Saturday, February 06, 2010

Top 10 Super Bowls

In the last couple days leading up to Super bowl XLIV I have been reflecting on the games that have been played in my lifetime. These thoughts about my favorite day of the year got me to thinking, which Super Bowls would be in my top ten? Recently we have been treated to some great games, some of the best ever. Five of the last eight games have been decided by seven points or less, including three that had scores to win the game on the final play.

Being 34 years old I would say it isn't fair for me to rank the Super Bowls before my time. But with technology and help of the NFL network re-airing games I feel I can make an educated decision.

For the debates sake, the first one I remember watching was Super Bowl XVI at the Pontiac Silverdome when I was 6. I remember them talking about how cold it was in Detroit and that the "winshield" was well below zero. You see six year olds have a hard time understanding that it was actually called windchill.

Either way so you know as this list was made I remember everything from Super Bowls XVI to present. All the Bowls prior, I have either read about, watched the NFL Films highlights or watched the re-aired game. To be fair Super Bowls I-XV will not have brought out the same emotion as the last 28 games and therefore you may have a greater emotional attachment to those games prior to my time on the planet. With that said, here is my Top 10 and let the debate begin starting 10-1.

10. Super Bowl III New York Jets 16 Baltimore 13

Famous For: Joe Willy’s guarantee
MVP: Joe Namath
Site: Orange Bowl, Miami

Reason at # 10:
The game itself wasn't very good. I just watched it the other night in it's entirety on the NFL Network. But its historical merit is inevitable. The AFL's Jets were 18.5 point underdogs to the NFL's Baltimore Colts, who were 13-1 during the regular season.

Namath threw for 206 yards and managed the game behind Matt Snell's 121 yards rushing. Earl Morral got the start at quarterback for Baltimore and was replaced by an aging Johnny Unitas who missed parts of the season due to an arm injury. Unitas led the Colts to their only touchdown late.

9. Super Bowl XXIII San Francisco 20 Cincinnati 16

Famous For: Joe Montana's 92 yard drive to win the game. Also John Candy eating popcorn in the far end zone.
MVP: Jerry Rice
Site: Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami

Reason at # 9: This game would be remembered for Joe Montana raising the level of his play when the contest was at its apex of pressure. The drive started with 3:10 left in the game and Montana’s niners’ on their eight yard line. Joe used game MVP Jerry Rice as his go to receiver until the final moment when he found John Taylor in the end zone with just :34 seconds remaining to cap the 11 play 92 yard drive resulting in a 20-16 victory for the 49ers. Rice was so dominant on the drive that NFL Films cameras caught Sam Wyche saying before the touchdown pass to Taylor, “It’s to Rice now”. The genius of Montana looked to Taylor who was wide open in the end zone.

The Bengals had a chance to seal the victory on the fatal drive but defensive back Lewis Billups dropped a “would be” interception. For the Bengals it was also marred by Stanley Wilson’s insatiable cocaine habit. The night before the game on his way to a meeting he told teammates that he had to go back to his room for his playbook. He was found later in his room doing massive amounts of blow that subsequently had him left off the Super Bowl roster the next day.

8. Super Bowl XXXVIII New England 32 Carolina 29

Famous For: Adam Vinatieri kicking 41 yard Super Bowl winning field goal.
MVP: Tom Brady
Site: Reliant Stadium, Houston

Reason at # 8: Up until the fourth quarter this game was kind of a dud and also included the Carolina Panthers that I don’t think people gave much of a chance to.

Down 21-10 at the start of the fourth quarter and following an Antwan Smith touchdown the Panthers ripped off consecutive touchdown drives. The teams traded points until Carolina tied the game with 1:08 left at 29-29.

The most underrated play of the evening happened on the ensuing kickoff when John Kasay kicked the ball out of bounds allowing New England to start at the 40 yard line. Six plays later, an Adam Vinatieri kicks the game winner, Tom Brady gets MVP and marries super model. Game over.

7. Super Bowl XIII Pittsburgh 35 Dallas 31

Famous For: “Jackie Smith, bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.” – Verne Lundquist
MVP: Terry Bradshaw
Site: Orange Bowl, Miami

Reason at # 7: This was the best game of the first 13 and a great rivalry that had another great matchup in Super Bowl X.

The most memorable moment happened when Roger Staubach threw the ball into the end zone to a wide open tight end Jackie Smith who dropped the third down pass that would have tied the game. Cowboys settled for a FG and a 21-17 deficit.

Moments later the Steelers put the game out of reach scoring twice in 19 seconds. Once recovering a fumble when Steelers kicker Roy Gerela slipped and kicked the ball short to DT Randy White. White who had a cast on his arm fumbled while trying to run with the short kickoff. The Steelers got the ball back and Franco Harris took it in later for a score icing the game. Dallas scored twice late but came up short in a thriller.

Years later, Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson admitted using cocaine during the game by hiding a Dristan bottle in his thigh pad. He later got sober and won the lotto.

