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Sunday, February 4, 2018

Ranking the 51 Super Bowls

Hard to believe that what once was an idea to unite the two professional football leagues with a game that carried a bulky name to it has been played 51 times.

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.

50. Super Bowl XII (Dallas 27, Denver 10, January 15, 1978, The Louisiana Superdome)

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)

The beginning of what would be the Steeler Curtain defensive dynasty. Pittsburgh's defense was dominant on this day and it had to be -- the Vikings' Purple People Eaters were up to the challenge against Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and the rest of the offense. The Steelers provided the only offensive scores of the game with Franco Harris scoring on a 9-yard run and Larry Brown catching a 4-yard score from Bradshaw. That touchdown had been ruled originally a fumble and recovered by the Vikings, but after the officials talked things over, it was ruled a score instead. Otherwise, it was yet another horror show for Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who was 11-of-26 passing for 102 yards and three interceptions and was sacked in the end zone in the first quarter by Dwight White for a safety. The lone Vikings score? That came after big Matt Blair, a linebacker and punt-block specialist, blocked a punt and Terry Brown recovered it in the end zone, making it 9-6 at the time after Fred Cox missed the extra-point kick. Even with all that terrific play defensively, it was Harris who earned the MVP honor with 158 yards on 34 carries, which proved once again you could run on the Vikings defense when you needed to.

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)

The game itself was a nail-biter. But it was far from poetry. In what may be the sloppiest Super Bowl ever, the two combatants soiled themselves to the tune of 11 turnovers. And the Baltimore Colts had to play most of the game with backup Earl Morrall after starter Johnny Unitas was knocked out with a rib injury. And yet, the game was filled with exciting "moments," mostly John Mackey's 75-yard touchdown catch that scraped off the hands of Baltimore's Eddie Hinton and Dallas' Mel Renfro before being pulled in by the Hall of Fame tight end or defender Mike Curtis punching the ball out of Dallas running back Duane Thomas' hands as he was going in for a touchdown. In the end, though, a high pass from Dallas quarterback Craig Morton to running back Dan Reeves bounced off Reeves' hands and into the arms of Curtis with 57 seconds left in a tie game. The Colts ran two plays before rookie kicker Jim O'Brien was summoned to kick the game-winning 32-yard field goal with five seconds to go, giving the Colts their first title in a memorable game filled with sloppy, unmemorable moments. It's the only Super Bowl to this day where the losing team had the MVP (Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley).

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)

The victory in this Super Bowl was the coronation of one of the greatest seasons in NFL history by one of the flagship franchises ever produced. Arguably the most talented Raiders team of all-time (with a group of players that seemed to come from the swash-buckling pirate days of yore), the Raiders went 16-1 and capped the season by thoroughly dominating a Minnesota Vikings team that had seen this script had gone before in three Super Bowls. This, as they say, was a thorough whippin': Fran Tarkenton was 17-of-35 passing and threw two interceptions, the last sent back 75 yards by "Ol' Man" Willie Brown to all but lock up the Raiders' first Bowl title. Ken Stabler didn't have to have a dominant game, just an efficient one. He was 12-of-19 for 180 yards passing and a touchdown pass to ol' reliable Dave Casper. The MVP? That went to receiver Fred Biletnikoff, who caught four passes for 79 yards, even though he never scored. And somewhere, Sammy White is having nightmares of his helmet being knocked off by Jack Tatum.

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)

A year after losing in the Super Bowl, John Elway was back in the big game with the Denver Broncos, hoping to rectify things for Broncos fans. And it looked good after one quarter as they built a 10-0 lead thanks to a 56-yard TD pass from Elway to rookie Ricky Nattiel. Then came the second quarter and the all-time greatest Super Bowl eruption. Veteran Doug Williams, who took over the team after regular starter Jay Schroeder got hurt, exploded for four touchdown passes, two to Ricky Sanders, one to Gary Clark and the last one to tight end Clint Didier. Timmy Smith would run for a 58-yard score in between all the TD passes and a 10-0 deficit turned into a 35-10 Washington lead at halftime. The competitive portion of the game was over, especially with Washington's defense tormenting Elway to the tune of 14-of-38 passing for 257 yards and three interceptions. Meanwhile, Smith would finish out a 204-yard rushing night with a 4-yard, fourth-quarter score. In winning the MVP with a lights-out performance starting in the second quarter, Williams was 18-of-29 passing for 340 yards and the four scores.

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)

In his first Super Bowl, Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre was having a monster night with a 54-yard TD pass to Andre Rison, an 81-yard strike to Antonio Freeman, and a 2-yard plunge. But the New England Patriots of coach Bill Parcells were making things close thanks to Drew Bledsoe TD passes to Ben Coates (4 yards) and Keith Byars (1 yard). Late in the third quarter, the Patriots cut the lead to 27-21 when Curtis Martin dashed 18 yards for a score. But on the ensuing kickoff, former Heisman Trophy winner Desmond Howard darted up the middle, found a hole and burst through for a 99-yard touchdown. Howard would win the MVP honor. The Packers' defense would do the rest with four interceptions and five sacks of Bledsoe in a dominant performance.

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)

In 2005, the late Steve Sabol told me that even though the Jets' win over the Colts in Super Bowl III was a landmark, the American Football League could not gain legitimacy it deserved until its last game in Super Bowl IV. By now, the Kansas City Chiefs of coach Hank Stram were a more mature team, but the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL champions, were a dynamo under coach Bud Grant, going 15-1 and led by quarterback Joe Kapp and the men known as the Purple People Eaters -- defensive linemen Jim Marshall, Gary Larsen, Alan Page and Carl Eller. They were favorites in the game. That only served to motivate the Chiefs. Three Jan Stenerud field goals gave the Chiefs a 9-0 lead in the second quarter. After the third field goal, Vikings kick returner Charlie West fumbled the ball and the Chiefs' Remi Prudhomme recovered at the Viking 19. Though Marshall would sack quarterback Len Dawson on the first play, the Chiefs recovered and on the sixth play of the drive from the 5 as Stram called Dawson to run "65 Toss Power Trap." It worked to perfection as Mike Garrett burst through a hole into the end zone for a touchdown to make it 16-0 at halftime. Dave Osborn cut the lead to 16-7 with a 4-yard score, but on the ensuing drive, Dawson hit receiver Otis Taylor with a short pass in the flat. Earsell Mackbee blew the tackle and Taylor was on his way down the sideline, breaking another tackle attempt by Karl Kassulke, to finish out a 46-yard score. The Chiefs defense forced the Vikings into five turnovers, two of those being Kapp passes. They beat Kapp up enough to force Grant to bring in Gary Cuozzo late in the game. Dawson would win the MVP honor by going 12-of-17 passing for 142 yards and the Chiefs had redemption from three years earlier as the two leagues would become one by 1970.

