite a bit this week. The quarterbacks had been helping me and showing me how to turn my body. … That was definitely one of the biggest thrills of my career.”
Super Bowl XIII
Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31, Jan. 21, 1979: “I wish I had that one back,” said tight end Jackie Smith of the crucial drop that is seared in the minds of all Cowboys fans, who were forced to watch Pittsburgh, not Dallas, claim a record third Super Bowl victory at the Orange Bowl. The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal after Smith’s drop of a would-be touchdown pass from Roger Staubach with Dallas trailing 21-14 in the third quarter. Pittsburgh used the momentum shift to score 14 unanswered. “I faked a block and just kept going,” Smith said. “I think [Staubach] was surprised I was so wide open. He took a little bit off it, but that’s no excuse. It should have been caught.”
Super Bowl XIV
Pittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19, Jan. 20, 1980: On the same day that President Jimmy Carter proposed a worldwide boycott of the Moscow Olympic Games, the Steelers had to come back three times to defeat the 11-point underdogs and put a stamp on the title of “Team of the Decade” with a fourth championship before more than 103,000 at the Rose Bowl. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw passed for 309 yards and two touchdowns — including a 73-yarder to John Stallworth that put Pittsburgh back up for good in the fourth quarter — over Vince Ferragamo, at 25, the youngest Super Bowl quarterback since Joe Namath, and the Rams. (Los Angeles was the first team to advance to the Super Bowl with nine or fewer wins.) “This is the best Pittsburgh club,” said Steelers running back Rocky Bleier. “You just keep wondering how many times you can do it. The law of averages will catch up to you someday.”
Super Bowl XV
Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10, Jan. 25, 1981: Original starting quarterback Dan Pastorini broke his leg, the team lost three of its first five games and owner Al Davis wanted to move. But there the Raiders were in the end at the Superdome, becoming the first wild-card team to win a Super Bowl after a wild and wacky season. “When you look back at the glory of the Oakland Raiders,” Davis said, “this was our finest hour. Take pride and be proud. Your commitment to excellence and your will to win will endure forever. You were magnificent.”
Super Bowl XVI
San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21, Jan. 24, 1982: Two weeks after “The Catch,” Joe Montana and Dwight Clark raised the Lombardi Trophy by winning on the outskirts of Detroit at the Pontiac Silverdome … a year after going 6-10. “A couple of Californians want to congratulate you and the entire team,” President Ronald Reagan said. “And you might tell Joe Montana and the fellows that they really did win one for the Gipper.” Said 49ers coach Bill Walsh: “I cannot conceive of a more satisfying moment to have taken a team and in three years develop it into a Super Bowl champion.”
Super Bowl XVII
Washington 27, Miami 17, Jan. 30, 1983: Back at the Rose Bowl and with attendance in the six figures, the NFL was singing Hail to the Redskins after the Hogs, John Riggins and the Smurfs rolled over the Dolphins, highlighted by crafty gambles on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter. The most memorable: going for it on fourth-and-inches at Miami’s 43 with 10 minutes left and down 17-13. Riggins, who became the first running back to gain 100 yards in four postseason games, took the handoff, bounced outside and ran down the sideline for the go-ahead touchdown. “I didn’t really expect to run for a touchdown on the play, but we only had about six inches to go and we haven’t been stopped too many times on a situation like that,” said Riggins, the game MVP who set Super Bowl records with 38 carries and 166 yards.
Super Bowl XVIII
L.A. Raiders 38, Washington 9, Jan. 22, 1984: Football’s bad boys ascended the ladder of NFL elite, becoming the second team to win the Super Bowl three times. The Raiders scored the most points and won by the largest margin in the game’s history by riding record-setting running back Marcus Allen’s 191 yards in front of more than 72,000 at Tampa Stadium. “Our defensive front has a nickname now,” said defensive end Howie Long, among a unit that sacked Joe Theismann six times and held John Riggins to 64 yards rushing. “We are the ‘Slaughterhouse 7.’”
Super Bowl XIX
San Francisco 38, Miami 16, Jan. 20, 1985: The 49ers became the first NFL team to win 18 games in a season after the triumph at Stanford Stadium. “Without question, he’s the greatest quarterback in football today,” 49ers coach Bill Walsh said of Joe Montana, who won a personal quarterback duel with Dan Marino by outplaying his counterpart by throwing for 331 yards and three touchdowns and no interceptions against Marino’s 318 yards and two interceptions. “As far as leadership and command of our offensive concept, there is no one better.”