6. Super Bowl XXXIV St. Louis 23 Tennessee 16
Famous For: Mike Jones tackle on the 1 yard line
MVP: Kurt Warner
Site: Atlanta Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Reason at #6: Trailing 16-0 the Titans roared back and became for the first team in Super Bowl history to erase a 16 point deficit when Al Del Greco kicked a 43 yard FG to tie the game with just over two minutes remaining.

The next play NFL and Super Bowl MVP Kurt Warner threw a 73 yard bomb to Isaac Bruce to put the Rams ahead 23-16. Warner threw for a record 414 yards.

With the game on the line and no timeouts on the final play, late great Titans quarterback Steve McNair fired a dart to Kevin Dyson. As Dyson was about to score, somehow he was miraculously tackled by Rams linebacker Mike Jones stopping him 1 yard short of the goal line with no time left. The Rams won, and Dick Vermeil cried tears of joy.

5. Super Bowl XXXVI New England 20 St. Louis 17
Famous For: Adam Vinatieri’s first Super Bowl winner
MVP: Tom Brady
Site: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans

Reason at #5: The first Super Bowl after the terrorist attacks had the nation red, white, and blue cheering for the underdog Patriots. Kurt Warner led the charge again as he orchestrated a great comeback, this time down 17-10 late by hitting journeyman Ricky Proehl for a 28 yard game tying td with just over a minute left.

First year starter Tom Brady, with no timeouts then countered leading the Patriots quickly into field goal range. It was a kick that changed history, and placed Adam Vinatirei among the NFL’s greatest as he nailed a 48 yarder at the gun to beat the “Greatest Show on Turf” and kickoff the New England Dynasty.

4. Super Bowl XXV New York Giants 20 Buffalo 19
Famous For: Scott Norwood’s 47 yards wide right
MVP: Ottis Anderson
Site: Tampa Stadium, Tampa
Reason at #4: In one of the best finishes in Super Bowl history, it was New York’s muscle against Buffalo’s flash.

The Giants held the ball for over 40 minutes of game time as they set a Super Bowl record for time of possession. As they held a 20-19 lead late when Matt Bahr kicked a 21 yard field goal, the Bills pushed back behind Thurman Thomas’ offensive explosion. He rushed for 135 yards and caught 55 yards in passes while leading the Bills into Scott Norwood’s field goal range.

History would be made, and the fate of Scott Norwood would be forever be linked with Super Bowl failure, as the great kicker watched his 47 yard try push wide right as time expired.

The Giants won the first of two championships, while the Bills would lose the first of an NFL record four straight title games. Scott Norwood moved on as a successful business owner.
3. Super Bowl XXXII Denver 31 Green Bay 24

Famous For: John Elways third down dive (The Helicopter)
MVP: Terrell Davis
Site: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
Reason at #3: To me this was my favorite game. That was because being a sorry ass Vikings fan the last thing I wanted to see was the Packers win again. But really the most important thing was, for guys like Fran Tarkenton, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and many others it was possibly the last chance to see a great like John Elway get a shot to get himself a ring.

This game was great from the hop, they traded points in each of the four quarters including leads and three ties. Brett Favre was excellent at a young age throwing for three touchdowns and 256 yards, while the Broncos countered behind the running of Terrell Davis’ game MVP 30 carries for 157 yards.

The signature moment came when Elway on third and eight wasn’t going to be denied by a fourth Super Bowl defeat as he lowered his head into two Packer defenders and was helicoptered into the air for the first down. The Broncos scored two plays later to go up 7 in the third quarter.

The Broncos linebacker John Mobley would then knockdown Brett Favre’s fourth down pass and Johnny Ballgame would end up with his long awaited Super Bowl Ring.

2. Super Bowl XLII New York 17 New England 14

Famous For: David Tyree’s pin it to the helmet catch
MVP: Eli Manning
Site: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ

Reason at #2: This was a wonderful game that New York executed to perfection. The reason I have it at #2 and not #1 is because of the lack of excitement for a full 60 minutes. The Giants played ball control and kept the best offense in NFL history off the field for much of the game. The two teams combined for a Super Bowl record, only two possessions in the first quarter.

Is it coincidence that Randy Moss played for the two top scoring offenses in NFL history? Not a chance. Unfortunately Moss was shutdown for the most part in the biggest game of the season, much like in the 1998 NFC Championship when his team was defeated. Moss did look like for a moment like he had rose to the occasion when he caught a touchdown pass in the final moments. It was his 5th catch for a total of 63 yards but it was his TD that seemed to put the Giants away and solidify the first 19-0 season in NFL history.

Apparently an undefeated season wasn’t to be as Eli Manning defied the odds and David Tyree defied everything we knew about pass catching and on a mad scramble third down play to keep the season alive. Giants quarterback Eli Manning heaved the ball into a crowd, and as to the Oakland Raiders was the “Sea if hands” to the Giants became “David and Eliath.”

The season and the Giants remained alive, but it wasn’t over until Manning found Plaxico Burris on a 13 yard TD pass beating cornerback Ellis Hobbs for the most “Giant” of Super Bowl comebacks!

The play was a slant and go or Slugo that freed up Burris, now Burris has two years until he is free. How fame can be fleeting, eh?