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)

After nine years, the Miami Dolphins were back in the Super Bowl against a Washington team that finally put it together in what was a shortened season due to a strike early on. The Dolphins' "Killer Bs" defense, led by Bob Baumhower and Kim Bokamper, helped make the team the favorite in this one. It looked good early when quarterback David Woodley hit Jimmy Cefalo with a 76-yard scoring strike. The teams traded field goals before Washington quarterback Joe Theismann hit Alvin Garrett with a 4-yard TD strike to tie it up. But before halftime, Fulton Walker took the ensuing kickoff and returned it 98 yards for the first-ever kickoff return for a touchdown, giving the Dolphins a 17-10 lead at the break. All looked good. Mark Moseley's field goal cut the lead to 17-13 and after getting the ball back, Washington was in a bind. Theismann had his pass batted by Bokamper, who was ready to catch it and fall into the end zone for the score, but Theismann knocked the ball away. It proved large for early in the fourth quarter, Washington had the ball back and on the Dolphins' 43, facing fourth down and 1. Coach Joe Gibbs called for what would be "I Right 70-Chip." Theisman pitched the ball to fullback John Riggins, who took the ball, broke free of Don McNeal's tackle attempt and was off to the races for the touchdown that gave Washington a 20-17 lead with over 10 minutes left. On the next possession, Washington moved the ball into scoring territory and right after the two-minute warning, Theismann hit Charlie Brown, one of Washington's "Smurf" wide receivers, for the 6-yard touchdown strike to put it away. Riggins won the MVP honor with 166 bruising yards on 38 carries. The franchise had its first Super 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)

Three Super Bowls in five seasons made the Pittsburgh Steelers a dynasty. And now they had a chance to put the capper on Hall of Fame careers against a surprise competitor from the NFC as the Los Angeles Rams stunned the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers to reach the big game. And if the Steelers were taking the Rams of backup quarterback Vince Ferragamo as an afterthought, they were clearly mistaken. Matt Bahr gave the Steelers an early 3-0 lead on a 41-yard field goal, but the Rams gave their fans with a short jaunt from Los Angeles to Pasadena some joy when fullback Cullen Bryant ended an eight-play, 59-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge to make it 7-3 after the first quarter. Pittsburgh responded with a 1-yard Franco Harris score, but kicker Frank Corral delivered a 31-yard field goal to tie it, then a 45-yarder with 14 seconds left before halftime to give the underdog Rams a surprising 13-10 lead. But quarterback Terry Bradshaw had some big plays he was ready to unleash on the Rams' secondary in the final 30 minutes. The first came as he found Lynn Swann for a 47-yard score to make it 17-13. But coach Ray Malavasi and his offensive coaches had a play up their sleeves -- and on the possession after the TD, bounced right back as running back Lawrence McCutcheon took a handoff from Ferragamo, went right, then zipped a 24-yard scoring strike to Ron Smith, making it 19-17 after Corral missed the extra point. The Rams' defense, anchored by legendary lineman Jack Youngblood, playing on a broken ankle the entire postseason, kept pushing the Steelers back, and had one more quarter to go. Early in the fourth quarter, two plays generate two yards for the Steelers, leaving them with third-and-8 from their 27. On the play, Bradshaw fakes a handoff, then sees receiver John Stallworth in one-on-one coverage with Rod Perry as safety Eddie Brown does not react to the one-on-one coverage. Bradshaw fires down the middle and Stallworth catches the pass -- over the wrong shoulder, no less -- to finish a 73-yard TD to give the Steelers a 24-19 lead with 12:04 left to play. Ferragamo takes the Rams down the field on two possessions later, but from the Steelers' 32, he looks for Smith in the open, except the great linebacker Jack Lambert steps in front to pick the pass off. The Steelers would drive 70 yards from there to put the finishing touches on their fourth Super Bowl as Harris races to the outside, then cuts in for a 1-yard score with 3:35 to go. Ferragamo would have a decent day, going 15-of-25 for 212 yards, but the costly pick. Meanwhile, Bradshaw would earn his third MVP honor in spite of three interceptions, going 14-of-21 passing for 309 yards and the two TD strikes.

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)

From a halftime entertainment standpoint, this is the Super Bowl of the infamous and accidental exposure of Janet Jackson's nipple by Justin Timberlake during their performance. But the game was just as memorable, featuring the Super Bowl champions of two years earlier, the New England Patriots, going up against the surprising Carolina Panthers, who made it to the big game under head coach John Fox in their ninth season as a franchise. Most of the first half is a defensive struggle between the teams with the Panthers making big plays, one by Will Witherspoon on a 10-yard loss off an end around by Troy Brown, the other a blocked field goal attempt by Shane Burton. The Patriots get the first big break of the game, though, as Mike Vrabel sacks quarterback Jake Delhomme and forces a fumble that Richard Seymour recovers at the Panthers' 20. Four plays later, quarterback Tom Brady finds receiver Deion Branch for a 5-yard score to make it 7-0 with 3:05 left before halftime. But Delhomme and the Panthers respond with a 95-yard drive in under two minutes, capped by a 39-yard strike from Delhomme to Steve Smith to tie it up. Not to be outdone, the Patriots go 78 yards on six plays on the very next possession and Brady hits David Givens with a 5-yard scoring strike with 18 seconds left before the break to make it 14-7 Patriots. But the Pats decide to squib-kick the kickoff and Kris Mangum picks it up and goes 12 yards to his 47. With a timeout still in hand, Stephen Davis goes 21 yards up the middle with a run to the Patriots' 32. They call timeout and John Kasay delivers a 50-yard field goal to take the game to 14-10 at the half -- after there had been no scoring in the first 26:55, a Super Bowl record for longest wait for a first score. Neither side budged in the third quarter, but it was late in the period the Patriots went on an 79-yard, eight-play drive that culminated in an Antowain Smith 2-yard score to make it 21-10. Delhomme and the Panthers respond with an 81-yard, six-play drive the next time they touch the ball and DeShaun Foster goes 33 yards for the score that makes it 21-16 as they failed on the two-point conversion try to cut the lead to a field goal. It won't matter anyway as the Panthers stop Brady and the Patriots on the next drive as Reggie Howard intercepts Brady in the end zone and brings the ball back out to the 10. On the third play of the ensuing possession, Delhomme delivers an 85-yard scoring strike to Muhsin Muhammad, the longest scoring play from scrimmage in the game's history, to give Carolina 22-21 lead with 6:53 to go. The Patriots didn't back off, though. Brady took the team 68 yards on 11 plays, capping it off when he threw a 1-yard strike to linebacker Mike Vrabel, who had reported in as the team's tight end on the play. Kevin Faulk's two-point conversion run gave the Patriots the 29-22 lead with 2:51 to go. Still, Delhomme, who finished the game 16-of-33 with 323 yards, would show his resiliency. In 103 seconds, he took the Panthers 80 yards on seven plays and finished the drive with a 12-yard scoring strike to reliable receiver Ricky Proehl, tying it at 29-all. However, any momentum the Panthers would take into the next drive all but got wiped out when Kasay delivered his kick out of bounds for a penalty that gave the Patriots the ball on their 40. Though an offensive pass interference stymies the drive momentarily, Brady is able to get two first downs in the final 1:08 he has remaining, the last being a 17-yard strike to Branch at the Panthers' 24. Coach Bill Belichick summons Adam Vinatieri in to kick the game-winning, 41-yard field goal, which he does with four seconds left to secure the team's second Super Bowl title. Brady finishes 32-of-48 passing for 354 yards and three TDs and wins his second MVP honor in three years.

