It's hard to do anything 51 times these days, let alone doing them once a year every 51 years. But the game once called "The AFL-NFL Championship Game" has been edited down to the name we know it by and celebrate every time it happens -- the Super Bowl.
Some even ask to make it a national holiday. That's how big it's become.
And in honor of the previous 51 games played and with No. 52 (that's Roman numeral LII), I thought it was a good time to take the first 51 games and rank them in order of worst to first. There once was a period there were the game was a clunker. But there are games that are just beyond explanation. Those games -- and the clunkers for that matter -- I will do my best to rank and describe. Like most countdown lists, there's always debate. Feel free to do that.
Without further adieu, here those rankings are:
51. Super Bowl XXVII (Dallas 52, Buffalo 17, January 31, 1993, The Rose Bowl)
All of these young and hungry Dallas Cowboys didn't look like scared puppies when they walked into the Rose Bowl against the two-time runners-up Buffalo Bills at the Rose Bowl. And when a brutal hit on a sack by Charles Haley leveled quarterback Jim Kelly, allowing Jimmie Jones to score a touchdown on the fumble recovery in the end zone, the beginning of the end was starting to take place for the Bills ... once again. Kelly would get hammered on a sack by Ken Norton Jr., meaning backup Frank Reich would come into the game. And Reich would get more of that same beating from the Cowboys' defense. Meanwhile, Troy Aikman would have a day to remember. The MVP of the game went 22-of-30 for 273 yards and four touchdowns, two to Michael Irvin and one each to Jay Novacek and Alvin Harper. The Cowboys -- a 1-15 team just three years earlier -- would run up 408 yards of offense and cause the Bills to fumble the ball an inexcusable nine times, a Super Bowl record, another of them being a Norton return of a fumble in the fourth quarter. And it looked as if another fumble would establish the Super Bowl record for most points in the game as Leon Lett took said fumble down the sideline for what should've been a touchdown except as he was about to move his hand with the ball over the goal line, Bills wide receiver Don Beebe hustled back to knock the ball away and out of the end zone for a touchback, one of the few highlights of the day for the Bills.
And the maddening thing about this particular game is the fact the Denver Broncos defense did everything it could to keep them in the game that night. The three touchdowns the Broncos gave up included two long passes, one thrown by Cowboys running back Robert Newsome to Golden Richards. Unfortunately, quarterback Craig Morton did everything he could to help his old teammates in Dallas. Morton was a putrid 4-of-15 passing for 39 yards and threw as many interceptions as he did receptions. Yeah, he was really bad. On the other hand, Roger Staubach was 17-of-25 passing for 183 yards and a long touchdown bomb to wrap up the deal to Butch Johnson. The MVP was split among Harvey Martin and Randy White, who spearheaded Dallas' defense to make Morton and the Broncos' night miserable by making them cough the ball up eight times. Eight! Morton's night was so bad that coach Red Miller pulled him in the third quarter and the lone Broncos score was a touchdown drive engineered by backup Norris Weese.
49. Super Bowl 50 (Denver 24, Carolina 10, February 7, 2016, Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif.)
Here's all you have to know about this Super Bowl: There were only three touchdowns scored in this game, one came on a fumble recovery in the end zone, another coming off a turnover that led to a 4-yard, three-play drive that clinched the Broncos' third championship. Von Miller was the deserving MVP of the game, leading a Broncos defense that made regular-season MVP and Panthers quarterback Cam Newton look like he wanted to go back to the locker room and hide, sacking him seven times. Newton may have thrown for 265 yards, but he was 18-of-41 in doing that and threw an interception and fumbled the ball off a Miller sack that led to Malik Jackson landing on it for the touchdown. Still, if you think the losing quarterback's performance wasn't hot, the winning quarterback's performance was satisfactory at best. In what would be his final NFL game, Peyton Manning did an OK job in leading the Broncos to three field goals and finally a touchdown drive -- albeit, three plays, four yards after another Newton fumble that his defense picked up. C.J. Anderson scored the touchdown and Manning's last hurrah was a 2-point conversion throw to Bennie Fowler. Manning was 13-of-23 passing for 141 yards and an interception, far from the guy who lit defenses up his entire career. The defense saved the day in what turned into nothing more than a defensive tug of war and yawn-fest.
48. Super Bowl XXIV (San Francisco 55, Denver 10, January 28, 1990, The Louisiana Superdome)
Sure, it feels like we're picking on the Denver Broncos, win or lose, but boy did they get involved in some bad Super Bowls. And this one was a soul-crusher. After being there two of the previous three years, John Elway and Co. won the AFC Championship and had the right to meet the defending champion and NFC juggernaut San Francisco 49ers. Let's say it didn't go too well: David Treadwell's field goal was sandwiched in between Joe Montana touchdowns to Jerry Rice and Brett Jones and a Tom Rathman 1-yard plunge, giving the 49ers a 27-3 halftime lead. If you weren't sure the game was over at the half, Montana made sure it was in the third quarter with two more hook-up TDs to Rice and John Taylor. Add in TD runs by Rathman and Roger Craig in the fourth quarter, you have the laugher of all Super Bowl routs, so bad that even The Simpsons mocked the game in one of their episodes. Montana finished 22-of-29 for 297 yards and five TDs to easily win MVP honors as the 49ers rolled up 461 yards, while the Broncos mustered 167 as a team and turned it over four times.
