Super Bowl History I to XLVII
The NFL (National Football League) began playing in the 1920s. In 1960 an upstart league known as the AFL (American Football League) came into existence. A war broke out between the two leagues, and the teams agreed in 1966 to start playing a game at the end of the year between the best team in each league. That game would eventually be known as the Super Bowl. The leagues merged in 1970, forming the modern NFL. The NFL teams formed the NFC (National Football Conference), and the AFL formed the AFC (American Football Conference). Below is the history of football in the modern era.
1966–The Green Bay Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Title game 34-27, when the Packers intercepted a pass in the end zone as time ran out. The Kansas City Chiefs were the AFL champions, and they and the Packers met in Super Bowl I. The Packers were heavy favorites, and their Coach Vince Lombardi did not want to lose to what he considered a Mickey Mouse League. Although the Packers only led 14-10 at the half, a key interception broke the game open, and the Packers crushed Kansas City in the second half. 35-10 Packers
1967–The Packers again defeated the Cowboys in the NFL Title Game. The game was known as the Ice Bowl, since the game was played in 13 degrees below zero weather. Down 17-14, on the last play of the game, from the one yard line, the Packers went for the win instead of the tie, partly due to the cold. Bart Starr followed Jerry Kramer’s block, and the Packers won 21-17. They played the Oakland Raiders in Superbowl II. The game was only 13-7 Packers in the second quarter, but a fumbled punt set up a Green Bay field goal before the half. Like the previous year, the Packers romped in the second half, including Herb Adderly’s interception return for a touchdown. It was the fifth Packer championship in seven years, and their second Super Bowl win. Vince Lombardi, who the trophy is now named for, retired after the game. 33-14 Packers
1968–With Lombardi retired, the Packers were done. The Baltimore Colts represented the NFL. The New York Jets, led by Broadway Joe Namath, defeated the Raiders 27-23 in the AFL Title game for the right to play in Superbowl III. The Colts were 18 point favorites, and Joe Namath angered the Colts and his own teammates by saying, “We’re going to win. I guarantee it.” The world laughed, but on the second play of the game, Colts defensive star Rick Volk went out with an injury. Running back Matt Snell carried 30 times following left tackle Winston Hill. Colts quarterback Earl Morrall was intercepted four times. The Jets led 16-0 in the fourth quarter, when injured legend Johnny Unitas replaced Morrall. It was too little, too late. The Jets had shocked the world. The AFL was no longer an inferior league. 16-7 Jets
1969–The Minnesota Vikings represented the NFL. The Chiefs were the best AFL team. Although the Vikings were favored in Superbowl IV, The Chiefs smothered them. Len Dawson was calm at quarterback, and the Kansas City defense was relentless. Kicker Jan Stenerud added three field goals, as the Chiefs raced to a 16-0 lead and never looked back. The AFL had tied the NFL at two Super Bowl wins apiece. The leagues merged the next year. 23-7 Chiefs
1970–The Cowboys finally got to the Super Bowl, representing the NFC. The AFC team was represented by the old NFL team the Colts from two years earlier. Superbowl V was known as the Blunder Bowl, with the teams combining for 11 turnovers. Dallas led 13-6, and were one yard away from a 14 point lead. They fumbled the ball away. Still leading 13-6, an intercepted pass set up the tying touchdown late in the game. Another interception set up Jim O’Brien for a 32 yard field goal to win the game. Rookie kicker O’Brien had an extra point blocked earlier, but his kick was good, and the Colts had won at the buzzer. This was the only Super Bowl where the MVP played for the losing team, that being defensive player Chuck Howley. 16-13 Colts
1971–The Cowboys got back again, and the AFC was represented by the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys were heavy favorites, and Superbowl VI was the only game where the losing team failed to score a single touchdown. Miami Coach Don Shula was also the coach for the Colts in their shocking loss to the Jets three years earlier. Tom Landry had yet to become a Dallas legend. The game was uneventful, as Dallas dominated. 24-3 Cowboys
1972–Superbowl VII had the Washington Redskins representing the NFC, with the Dolphins again representing the AFC. The Dolphins were unbeaten, and looking to make history. The Dolphins led 14-0 late in the game, when a field goal attempt to lock up the game went awry. The kick was blocked, and kicker Garo Yopremian tried to pick it up and throw it. It was picked out of the air by Mike Bass, who returned it 49 yards for a touchdown for the Redskins. The Redskins did get the ball back with a chance to tie the game, but went nowhere. This was the first Super Bowl where the offense for the losing team did not score at all. The Miami Dolphins remain the only team in the history of the NFL to get through a season unbeaten and untied, finishing 17-0. Every year when the last team to lose a game does so, members of the 1972 Dolphins pop champagne corks. 14-7 Dolphins
1973–Superbowl VIII featured the defending Super Bowl champion Dolphins against the NFC champion Vikings. The game was a blowout, as the Dolphins ran twenty first quarter plays to only three for Minnesota. Miami led 14-0 at that point, and due to the running of Mercury Morris, Larry Csonka, and Jim Kiick, Miami only threw the ball seven times. Miami won back to back titles, and the Vikings became the first team to lose two of them. 24-7 Dolphins
1974–Superbowl IX had the Minnesota Vikings in their third Super Bowl. The Dolphins were finally knocked out in an epic game with the Raiders 28-26 in the “Sea of Hands” game. For three straight years, the AFC Title Game between the Raiders and the Pittsburgh Steelers was more epic than the Super Bowl. In 1972, The Steelers defeated the Raiders in the “Immaculate Reception” game. In 1973 the Raiders throttled the Steelers. Both teams lost to the Dolphins. This year they were the big dogs. In Oakland, after three quarters, the Raiders led 10-3. They collapsed in the 4th quarter, as Pittsburgh exploded for 21 points and a 24-13 win. The Super Bowl had the Purple People Eaters vs the Steel Curtain. It was all defense. The first half featured only a safety and a 2-0 Steelers lead. A fumbled kickoff return to start the second half produced a Pittsburgh touchdown run by Franco Harris. Minnesota’s only score came on a blocked punt. The extra point was no good. Pittsburgh led 9-6. Terry Bradshaw led the Steelers on the only real drive for either team of the entire game. 70 yards and a a devoured game clock led to the final touchdown and Pittsburgh’s first title. The Vikings had lost their third. 16-6 Steelers
1975–The Cowboys defeated the Vikings 17-14 in a very controversial NFC Title game when Drew Pearson caught the first ever NFL “Hail Mary” from Roger Staubach with seconds to play. The AFC Title Game again featured the Raiders and Steelers. In ice cold Pittsburgh, the Steelers led 3-0 after three quarters. The offenses did get going, but the Raiders had their final drive end at the five yard line as the clock ran out. Pittsburgh prevailed 16-10. Superbowl X had the Cowboys leading 10-7 after three quarters. Early in the fourth, a blocked punt for a safety cut the gap to 10-9. Momentum swung, and Pittsburgh led 21-10 with time running out. Roger Staubach led the Cowboys to within four points, but this time his Hail Mary on the final play of the game was intercepted in the end zone. 21-17 Steelers
1976–The Vikings reached their fourth Super Bowl. For the third straight year, the Raiders and Steelers met in the AFC Title game. The Raiders had the best record in the NFL at 13-1. The last week of the season, with home field advantage locked up, they could have lost their final game, rested their team, and eliminated Pittsburgh from playoff contention. By winning, Pittsburgh would be in. Many speculated the Raiders would lose to avoid Pittsburgh. This enraged the team, who throttled their final opponent, and demanded to face Pittsburgh. Oakland defeated New England 24-21, with 10 seconds remaining, to avenge their only loss of the season. They then finally beat Pittsburgh, destroying them 24-7. Superbowl XI was not close, with the lasting image being cornerback Willie Brown returning an interception 75 yards for Oakland’s final touchdown. Minnesota lost their fourth Super Bowl, and Oakland won their first. Owner Al Davis and coach John Madden finally reached the top. 32-14 Raiders
1977–The Raiders got back to the AFC Title Game for the fifth straight year, the only team to ever do so. They faced their archrival Denver Broncos, and the Broncos came out on top 20-17. The Cowboys represented the NFC in Super Bowl XII. Broncos quarterback Craig Morton was the losing quarterback for Dallas in Super Bowl V. Roger Staubach led Dallas in their win the following year. Staubach won again, as Dallas cruised. It was their fourth Superbowl, and they had won and lost twice. 27-10 Cowboys
1978–Superbowl XIII had the Steelers back after a two year absence, against defending champion Dallas. This was the rematch of the Superbowl three years earlier. Pittsburgh led 21-14 when a short pass to a wide open Jackie Smith was dropped when he slipped and fell. Instead of the tying touchdown, a field goal cut the gap to 21-17, which was the score of their previous encounter. A pair of touchdowns 18 seconds apart put Pittsburgh up 35-17, and they hung on for a four point win for their 3rd Super Bowl win. Dallas lost their third Superbowl. Terry Bradshaw throwing bombs to Lynn Swann led to four catches for 164 yards. 35-31 Steelers.