10. Super Bowl XXXII (Denver 31, Green Bay 24, January 25, 1998, Qualcomm Stadium)

Though quarterback John Elway was older and more mature, the thoughts of three blowout Super Bowl losses still had to linger in his head. And the Denver Broncos were facing a Green Bay Packers team that were defending champions and, in many circles, believed to be better than the previous season's team. So when the Packers took the opening kickoff and drove 76 yards on eight plays and finished the drive with a Brett Favre-to-Antonio Freeman 22-yard scoring strike, many thought this would more of the same for the Broncos, who had made it to this game as a wild card. Those that thought that were definitely mistaken -- Terrell Davis scored on a 1-yard run to tie it up on the Broncos' first possession. The Broncos took the lead at 14-7 on an Elway 1-yard run in which he faked the handoff to Davis, suffering through migraine headaches in the first half, and went into the end zone untouched. Favre would fumble after being sacked by Steve Atwater and Neil Smith would recover at the Green Bay 33. Jason Elam, who had kicked a 63-yard field goal earlier in the season, delivered a 51-yarder to make it 17-7. After trading punts, the Packers go 95 yards on 17 plays as Favre finishes it off with a 6-yard scoring strike to tight end Mark Chmura with 12 seconds left before halftime, making it 17-14. Ryan Longwell's third-quarter field goal of 27 yards ties it at 17-all, but Davis scores his second 1-yard run with 34 seconds left in the quarter to give the Broncos the lead again at 24-17 with one quarter left. The touchdown is set up the previous play by the now-famous Elway run in which he "helicopters" to the 1 after being hit by Packers defenders LeRoy Butler and Mike Prior. The Broncos recover a fumble on the kickoff and look to add to the lead, but Elway gets picked off by Eugene Robinson, who returns the ball to the Packers' 15. From there, Favre takes the Packers just four plays to tie it up, his third connection with Freeman being a 13-yard score to tie it up at 24-all with 13:32 to go. Both defenses hold tight, but with the ball at the Packers' 49 after a punt with 3:27 left in the game, Elway can make history. A facemask penalty against Darius Holland costs the Packers 15 yards and Elway hits fullback Howard Griffith for a 23-yard pass and Davis delivers a 17-yard run after a Broncos holding penalty to get the ball to the Green Bay 1 with 1:45 to go. Wanting to maximize what time he had on the clock, Packers coach Mike Holmgren has his defense part a path for Davis to score a 1-yard run to make it a 31-24 lead. They would get the ball back with plenty of time and Favre takes the Packers to the Broncos 35 after two key completions to Dorsey Levens. A 4-yard pass to Levens is followed by two incompletions, leaving fourth and 6 at the 31 with 32 seconds to go and needing a touchdown. Favre dropped back and looked for Chmura over the middle. However, linebacker John Mobley was there to knock the ball away and secure the Broncos' first Super Bowl victory, prompting owner Pat Bowlen to famously say as he got the Lombardi Trophy, "This one's for John."

9. Super Bowl XIII (Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31, January 21, 1979, Orange Bowl)

Three years after delivering an absolute classic at the Orange Bowl in Super Bowl X, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys were back in the Orange Bowl and delivered an even greater game. Superstar quarterbacks Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach traded first-quarter TD passes, Bradshaw to John Stallworth for 28 yards, Staubach to Tony Hill for 39 yards. Then on the Steelers' first possession of the second quarter, Bradshaw collides with running back Franco Harris and fumbles the ball. He recovers, but gets immediately harassed by Cowboys defenders Mike Hegman and Thomas "Hollywood" Henderson. Henderson holds up Bradshaw and Hegman strips him of the ball, returning the fumble 37 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. But the lead didn't last long. On the third play of the next possession, Bradshaw hit Stallworth with a simple 10-yard pass. However, Cowboys defender Aaron Kyle failed to make the tackle and Stallworth got blocks from receiver Lynn Swann and other teammates, who led him on a convoy to the end zone for a 75-yard score to tie it at 14-14. Pittsburgh would take the lead late in the first half as Bradshaw finished a 56-yard, five-play drive with an acrobatic 7-yard TD pass to running back Rocky Bleier, giving the Steelers a 21-14 lead at the half. Midway through the third quarter, Staubach had the Cowboys on the move to a tying score. On third down from the Steelers' 10, Staubach drops back and sees a wide-open Jackie Smith, a veteran tight end who played most of his career with the St. Louis Cardinals, for what is the tying touchdown pass. But Smith surprisingly drops the pass and a disgusted coach Tom Landry has to send Rafael Septien in for the 27-yard field goal that cuts the lead to 21-17 going to the fourth quarter. The fourth quarter is simply a show-stopper. Harris caps an 85-yard, eight-play drive with a 22-yard burst up the middle that may have been aided by the umpire inadvertently being in Cowboys safety Charlie Waters' way. This came after Cowboys defender Benny Barnes is detected for pass interference on Swann on a pass play that Swann ran into Barnes instead of Barnes interfering with the receiver. Then to make matters worse, kicker Roy Gerela slips on the kickoff, delivering a groundball that linebacker Randy White picks up. White, though, is wearing a heavy cast on his hand and can't grip the ball firmly. Steelers defender Tony Dungy knocks the ball loose and teammate Dennis Winston jumps on the ball at the Cowboys' 18. One play later, Bradshaw delivers a high pass to Swann, who goes acrobatically up for the ball and pulls it in the end zone to make it 35-17. Game over, right? No! Staubach showed why he was an original gun-slinger. He takes the Cowboys 89 yards on eight plays after the Swann score and finishes it off with a 7-yard TD pass to tight end Billy Joe Dupree, making it 35-24 with 2:27 left. Dennis Thurman recovers the onside kick and Staubach goes back at it. From his 48 and with the two-minute warning to stop the clock, he and the Cowboys are a machine, going nine plays and finishes the drive with a 4-yard TD pass to Butch Johnson with 22 seconds to go. They try the onside kick again, but Bleier wraps the ball under him and the Steelers have another Super Bowl title. Bradshaw, who was accused earlier in the week by Henderson of not being able to spell the word "cat" if you spotted him the "c" and "a," is once again smart enough to win the Super Bowl MVP, going 17-of-30 with four TDs and 318 yards passing. Staubach, too, is 17-of-30 passing for 228 yards and three scores. Tony Dorsett nearly has a 100-yard rushing game, taking the ball 16 times for 96 yards.