47. Super Bowl VIII (Miami 24, Minnesota 7, January 13, 1974, Houston Bowl)
If not for the fact that game MVP Larry Csonka rushed for 145 yards on 33 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 5 and 2 yards, nobody would even remember this game unless you are the most die-hard Dolphins fan there is around. The Dolphins, coming in as defending champions, methodically made life miserable on Minnesota's vaunted Purple People Eater defense and made things uncomfortable for quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who they sacked twice and forced an interception. Tarkenton did scramble for a fourth-quarter touchdown, but by then, the Vikings were down 24-0 in the fourth quarter. As seemingly was heard when the Vikings got to this particular game four times in the '70s, "Thanks for coming."
46. Super Bowl XXVI (Washington 37, Buffalo 24, January 26, 1992, The Minnesota Metrodome)
When the one thing you remember from this particular game was running back Thurman Thomas misplacing his helmet as his Buffalo Bills took the field to open up on offense, you know it's a bad game. And it was a bad day for the Bills, who found themselves down 24-0 early in the third quarter and started realizing they weren't going to come back and win. By the time Scott Norwood kicked a field goal and Thomas scored on a run, they were down 24-10. And all Washington did was add a 30-yard TD pass form MVP Mark Rypien to Gary Clark and two Chip Lohmiller field goals before the Bills answered with beautiful window dressing at the end on two TDs. The Bills actually had more first downs (25) than Washington (24), but Jim Kelly probably needed a month or two to rest his arm after throwing 58 passes with four of them getting intercepted. Buffalo turned the ball over five times.
45. Super Bowl IX (Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6, January 12, 1975, Tulane Stadium)
44. Super Bowl XXIX (San Francisco 49, San Diego 26, January 29, 1995, Joe Robbie Stadium)
The record performances in this game amazed, especially game MVP Steve Young throwing for six touchdowns, breaking the mark of five set five years earlier by former teammate Joe Montana. And though the first-time Bowl competitor San Diego Chargers knew what to expect from two weeks of watching film, they still couldn't stop the 49ers on offense. And just 1:24 into the game, Young unloaded with a perfect down-and-out strike to Jerry Rice for a 44-yard TD score. Just 2:29 later, Ricky Watters scored the first of his three touchdowns when he turned a screen pass into a 51-yard score. Natrone Means made it close early on with a Chargers touchdown run of one yard, but short TD passes from Young to William Floyd and Watters made it 28-10. And it got worse from there as Watters scored on a run and Young threw two more TD strikes to Rice to finish out a 24-of-36 night for 325 yards, while also running for 49 yards. The only thing the Chargers gave us in the end: Two 2-point conversion passes by Stan Humphries, the first two 2-point conversions in Super Bowl history.
43. Super Bowl XLI (Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17, February 4, 2007, Pro Player Stadium)
Here's a Super Bowl that Peyton Manning won for the first time. But it was awfully hard to watch this game, especially with a South Florida driving rainstorm throughout the second half. If the only thing you remember from this game is Prince's memorable halftime musical performance, we all understand. Devin Hester, a South Florida native from Riviera Beach, got the game going in the right direction with a 92-yard kickoff return score to start it off. And after Manning connected with Reggie Wayne for a touchdown, the Chicago Bears answered back with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to Muhsin Muhammed to take a 14-6 lead after one quarter. That's when the Colts kicked in and the Bears went into hibernation the rest of the night. An Adam Vinatieri field goal and Dominic Rhodes touchdown run gave the Colts a 16-14 halftime lead. And the second half in that horrible rainstorm was no better with Vinatieri kicking two field goals and Kelvin Hayden intercepting a Grossman wounded duck and returning it 56 yards to seal the deal for the Colts and coach Tony Dungy, the first African-American to win a Super Bowl.
42. Super Bowl XXXV (Baltimore 34, N.Y. Giants 7, January 28, 2001, Raymond James Stadium)
The Baltimore Ravens flexed some mean muscle when the postseason began. Relegated to a wild card, they stormed to the Super Bowl with an impressive defensive effort against the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship. No one suspected they could do the same thing to quarterback Kerry Collins and the New York Giants, right? Apparently the Giants didn't think about preparing for the Ravens all that well. The Ravens defense treated Collins like he stole something from it. Collins was 15-of-39 passing with four interceptions. The only touchdown the Giants would get (they had a Jessie Armstead 43-yard interception return for a TD nullified early in the game by a defensive holding call) would be on special teams as Rod Dixon returned a kickoff 97 yards for a score. But the Giants couldn't even celebrate that! A moment later, Jermaine Lewis took the kickoff after the scoring return and brought it back 84 yards for a touchdown to give the Ravens a 24-7 lead. Collins would be sacked four times and the Giants would end up turning the ball over five times, one of those a Duane Starks interception for a 49-yard touchdown. Jamal Lewis would rush for 102 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to seal the deal. Ray Lewis, who grew up in Lakeland, just an hour away from where the game was played in Tampa, sealed his MVP honor with three solo tackles, two assists and four blocked passes.
41. Super Bowl II (Green Bay 33, Oakland 14, January 14, 1968, Orange Bowl)
The NFL kept thumbing its nose at the AFL because between the two leagues, it had the dominant team in the business with Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers. After surviving the minus-15 degree conditions to beat the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL title game, they took on the AFL champion Oakland Raiders. Two Don Chandler field goals would be followed by a 62-yard TD strike from game MVP Bart Starr to Boyd Dowler, making it 13-0. Daryle Lamonica connected with Bill Miller for a 23-yard score before the break, making it 13-7. But the Packers ... well they were the Packers. And they leveled their will on the Raiders in the second half with two more Chandler field goals, a Donny Anderson 2-yard run and a 62-yard interception return by Herb Adderley to seal the deal. Lamonica and Miller connected for another 23-yard TD score in the fourth, but by then the Packers began celebrating Lombardi's going-away game ... and smirking at the AFL, wondering if there ever would be a team that would challenge for a championship.