1979–In the AFC Title game, Pittsburgh played the Houston Oilers for the second straight year. The previous year Pittsburgh won in a blowout, but this year it was a closer game. Houston thought they scored the tying touchdown, but it was ruled out of bounds. Pittsburgh won 27-13. The Los Angeles Rams, only 9-7 in the regular season, had won their division for the unprecedented seventh straight year. In previous years they dominated, but could not get past Minnesota and Dallas. Superbowl XIV was supposed to be a Pittsburgh blowout, but the Rams led 19-17 after three quarters. Nevertheless, the Steelers took the lead, and sealed the game when Pat Haden was intercepted. The Steelers had their fourth Superbowl win in 6 years. 31-19 Steelers
1980–The AFC had all five playoff teams finish exactly at 11-5. The Oakland Raiders beat the Houston Oilers indoors, the Cleveland Browns 14-12 in the snow, and the San Diego Chargers in the rain, which slowed down the passing attack of “Air” Coryell and quarterback Dan Fouts. The Raiders were led by Jim Plunkett, who only a couple years ago was thought to be washed up. The owners of Oakland and San Diego hated each other, and Charger owner Gene Klein blamed Raider owner Al Davis for the rain, insisting that Davis hired a cropduster to seed the clouds. Davis has never denied this ludicrous assertion, because it burnishes his outlaw image. The NFC had three teams at 12-4, and the Cowboys defeated the Atlanta Falcons before falling to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles defeated the Raiders 10-7 in the regular season, but Super Bowl XV was revenge. Rod Martin had three interceptions, and Jim Plunkett showed his talent. A swing pass to Kenny King went for 80 yards and a touchdown, and the special teams blocked a field goal. The Raiders won their second Super Bowl, and coach Tom Flores, who had replaced the retired Madden a year earlier, reached the top. From a cultural standpoint, it was the first win with a Mexican head coach and quarterback. 27-10 Raiders
1981–The NFC Title game was an epic battle between the Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers, led by coach Bill Walsh and quarterback Joe Montana. In the final minute, Montana’s touchdown pass to Dwight Clark would forever be known as “The Catch.” The 49ers won 28-27 despite six turnovers. They played the Cincinnati Bengals in Superbowl XVI. The 49ers led 20-0 at the half. The Bengals cut the gap to 20-7 and then drove to the 49er one yard line. The 49ers then mounted an inspired goal line stand, with four plays gaining nothing. The Bengals did eventually cut the gap to 20-14, but a couple field goals by the 49ers put the game out of reach. The Bengals scored again with 17 seconds left, but could not recover the onsides kick. 26-21 Bengals
1982–A strike shortened season had the Cowboys reaching the NFC Title game for the third straight year, with Danny White leading the team all three times. He was the team leader when Staubach retired. This year they played their hated rivals, the Redskins. For the third straight year, the Cowboys lost. The Redskins faced the Miami Dolphins in Superbowl XVII in a rematch of the Super Bowl 10 years earlier. With the Redskins trailing 17-13, Joe Theisman had his pass tipped, with a certain interception to put the Dolphins up by 11. At the last second, Theismann knocked the ball from the Miami “Killer Bs” defense for an incompletion. This kept the game within reach, and the Redskins soon took a 20-17 lead. Facing a 4th and 1 at the Miami 44, “The Diesel” John Riggins burst through and rumbled all the way for a touchdown to ice the game. It was the first Super Bowl win for the Redskins, and the second loss for the Dolphins to even out their two wins. 27-17 Redskins
1983–The Redskins returned, and faced the Raiders, who were now located in Los Angeles. Earlier in the year, the Redskins defeated the Raiders 37-35 in a game for the ages. That game had a 99 yard touchdown pass from Jim Plunkett to Cliff Branch, and a 97 yard punt return for a touchdown by Greg Pruitt. The Redskins led 20-7, and then the Raiders exploded for four touchdowns and a 35-20 lead. The Redskins then came back with a touchdown, a perfectly executed onsides kick, a field goal, and a final touchdown by Theismann to Joe Washington with 20 seconds remaining for the win. Only a missed field goal and a missed extra point during the season separated the Redskins from a 16-0 season. Superbowl XVIII was not close. Marcus Allen rushed for 191 yards, Plunkett threw a pair of touchdowns, and the Raiders scored on a blocked punt by Derrick Jensen, and an interception for a touchdown by Jack Squirek. The Redskins only touchdown was followed by the extra point being blocked. To quote Joe Theismann, “They handed us our @ss on the tray, and the tray was bent.” The Raiders won their third Superbowl in eight years, and the Redskins lost their second one. 38-9 Raiders.