8. Super Bowl III (N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7, January 12, 1969, Orange Bowl)

Two times before, the AFL representative had failed against the mighty Green Bay Packers of the NFL. And though this time, the team representing the NFL is Don Shula's Baltimore Colts, the NFL is favored to continue its dominance in the big game. Odds makers have staked the Colts as a 17-point favorite against the young New York Jets, coached by former Colts mentor Weeb Ewbank and led by quarterback Joe Namath. Sick and tired of hearing about the dominant Colts and how much better they are compared to his Jets, Namath finally pipes up and tells the media surrounding him at the Miami Touchdown Club that the Jets "will win the game." Though Ewbank was reportedly upset by Namath's offering, Namath assured his coach they were confident enough to go in and take on the big, bad Colts and starting quarterback Earl Morrall, who won the league's Most Valuable Player honor stepping n for an injured Johnny Unitas. The game's tone is set on the Colts' first possession of the battle as they get the ball down the field methodically, but kicker Lou Michaels misses a 27-yard field goal wide left. Later in the first quarter, the Colts are on the move again, but deep in Jets territory, Morrall throws a pass that bounces off the hands of Jets linebacker Al Atkinson, off the hands of Colts tight end Tom Mitchell and into the waiting arms of Jets cornerback Randy Beverly in the end zone for an interception. From there, Namath would take the Jets on their most famous drive in franchise history -- 12 plays, 80 yards -- running the ball behind lineman Winston Hill for most of the drive. The drive ends with Namath handing off to running back Matt Snell, who dashes left and crashes into the end zone for a 4-yard score, giving the Jets a 7-0 lead. The Colts would come back on the next drive, but Michaels misses another field goal try, this time from 46 yards out. Jets kicker Jim Turner misses a 41-yard field goal on the next Jets drive. From there, Morrall took the Colts down to the Jets' 15, on the verge of tying the game up. But Morrall is picked off by Johnny Sample at the 2, thwarting that drive. After a Jets punt, the Colts get one more chance. From the Jets' 41, the Colts try a flea-flicker on the final play of the half and receiver Jimmy Orr is wide open in the end zone. However, Morrall never sees him and his pass to running back Jerry Hill is intercepted by linebacker Jim Hudson. As Orr would say later of the failed play, "Earl said he just didn't seem me. I was open from here to Tampa." The Jets had the ball for all but three minutes in the third quarter and got Turner field goals of 32 and 30 yards to make it 13-0. A third drive late in the third quarter would end in another Colts stop deep in their territory and Turner came on to squib through a 9-yard field goal to make it 16-7. By now, Shula had seen enough of the ineffective Morrall and brought in Unitas late in the third quarter, gimpy arm and all. He takes the Colts down the field, but he, too, is picked off deep in Jets territory as Beverly gets his second interception of the day. After Turner misses a 42-yard field goal, the Colts go 80 yards behind Unitas and finally punch in a drive for a touchdown as Hill scores from a yard out with 3:19 left. The Colts gain the onside kick and move the ball to the Jets' 19 on three straight Unitas completions. But he misses on his next three attempts and the Colts are looking at fourth down. Knowing Michaels had been shaky all day on attempts, Shula opts to go for it on fourth down, but another Unitas attempt is incomplete. The Jets run all but eight seconds off the clock to secure the biggest upset in Super Bowl history at that time. Though he never throws a touchdown pass in the game, Namath is named the game's MVP, going 17-of-28 passing for 206 yards against the sturdy Colts defense. Snell has a big game with 121 yards rushing on 30 carries and the TD. Colts running back Tom Matte runs for 116 yards on 11 carries in the loss.