40. Super Bowl V (Baltimore 16, Dallas 13, January 17, 1971, Orange Bowl)
39. Super Bowl XXXVII (Tampa Bay 48, Oakland 21, January 26, 2003, Qualcomm Stadium)
Rich Gannon was the league's Most Valuable Player for the Oakland Raiders in 2002. He couldn't do any wrong and the Raiders were back in their first Super Bowl in 19 years, a joyous occasion, right? Well, unfortunately for Gannon, he came up against the one coach whose defense was confident enough to stop him. And that coach was Jon Gruden, who happened to be the Raiders' coach for four seasons. Simeon Rice's early sack of Gannon in Bucs territory was key to limiting the Raiders to a Sebastian Janikowski field goal. After that, Gannon got nothing the rest of the first half. A pair of Martin Gramatica field goals make it a 6-3 lead, then a touchdown run by Mike Alstott and a touchdown pass from Brad Johnson to Keenan McCardell gave the Bucs a 20-3 halftime lead. And then it got worse as Gannon got picked off three times in the second half, and all of them, two by Dwight Smith and one by Derrick Brooks, would be returned for touchdowns. McCardell would catch another touchdown pass to complete the rout. Gannon would get touchdown passes to Jerry Porter and Jerry Rice, but had to suffer the indignity of a 24-for-44 day passing for 272 yards and five interceptions, very un-MVP like.
38. Super Bowl XLVII (Seattle 43, Denver 8, February 1, 2014, Met Life Stadium)
This would be the first time a Super Bowl would be held outdoors in a northern climate, which should have favored the high-flying offense of Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Nope! On this day, Seattle's defense of head coach Pete Carroll and coordinator Dan Quinn ruled the day. The game had disaster written all over it when center Manny Ramirez misunderstood Manning's snap count, fired the ball back too soon and New Jersey native Knowshon Moreno had to sit on the ball in the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 lead. Two Seahawks field goals would be followed by a Marshawn Lynch 1-yard scoring run, then the play of the night as Malcolm Smith took a deflected Manning pass out of the air and rumbled 69 yards for the touchdown to make it 22-0 at the half. And if you weren't sure this game was over, Percy Harvin sure did by taking the opening kickoff of the second half 87 yards for a touchdown to make it 29-0. It became 36-0 on a Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse. The Seahawks' "Legion Of Boom" defense made life rough on the Broncos this day as Manning couldn't get anything going until a fourth-quarter TD pass to Demaryius Thomas. But Doug Baldwin's TD catch sealed the deal in what was a terrible game to watch unless you were a Seahawks fan and loved their defense.
37. Super Bowl XX (Chicago 46, New England 10, January 26, 1986, The Louisiana Superdome)
They had the swag. They had the celebrities. They had that "Shuffle" song and video. The only thing left for the Chicago Bears to do was win the Super Bowl. And they did. And they destroyed a New England Patriots team that was happy to be there after they upset both the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins in the AFC playoffs to reach the big game. Tony Franklin gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead with a field goal ... and then the Bears scored the next 44 points. Quarterback Jim McMahon scored two touchdowns, running back Matt Suhey had a TD run, Reggie Phillips intercepted backup quarterback Steve Grogan and returned it for a 28-yard touchdown and to add insult to injury, defensive lineman William "The Refrigerator" Perry got to score a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge. About the only thing the Bears did wrong was never allow legendary running back Walter Payton a chance to score in the game. Seemed like everyone else did. Both coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan were carried off the shoulders of their players and the '85 Bears were legends forever.
36. Super Bowl XIX (San Francisco 38, Miami 16, January 20, 1985, Stanford Stadium)
Dolphins QB Dan Marino had rung up a record 5,084 yards passing and was the darling of the 1984 season. That, still, wasn't impressive to 49ers players, especially the defense, which "contained" Marino to 318 yards passing on 29-of-50 accuracy and two interceptions. The one touchdown -- a 2-yarder to tight end Dan Johnson. As for the "other" QB in the game, MVP Joe Montana would go 24-of-35 passing for 331 yards and three TDs, two to running back Roger Craig, one to Carl Monroe. Montana and Craig would score rushing touchdowns. The 49ers defense held Marino and the Dolphins to as many points as you and I scored that day in the second half -- zero. Marino may have been all the rage in '84, but the 18-1 49ers were the team of that season.
35. Super Bowl XI (Oakland 33, Minnesota 14, January 9, 1977, The Rose Bowl)
34. Super Bowl VI (Dallas 24, Miami 3, January 16, 1972, Tulane Bowl)
Everything about this one was bad for the Miami Dolphins, from the weather (a chilly 39 degrees) to the offensive effort to the Dallas Cowboys' efficiency. Now the fulltime starting quarterback for the Cowboys, game MVP Roger Staubach was 12-of-19 passing for 112 yards and two touchdowns, both by players whose star had come and gone, one to wide receiver Lance Alworth, the other to tight end Mike Ditka, both of seven yards. Duane Thomas rushed for 95 yards and a TD. The Dallas defense made a mature Miami team look like rookies as the Dolphins became the first and only team to not score a touchdown in a Super Bowl, held to just a Garo Yepremian field goal before halftime and relegated to a lowlight 29-yard sack by the great Bob Lilly of Bob Griese. But as Griese would tell yours truly 36 years later, that loss would be the motivator for what would turn out to be a 17-0 season in '72.