Super Bowl XX
Chicago 46, New England 10, Jan. 26, 1986: The dominating Bears and their vaunted “46” defense reclaimed their “Monsters of the Midway” moniker and predictably took care of the Patriots in what can appropriately be described as The Big Easy at the Superdome in New Orleans. The Bears, with such characters as Jim McMahon and Refrigerator Perry evolved into pop culture icons with the Super Bowl Shuffle, but they were clearly the best team of the 1985 season and one of the best of all time. Coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan both were carried off the field on the shoulders of players in triumph. “The last time I got a ride like that I was coaching high school in Gainesville, Texas,” Ryan said. “I told the players last night they were all my heroes.”
Super Bowl XXI
N.Y. Giants 39, Denver 20, Jan. 25, 1987: At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., quarterback Phil Simms and the Giants found redemption from their suspect pasts with a resounding victory over the Broncos in John Elway’s first Super Bowl appearance. Game MVP Simms, the reputed bumbler who seemingly always found a way to lose a game, completed a Super Bowl-record 88 percent of his passes, including three touchdowns, for the Giants, who before 1986 had only four winning seasons since 1970. “We buried all the ghosts today,” Giants coach Bill Parcells said. “They are all gone.”
Super Bowl XXII
Washington 42, Denver 10, Jan. 31, 1988: History remembers Washington’s Doug Williams as the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl, though the record book merely shows one of the best quarterbacking performances … black, white or purple. “I didn’t come here as a black quarterback,” said Williams after the triumph at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. “I came here as the quarterback of the Washington Redskins. I just wanted to perform to my capabilities and try to win the football game.” Williams led the ’Skins’ 602-yard attack with four touchdowns, all in a 35-point Washington second quarter. Little-known and little-used Timmy Smith, a rookie from Texas Tech, did more than fill in for the injured George Rogers. He set a Super Bowl rushing record with 202 yards.
Super Bowl XXIII
San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16, Jan. 22, 1989: San Francisco and Joe Montana sealed their place in Super Bowl lore with a comeback victory at Miami’s Joe Robbie Stadium, capping a 92-yard, game-winning drive with a Montana-to-John Taylor touchdown strike with 34 seconds left. “The 49ers firmly established themselves as the team of the ’80s,” commissioner Pete Rozelle proclaimed most proudly. Montana completed eight consecutive passes on the last drive, including two to Jerry Rice, the game’s MVP with 11 catches for 215 yards. “The halfback [Roger Craig] was the primary receiver,” said Taylor. “All I was trying to do was get open.”
Super Bowl XXIV
San Francisco 55, Denver 10, Jan. 28, 1990: At the Superdome in New Orleans, Joe Montana joined Bart Starr and Terry Bradshaw as the only players to win NFL regular-season MVP and Super Bowl MVP in the same season. Montana picked apart Denver, throwing for five touchdowns for the Niners, who scored on six of their first eight possessions and joined Pittsburgh as back-to-back and four-time champs. “It’s always hard to compare teams,” said Montana, who completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,142 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions in four Super Bowls. “But it would be hard to take any team above this one. It’s tough to say any team is better than this one.”
Super Bowl XXV
N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19, Jan. 27, 1991: Wide right. “Last week, we prayed for Matt Bahr to make one and that worked,” said Giants linebacker Pepper Johnson, describing his strategy with the Bills’ Scott Norwood lining up for a game-winning field-goal attempt with eight seconds left at Tampa Stadium. “So I called the guys together and said ‘Let’s pray for Norwood to miss.’ He did.” So, God is a Giants fan? “On this particular day, yes he is.” Something otherworldly was working that season for the Giants, who won a second title under coach Bill Parcells with a backup quarterback (Jeff Hostetler) and a 33-year-old running back on the edge of his prime (game MVP Otis Anderson). Before the game, everybody was on the same team while Whitney Houston belted out a rousing rendition of the national anthem, performed while U.S. troops were working to liberate Kuwait.