7. Super Bowl XXXVI (New England 20, St. Louis 17, February 3, 2002, The Louisiana Superdome)

Like the Jets in Super Bowl III, no one gave the upstart New England Patriots much of a chance in Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams and "The Greatest Show on Turf." No one! The Rams were 14-point favorites and had not one, but two MVPs on their team in quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk. And its defense was better than the one that had won Super Bowl XXXIV under previous coach Dick Vermeil. Under coach Mike Martz, these Rams seemingly looked unstoppable. But no one told the Patriots of second-year coach Bill Belichick this. Playing all season with a backup quarterback with a hot hand named Tom Brady, the Patriots, a unified team who came out together instead of individually either offense or defense before this Super Bowl were supposedly "just happy to be there." Given a 3-0 lead by kicker Jeff Wilkins, who delivered a 50-yard field goal in the first quarter, Warner and the Rams went for more in the second quarter, but a 52-yard field goal try by Wilkins was no good. That's when the game shifted. On the Rams' next possession, Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel blitzed his way through, forcing Warner into an errant pass that cornerback Ty Law picked off and returned 47 yards for a touchdown, making it 7-3. Late in the first half, Warner completed a pass to reliable wide receiver Ricky Proehl, but Antwan Harris forced a fumble that Terrell Buckley recovered at the St. Louis 40 with 1:20 to go. It takes Brady 49 seconds to go five plays and the 40 yards, finishing the drive with an 8-yard strike in the back of the end zone to David Patten, making it 14-3 and stunning Rams fans in the crowd. Kicker Adam Vinatieri delivers a 37-yard field goal to make it 17-3 as the Patriots defense swallows up Warner, Faulk and company. But that will be severely tested in the fourth quarter as the Rams start warming up. They go 77 yards on 12 plays and chew up nearly seven minutes of time before Warner runs it in the end zone himself for a 2-yard score to make it 17-10. The Rams had gotten a break just before the score when Tebucky Jones recovers a Warner fumble and goes 97 yards for the score, but the TD is wiped out on a Willie McGinest penalty on the play. McGinest, though, atones for his mistake by making a big 16-yard sack on Warner on the next Rams' drive, forcing a punt. The Rams get the ball back one more time with 1:51 left. Warner wastes little time (21 seconds) to get three completions, the last being a 26-yarder to Proehl that ties the game at 17-all. With 1:30 to go and no timeouts, the first overtime Super Bowl is becoming evident. But Belichick and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis have other ideas. They give Brady the go-ahead to win the Super Bowl right here and now. From his 17, Brady hits J.R. Redmond with three dump-off passes to get to the 41 with 33 seconds left. Then Brady delivers a 23-yard strike to Troy Brown, who gets out of bounds. Brady then hits Jermaine Wiggins with a 6-yard pass to the 30 and then he spikes the ball with seven seconds left. That brings in Vinatieri, who delivers the 48-yard field goal on the final play of the game to give the Patriots their unthinkable victory and their first Super Bowl championship. Brady wins MVP honors by going 16-of-27 passing for 145 yards, while Smith goes for 96 yards on the ground and Law makes eight tackles and has the interception for the touchdown. Warner finishes 28-of-44 passing for 365 yards with one TD, but his two interceptions hurt in the end. And a dynasty is born.

6. Super Bowl XXV (N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19, January 27, 1991, Tampa Stadium)

Seemingly, nothing could stop the Buffalo Bills on their way to the Super Bowl. They had flattened the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC Championship, 51-3, and had offensive weapons most teams envied, starting with quarterback Jim Kelly and continuing with running back Thurman Thomas and wide receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton. Their defense was anchored by the NFL Defensive  Player of the Year, Bruce Smith, who had 19 sacks. There seemed to be nothing stopping these Bills from a date with destiny. Well ... almost nothing. New York Giants head coach Bill Parcells and offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt had the perfect remedy for the Bills' high-flying offense -- keep them off the field. They played ball-control offense with Jeff Hostetler, who became the team's starting quarterback after Phil Simms broke his foot, making passes when needed and running back Ottis Anderson handling the running duties. Looked good, too, on the first possession, one that chewed up 6:15 off the clock and led to Matt Bahr delivering a 28-yard field goal for an early 3-0 lead. But while the Giants were looking to make the game shorter, the Bills were looking to make the game more open. They marched six plays for 66 yards, but when they did get stopped by the Giants' defense, Scott Norwood came on to kick 23-yard field goal to even things up at 3-all. Early in the second quarter, the Bills looked to take command with Kelly driving the team 80 yards on 12 plays, ending it with a 1-yard scoring run by Don Smith, a former Mississippi State quarterback turned running back in the NFL. Two Giants possessions later, Hostetler got into trouble and was sacked in the end zone by Smith for a safety, making it 12-3. But just when it looked like the Bills would take over, Hostetler recovered and took the Giants on a 10-play, 87-yard drive late in the first half, finishing it out with a 14-yard TD pass to Stephen Baker with 25 seconds left, taking it to 12-10 in favor of the Bills at the half. This was big because the Giants got the ball to start the second half and kept Kelly and Co. on the sideline, driving 75 yards on 14 plays, mostly runs, and taking 9:29 off the clock before Anderson scored on a 1-yard plunge to give the Giants a 17-12 lead. The Bills would recover a couple of drives later and were back in the end zone when Thomas took a handoff from Kelly and dashed right, picked up some blocks and went into the end zone on a 31-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, making it 19-17. Once again, though, the Giants had a "long-winded" answer for the Bills. In a game that saw them have the ball for just over 40 minutes, they took 7:32 off the clock, going 14 plays and 74 yards, half those yards passes by Hostetler to tight end Mark Bavaro. The Giants got to the Bills' 3, but when Cornelius Bennett broke up a third-down pass for the end zone, Parcells sent Bahr in to kick a 21-yard field go to take the lead back at 20-19. After the teams punted, the Bills had one last chance, starting from their 10 with 2:16 to go. It was Kelly at this best with short passes, while Thomas continued to gain yards on the ground, finishing the night with 135 yards on 15 carries. They got to the 29 with eight seconds to go, allowing Norwood to win the game for them. But Norwood pushed his kick wide right of the post and the Giants had their second Super Bowl in five seasons. Anderson was named MVP with 102 yards rushing on 21 carries and Hostetler finished 20-of-32 passing for 222 yards as a so-called "game manager." In an emotionally charged game at Tampa Stadium under the duress of the Persian Gulf War raging and an amazing rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Whitney Houston before the game, the emotion culminated with Parcells resigning as Giants coach after eight seasons. Two Giants assists on staff -- Bill Belichick and Tom Coughlin -- would go on to win a combined seven Super Bowl titles starting in 2001.