33. Super Bowl XL (Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10, February 5, 2006, Ford Field)
It's a Super Bowl that may be remembered more for some of the questionable calls made by officials, including one on Ben Roethlisberger's 1-yard sneak that replay officials had to rule a touchdown just after the two-minute warning to give the Pittsburgh Steelers a 7-3 lead over the first-time Bowl participant Seattle Seahawks of coach Mike Holmgren. Willie Parker's 75-yard touchdown run gave the Steelers a 14-3 lead, but QB Matt Hasselbeck wasn't going to give the Steelers an easy run to a title. He fired a 16-yard TD pass to Jeramy Stevens to cut the lead to 14-10 going to the fourth quarter and giving Seahawks fans hope. But in one trick play, those hopes faded away as game MVP and wide receiver Hines Ward took an end around from Roethlisberger, then fired a 43-yard strike to Antwaan Randle-El. It would be the first and only Super Bowl championships for coach Bill Cowher and for running back Jerome Bettis, who would retire a championship in his home town of Detroit.
32. Super Bowl I (Green Bay 35, Kansas City 10, January 15, 1967, L.A. Memorial Stadium)
Two things about this one: One, it was the first game (the original AFL-NFL Championship). Two, it was on two networks (CBS and NBC). Oh, and a third: The game was close at halftime, Vince Lombardi's Green Bay Packers leading Hank Stram's Kansas City Chiefs, 14-10. Then the Packers unleashed their will on the Chiefs, who were holding the hopes of an entire league (American Football League) on their shoulders in proving they were not the "inferior league." Elijah Pitts scored on touchdown runs of 1 and 5 yards and the game's initial MVP, Bart Starr, threw a 13-yard TD strike to Max McGee, McGee's second TD catch of the game after coming in off a night on the town blitzed himself. McGee finished with seven catches for 138 yards, Starr ending up 16-of-23 passing for 250 yards. Lombardi's Packers were the elite of all football. Stram's Chiefs were only building to bigger things in the coming years. And a championship game was born.
31. Super Bowl XV (Oakland 27, Philadelphia 10, January 25, 1981, The Louisiana Superdome)
This was supposed to be the Philadelphia Eagles' coronation as a franchise that once was a laughingstock. Dick Vermeil, through his toughness and tears, had built the franchise into an NFC championship club. The Oakland Raiders were nothing more than a wild card team at 12-7, having to play through Houston, Cleveland and San Diego with a quarterback (Jim Plunkett) who was nothing more than a backup and got the chance to take over after regular starter Dan Pastorini broke his leg. But the former Heisman Trophy winner from Stanford a decade earlier proved he was a vital part to the team's success right at the start by throwing a TD strike to venerable receiver Cliff Branch, then hitting Kenny King out of the backfield and King outracing defenders 80 yards for what was then the longest TD strike in history. Plunkett and Branch connected for a 29-yard strike in the second half and Chris Bahr added two field goals to finish out the scoring as the defense did the rest, frustrating Ron Jaworksi to 18-of-38 passing for 291 yards and a touchdown pass to Keith Krepfle. But he also threw three interceptions, all to linebacker Rod Martin. Plunkett would be the MVP with 13-of-21 passing for 261 yards and the three scores. The Raiders became the first wild card team to win a Super Bowl.
30. Super Bowl XXII (Washington 42, Denver 10, January 31, 1988, Jack Murphy Stadium)
29. Super Bowl XXIII (Denver 34, Atlanta 19, January 31, 1999, Pro Player Stadium)9
The Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons were both 14-2 and this game had all the makings of another great Super Bowl. But the arrest of Falcons safety Eugene Robinson the night before the game in Miami highlighted the pre-game ceremony and it may have had an effect on the first-time Bowl participants against Broncos veteran quarterback John Elway. The Falcons took a 3-0 lead on a Morten Andersen field goal, but the Broncos answered back with a Howard Griffith 1-yard TD run and a field goal by Jason Elam. Then came the big play -- Elway going over the top to wide receiver Rod Smith, who was covered by Robinson, for an 80-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-3. That was it ... the Falcons never recovered. Griffith and Elway would score on runs and by the fourth quarter, Elway would leave in a blaze of glory in what would be his last game, ironically against old coach Dan Reeves. He would finish 18-of-29 passing for 336 yards with the one TD pass and one TD running. At 38, he was named the game's MVP. The Falcons didn't help themselves as they turned the ball over four times.
28. Super Bowl XVIII (L.A. Raiders 38, Washington 9, January 22, 1984, Tampa Stadium)
Washington was the favored team after beating the Los Angeles Raiders in a wild battle in November. But the Raiders were taking notes and watching film. And it all paid off the second time around in this game at Tampa Stadium. Derrick Jansen blocked a Jeff Hayes punt and landed on it in the end zone for a touchdown for an early 7-0 lead. Then the venerable Jim Plunkett hit veteran receiver Cliff Branch for a 12-yard, second-quarter strike for a 14-0 lead. Mark Moseley would get Washington on the board with a 24-yard field goal and after Ray Guy pinned Washington back at its 12 late in the first half, coach Joe Gibbs attempted a play that worked during the regular-season game against the Raiders. Quarterback Joe Theismann rolled out right, then threw back to running back Joe Washington for a score then, but this time, the Raiders had it scouted out. Linebacker Jack Squirek jumped in front of Washington and returned the ball 5 yards for the touchdown. The defending champions were shell-shocked. Though John Riggins would score on the first drive of the second half for Washington, Los Angeles dominated from there. Actually, Marcus Allen would dominate the second half, scoring two third-quarter touchdowns, the last a 75-yard score in which he started right, saw trouble, back-tracked the other way, then burst through a hole opened up by the Raider offensive line. Allen finished with 191 yards on 20 carries and would win the MVP. Washington, meanwhile, would need years to regroup.