1984–Dan Marino Shredded the NFL for 5,084 passing yards in leading the Dolphins to a 14-2 record and the team’s second appearance in three years. Joe Montana led the 49ers to a 15-1 record and their second appearance. The Dolphins led Superbowl XIX 10-7 early on, but the 49ers took the game over. They led 28-10 when the Dolphins kicked a field goal before the half, recovered a fumble on the kickoff, and added another field goal before halftime. The second half was uneventful, as the 49ers shut down the Dolphins and extended their lead. San Francisco won their second Superbowl, and Miami lost their third Superbowl in five appearances. 38-16 49ers
1985–The Chicago Bears did their Super Bowl Shuffle, and their defense, led by Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, destroyed the league. Fiery coach Mike Ditka, with intense defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan, were unrelenting. Maverick quarterback Jim McMahon led the offense, with legendary running back Walter Payton leading the running game. William “The Refrigerator” Perry provided the entertainment. The New England Patriots won three road games, starting out by beating the Jets. They then shocked the Raiders and the Dolphins, who were both considered superior. The Dolphins were the only team to beat the 15-1 Bears that year. Perhaps neither the Raiders or Dolphins would have won the Superbowl that year, but they would not have been intimidated. The Patriots opened and closed the scoring in Superbowl XX, but the Bears had an avalanche of points inbetween. 46-10 Bears
1986–The New York Giants won an NFL Championship in 1956, and in 1958 lost “the greatest game ever played,” to the Colts. This was their first Super Bowl. They played the Broncos, led by John Elway. Denver had beaten the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Title Game when Elway led “the drive,” a 98 yard march that tied the game and broke Cleveland hearts. The Broncos led Superbowl XXI 10-7, but a safety cut the gap to 10-9. Denver kicker Rich Karlis missed field goals of 23 and 34 yards, deflating the team. The Giants defense poured it on in the second half, led by Harry Carson, George Martin, and Lawrence Taylor. Phil Simms had a Super Bowl record for accuracy, completing 22 of 25 passes. Head coach Bill Parcells became the victim of a new ritual that season that is now cliche. Harry Carson was guy behind the idea of dumping the Gatorade bucket on the coach’s head. It was a way of getting back at the often irascible Parcells. During the Superbowl, Parcells nervously looked around for the bucket, but was ambushed anyway. This was also the first year that the MVP, in this case Simms, announced that he was going to Disneyland. 39-20 Giants
1987–In another strike season, the Redskins prevailed in the NFC, while the Broncos returned for the second straight year. Denver again defeated Cleveland in the AFC Title Game after Ernest Byner lost “the fumble” at the end of the game. Denver’s first play from scrimmage in the Super Bowl was a touchdown bomb, and at the end of the first quarter, the Broncos led 10-0. A blowout was shaping up in Superbowl XXII. It was a blowout, but not for Denver. Washington had the best quarter in Superbowl history, scoring five touchdowns, including four touchdown passes by Doug Williams. He was the first black quarterback to play in the Super Bowl, and he flourished. Unheralded running back Timmy Smith, who only lasted three years in the league, rushed for 204 yards, a current record. A 10-0 deficit became a 35-10 Redskins lead at the half. The second half was uneventful, as Denver lost for the third time, and Washington won their second Super Bowl in four appearances. 42-10 Redskins
1988–After 11 games, the 49ers were only 6-5, having just taken a beating to the Raiders. Montana was sacked 8 times in the 9-3 loss. The 49ers regrouped, finished 10-6, reached the NFC Title Game, and shocked the heavily favored Bears 28-3. They faced the Bengals, who defeated the Bills in the AFC Title Game. This was a rematch of the Superbowl seven years earlier. Superbowl XXIII had different leaders, with Sam Wyche instead of Forrest Gregg as coach, and Boomer Anderson at quarterback instead of Ken Anderson. The 49ers still had Walsh and Montana. They also now had a receiver who would become a legend, Jerry Rice. The game was 3-3 at the half, and with three minutes left in the game, the Bengals led 16-13. The 49ers were 92 yards away, and Joe Montana earned his icy cool reputation by relaxing his teammates. With all the pressure on him, he said to his team, “Hey, is that John Candy in the stands? Cool.” The team relaxed, and Montana threw a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left to win the game. Bill Walsh retired after the game, and the 49ers had their third Superbowl win. The Bengals had lost their second one. Montana’s legacy was not done. 20-16 49ers
1989–The 49ers returned for their fourth appearance in nine years, this time with a dominating 14-2 record. The Broncos returned for their third appearance in four years. All three times they defeated the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Title Game. Superbowl XXIV was the biggest blowout in history. A 45 point shellacking earned the 49ers their fourth Superbowl win, and the Broncos their fourth loss. 55-10 49ers
1990–The 49ers had the repeat, and were going for the “3-peat,” but fell short. They were 14-2, including a thrilling 7-3 defensive win over the Giants. Both of those teams started 10-0, and they met again in the NFC Title Game. It was another defensive thriller, and the Giants kicked five field goals. The fourth one cut their deficit to 13-12, but in trying to run out the clock, Roger Craig fumbled. The Giants recovered, and Matt Bahr’s fifth kick on the final play gave the Giants the 15-13 win and the trip to Superbowl XXV. The Giants were 13-3, with one of their other losses being to the Buffalo Bills. The Bills only won 17-13, but they had one of the greatest offenses of all time. The Giants held the ball for over forty minutes to keep Buffalo off of the field. A safety by Buffalo seemed to be the difference, since their final drive had them down by one point instead of three. Jeff Hostetler had taken over when Phil Simms was injured weeks earlier, and had played smartly. Yet he could only watch as Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas threw and ran the ball within field goal range. A 47 yard attempt by Scott Norwood on the final play had the world watching. The kick was wide right. The Giants had their second Super Bowl win. Bill Parcells retired for the first of many times after the game. 20-19 Giants
1991–Superbowl XXVI Had the Bills and Redskins both getting back. The Redskins were 14-2, losing one game on a Hail Mary and another game on the last play in the final game when they had rested their starters anyway. So again they flirted with 16-0. After a scoreless first quarter, the Redskins proceeded to dominate, leading 17-0 at the half, and cruising to a 37-10 lead. Buffalo scored late to make the score close, and quarterback Mark Rypien was the MVP. The Redskins won their third Superbowl in 10 years, and what made it more amazing was that coach Joe Gibbs did it with three different quarterbacks. 37-24 Redskins