5. Super Bowl XXIII (San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16, January 22, 1989, Joe Robbie Stadium)

The San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals had given football fans a show seven years earlier in Detroit. This time around in much more tropical conditions, the teams heated up for a night to remember at Miami's Joe Robbie Stadium. San Francisco still had Joe Montana playing quarterback, but now had a receiving corps of Jerry Rice and John Taylor that had matured. A lot of the players from the Super Bowl wins in Detroit and Palo Alto, Calif., four years earlier against Miami, were still with the team. The Cincinnati Bengals had turned things around from 4-11 the year before to this game, led by 3,500-yard left-handed passer Boomer Esiason and running backs Ickey Woods and James Brooks. But they got a setback the night before when third-leading rusher and fullback Stanley Wilson was caught using cocaine in his hotel room and made inactive for the game. The Bengals also suffered another blow when rookie defensive standout lineman Tim Krumrie broke two bones in his ankle and was taken off the field in stretcher. The 49ers suffered a big blow when offensive lineman Steve Wallace broke his ankle. For nearly three quarters, this was a defensive struggle as 49ers kicker Mike Cofer (41 and 32 yards) and Bengals' kicker Jim Breech (34 and 43 yards) swapped field goals. But it was after Cofer's 32-yarder that things started heating up. Stanford Jennings took the kickoff and dashed 93 yards for the touchdown to give the Bengals a 13-6 lead with 34 seconds left before the end of the quarter. Kept under wraps by the stingy Bengals defense, Montana finally got untracked and took the 49ers 85 yards in four plays, finishing the drive with a 14-yard scoring strike to Rice to tie it at 13-all with 14:03 left in the game, moments after Bengals cornerback Lewis Billups dropped a sure interception in the end zone. Two Bengals possessions later, they took the lead back as Esiason, who failed to get the ball in the end zone the entire night, marched Cincinnati 46 yards on 11 plays as Breech kicked his third field goal, giving the Bengals a 16-13 lead with 3:20 to go. Things looked disastrous for the 49ers when on the ensuing kickoff, they could return it to the 16 and had it go back to the 8 on an illegal blocking penalty. Coming out to the huddle with his team, Montana looked up and thought he saw actor John Candy on the sideline, remarking to his teammates, "Hey, isn't that John Candy?" The tactic of distraction seemed to work and the 49ers began to march down the field. Mixing a pair of Roger Craig runs in with passes to Rice and tight end John Frank, Montana then threw a 13-yard pass to Craig to get to the Bengals' 35. An incompletion was followed by lineman Randy Cross penalty for being illegally down field put the 49ers at second and 20 from the 45. It was here where Montana connected with Rice and Rice evaded three tacklers to get to the Bengals' 18. An 8-yard pass to Craig got the ball to the Bengals' 10 with 39 seconds left. As Bengals coach Sam Wyche began to have a sinking feeling about what was to happen next, it was the wrong receiver who burned his defense in the end. Montana dropped straight back, then found Taylor on a slant-in play for the go-ahead touchdown with 34 seconds left. The Bengals had one final shot, but Esiason's pass to receiver Chris Collinsworth, playing his final game, fell incomplete. The 49ers had their third Super Bowl title of the decade as Montana finished 23-of-36 passing against the stingy Bengals defense for 357 yards and two TDs and teammate Rice earned MVP honors by hauling in 11 passes for 215 yards and a touchdown. Esiason had a long day, going 11-of-25 passing for 144 yards and an interception by Bill Romanowski. After the game, longtime 49ers coach Bill Walsh all but confirmed he was retiring after breaking down in tears after being asked that question of stepping away from the 49ers.

4. Super Bowl XXXIV (St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16, January 30, 2000, The Georgia Dome)

If you had picked the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans to play in this particular Super Bowl, you would have made a lot of money off of it. The Rams, coached by third-year mentor Dick Vermeil, were the darlings of the 1999 season, especially after starting quarterback Trent Green had broken his ankle in a preseason game with the San Diego Chargers and Vermeil turned to former Arena Football League quarterback and former grocery store stock guy Kurt Warner to take over the reins of the team. Picked by many to be one of the worst teams in the league to start the season, the Rams got off to a 6-0 start before losing to the Tennessee Titans in Nashville, 24-21. Warner teamed up with receivers Isaac Bruce, Az-Zahir Hakim and Torry Holt, along with new running back Marshall Faulk, to form "The Greatest Show on Turf." The Titans, meanwhile, were maturing under quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George. The Titans were a wild card team from the AFC Central and managed to make it to the AFC Championship, where they stunned the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team they beat three times that season to hand Jacksonville its only losses, 33-14, to make it to this game. For a game, though, that had so many offensive weapons, the only points put up in the first half were by Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins on field goals of 27, 29 and 28 yards. The Titans got going to start the second half, driving to St. Louis' 29, but Todd Lyght blocked Al Del Greco's 47-yard field goal to keep the Titans off the board. The Rams took the ball from there, marching 68 yards and finishing the drive with a 9-yard scoring strike by Warner to rookie Holt for a 16-0 lead. Still, after gaining some confidence from the drive before, McNair got the ball back and marched the Titans back the other way and ended a methodic 12-play, 66-yard drive with a George 1-yard run. A two-point pass attempt failed, keeping it 16-6. They kept the momentum going on the next drive, a 13-play, 79-yard drive that ended in a George 2-yard scoring run, making it 16-13 after the Del Greco extra-point kick. After stopping the Rams again, the Titans took over from their 47 after a punt and marched to the Rams' 25. Del Greco booted a 42-yard field goal with 2:12 left in the game to tie it up at 16-16. The possibility of the first-ever overtime Super Bowl loomed. Warner and Vermeil weren't thinking that way, though. On the first play after the kickoff at the Rams' 27, Warner dropped back and heaved a long pass toward Bruce, who hauled in the pass, then beat a couple of defenders to the inside then weaved outside to give the Rams the lead back at 23-16. The Titans, though, would get the ball back with 1:54 to go, but had to start at their own 12. McNair hit on a couple of completions for a first down, then after he scrambled for 12 yards, 15 more yards were tacked on when McNair's face mask was grabbed by Dre' Bly, putting the ball at the Rams 45. They'd get another first down, then on third and 5 from the 26, McNair scrambled out of trouble from two Rams pursuers. He was able to get a 16-yard pass to Kevin Dyson at the 10. Still in bounds, the Titans called their final timeout with six seconds left. For the final play, Titans coach Jeff Fisher called a slant-in for Dyson, trying to get in behind the Rams' linebacking crew. However, as McNair hit Dyson with the perfectly placed pass, linebacker Mike Jones stayed home and close to the play. He wrapped up Dyson and stopped him at the 1- yard line -- one yard short of paydirt and tying the game. The clock expired and te Rams had their first (and only) Super Bowl title. In winning game MVP honors, Warner was 24-of-45 passing for a then-record 414 yards and two TDs. McNair finished 22-of-36 for 214 yards and George rushed for 95 yards and two TDs. Vermeil retired from coaching the Rams and offensive coordinator Mike Martz would take over the team.