27. Super Bowl XXI (N.Y. Giants 39, Denver 20, January 25, 1987, The Rose Bowl)
The New York Giants were putting together a special season under coach Bill Parcells, led by league MVP and linebacker Lawrence Taylor. Their reward was winning the NFC title game against Washington and facing off in the Super Bowl with Dan Reeves-coached Denver and quarterback John Elway, playing in his first Super Bowl. Elway's 4-yard score gave the Broncos a 10-7 lead and they looked for more late in the first half. But veteran George Martin crashed through to grab Elway in the end zone for a safety, making it 10-9 at halftime. And that was the momentum shaker for the Giants. Phil Simms hit Mark Bavaro for a 13-yard TD pass on the opening drive of the second half to give the Giants a 16-10 lead. Raul Allegre kicked a 21-yard field goal and Joe Morris slammed into the end zone for a 1-yard score, giving the Giants a 26-10 lead going into the final quarter. A deflected pass from Simms to Bavaro was caught by receiver Phil McConkey for a touchdown and Ottis Anderson scored on a 2-yard run to make a close game into a rout. In a record-breaking performance, Simms won the MVP, going 21-of-25 passing for 268 yards and three TDs, the other going to the other tight end, Zeke Mowatt, in the first quarter.
26. Super Bowl XXVIII (Dallas 30, Buffalo 13, January 30, 1994, The Georgia Dome)
Finally, it looked as if the fourth time would be the charm for the Buffalo Bills, who led 13-6 at halftime over the Dallas Cowboys in the first rematch of a Super Bowl. Then the Cowboys reminded the Bills and their fans why Bills stood for "Boy I Love Losing Super (Bowls)." Thurman Thomas was stripped by Leon Lett and James Washington took the ball back 46 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 13-all. On the next possession, the Cowboys would go 64 yards on eight plays and cap the drive with a 15-yard scoring run by Emmitt Smith to give Dallas a 20-13 lead. Smith, who would earn MVP honors in a season that saw him hold out for more money until the third game, would add a 1-yard plunge and Eddie Murray kicked a 20-yard field goal to seal another Dallas title. Smith would rush for 132 yards on 30 carries and would wear down the Bills in the fourth quarter. Jim Kelly would go 31-of-50 passing for the Bills, but would not find paydirt and would end up throwing an interception in yet another frustrating loss for Bills Nation.
25. Super Bowl XXXI (Green Bay 35, New England 21, January 26, 1997, The Louisiana Superdome)
24. Super Bowl XLIV (New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17, February 7, 2010, Sun Life Stadium)
The Colts of coach Jim Caldwell and quarterback Peyton Manning held a 10-6 halftime lead, mainly on the strength of a Manning TD pass to Pierre Garcon. But Saints coach Sean Payton had a plan to start the second half -- an onside kickoff. It worked as Jonathan Casillas took the ricochet off of Hank Baskett's arms for the recovery. The Saints drove from there and quarterback Drew Brees hit Pierre Thomas for a 16-yard score to give the Saints a 13-10 lead. The Colts would fight back as Joseph Addai would score on a 4-yard run to make it 17-13. But the Saints would take it from there the rest of the evening. After a Garrett Hartley 47-yard field goal cut the lead to a point, Brees hit Jeremy Shockey for a 2-yard TD score, then delivered the 2-point conversion pass to Lance Moore to make it 24-17 with 5:42 left in the game. Needing to move the ball quickly, Manning made his only mistake of the night ... but it wa a biggie as Tracy Porter stepped in front of a pass and returned it 74 yards for the game-clinching score. Game MVP Brees was 32-of-39 passing for 288 yards. In losing, Manning was 31-of-45 passing for 333 yards. But over four years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, New Orleans was on top of the sports world.
23. Super Bowl XXX (Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17, January 28, 1996, Sun Devil Stadium)
This was Dallas' third Super Bowl in four years, but first for former Oklahoma Sooners coach Barry Switzer. And unlike the first two Super Bowls, this one was going to be an open struggle to the end against coach Bill Cowher's Pittsburgh Steelers. In the end, a short-time hero was born in a cornerback named Larry Brown. Two Chris Boniol field goals and a Troy Aikman TD pass to tight end Jay Novacek gave the Cowboys a 13-0 lead in the second quarter. But the Steelers awakened as Neil O'Donnell fired a TD strike to Yancey Thigpen to make it 13-7 at halftime. Emmitt Smith answered with a 1-yard burst for a score to make it 20-7, two plays after Brown intercepted O'Donnell. But the Steelers were determined to make it a game. Norm Johnson delivered a 46-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10 points, then Cowher rolled the dice on an onside kick and won as Deon Figures recovered it and Bam Morris would close the drive with a 1-yard score, making it 20-17. The Steelers got another stop and took over at their 32. On second down, O'Donnell once again got a case of color-blindness and found the No. 24 uniform of Brown, who took the ball back to the Steelers' 6. Two plays after that, Smith put the game away with 3:43 left with a 4-yard score. Brown would win MVP honors as O'Donnell would finish 28-of-49 passing for 239 yards in his final game with the Steelers.