Super Bowl XXVI
Washington 37, Buffalo 24, Jan. 26, 1992: The Redskins won a third and final time in 10 years of the Joe Gibbs era and with a third starting quarterback — Mark Rypien. Buffalo was befuddled at the Metrodome in Minneapolis: Jim Kelly threw four interceptions and was sacked five times and running back Thurman Thomas was held to 13 yards. “I had a special feeling when I went out onto the field and looked around,” said Rypien, the MVP. “My dad passed away four years ago, and I thought about that. He was a great inspiration. It would have been great had he been here, but I knew he was looking on — from a better seat.”
Super Bowl XXVII
Dallas 52, Buffalo 17, Jan. 31, 1993: The second Cowboys dynasty arrived at the Rose Bowl and so did the muscle of the entertainment industry: Michael Jackson. The King of Pop was the first of music’s titans to perform at halftime and he was much better than an overmatched Buffalo, which could do nothing to stop the onslaught. “We said all year that the best game we were going to play was the last game,” Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said. “And we saved the best for last. I felt all along we had the best football team. … There was never any doubt we’d get to this point.”
Super Bowl XXVIII
Dallas 30, Buffalo 13, Jan. 30, 1994: Regular-season and Super Bowl MVP made a mess of Jimmy Johnson’s hair, but otherwise everything seemed just hunky-dory in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Johnson and owner Jerry Jones even embraced. In truth, the relationship between the coach and owner/GM was as hopeless as the Bills’ last Super Bowl try, which collapsed in the second half. “Our mission is completed,” said Emmitt Smith, who had 132 yards, including 91 in the second half, and two touchdowns. “We came into this season with the idea of doing this. It’s been a super year for me as well as my teammates.”
Super Bowl XXIX
San Francisco 49, San Diego 26, Jan. 29, 1995: Steve Young drove out all of the demons associated with playing in the shadow of the legend of his predecessor by passing for six touchdowns … breaking the record of Joe Montana at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami. The Niners confirmed the opinion of the oddsmakers, who made them the biggest favorites in Super Bowl history. “You can’t describe the feeling,” Young said. “That’s why football is the ultimate team game. When you get there, you share it with 50 other guys. It’s geometric — 50 times 50 — the elation you feel.”
Super Bowl XXX
Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17, Jan. 28, 1996: The exclusive club of coaches who have won a national college football championship and a Super Bowl expanded to two after the Barry Switzer-coached Cowboys won a third title in four seasons at Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona. The hero was MVP cornerback Larry Brown, the TCU ex who picked off Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell twice. “Let me tell you something,” Switzer told President Bill Clinton over the phone, “we did it our way. You’ve been doing it your way and we’re behind you because you’re a winner and we’re a champ, too. Appreciate you being a Cowboy fan, an ol’ boy from Arkansas.”
Super Bowl XXXI
Green Bay 35, New England 21, Jan. 26, 1997: Twenty-nine years after their first, the storied Packers won a 13th consecutive title for the NFC and reclaimed Super Bowl glory with a 12th NFL title at the Superdome led by another southern boy at quarterback. Mississippian Brett Favre had two touchdown passes and MVP Desmond Howard returned a kickoff 99 yards for the game-clincher. “Now, I’m greedy,” Favre said. “Now, I want to win more. I want to enjoy this awhile, too.”
Super Bowl XXXII
Denver 31, Green Bay 24, Jan. 25, 1998: “This one’s for John,” Broncos owner Pat Bowlen exclaimed. The Broncos broke an organizational 0-fer skid in Super Bowls and John Elway finally captured the only missing element of a Hall of Fame résumé: a first win with more than a mere helping hand from MVP running back Terrell Davis at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium. “I can’t believe it,” Elway said. “For all those Bronco fans that never had this feeling, we finally got it done.”
Super Bowl XXXIII
Denver 34, Atlanta 19, Jan. 31, 1999: Having finally scored the elusive Super Bowl title the year before, John Elway returned and went out on top, securing the MVP in his last NFL game at Pro Player Stadium in Miami. The Broncos became the sixth team to win consecutive titles, including Pittsburgh, which did it twice. Elway, 38, passed for 336 yards — the third-highest passing yardage in Super Bowl history — and a touchdown. “I am just thrilled that we won,” Elway said. “I’m thrilled to be a part of this team. This is what we play for, and to have this opportunity two years in a row is unbelievable.”