1. Super Bowl XLIII Pittsburgh 27 Arizona 23

Famous For: Santonio Holmes catch
MVP: Santonio Holmes
Site: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa
Reason at #1: The greatest Super Bowl of all in my opinion. The underdog Cardinals and their veteran QB Kurt Warner matched up against the Pittsburgh Steelers trying to win an unprecedented sixth world championship.
In a battle of Warner brains and Roethlisburger brawn, it was a goal line play and a Warner mistake that changed this contest. Considered the architect of the “Zone Blitz” Dick LeBeau had the call in on a third down play from the Steelers 1-yard line as Arizona looked to go ahead into the half. Warner took the snap an was hurried by the blitz, looking to his “hot” receiver he delivered a rushed pass into the waiting arms of James Harrison. Harrison a linebacker rumbled an NFL Super Bowl record 100 yards into the Cardinals end zone giving the Steelers a 20-7 lead.
Undaunted the Cardinals retaliated with 16 unanswered points that included a Warner to Larry Fitzgerald 64 yard touchdown with 2:37 remaining to put the upstarts in the lead 23-20.
What looked like an improbable comeback by one team turned into the same for the other. The Steelers marched 78-yards to score on wide receiver Santonio Holmes's 6-yard game-winning touchdown catch with 35 seconds left. Holmes, who caught nine passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, including four receptions for 71 yards on that final game-winning drive, was named Super Bowl MVP.
The play in my opinion, and although I wanted the Cardinals to win, capped the greatest of the 43 Super Bowls.
With only a day until the 44th installment of the greatest one game, I hope we get one of these great games knocked out of the Top 10 on at least somebody’s list.

My prediction Colts 27 Saints 24 in overtime! Enjoy the game.


Doctorjorts said...

Super Bowl XXXVIII: I beg to differ on what it's remembered for. It was after that game that we as a nation coined the term, "wardrobe malfunction."

T Holt said...

Good point! I'll do a top 10 Halftime Shows and include that with Super Bowl XVI's Up With People

Mike said...

Not a big deal, but...The Giants win in XXV was their 2nd SB victory and then the helmet catch game was the 3rd. Don't forget about the '86 team that beat up on Elway and the Broncos.

T Holt said...

Thanks Mike you are correct. Rookie mistake. Misprint on my part. Phil Sims' consecutive completion record game. 39-20. Rose Bowl. Should have checked my work sometimes my memories get jumbled! Thanks for checking it out.

Patrick said...

Soooo, did it break into the top 10?

Stay BAD, and long live the bottle Rockets!!!!

P1 Patrick

GamrrPol said...

Not sure why but I've always paid undue attention to Super Bowls and which ones were "great" and such. While there's much to agree with this list there's a couple (to me) glaring issues.

First, criteria. The best Super Bowls should involve as many of the following as possible:

1. Great Teams
2. Great players
3. Great plays
4. High drama
5. Historical significance

So for instance, the Pittsburg-Arizona game has great players, plays and drama, but did not involve two great teams (I don't think it involved even one great team). I just can't rank a game that had one team that easily could have been left out of the playoffs and another that was good but not great as the best ever. Definitely a great game with exciting plays and lead changes, but it didn't match up two great teams.

Which is why I rank SBXIII as the best ever. First, it involved the undisputed best teams of the 70's and two of the six best teams of the modern era. Between 1970 and 1979 the two teams played in a combined nine super bowls and won six (twice with Dallas losing to Pittsburgh). So on the "great teams" scale there was never a better Super Bowl matchup.

2. Likewise, no other super bowl fielded so many great players. Coaches? Two hall of famers. QBs? Two hall of famers. RBs? Two HoFers. Two HoF WRs for Pitt. In total, 16 HoFers on the field that day. No other Super Bowl comes close.

3. Great plays. Where to begin? Mike Hegman stripping Terry Bradshaw and running the ball in for a defensive TD? John Stallworth zig-zagging 75 yards through the Cowboys defense? Rocky Bleier jumping higher that seemingly possible to snag a 3rd down, end-of-half TD pass to give the Steelers a halftime lead? Lynn Swan soaring high in the end-zone to seemingly put the game away midway through the 4th quarter? Franco Harris rambling 35 yards for another 3rd down touchdown (with the key block being thrown by a referee)? Jackie Smith dropping an easy touchdown. Bogus interference call on Benny Barnes? Simply a game of big plays that matches any other.
4. High drama was all over the field for the first 52 minutes until the Steelers took a 35-17 lead. Then Staubach launched into a patented comeback that had fans of both teams and neutral onlookers pondering the unthinkable. Other games might have been more dramatic down to the last play but this game was in no shortage.
5. Historical significance. This is the hardest criterion to fill and this game rests mostly on it matching the two best teams of the 70's. More significant than some other games but not a big deal. Only games like the Jets SBIII win and the Giants ending the Pats bid for a perfect season or some of the early AFL-NFL matchups really merit high on the significance scale.

Bottom line...when you take into consideration the full complement of items discussed I feel SB XIII ranks much higher than on this list. And also, taking these points in consideration, it would re-rank many of the other games.

Just my opinion on something I've spent way too much time thinking about...