22. Super Bowl XXXIX (New England 24, Philadelphia 21, February 6, 2005, Alltel Stadium)
OK, this is the Super Bowl that I got to cover for my newspaper. It was a dream to finally cover a Super Bowl. I enjoyed the experience in Jacksonville ... and got a fairly decent game in the process. The Patriots came in as the defending champions, the Eagles finally arriving at the big game with coach Andy Reid after three straight NFC Championship game losses. After a scoreless first quarter, it was the Eagles who jumped on board first when Donovan McNabb hit L.J. Smith with a 6-yard strike. But the Patriots showed why they were as good as advertised. Tom Brady hit David Givens with a 4-yard score, then took the lead with a little trickery as for the second straight Super Bowl, Brady hit linebacker Mike Vrabel with the tackle eligible TD pass of 2 yards to give the Patriots a 14-7 lead early in the third quarter. The Eagles would tie it in the third quarter as Brian Westbrook grabbed a 10-yard pass from McNabb for a score. But the Patriots would go on a nine-play, 66-yard drive and would cap it with a 2-yard scoring run by Corey Dillon to take the lead again. After a punt, a 19-yard catch by game MVP Deion Branch, which was punctuated by Corey Simon's 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty, led to an Adam Vinatieri field goal of 22 yards to make it 24-14 with 8:40 left. Two possessions left and down 10 points, McNabb unusually was taking too much time, reportedly due to the dry-heaves he was suffering. Seemingly taking forever, McNabb picked up the pace with a 30-yard scoring strike to Greg Lewis to cut the lead to three points, but only 1:48 was left. They used up their timeouts stopping Brady and forcing a punt that Josh Miller delivered to the Eagles' 4-yard line with just 46 seconds left in the game. In super-hurry mode, McNabb missed Smith and Rodney Harrison had his second interception of the game to seal the Patriots' third title in four years. Branch caught 11 passes for 133 yards. Brady was 23-of-33 passing for 236 yards. McNabb ended up 30-of-51 passing for 357 yards, but three interceptions hurt him and the Eagles in the end.
21. Super Bowl IV (Kansas City 23, Minnesota 7, January 11, 1970, Tulane Stadium)
20. Super Bowl XLV (Green Bay 31, Pittsburgh 25, February 6, 2011, Cowboys Stadium)
The game started auspiciously as Christina Aguilera botched the national anthem. But Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers would get it back on track. He threw a touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson of 29 yards, then 24 seconds later, the Packers made it 14-0 when Nick Collins picked off Ben Roethlisberger and took it back 37 yards for the score. Sean Suisham kicked a 33-yard field goal to get the Steelers on the board, but Rodgers hit Greg Jennings for a 21-yard score to make it 21-3. Roethlisberger, though, got it close with an 8-yard strike to Hines Ward, making it 21-10 at the break. On their first drive of the second half, the Steelers cut the lead to 21-17 as Rashard Mendenhall scored on an 8-yard run. The Packers dodged a bullet late in the third quarter when they stopped the Steelers and Suisham missed on a 52-yard field goal. They took advantage and with 11:57 left in the game, Rodgers hit Jennings for his second TD of the day, an 8-yard strike, to make it 28-17. On the ensuing drive, the Steelers answered when Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace with a 25-yard score. An Antwaan Randle El 2-point conversion run out of the Wildcat formation made it a 3-point game with 7:34 to go, but Rodgers answered again with a 10-play, 70-yard drive that took 5:27 off the clock, made the Steelers burn timeouts and ended in a 23-yard Mason Crosby field goal with 2:07 left. Roethlisberger and the Steelers had to go 87 yards, and though he got one first down, the Packers would stop him on downs and claim their fourth Super Bowl championship. Rodgers was MVP, going 24-of-39 passing for 304 yards and the three scores. Nelson had nine catches for 140 yards and established himself as Rodgers' go-to guy for years to come.
19. Super Bowl XLVII (Baltimore 34, San Francisco 31, February 3, 2013, Mercedes-Benz Louisiana Superdome)
The first Super Bowl played in New Orleans in 11 years and first after Hurricane Katrina eventually turned into a classic ... that is, after the lights went out and came back on. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco threw first-half touchdowns to Anquan Boldin, Dennis Pitta and Jacoby Jones to build a 21-6 lead at the break. Then Jones made history with a 108-yard kickoff return to start the second half for a score, the longest in Super Bowl history, to make it 28-6. This was a rout. The 49ers had no hope. Then early into the 49ers' first drive after the score, the lights went out in the Superdome and would take 34 minutes to turn back on, the first delay of any kind in the game's history. That seemed to rejuvenate the team and quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He hit Michael Crabtree for a 31-yard score to cut the lead to 28-13. They got the ball back on a punt and 32-yard return by Ted Ginn Jr. to the Ravens' 20. From there, it took two plays to get the job done as Frank Gore darted 6 yards for the score that made it 28-20. The teams would swap field goals before Kaepernick struck again, this time on a 15-yard run to cut the lead 31-29. They went for two points, but failed, keeping the game where it was. Justin Tucker's 38-yard field goal made it 34-29 with 4:19 left. The 49ers had one last drive and Kaepernick had them moving, hitting Crabtree for a 24-yard pass and handing off to Gore for a 33-yard run, putting the 49ers in scoring position at the Ravens 7. A 2-yard run by LaMichael James was followed by two incompletions. It was on fourth down that Kaepernick lofted a pass into the end zone to Crabtree. Though defensive back Jimmy Smith seemed to grab onto Crabtree's jersey, no flag was thrown. The ball fell incomplete and punter Sam Koch provided the final points by running out of the end zone for a safety with four seconds to go. It was the 49ers' first Super Bowl loss in six tries. Meanwhile, it was the Ravens' second title in what would be linebacker Ray Lewis' final game. Flacco, the MVP of the game, was 22-of-33 passing for 287 yards and the three TD passes.