Super Bowl XXXIV
St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee 16, Jan. 30, 2000: The unlikeliest success story of the castaway coach — Dick Vermeil — and quarterback, Kurt Warner, who was bagging groceries not long ago, played out at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The Rams, now of St. Louis, hit on a 73-yard touchdown hookup between the QB and Isaac Bruce a shade under two minutes and then survived the Titans’ would-be game-tying touchdown by Kevin Dyson, who was tackled by Mike Jones a yard short of the goal line as time expired. “I guess it is sort of a storybook ending,” said Warner, once an Arena League and NFL Europe project. “When you think about where I was and where I am now, it seems pretty incredible.”
Super Bowl XXXV
Baltimore Ravens 34, N.Y. Giants 7, Jan. 28, 2001: The Ravens’ mighty defense collected five turnovers in ruling the day at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium in the team’s first Super Bowl title. Baltimore — led by MVP Ray Lewis, who a year before had been investigated for involvement in a double homicide at the Super Bowl in Atlanta — intercepted Giants QB Kerry Collins four times, the last returned 50 yards for a touchdown by Duane Starks. “We dominated literally,” Lewis said. “This is what you work your whole life for. You come from childhood, dreaming whatever you want it to be, but now, at 25, to be a world champion, what else can I dream of?”
Super Bowl XXXVI
New England 20, St. Louis 17, Feb. 3, 2002: The upstart Patriots and a young buck named Tom Brady shocked the North American football watching world by grounding The Greatest Show on Turf in what is considered one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history. Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal as time expired sent the Patriots into celebration at the Superdome in New Orleans. “It’s just an overwhelming feeling,” said Brady, the first year starter and Super Bowl MVP. “I can’t describe it. It’s everybody just playing together like we have all season, overcoming the odds.”
Super Bowl XXXVII
Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21, Jan. 26, 2003: The Buccaneers’ decision to give up four draft picks and $8 million to hire coach Jon Gruden away from Oakland reached a dramatic coincidence at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Tampa’s victory marked the fourth consecutive first-time champion after the overpowering Buccaneers’ defense shut down the league’s top-rated offense, playing without former TCU center Barret Robbins, who went missing the night before the game while dealing with an episode associated with bipolar disorder. Tampa players credited Gruden with knowing the tendencies of Oakland QB Rich Gannon as a significant factor in intercepting him five times. “I don’t apologize for how I got here, any feelings I may have hurt,” said Gruden, at 39 the youngest Super Bowl-winning coach and who clashed with owner Al Davis in Oakland. “All I can say is that it was a very emotional week.”
Super Bowl XXXVIII
New England 32, Carolina 29, Feb. 1, 2004: The Super Bowl returned to Houston and there were problems. Even still, Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction was the best play in this game until the fourth quarter, when the Patriots and Panthers combined to score 37 points, the last three a 41-yard field goal from kicker Adam Vinatieri with four seconds left at Reliant Stadium. “It was a tough game to coach. I was having a heart attack out there,” New England coach Bill Belichick said.
Super Bowl XXXIX
New England 24, Philadelphia 21, Feb. 6, 2005: At Jacksonville’s Alltel Stadium, the Patriots matched the Cowboys with their third title in four years, denying the Eagles their first NFL title since winning in 1960. Amid the dynasty talk and greatness (Patriots and halftime rocker Paul McCartney), New England quarterback Tom Brady established the longest personal playoff win streak at 9-0, moving past Green Bay’s Bart Starr. ”We’re champions now,” Patriots safety Rodney Harrison said. “I don’t know about dynasty right now.”
Super Bowl XL
Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10, Feb. 5, 2006: The Terrible Towels were being waved wildly at Detroit’s Ford Field as the Steelers partied hardy to celebrate the “one for the thumb,” remaining jubilant even after Jerome Bettis’ retirement announcement. “I played this game to win a championship,” Bettis said. “I’m a champion and I think the last stop is going to be Detroit.” Bettis left with 13,662 yards, more than Dickerson, Dorsett and Brown.
Super Bowl XLI
Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17, Feb. 4, 2007: Rain appeared for the first time in a Super Bowl, but it didn’t dampen the elation of Peyton Manning, who ditched years of disappointment and the mantle of “the best never to have won” at Dolphin Stadium in Miami. Manning, the MVP, completed 25 of 38 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown. If anybody thought Manning’s career was incomplete without a Super Bowl win, “that’s just wrong,” said Colts coach Tony Dungy. “But now, he’s done it. He’s a Hall of Fame quarterback, one of the best that’s ever played.”