1992–In the 1970s it was the Raiders and Steelers. In the 1990s it was the Cowboys and 49ers. The AFC was an afterthought, with the Bills reaching the game for the third straight year. In the NFC Title game, after a 10-10 tie at the half, Dallas took over, and beat San Francisco 30-20. This was revenge for “The Catch” in the 1981 season, although that could have been revenge for Dallas defeating San Francisco in consecutive seasons in the early 1970s. Super Bowl XXVII was a blowout, as Buffalo turned the ball over nine times after taking an early 7-0 lead. down 14-7, an interception in the end zone prevented a tie. Dallas won by 35 points, and would have scored a record for points had Leon Lett not showboated and fumbled near the goal line. Jimmy Johnson yelled, “How ’bout them Cowboys!” The Gatorade bucket gained a new wrinkle when the players messed up his perfect hair, and owner Jerry Jones showed up on the sidelines with a comb to fix it. 52-17 Cowboys
1993–Superbowl XVIII was a rematch of the year before. The Bills reached the Superbowl for the fourth straight year. The Cowboys and 49ers met again in the NFC Title Game, which was an easy 38-21 Dallas win. Buffalo actually led 13-6 at the half, but on the second play of the second half, Thurman Thomas was hit and fumbled. The ball was returned for a touchdown to tie the game, and Dallas never looked back. They only led 20-13 after three, but put the game away in the fourth quarter. Troy Aikman and MVP Emmitt Smith brought Dallas its fourth Super Bowl win, and gave Buffalo their unmatched fourth straight loss. Despite back to back titles, a feud between Jerry Jones and coach Jimmy Johnson led to Jones firing Johnson and replacing him with his friend Barry Switzer. 30-13 Cowboys
1994–Superbowl XXIX was considered over before it began. For the third straight year, the Cowboys and 49ers battled in the NFC Title Game, and this time the 49ers triumphed 38-21. The AFC had an overachieving San Diego Chargers team in their first Super Bowl. Head coach Bobby Ross worked miracles, and quarterback Stan Humphries was tough. They defeated superior opponents in Miami and Pittsburgh, and seemed happy to just be in their first Super Bowl. Steve Young, desperate to escape the legacy of Joe Montana, threw six touchdown passes and zero interceptions, and had the highest quarterback rating ever for a Super Bowl. As expected, it was a blowout, and Coach George Siefert escaped the shadow of his predecessor Bill Wash, since the win five years ago was considered Walsh’s team. The 49ers became the first team to win 5 Super Bowls, with zero losses. 49-26 49ers
1995–The Cowboys and 49ers were expected to meet for the fourth straight year in the NFC Title Game, but a Green Bay Packers team led by Coach Mike Holmgren, aka “The Walrus,” and a young maverick quarterback named Brett Favre, upset the matchup. Favre was the league MVP, and Green Bay shocked the 49ers in the playoffs. In the NFC Title Game, they led Dallas after three quarters as well, before Dallas took over. In the AFC, The Steelers survived a Hail Mary attempt on the final play to outlast the Colts, to go to the game they felt they should have been in a year earlier. For the third time, Dallas and Pittsburgh met. Dallas was the better team in Superbowl XXX, but the Steelers kept hanging around. Dallas led 13-0 and 20-7, but Pittsburgh closed to within 20-17. The key play was when Neil O’Donnell threw his second interception to Larry Brown, whose gift in his breadbasket led to the ten point finale. Dallas had their fifth Superbowl title in eight appearances, and third in four years, and Pittsburgh had their first loss in five trips. Jerry Jones and Barry Switzer won without Jimmy Johnson. 27-17 Cowboys
1996–Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers got back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 years, and the New England Patriots reached the game for the first time in 11 years. Again, they benefited from better teams being knocked out. The first quarter was the highest scoring in history, with New England leading 14-10. Yet by halftime, the Packers led 27-14. After the Patriots closed to 27-21, Superbowl XXXI MVP Desmond Howard returned the kickoff 99 yards for the final points of the game. Bill Parcells took his second team to the Superbowl, but did not prevail. 35-21 Packers
1997–Superbowl XXXII had the Packers getting back with relative ease. The AFC featured the Broncos. The previous year the Broncos were favored in the AFC, and were shocked in the playoffs. The players even cried afterward, saying they let John Elway down. He had three Super Bowl losses, but this time the Broncos had running back Terrell Davis. The game was tied 24-24 in the fourth quarter when Elway made a leaping run for a first down. He spun like a pinwheel in the air, but made the yardage. The Broncos took the lead, and Brett Favre’s final drive stalled around midfield. Bronco Owner Pat Bowlen held the trophy and exclaimed “This one’s for John!” The Packers lost their first Super Bowl, and the Broncos finally won one. 31-24 Broncos
1998–The Minnesota Vikings smashed the league and coasted to a 15-1 record with rookie receiver Randy Moss. They were practically a lock to finally win the big one when they collapsed in the NFC Title game. The Atlanta Falcons trailed 20-7, but fought back. With time running out, Minnesota still led 27-20, with Gary Anderson attempting a 40 yard field goal to lock up the game. He had not missed a kick all year, going 40 for 40, an NFL record. He missed this one, stunning the crowd. Yet The Vikings still led. Atlanta tied the game, and even though Minnesota got the ball first in overtime, it was Morton Anderson that kicked the winning field goal. Coach Dan Reeves was taking his second team to the Superbowl with a 30-27 overtime shocker. It was the first trip for the Falcons. In the AFC, The Broncos cruised during the regular season, but faced a tough Jets team led by Bill Parcells in the AFC Title game. He was trying to take a third team to the Superbowl. The Jets blocked a punt and led 10-0 in the 3rd quarter, but the Jets could not overcome six turnovers, as the Broncos won 23-10. Superbowl XXXIII was not close, as the Broncos coasted to their second straight win. Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan took delight in beating the man who fired him in Denver, Reeves. John Elway retired after the game. 34-19 Broncos
1999–The St. Louis Rams had been a terrible team for a decade, but when Trent Green went down in the preseason with a knee injury, former supermarket checkout clerk Kurt Warner became a legend. For the next three years, the Rams offense was the “Greatest Show on Turf.” The Rams had relocated from Los Angeles several years earlier. Dick Vermeil had returned to the Super Bowl after a 19 year absence, retiring form the Eagles in 1982, citing burnout, only to return to the league with the Rams in 1997. Marshal Faulk was the star running back, and offensive coordinator Mike Martz was a mad scientist calling plays. The Rams struggled in the NFC Title Game, but a late touchdown defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 11-6. Twenty years earlier they had defeated the Bucs in the NFC Title Game 9-0. The Tennessee Titans, led by Buddy Ryan disciple Jeff Fisher, represented the AFC. The Titans were the former Houston Oilers. The Rams led 16-0, but the Titans fought back, tying the game at 16-16 with two minutes left. One play later, Super Bowl XXXIV MVP Kurt Warner threw a 73 yard touchdown bomb for the go ahead touchdown. He passed for a Super Bowl record 414 yards on the day. Steve McNair led the Titans back to within striking distance with five seconds left. His pass to Kevin Dyson fell one yard short when Mike Jones made “The tackle.” Vermeil retired after the game. The Rams avenged a 24-21 regular season loss to the Titans in a thriller. 23-16 Rams