3. Super Bowl XLIII (Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23, February 1, 2009, Raymond James Stadium)

One franchise had been here numerous times before, most recently three years earlier. The other franchise was a laughingstock until the 2008 season. Then that franchise, the Arizona Cardinals, once a team based in Chicago, then St. Louis, then finally in Phoenix, put everything together to win the NFC title behind veteran quarterback Kurt Warner, now guiding the Cardinals at 37 years old and with an array of wide receivers that were as favorable as in his days with the St. Louis Rams, led by Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston. The Pittsburgh Steelers, five times a champion and most recently in 2006, were back in the big game under their third different coach (Mike Tomlin) and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who had matured in his five seasons with the team. He, too, had big-time targets with receivers Hines Ward, Nate Washington, Heath Miller and Santonio Holmes. But their defense was the trademark, led by safety Troy Polamalu, linebacker James Farrior and the NFL Defensive Player of the Year, linebacker James Harrison. The Steelers looked to have gotten the first touchdown of the game, but replay overturned Roethlisberger's 1-yard run, so the Steelers settled for an 18-yard field goal by Jeff Reed for a 3-0 lead. After getting the ball back from the Cardinals, the Steelers drove again, but this time finished the drive with a Gary Russell 1-yard scoring run to make it 10-0. Finally, Warner and the Cardinals offense got going. They drove the ball 83 yards on nine plays and ended the drive with a Warner TD pass to tight end Ben Patrick, cutting the lead to 10-7. Then two drives later, the Cardinals seemed to have a break when a Roethlisberger pass was tipped and intercepted by Karlos Dansby at the Steelers' 34. Warner got the Cardinals to the 1-yard line with 18 seconds left. On his next play, though, Warner looked for Boldin, but Harrison slipped in ahead of Boldin and picked the pass off. From there, Harrison darted and weaved his way through a maze of players on both teams to complete a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, then the longest play in Super Bowl history, giving the Steelers a 17-7 lead at the break. Reed would add a 21-yard field goal, moving the Steelers up to 20-7 and one quarter away from the trophy. But with 7:33 left in the game, the Cardinals started their way toward making history. Warner finished an 87-yard drive by throwing a perfect fade pass to Fitzgerald over defender Ike Taylor to make it 20-14. Late in the game, Cardinals punter Ben Graham delivered a perfect punt to the Steelers' 1-yard line. On the first play after the punt, Roethlisberger dropped into his end zone and delivered a 20-yard pass to Holmes to get them out of danger. But center Justin Hartwig was detected of holding in the end zone and that meant an automatic safety to make it 20-16 and give the ball back to the Cardinals. They got the ball back on their 33, and two plays later, Warner called for a slant-in pass to Fitzgerald. He hit Fitzgerald in stride and the All-Pro receiver never broke stride in going 64 yards for the touchdown that gave the Cardinals a 23-20 lead and stunned Steelers fans. Still, with 2:37 to go, Roethlisberger had one more chance to at least tie the game with a field goal. From his 12 after a holding call against his team, Roethlisberger hit Holmes for two receptions and Washington for 11 yards. Eventually getting to the Cardinals' 46, Roethlisberger hit Holmes with a pass. When defender Aaron Francisco fell, Holmes went untouched until finally getting taken down at the 6 with 52 seconds to go. Two plays later, Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, but saw receiver Mewelde Moore and Ward both covered well. He found his third option, Holmes, in the corner of the end zone. It was there he found Holmes on a leaping catch. Holmes got both feet down in play for the touchdown with 35 seconds left. Warner, though, had one more shot left. He completed a 20-yard pass to Fitzgerald and a 13-yarder to J.J. Arrington, getting the ball to the Steelers' 44. But with 15 seconds left, Warner's arm was hit by linebacker LaMarr Woodley, causing a fumble that Brett Keisel recovered to finish it out. Holmes earned MVP honors with nine catches for 131 yards and the game-winner. Roethlisberger finished 21-of-30 passing for 256 yards and a TD and interception. Warner had another big game in the Super Bowl, throwing for 377 yards on 31-of-43 passing and the three TDs as well as the interception returned for a touchdown. The Steelers became the first franchise to win six Super Bowls.

2. Super Bowl XLII (N.Y. Giants 17, New England 14, February 3, 2008, University of Phoenix Stadium)

The 2007 New England Patriots were being anointed as the greatest team ever assembled. They did little wrong that season in amassing a perfect regular season, then playoff wins against Jacksonville and San Diego. With Tom Brady throwing for 50 touchdowns this season and a record-breaking 23 of them caught by Randy Moss, while the other receiver, Wes Welker, had 112 receptions and eight TDs, who was going to stop these Patriots from their date with destiny? Turns out the New York Giants, who gave the Patriots fits in the final game of the regular season before the Patriots won, 38-35, were the answer. Led by quarterback Eli Manning and defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan, the Giants were back in the big game under fourth-year coach Tom Coughlin. Unlike the Patriots, the Giants had to stun their way through the playoffs as a wild card, beating Tampa Bay, Dallas and Green Bay to make it to this game. And to show the Patriots they meant business on this Arizona evening, they drove the ball down the field on the longest Super Bowl drive in history -- nine minutes and 59 seconds, going 63 yards on 16 plays and featuring the conversion of four third-down plays. Kicker Lawrence Tynes ended the drive with a 32-yard field goal. The Patriots answered with a 12-play, 56-yard drive of their own and got help from linebacker Aaron Pierce on a third-down pass play when he interfered with tight end Benjamin Watson in the end zone, giving New England a first and goal from the 1. They cashed in as Lawrence Mahoney scored to give the Patriots a 7-3 lead. The Giants tried to answer in the second quarter, driving down to the Patriots' 19-yard line, but Manning was picked off by Ellis Hobbs. Late in the first half, Brady had the Patriots in Giants territory, but he was sacked on a pass attempt by Justin Tuck and Umenyiora recovered to end that threat. In the third quarter, the Patriots were faced with a fourth-and-13 call at the Giants 31. Instead of sending kicker Stephen Gostkowski to kick a 48-yard attempt, Patriots coach Bill Belichick went for it and came up short as Brady could not hit receiver Jabar Gaffney. With the ball to start the fourth quarter, Manning took to the Giants 80 yards on six plays, the big play in the drive a 45-yard hookup by Manning to rookie tight end Kevin Boss. Manning ended the drive by hitting little-known wide receiver David Tyree for a 5-yard strike to give the Giants a 10-7 lead with 11:05 to go. The Patriots got the ball back for a second time after the Giants' score with 7:54 left in the game at their 20. Passes to Moss and Welker got Brady a first down. A 9-yard run by Maroney got the ball to the 44. Then Brady hit Welker for another first-down pass and passes to Kevin Faulk and Welker had the ball to the Giants' 29-yard line. This would be followed by an 11-yard strike to Moss and a 12-yarder to Faulk, moving the ball to the Giants' 6. Two incompletions later, Brady took advantage of Giants defender Cory Webster slipping, allowing Moss to catch the touchdown uncontested that gave the Patriots a 14-10 lead with 2:42 to go. Ballgame over, right? Unbeaten season in the books, right? No one told Eli Manning to roll over, though. With 2:39 left and starting at his own 17, Manning began the drive with a pair of completions to Amani Toomer to the 37. The Giants were stuck at fourth and 1 at the 46. Brandon Jacobs took the handoff and got the first down to keep the drive going. Two plays later, Manning tried to find Tyree, but was nearly picked off by Asante Samuel. On the next play, Manning looked like he was in trouble and ready to go down for the sack. Somehow, though, he escaped attempts by Adalius Thomas, Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green and fired the ball down the field toward Tyree. Tyree went up against defender Rodney Harrison and caught the ball against his helmet for a first down at the Patriots' 24, a 32-yard reception. On third and 11, Manning hit rookie Steve Smith for a 12-yard gain at the 13 as he stepped out of bounds. From there, Manning dropped back and saw receiver Plaxico Burress badly beat Hobbs on a slant-and-go route and hit Burress in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown with 35 seconds to go, finishing an 83-yard, 12-play drive. The Giants stopped Brady on downs the next time he touched the ball and the 18-0 season became 18-1 as Miami Dolphins players from the memorable 1972 unbeaten Super Bowl championship team began to uncork champagne bottles in honor of remaining the lone unbeaten team. Manning earned MVP honors with 255 yards on 19-of-34 passing and two TDs. Brady was 29-of-48 for 266 yards and a TD, while Welker caught 11 passes for 103 yards.