18. Super Bowl VII (Miami 14, Washington 7, January 14, 1973, L.A. Memorial Coliseum)
One year after the devastation by the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl, the Miami Dolphins were back and back with a vengeance. They went 14-0 in the regular season, then defeated Cleveland and Pittsburgh to reach the Super Bowl again. This time, the opponent was the "Over The Hill Gang" of coach George Allen, who helped motivate the team to go further than maybe they thought they could go. The Dolphins were actually a one-point underdog in the game. Yes, an unbeaten team was the underdog! That only motivated them to do more. On the final play of the first quarter, quarterback Bob Griese hit Howard Twilley for a 28-yard touchdown pass and running back Jim Kiick scored with 18 seconds left in the half to double the lead to 14-0 at halftime. The Dolphns defense harassed quarterback Billy Kilmer into 14-of-28 passing and three interceptions. Still, Washington's defense kept the game close. And it looked as if the game was about to end when the Dolphins sent kicker Garo Yepremian in for a field goal. But Yepremian's kick was blocked by Bill Brundige. To make matters worse, Yepremian tried to pick the ball up, but fumbled it out of his own hands and into the arms of Washington's Mike Bass, who returned it 49 yards to cut the lead to 14-7. Washington had a chance. But instead of an onside kickoff with 2:07 left, Allen decided to kick off and use timeouts to save the clock deep in Miami territory. They forced a punt, but Miami's defense came to the rescue with the last heroic effort being a Vern Den Herder sack of Kilmer on fourth down to seal the deal on the one and only unbeaten team in the Super Bowl era at 17-0. Safety Jake Scott won the MVP honor with a pair of interceptions, highlighting the spirt of Miami's famous "No-Name Defense."
17. Super Bowl XVII (Washington 27, Miami 17, January 30, 1983, The Rose Bowl)
16. Super Bowl XVI (San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21, January 24, 1982, The Silverdome)
The Super Bowl moved north for the first time in history as it was played in the comfortable indoor confines of the Pontiac Silverdome, while it was minus-8 degrees outside. For the first time since Super Bowl III, two different teams that had never been there before were playing in the big game. But if there was one team that wasn't intimidated by the big moment it was the 49ers and quarterback Joe Montana. In the first 30 minutes of the game, the 49ers took a 20-0 lead with Montana hitting running back-turned-tight end Earl Cooper with a 13-yard TD and running for a short score, while Ray Wersching kicking two field goals, the final one coming after Archie Griffin flubbed a squib kick. But the Bengals bounced back with Ken Anderson running for a 5-yard score in the third quarter, then had a first and goal from the 1, but couldn't break through into the end zone on four tries, the last one seeing Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds, Dan Bunz and Ronnie Lott stopping Pete Johnson short of the goal line instead of taking the field goal. Anderson hit Dan Ross for a 4-yard score to make it 20-14. Wersching kicked two more field goals to give the 49ers a 26-14 lead, but the Bengals would strike again with an Anderson-to-Ross 3-yard TD strike, making it 26-21. One problem, though -- there was 16 seconds left in the game. Dwight Clark recovered the onside kickoff and the 49ers secured their first Super Bowl. Montana went 14-of-22 passing for 157 yards and earned his first MVP honor. In a losing effort, Anderson was 25-of-34 passing for 300 yards, but hurt himself with two interceptions. The Bengals actually had more TDs in the game than the winning team (3-2).
15. Super Bowl XLIX (New England 28, Seattle 24, February 1, 2015, University of Phoenix Stadium)
The defending champion Seattle Seahawks were back in the big game, but matched up this time with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Brady threw TD passes to Brandon LaFell and Rob Gronkowski, while Seattle matched that with a Marshawn Lynch TD run and a Russell Wilson-to-Chris Matthews TD pass to go to halftime tied at 14-all. Seattle went ahead 24-14 in the third quarter on a Steve Hauschka field goal and a Wilson 3-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin. Then Brady, who would earn his third game MVP, would engineer two long drives leading to fourth-quarter TDs, the first a 4-yard score to Danny Amendola, the second a 3-yard TD pass to Julian Edelman with 2:02 to play. That left the Seahawks that much time to win it. And Wilson made big plays in the drive, the final one a 33-yard circus catch by Jermaine Kearse to the Patriots' 5 with 1:05 to play. The Seahawks handed the ball on first down to Lynch, who got to the 1. Seattle called timeout with 24 seconds left. Most everyone acknowledged that they were anticipating Lynch would get the ball. But the Seahawks surprised everyone -- Wilson dropped back and looked for Ricardo Lockette just inside the end zone, but Malcolm Butler read the play, stepped inside of the passing lane and stunned the football world at large with the interception. It left many a jaw dropped and people began demanding the firings of both head coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell for even calling the play when Lynch was nearly unstoppable with 102 yards on 24 carries. To this day, it is considered the single worst play call in Super Bowl history. Though he threwtwo interceptions, Brady ended up 37-of-50 passing with the four scores for 328 yards and tied himself with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw as a four-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.