2000–The Minnesota Vikings were again cruising towards a Super Bowl when they collapsed at the end of the season. They did make it to the NFC Title Game, but were throttled by the Giants 41-0. The Giants were 7-4, and reeling from back to back home losses, when Coach Jim Fassell made a bold prediction. He was considered laid back, but he told the press that “this team is going to the playoffs.” The AFC featured a shocking Baltimore Ravens team with one of the greatest defenses in history. Cocky coach Brian Billick, defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, and fearsome defensive standout Ray Lewis backed up the talk. They knocked out Tennessee’s Steve McNair from the divisional game en route to defeating the favored Titans. They then knocked out Rich Gannon from the AFC Title Game, eliminating the Raiders. The Ravens had almost no offense, going five straight games during the season without a touchdown, winning two of them. Trent Dilfer was considered a stiff by many at quarterback. In the Super Bowl Dilfer did throw an interception to Jason Sehorn for a touchdown, but it was called back by a penalty. The Ravens led 10-0 at the half. An interception return put the Ravens up 17-0, followed by a kickoff return for a touchdown by the Giants. The Ravens then took the next kickoff for a touchdown. Three touchdowns in less than a minute had the Ravens up 24-7. Superbowl XXXV was a blowout, and the Giants had lost their first Super Bowl. The Ravens were the former Cleveland Browns, and Art Modell ignored the death threats, moved his team, and had his first trophy. Due to controversy surrounding Ray Lewis, Trent Dilfer got the Disneyland commercial. It did not matter, as Dilfer became the first winning Super Bowl quarterback to be traded before the next season. 34-7 Ravens
2001–The Rams returned for the second time in three years, coasting to a 14-2 record. They were facing a Patriots team that had started the season with Drew Bledsoe and finished with Tom Brady. The Patriots had defeated the Oakland Raiders in overtime in a blizzard in a controversial game that would forever be known as the “Tuck Rule” game. The Rams were led by Mike Martz, and the Patriots were led by Bill Bellichick, who was determined to escape the shadow of his mentor Bill Parcells. The Rams had defeated the Patriots 24-17 in Foxboro during the regular season in a game that was not that close. Yet Super Bowl XXXVI featured a Rams team that perhaps was overconfident. They were leading 3-0 when Ty Law returned an interception for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead. The Patriots led 17-3 in the fourth quarter, when the Rams finally woke up. With under two minutes left, the Rams had tied the game 17-17. The Patriots defense was out of gas, but Tom Brady had ninety seconds to work with. He had only 75 yards passing up to that point, but on the last play of the game, a 48 yard field goal attempt by Adam Vinatieri was dead center. This was perhaps the biggest upset since the Jets in Super Bowl III had taken place. 20-17 Patriots
2002–The Raiders, who had relocated back to Oakland several years earlier, were seeking to avenge their disputed playoff heartache of a year earlier. They had difficult playoff wins over the Jets and Titans. The Raiders started 4-0, fell to 4-4, and then finished 11-5. Rookie head coach Bill Callahan led the team, replacing John Gruden, who left to coach the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Speaking of the Buccaneers, the entire 2002 NFC was full of shockers. The 12-4 Packers had never lost a playoff game at home, but were stunned by the Atlanta Falcons, led by young sensation Michael Vick. The Buccaneers played the NFC Title game against the heavily favored Eagles, who had beaten them six straight times. The Eagles led 7-0 one minute into the game, but this time the Bucs shocked the Eagles. Ronde Barber’s 92 yard interception returned sealed the 27-10 win, and sent John Gruden to face his old team. The Raiders intercepted a pass on the 3rd play of the game, setting up a field goal and a 3-0 lead. The Bucs then crushed them, with a 34-3 lead. The Raiders did fight back, with a blocked punt for a touchdown, and were within 34-21 with 2 1/2 minutes remaining. However, NFL MVP Rich Gannon was intercepted for a touchdown. On the very last play of the game, another interception was returned for a touchdown. The Bucs intercepted FIVE passes, returning three for scores. Jon Gruden exclaimed, “How bout those Tampa Bay Buccaneers!” The team that started 0-26 and wore orange pants were now pewter wearing champions. They won the battle of pirates. “Chucky,” the nickname for Gruden based on his scowls, knew the entire Raider playbook in advance. As John Lynch said, “we saw these plays in practice.” Lynch, Derrick Brooks, and Warren Sapp delivered the Superbowl XXXVII win. 48-21 Buccaneers
2003–The Patriots finished 14-2, and faced the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, who were led by Ben Roethlisberger in the AFC Title Game. Big Ben was 14-0 as a starter. The Steelers had crushed the Patriots during the regular season, but the Patriots had injuries at the time. The Patriots were favored in the rematch, and they won handily 41-27. The Eagles were in their third straight NFC Title Game, determined to avenge their shocker from the previous year. They were at home against the Carolina Panthers, a team that entered the league in 1995, and reached the NFC Title Game in 1996. The Panthers injured Philly quarterback Donovan McNabb in the game, although he played. Carolina won 14-3, and Philly had lost again. Super Bowl XXXVIII was a thriller. The first quarter was scoreless, the Patriots led 14-10 at the half, and the third quarter was scoreless. The fourth quarter was an aerial show. Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme rained bombs, and Delhomme tied the game at 29-29 with little time left. They would have been ahead by three, but they failed on three two point conversion attempts. Coach Jon Fox regretted calling them afterwards. The kickoff after the tying touchdown went out of bounds, allowing the Patriots to start at their own 40 yard line. Again, for the second time in three years, Adam Vinatieri nailed a 48 yard line on the final play of the game. 32-29 Patriots
2004–Superbowl XXXIX again brought the Patriots back to the big dance. In the NFC, in their fourth straight NFC Title game, and third one at home, the Eagles and head coach Andy Reid had finally made it over the top, defeating Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons. The game was tied 7-7 and 14-14, but the Patriots had a 24-14 lead late in the game. McNabb launched a furious rally, cutting the gap to three points. The Eagles did get the ball back, but ran out of time well short of field goal range. For the third time in four years, the Patriots had won the Superbowl, each time by three points.