Super Bowl XLII
N.Y. Giants 17, New England 14, Feb. 3, 2008: The Giants pulled off the upset of the ages at University of Phoenix Stadium, stunning the Patriots and denying the three-time champion an undefeated season. MVP Eli Manning found Plaxico Burress in the end zone with 35 seconds left to cap an 83-yard drive, kept alive by Manning’s scramble and the most improbable leaping catch by David Tyree on third-and-5. “I think if you listen to all the hype, you can talk yourself out of a lot of stuff,” said Giants defensive end Michael Strahan, who retired after the game. “I think a lot of teams who played the Patriots just flat-out talked themselves out of it before the game even started.”
Super Bowl XLIII
Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23, Feb. 1, 2009: The Steelers captured a sixth title in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium in a game many call the best Super Bowl ever. Like heavyweight fighters, the teams traded punches and leads with Pittsburgh getting the last. Ben Roethlisberger somehow found Santonio Holmes, who had to fully extend while trying to keep both feet inbounds for the 6-yard game-winner. At 36, Mike Tomlin became the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl. “If I could win any way, it would be like that,” said Tomlin. “Steeler football is for 60 minutes. It’s never going to be pretty.”
Super Bowl XLIV
New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17, Feb. 7, 2010: “Words can’t describe how much this means for New Orleans,” said cornerback Tracy Porter, whose interception return for a touchdown sealed the victory. “I am a Louisiana native, and this is real big.” Big enough that hell surely froze over after the unthinkable: The Saints, the NFL’s most notorious loser, won the Super Bowl in a game featuring the league’s best two quarterbacks at Sun Life Stadium outside Miami. “We had the entire city and maybe even the entire country behind us,” said Saints QB Drew Brees. “I’ve tried to imagine what this moment would be like for a long time, and it’s better than I expected.”
Super Bowl XLV
Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 25, Feb. 6, 2011: North Texas’ Super Bowl experience wasn’t forgettable for a number of reasons, not least of all the freezing weather and 1,200 fans who only thought they had bought tickets. Instead, they went without when planned temporary seating didn’t make it into Cowboys Stadium. The Packers, boosted by QB Aaron Rodgers’ three touchdowns and three Steelers turnovers, joined 1985 New England, 2005 Pittsburgh and the 2007 NY Giants as teams that had to win three postseason road games to advance to the Super Bowl. The Packers were also the first NFC six seed to reach the NFL championship. “No disrespect to the Steelers. We respect their football team. We respect the way they play,” Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy said. “But we fully expected to win this game. It is our time.”
Super Bowl XLVI
N.Y. Giants 21, New England 17, Feb. 5, 2012: The Giants’ victory over the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis looked a lot like the game that took place four years earlier between the two. Same result carried out very similarly. Eli Manning again led a game-winning drive, capped unintentionally by Ahmad Bradshaw, who fell backward into the end zone with 57 seconds left instead of falling down at the 1 as he had been directed. It all worked out in the end. “As [Manning] was handing off the ball, he was like, ‘Don’t score, don’t score,’ ” Bradshaw said. “It clicked at the 1-yard line.”
Super Bowl XLVII
Baltimore 34, San Francisco 31, Feb. 3, 2013: The Harbaugh Bowl pitting coaching brothers Jim and John was interrupted by an electrical blackout that helped Jim’s Niners get back in the game. It was John’s Ravens, though, who won bragging rights at the Superdome. “It’s tough,” John said of the game against his younger brother. “It’s very tough. It’s a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. It’s very painful.”
Super Bowl XLVIII
Seattle 43, Denver 8, Feb. 2, 2014: The defensive-minded Seahawks earned their $92,000 winner’s share and made sure coach Pete Carroll joined the exclusive club of coaches with a national college football title and a Super Bowl crown. They did it in a rout, making the high-powered Broncos and Peyton Manning appear very average at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. “This is an amazing team,” said Carroll, who joined Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer in the elite coaches circle. “Took us four years to get to this point but they never have taken a step sideways. These guys would not take anything but winning this ballgame.”