14. Super Bowl X (Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17, January 18, 1976, The Orange Bowl)
Under South Florida's sunny skies, the defending champion Steelers and the wild card-winning Cowboys swapped first-quarter scores, Dallas striking on a Roger Staubach-to-Drew Pearson 29-yard TD pass and Pittsburgh answering with a 7-yard TD pass by Terry Bradshaw to Randy Grossman. Toni Fritsch's 36-yard field goal gave the Cowboys a 10-7 halftime lead, but the Steelers' "Steel Curtain" defense began to unleash its fury. Reggie Harrison blocked Mitch Hoopes' punt out of the end zone for a safety, then Roy Gerela added a pair of field goals, the second one coming off of a Mike Wagner interception of Staubach to the 7-yard line. After a Dallas punt, the Steelers took over at their own 36. Bradshaw dropped back and was blitzed by both Harris and D.D. Lewis. Both nailed Bradshaw as he got rid of the pass, but it was a perfect strike to game MVP Lynn Swann, who made the catch and scampered to the end zone for the touchdown that made it 21-10. Gerela, though, missed the extra-point kick with 3:02 left in the game. Staubach furiously brought the Cowboys back on an 80-yard drive in five plays, finishing it off with a 34-yard TD pass to Percy Howard, which, would be the only reception in Howard's entire NFL career. And it wasn't over there -- Gerry Mullins recovered the onside kick for the Steelers, but the Cowboys called what timeouts they had left. On fourth down, Steelers coach Chuck Noll, not liking his shaky kicking game, elected to go for it on fourth down and is stopped short at the Dallas 39-yard line. The Cowboys had one more life. Staubach brought the Cowboys down to the Steelers' 38. Two incompletions led to one final play and a Hail Mary that Glen Edwards came up with in the end zone for an interception to seal the victory. Swann caught four passes for 161 yards to earn his MVP honors. The Steeler defense also had a starring role by collecting three turnovers and sacking Staubach seven times.
13. Super Bowl XIV (Pittsburgh 31, L.A. Rams 19, January 20, 1980, The Rose Bowl)
12. Super Bowl XLVI (N.Y. Giants 21, New England 17, February 5, 2012, Lucas Oil Stadium)
These two famous dance partners of four years earlier were once again teamed up for the biggest prize in the league on the line at Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium. And once again, neither team disappointed on the big stage. Lineman Justin Tuck set the tone of the day by flustering quarterback Tom Brady into a throw to no receiver down the middle while being rushed in his own end zone. A flag for intentional grounding was thrown on Brady and the Giants had an early 2-0 lead. After the safety, Giants quarterback Eli Manning took his team 78 yards on nine plays and capped the drive with a 2-yard scoring strike to Victor Cruz to make it 9-0 after one quarter. But the Patriots owned the second quarter. Their defense tightened up on Manning and on offense, they got a 29-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski and with eight seconds to go before the break, Brady hit Danny Woodhead for a 4-yard scoring strike to give the Patriots a 10-9 lead. Knowing they had the ball to start the second half, the Patriots and Brady went 79 yards on eight plays and finish the drive with a Brady-to-Aaron Hernandez 12-yard score to make it 17-9. But that would be all the Patriots would get the rest of the night. Two Lawrence Tynes field goals of 38 and 33 yards make it a 17-15 lead going into the fourth quarter. The Patriots defense had held firm throughout the final quarter, but with 3:46 to go, the Giants had one more drive, but had to start from their own 12. The big play early in the drive was a Manning pass to receiver Mario Manningham, who caught the sideline pass just over his shoulder for 38 yards and a first down at the 50. Two more passes to Manningham and one more to Cruz got the ball to the Patriots' 18 at the two-minute warning. The Giants got another first down and Patriots coach Bill Belichick was forced to use all his timeouts. Knowing Tynes had not missed a field goal within 30 yards the last four years, Belichick had his defense open up to allow Ahmad Bradshaw to score on a 6-yard run with 57 seconds to go -- even though Bradshaw tried to stop at the 1, realizing what the Patriots were doing -- making it 21-17. The Patriots got the ball back and reached their own 49, leaving one last desperate Hail Mary try. Brady looked for Hernandez in the end zone on the final play, but it was the other tight end, a gimpy-kneed Rob Gronkowski, who made a valiant diving attempt at the batted pass, but came up short. In winning his second MVP honor, Manning was 30-of-40 passing for 296 yards and the one TD pass. Brady finished 27-of-41 for 276 yards and two TDs, but one interception. And Tom Coughlin had his second Super Bowl title as Giants head coach.
11. Super Bowl XXXVIII (New England 32, Carolina 29, February 1, 2004, Reliant Stadium)
10. Super Bowl XXXII (Denver 31, Green Bay 24, January 25, 1998, Qualcomm Stadium)
9. Super Bowl XIII (Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31, January 21, 1979, Orange Bowl)
8. Super Bowl III (N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7, January 12, 1969, Orange Bowl)
7. Super Bowl XXXVI (New England 20, St. Louis 17, February 3, 2002, The Louisiana Superdome)
6. Super Bowl XXV (N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19, January 27, 1991, Tampa Stadium)
5. Super Bowl XXIII (San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16, January 22, 1989, Joe Robbie Stadium)
4. Super Bowl XXXIV (St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16, January 30, 2000, The Georgia Dome)
3. Super Bowl XLIII (Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23, February 1, 2009, Raymond James Stadium)
2. Super Bowl XLII (N.Y. Giants 17, New England 14, February 3, 2008, University of Phoenix Stadium)
1. Super Bowl LI (New England 34, Atlanta 28, OT, February 5, 2017, NRG Stadium)
Yes ... 28-3. That's when the second half of this game began.
When teams leading by 17 or more points going to the fourth quarter, they were 133-0 in previous playoff games. The Patriots were the first team to break through and win.