2005–The Indianapolis Colts, led by calm coach Tony Dungy and megastar quarterback Peyton Manning, had been torching the league on offense for several years. They just could not beat the Patriots, who had eliminated them in several straight games, often by one play. A missed field goal or a fumble at the goal line or a goal line stand would vex them. This year the Colts started 13-0, and were on their way. The Patriots had been eliminated, but the Colts were stunned at home by the Steelers. The Steelers jumped to a 21-3 lead. the Colts closed to 21-18, when Jerome Bettis, aka “The Bus,” was rumbling near the goal line for the final touchdown. He was hit, and fumbled. The Colts picked up the ball and were racing down the field for what appeared to be a miracle touchdown of their own. Ben Roethlisberger made the touchdown saving tackle at midfield. On the final play, Mike Vanderjagt missed the tying field goal. He simply choked, saving Bettis from becoming the goat. The game was also perspective for Dungy, who tragically lost his son a few months earlier. The football world felt bad for him. After blasting Denver on the road, the Steelers played in Superbowl XL against the Seattle Seahawks, who were in their first one. They were led by Mike Holmgren, trying to win with his second team. The game itself had several controversial calls, and with the Steelers leading 14-10, Willie Parker ran for a 75 yard touchdown to ice the game. Coach Bill Cowher, after 15 seasons, finally had his ring. The Steelers had their fifth win in six tries. Cowher would retire a year later. 21-10 Steelers
2006–The Indianapolis Colts finally got rid of the demons, throttling the Patriots in the regular season, and defeating them in one of the greatest AFC Title Games in history. From Raiders and Steelers to Cowboys and 49ers, the league was now Colts vs Patriots. The Chargers were 14-2 that year, but like previous Marty Schottenheimer coached teams, they melted down in the playoffs against the Patriots. An interception for a touchdown had the Patriots up 21-3 against the Colts, and it looked like the Colts were collapsing again. Manning throwing the ball was not getting it done, but Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes on the ground were chewing up yardage. Time consuming drives wore down the New England defense. The game was tied at 21-21, 28-28, and 31-31. The Patriots took the lead 34-31, but this time Peyton Manning finally lived up to his legacy. Keeping the ball on the ground, Addai ran it in for a touchdown with exactly one minute left. Tom Brady led the final drive, as Manning watched. Brady had won all their playoff games. Not this time. He was intercepted, and the Colts won 38-34. They played the Bears in Superbowl XLI. The NFC was awful that year, and any of the top four AFC Teams would have been favored. Bears quarterback Rex Grossman was the most criticized at his position since Dilfer. The Bears did have the most electrifying return man in the history of the game in Devon Hester. Not since Billy “White Shoes” Johnson had a return man been so celebrated. He returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Bears led 7-0 seconds into the game. Yet Dungy and Manning stayed patient, and led 22-17 in the fourth quarter. Rex Grossman had critical interceptions in the fourth quarter, with the last one being returned for a touchdown to ice the game. It was played in the rain in Miami, but mud did not stain the fact that Dungy and Manning had their ring. From a cultural standpoint, Dungy and Bears Coach Lovie Smith gave us the first Super Bowl with two black head coaches. The men embraced after the game. 29-17 Colts
2007–The preordained AFC Title Game was again supposed to be the Patriots and Colts. The Patriots felt they had the upper hand by obtaining Randy Moss to go with an already potent offense. In the regular season, the Colts led 20-10, but the Patriots fought back and won the game 24-20. In the playoffs, the Colts were shocked by the San Diego Chargers. Led by Norvelous Norv Turner and backup quarterback Billy Volek, the Chargers stunned the Colts 28-24. The Chargers then lost to the Patriots. The NFC featured even bigger shocks, as the New York Giants, led by no nonsense coach Tom Coughlin and Peyton’s brother Eli Manning, stunned superior opponents. First the Giants defeated the 13-3 Cowboys 21-17, intercepting Tony Romo with seconds left. Then they defeated the Green Bay Packers in overtime, 23-20. Brett Favre and the Packers were also 13-3, and Favre was favored to get back to the Super Bowl for the first time in over a decade, perhaps going out on top the way John Elway did. Yet it was much maligned Eli Manning and the Giants that made Superbowl XLII. It was also sweet for defensive star Michael Strahan, who contemplated retirement before the season.
Yet these teams played in the final regular season game in New York. Manning played well, but the Patriots won a thriller 38-35. The Giants finished 10-6. More shockingly, the Patriots finished 16-0. Owner Bob Kraft, personnel guru Scott Pioli, coach Bellichick, Brady, and Moss, looked to make history. The 1972 Dolphins nervously held their champagne bottles, knowing that their status as the only undefeated team in history was tenuous. That Dolphin team was 17-0. The Patriots, thanks to a schedule lengthened in 1978, were shooting for 19-0. The Giants were looking to shock the world. A game expected to be an offensive shootout was a defensive slugfest.
If anybody knew David Tyree before this game, they did not tell anyone. He was the Giants fourth receiver. Yet he entered the record books when Manning found him over the middle for a five yard touchdown pass. The Giants led 10-7 with 11 minutes remaining in the game. New England’s dynasty was now teetering. Yet despite the fact that Brady was getting hit on every play, he showed his championship toughness that champions exhibit when it matters most. He led the Patriots 89 yards, eating up over eight minutes of clock. On third down and goal, the Giants needed one more stop to force the tying field goal. They had stopped the Patriots the entire game. They could not stop them this time. Neither could the rest of the league. A touchdown pass to Randy Moss, who had been held in check the entire game, put the Patriots up 14-10 with 2:42 remaining. The Giants took over at their own 17 yard line. They had all three timeouts plus the two minute warning. At the two minute warning, the Giants faced third and 10 at their own 28. Manning completed the pass to Amani Toomer, but Toomer had to come back for the short throw, leaving him less than a yard short. On 4th and 1, with everything on the line, the Giants were granted a measurement, allowing the clock to temporarily stop. This allowed the Giants to get up to the line.
They could have punted, given that they had all three timeouts, but going for it was the right call with 1:40 remaining. Battering ram Brandon Jacobs picked up the first down, and the Giants called their first timeout with 1:28 left. They were still at their own 38 yard line. The next play had Eli get caught after a five yard scramble, forcing the Giants to burn their second timeout with 1:20 left. Manning was almost intercepted on the next play, but the ball was just high enough. It bounced off the outstretched fingertips of Asanti Samuels. On 3rd and 5, a play occurred that will be in NFL history forever. One of the craziest plays I have ever seen occurred, and I saw it live. I still could not believe what I witnessed inside that stadium. Eli Manning stepped back to pass, and was caught in the pocket for what appeared to be a certain sack. There were two or three Patriots with a shot, and one had him by the jersey. He spun out, and heaved the ball before being hit.
This was only half the miracle play that should forever be known as “The Scramble.” His Fran Tarkenton impersonation was fabulous, but the reception was even more spectacular. David Tyree, with Rodney Harrison defending him perfectly, caught the ball against his helmet one handed. Harrison tried to pry it loose, but somehow Tyree kept the ball lodged between his hand and his helmet. Going to the ground, the ball never touched the ground or came loose. That catch could not be made in the circus. David Tyree made it as Harrison and the rest of the world remained stunned. One minute remained, and the Giants were at the New England 25. Manning lobbed an end zone pass to Plaxico Burress. Burress had been silent the entire game, but he faked out Ellis Hobbs, who had intercepted Manning earlier. The 14 yard touchdown pass put the Giants up with only 35 seconds remaining. History had been smashed, obliterated, and poured upside down. 17-14 Giants
2008–This was one of the least sensible seasons in NFL history. Records, seedings, and momentum meant nothing. The Colts and Patriots were again expected to be the two best teams, but the entire league was turned upside down when Tom Brady went down for the season in Week 1 with a knee injury. Matt Cassel took over, and the Patriots went 11-5, becoming only the second team to miss the playoffs with that good a record. The Colts began 3-4, won nine straight, and at 12-4 lost their wild card game to the 8-8 Chargers. The top 3 seeds in the NFC, the 12-4 Giants, 11-5 Panthers, and 10-6 Vikings all lost. The top AFC seed, the 13-3 Titans, were led by Kerry Collins, who took over in Week 1 from an injured Vince Young and never looked back. Three teams reached the playoffs with rookie head coaches, with the Falcons and Ravens also possessing rookie quarterbacks as well. The 1-15 Dolphins of 2007 became the 11-5 Dolphins of 2008, with Bill Parcells in the front office. Nobody went 16-0, but the Lions became the first team to go 0-16.
The AFC Title game saw a brutal defensive bonelock between the # 2 seed Pittsburgh Steelers and their archnemesis Ravens, who had knocked off Tennessee in a head-crusher 13-10 The Steelers led 16-14 late when Troy Palomalu ran an interception back 40 yards to ice the game. The NFC Title Game featured a pair of teams that each won only nine games. The 9-7 Cardinals finished 2-4 down the stretch before shocking the Falcons at home and the Panthers on the road. The Eagles were 5-5-1 before winning down the stretch and going 9-6-1. They beat the Vikings and then stunned the Giants, both on the road. In the NFC Title Game, the Cardinals led 24-6, the Eagles came back to lead 25-24, and the Cardinals finished the scoring for a gritty 32-25 win.