1. Super Bowl LI (New England 34, Atlanta 28, OT, February 5, 2017, NRG Stadium)

Admit it -- midway through the third quarter, you thought this game was over. The Atlanta Falcons, the NFC champions, had thoroughly frustrated the New England Patriots and were now leading 28-3 with a quarter and a half to go. No one believed what was happening to the Patriots on the biggest of stages. By the end, though, no one would believe what happened to the Falcons after they got their big lead. Let's start with the first part of the game -- the one where the Falcons took the big lead. After Deion Jones stripped Patriots running back LaGarrette Blount of the ball and Robert Alford recovered on the Atlanta 29, quarterback Matt Ryan went to work, hitting Julio Jones for completions of 19 and 23 yards for first downs, then handing off to running back Devonta Freeman three times for the final 29 yards, the last run five yards for the touchdown that gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead. After a Patriots punt, Ryan pushed the Falcons toward the end zone again on a five-play, 62-yard drive with the last play a 19-yard strike to tight end Austin Hooper to make it 14-0. Three defensive holding calls against the Falcons allowed Brady to move the ball on the next drive. But on a third-down call, Brady was picked off by Alford, who brought the ball back 82 yards for the touchdown that made it 21-0 with 2:21 to go before halftime. Trying to get some dignity back before halftime, Brady and the Patriots marched 52 yards on 11 plays and got a Stephen Gostkowski 41-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-3 at the half. But if there was any though the Patriots were on their way back, it wasn't right after halftime. They punted to the Falcons and Ryan led the offense on an eight-play, 85-yard march that saw Ryan hit running back Tevin Coleman for a 6-yard scoring strike. With the extra point good by kicker Matt Bryant, the Falcons led the Patriots, 28-3 with 8:31 left in the game.

Yes ... 28-3. That's when the second half of this game began.

It took Brady 6:25 to get his team down the field, but finally, the Patriots hit paydirt when Brady hit running back James White with a 5-yard TD pass. But even with the good, the bad lingered -- Gostkowski's extra-point kick hit the right upright and bounced away no good. But it was a start. The Patriots went for an onside kick, but failed in the attempt as LaRoy Reynolds recovered for the Falcons. In good shape to add to the lead, the Falcons went backward when a holding call against Jake Matthews was followed by a sack of Ryan by Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Roy, forcing Atlanta to punt. From his 13, Brady hit on four passes and ultimately landed at the Falcons' 7. However, two Grady Jarrett sacks of Brady forced coach Bill Belichick to send Gostkowski in to kick a 33-yard field goal, which he did, cutting the lead to 28-12. On the next Falcons possession, Dont'a Hightower got to Ryan and sacked him, forcing him to fumble. Alan Branch recovered the fumble for New England at the Falcons' 25. Five plays later, Brady hit receiver Danny Amendola for a 6-yard scoring strike. White took the two-point conversion from center and ran it in to cut the lead to 28-20 with 5:56 left to play. The Falcons started hot against the Patriots on the next possession -- a 39-yard pass by Ryan to Freeman was followed by a 27-yard strike from Ryan to Jones, putting the ball at the Patriots 22 with 4:40 left in the game and in perfect placement of a Bryant field goal that would all but clinch the win. But a 1-yard loss by Freeman was complicated further when the Falcons decided to pass and Ryan was sacked by Flowers for a 12-yard loss. The Falcons thought they'd get the yards back when Ryan hooked up with Mohamed Sanu for a 9-yard gain, but a holding call against Matthews ruined that idea and on third and 33, Ryan threw an incompletion, forcing the Falcons into a punt instead of what looked like a sure field goal. Matt Bosher delivered a punt that was
downed at the 9-yard line. Starting there with 3:30 left in the game, Brady hit receiver Chris Hogan with a 15-yard pass on a third-down play to give the Patriots a first down. After an 11-yard strike to Malcolm Mitchell, Brady looked like he would be intercepted by Alford again. But the ball went off his hands and Julian Edelman dove to catch the ball in one of the all-time great Super Bowl catches for a 23-yard gain to the Atlanta 42. Brady hit on passes to Amendola and White, getting the Patriots to the Falcons' 1. From there, White took a handoff and pounded the ball in to make it 28-26. Brady hit Amendola with the two-point conversion and the game was amazingly tied at 28-all. The Falcons opted to let the clock run out and force the first-ever overtime in Super Bowl history. The Patriots won the coin toss and opted to receive. After a touchback, Brady hit Amendola, White and Hogan to get the ball to the Falcons' 37. After White lost three yards on the next run, Brady hit Edelman for a 15-yard gain to the 25. White took a Brady pitch and ran to the 15, then after De'Vondre Campbell was detected for pass interference on tight end Martellus Bennett, the Patriots were set up at the Falcons 2 with first and goal. On the second play after Falcons linebacker Vic Beasley broke up a pass for Bennett, White took a handoff from Brady, got stopped at the 1, but managed to stretch out into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. In earning a fifth MVP honor, Brady was a mind-blowing 43 of 62 passing for 466 yards, all records for the game, and two TDs. Ryan finished 17-of-23 passing for 284 yards and two TDs.

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.