The Cardinals had Matt Leinart, who stayed on the bench as Kurt Warner turned back time. He had the Greatest Show in the Desert, and Coach Ken Whisenhunt was passed over for the Pittsburgh job in favor of the current coach Mike Tomlin. The Cardinals made their first Super Bowl appearance, and the Steelers wanted to be the first team to win six rings. The game itself was a thriller. On the last play of the half, with the Cardinals going in for a touchdown, Warner had a pass intercepted and returned 100 yards for a touchdown.
Late in the game Warner rallied the cardinals, and a slant pass to Larry Fitzgerald went for a 64 yard touchdown. Fitzgerald looked at himself on the jumbotron as the Cardinals had the lead 23-20 with under 3 minutes to play. Big Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers. With about a minute to go, Roethlisberger fired to the corner to the end zone. Santonio Holmes made a ridiculous ballet catch where he somehow got both of his feet down in bounds. The Cardinals had one final shot, but Warner was hit and fumbled. The Steelers won 27-23 to win their sixth ring. Mike Tomlin became the youngest head coach to win a ring at age 34.
2009–This was the first year since 1993 where both top seeds made it to the show. It was also the first time where two teams started 13-0. In an even bigger surprise, both of these teams then began losing. In the NFC, the 13-0 Saints lost their final three to finish 13-3. The Colts got to 14-0 before benching players and finishing 14-2. The team deliberately decided not to chase 16-0, preferring to ignore history and get players healthy.
In the AFC, the 9-7 New York Jets under Rex Ryan shocked the 13-3 San Diego Chargers and Norv Turner 17-14. The Jets led the Colts 17-6 before Peyton manning and the offense got going and won the AFC Title Game 30-17. The NFC featured some legends. Kurt Warner and the Cardinals beat the Packers 51-45 in an overtime thriller. The Saints dispatched the Cardinals 45-14 and then faced off against Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Title Game. The Gunslinger and his offense outplayed the Saints, but costly turnovers killed the Vikings. In overtime, the Saints won 31-28 after some very controversial calls.
The Saints and Drew Brees were a feel good story, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Sean Payton was coaching in his first Super Bowl. As for the Colts, they were a corporate machine. Jim Caldwell was a rookie head coach sticking with the successful Tony Dungy model. Peyton Manning was looking to be the greatest quarterback of all time. The Colts made it look easy early on, taking a 10-0 first quarter lead. The Saints held the ball for 12 1/2 minutes in the second quarter and got to within 10-6 at halftime.
Sean Payton called for an onsides kick to start the second half. It was the first time an onsides kick had ever been called in a Super Bowl before the fourth quarter. Payton was rewarded for his balls of steel move as the kick bounced off Indy’s Hank Baskett’s helmet and led to a scrum that took over two minutes to unpile. Had it failed the Colts would have had the short field. Yet the Saints had the ball, as a stunned Colts defense had to go back on the field again. From the Saints 42, Brees quickly got it done. From the Colts 16, Brees hit Colston for the touchdown as the Saints led 13-10.
Despite not being in the game for what seemed like forever, Manning turned the offensive ignition right back on. From the Saints four, Addai finished the 10 play, 5 1/2 minute drive as Colts retook the lead 17-13 with six minutes left in the third quarter. The Saints would make a field goal to get to within 17-16 and momentum changed for good when the Colts missed a very long field goal.
Brees then threw five straight short passes to five different receivers. Between hitting Thomas, Henderson, Bush, Colston, and finally Robert Meacham, the Saints were at the Colts 14. Then Brees hit Shockey for the two yard touchdown to put the Saints up 22-17. Brees found another different name on the two point conversion. Initially it looked like the pass to Moore was dropped. Sean Payton challenged the incomplete ruling. Again, Payton was rewarded, as the call was overturned and ruled a catch. The Saints had retaken the lead 24-17.
With 3 1/2 minutes to go, the Colts faced 3rd and 5 from the Saints 31. Manning was destined to tie the game 24-24, with the only question being which kicker would win a thriller in regulation. Perhaps the Super Bowl would go to overtime for the very first time. Every Super Bowl has memories to last forever, and Peyton Manning was abut to create one. Unfortunately for him and Colts fans everywhere, it was a bitter memory.
Manning threw his billionth slant pass, this one meant for Reggie Wayne. this was after having earlier nearly had one intercepted, and for completing a pass across the field that two weeks earlier allowed the Saints to intercept another icon and win the NFC Title Game. Manning went to the well once too often, and this pass was intercepted by Tracy Porter. Manning tried to make the tackle, but unlike a two time Super Bowl winner who made one in 2005 to preserve a win and beat the Colts, Manning is not a tackler. Porter was off to the races, pumping his fists as the French Quarter erupted in celebration. The Saints led by 14 points, and the only turnover of the game had the Colts needing a miracle.
On 4th and goal from the 5, Manning hit Wayne at the goal line. Wayne dropped it. Despite going 31 for 45 for 333 yards, Manning could not get the Colts a win. A stunned Colts team watched the Saints erupt in celebration. Brees, who finished a ridiculous 32 for 39 for 288 yards, was the MVP. The 32 completions tied a Super Bowl record. The Saints 31-17 victory was their first championship, and it lifted up an entire region of the country.
2010–Early preseason favorites Dallas and Minnesota collapsed to a combined 4-12, as both coaches got fired. Brett Favre did not repeat the magic carpet ride of the previous year as his 20th season was a tough one. His understudy Aaron Rodgers flourished in Green Bay. Despite being devastated by injuries, the Packers closed the season strong to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs as the # 6 seed. The Seattle Seahawks won their division with a 7-9 record, the first time a losing team made the playoffs. They even won their opening playoff game, eliminating defending champion New Orleans before falling to Chicago. Green Bay became the first ever NFC # 6 seed to win three road games. They went into Philadelphia and beat a resurgent Michael Vick and the Eagles 20-16. Then they went to Atlanta and throttled the # 1 seed 48-21. They went into Chicago and beat their archrivals 21-14 in a game that was not as close as the score indicated.
In the AFC, New England continued their winning tradition in the regular season by finishing 14-2. Indianapolis struggled throughout the season, but finished strong to barely make the playoffs at 10-6. The Steelers and the Ravens split a pair of defensive headknockers, both finishing 12-4 with Pittsburgh winning the tie-breaker. Yet the # 6 seed for the second straight season was the New York Jets, and Rex Ryan insisted they would run the table on the road. The Jets backed up their talk, stunning the Colts in Indy on the final play 17-16. Then the Jets went to New England, where several weeks earlier they had lost 45-3. They shocked the Patriots 28-21. For the second straight year they were in the AFC Title Game. They were at Pittsburgh, who won another tough one over the Ravens 31-24. Several weeks earlier the Jets went into Pittsburgh and won 22-17. This time the Steelers jumped to a 24-0 lead and withstood a furious Jets comeback to hang on for a gritty 24-19 win.
With Vince Lombardi and Art Rooney in heaven, a pair of the most storied NFL franchises competed against each other. The Packers were the team of the 1960s, winning five NFL Championships including the first two Super Bowls. The Steelers of the 1970s won four Super Bowls. Since then each of these teams faded in the 1980s, but came back. In the 1990s the Packers won one Super Bowl in 1996 and lost one in 1997. The Steelers lost one in 1995, then won it in 2005 and 2008.
The Packers jumped to a 21-3 lead but Pittsburgh had closed to within 21-10 at halftime and 21-17 after three quarters. It was turnovers including an interception of Ben Roethisberger that made the difference in the first half. With the Steelers driving for the lead, the second half again saw a critical turnover. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Rashaard Mendenhall was blasted by Clay Matthews, resulting in a fumble that led to a 28-17 Packers lead. The Steelers closed to 28-25 and Aaron Rodgers tried to lead a drive to run out the clock. The Pittsburgh defense held Green Bay to a field goal. Roethlisberger would have one final chance to be the Super Bowl hero. He led the winning drive three years earlier, but this time it was not to be. The two minute drill went nowhere, and the Packers held on defense.
Mike McCarthy joined Mike Holmgren and Vince Lombardi and had a street named after him. MVP Aaron Rodgers escaped the shadow of Brett Favre and etched his own legacy. Charles Woodson played in the Super Bowl eight years earlier with a broken leg in a loss. This time he broke his collarbone in the first half and watched the second half from the sidelines. Yet his fiery halftime speech was one part of a game that led him after thirteen years to finally being a champion. He promised that the Packers would go to the White House to visit the president, a Bears fan. With the 31-25 win, the Packers got their trip to the Oval Office.
2011–This was 2007 all over again. The New York Giants were 7-7 and Tom Coughlin was on the hot seat. The last week of the season they defeated archrival Dallas to win the division and eke into the playoffs at 9-7. They crushed 10-6 Atlanta 24-2. Then they shocked 15-1 defending champion Green Bay 37-20. They won a defensive overtime slugfest against 13-3 San Francisco 20-17 in the NFC Title Game. San Francisco return man Kyle Williams fumbled one punt in the fourth quarter and another in overtime that allowed the Giants to survive.
New England was 13-3 and the top seed for the second straight year. They crushed 8-8 Denver and ended Tebowmania for the year. The Broncos, Raiders, and Chargers all finished 8-8, but Denver won the tie-breaker as the Tim Tebow story cast aside the story of the death of Al Davis. In the AFC Title Game, New England and the Baltimore Ravens played a thriller. The Patriots trailed 20-16 and faced fourth and goal at the one. Tom Brady leapt over the top to put the Patriots in front. With seconds left in the game, the Ravens thought they had the winning touchdown pass. Lee Evans had it in is hands. At the last moment Patriots defender Sterling Moore chopped it out. Moore began the year on the Raiders practice squad. Now he was a hero on his way to the Super Bowl. The Ravens still could have tied the game, but Billy Cundiff missed a 32 yard field goal. Ray Lewis and Ed Reed saw their trip to the Super Bowl wash away as the Patriots 23-20 victory was yet another three point win in a decade of three point victories.
Four years ago the Giants were 10-6 and the Patriots were 16-0 in the regular season. The Giants shocked the world. This year they met in the regular season in New England. A 0-0 game at the half became a quarterback thriller late. Tom Brady put the Patriots ahead by three points with only 1:36 remaining. That was enough for Eli Manning. Rather than play for the tie, he passed the Giants to a 24-20 win in front of a stunned home crowd.
The finale was a see-saw affair that saw the Patriots miss a chance to put the game away when Brady threw high to a wide open Wes Welker, who saw the ball go through his hands. The Giants had a chance from their own twelve yard line, and Manning threw a brilliant 38 yard sideline pass to Mario Manningham. The Giants moved so quickly into scoring position that Bill Bellichick instructed his defense to let the Giants score so the Patriots would have one final chance. Manning handed the ball off to Ahmad Bradshaw, and told him not to score. Yet Bradshaw could not stop in time, and momentum carried him into the end zone for the strangest lead touchdown in a Super Bowl. Down by four points, Brady converted on fourth and long and everything came down to one final Hail Mary. Brady threw it high and deep and in perfect position as about eight players jockeyed for position. It was batted around, and landed incomplete just out of the outstretched arms of a New England receiver.
Eli Manning won his second Super Bowl ring and surpassed older brother Peyton in the house that Peyton built, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Tom Coughlin with his second ring went in several weeks from the verge of the unemployment line to a legitimate contender for the Hall of Fame. He tied his former boss Bill “The Tuna” Parcells. Bill Bellichick is also a Parcells protege, and he and longtime Peyton Manning rival Tom Brady already have five Super Bowl rings together. Brady has had success against Payton Manning but not brother Eli as the Giants got the 21-17 win.
2012–The Baltimore Ravens began the season 9-2 but stumbled down the stretch, finishing 10-6 and making the playoffs as the #4 seed. They waxed the Colts 24-9 in the opening round and played 13-3 Denver in the Divisional matchup. Peyton Manning was now leading the Broncos, who had won 11 straight. Down 35-28 with 30 seconds to play and needing a miracle, Joe Flacco went bombs away and completed a 70 yard touchdown pass to Torry Smith to tie the game. In double overtime, an interception of Manning set up the winning field goal as the Ravens won 38-35. The AFC Title Game was a rematch with New England, again in New England. Trailing 13-7 at halftime, the Baltimore defense battered the Patriots in the second half and romped to a 28-13 win. Before the playoffs began, seventeen year veteran Ray Lewis announced his retirement at the end of the season. His final game would be the Super Bowl.
The San Francisco 49ers also got off to a hot start and then struggled late. Colin Kaepernick filled in for an injured Alex Smith, and when Smith was healthy, Jim Harbaugh stuck with Kaepernick. The 49ers trounced the Green Bay Packers, and traveled to Atlanta to face the top seeded Falcons in the NFC Title Game. Despite trailing 17-0, Kaepernick led a thrilling comeback that put the 49ers up 28-24 late. When Atlanta drove to the 49ers ten yard line at the end, the San Francisco defense held on for the win.
This was the Harbaugh Bowl, with coaches Jim and John squaring off. In the 2011 regular season, they met in Baltimore and the Ravens won a 16-6 slugfest. In the rematch, the Ravens dominated early. Jacoby Jones returned the second half kickoff 108 yards for another touchdown as the Ravens led 28-6. After a 34 minute power failure stopped play, momentum changed. With 4:19 to play, the 49ers were only down 34-29 with the ball 80 yards away from a miracle comeback. They moved to the Baltimore five yard line, but a thrilling goal line stand cemented the victory for the Ravens and allowed Ray Lewis to retire on top and Ed Reed to get his ring. Joe Flacco joined the ranks of elite quarterbacks. An intentional safety completed the scoring as the Ravens won a 34-31 thriller. The 49ers lost their first Super Bowl after winning their first five trips while the Ravens have won both of their appearances.