Super Bowl history 1-52 from 1966 through 2018

Super Bowl history 1-52 from 1966-2018

For the 53rd time, it is time for America to get ready for Super Bowl Sunday. In the days leading up to the game, the entire history of every season in the Super Bowl era deserves attention.

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, inspired by AFL founder Lamar Hunt seeing his daughter playing with a “super ball.”

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).

Super Bowl I, 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

Super Bowl II, 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.

Green Bay played the Raiders in Super Bowl II. The game was only 13-7 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

Super Bowl III, 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 Super Bowl 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

Super Bowl IV, 1969 – The Minnesota Vikings represented the NFL. The Chiefs were the best AFL team. Although the Vikings were favored in Super Bowl 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 Bowls apiece. The leagues merged the next year. 23-7 Chiefs

Super Bowl V, 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. Super Bowl 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 rookie Jim O’Brien for a 32-yard field goal to win the game. O’Brien had an extra point blocked earlier, but his kick was good, and the Colts had won at the gun. This was the only Super Bowl where the MVP, Chuck Howley, played for the losing team. 16-13 Colts

Super Bowl VI, 1971 – The Cowboys got back again, and the AFC was represented by the Miami Dolphins. The Cowboys were heavy favorites, and Super Bowl 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 coasted. 24-3 Cowboys

Super Bowl VII, 1972 – Super Bowl 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 Redskins touchdown.

The Dolphins did get the ball back, but went nowhere. This was the first Super Bowl where the offense for the losing team did not score at all. The 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only team in NFL history to get through a season unbeaten, 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

Super Bowl VIII, 1973 – Super Bowl VIII featured the defending Super Bowl champion Dolphins against the NFC champion Vikings. The game was a blowout, as the Dolphins ran 20 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 Super Bowls. 24-7 Dolphins

Super Bowl IX, 1974 – The Minnesota Vikings reached their third Super Bowl. The three-time AFC Champion Miami Dolphins were finally knocked out by the Oakland Raiders 28-26 in the classic “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 the Raiders and Steelers were the big dogs. In Oakland, after three quarters, the Raiders led 10-3, but collapsed in the fourth quarter. 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 touchdown 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 consumed the clock and led to the final touchdown and Pittsburgh’s first title. The Vikings had lost their third. 16-6 Steelers
Super Bowl X, 1975 – The Dallas Cowboys defeated the Vikings 17-14 in a very controversial NFC Title game. Roger Staubach completed a Hail Mary to Drew Pearson with less than one minute to play as Minnesota insisted that Pearson committed offensive pass interference against Nate Wright.

The AFC Title Game again featured the Raiders and Steelers. In ice cold Pittsburgh, the Steelers led 3-0 after three quarters. The field itself was a block if icy granite. 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.

Super Bowl 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
Super Bowl XI, 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 on a Ken Stabler quarterback sneak with 10 seconds remaining to avenge their only loss of the season. Then they finally beat Pittsburgh, destroying them 24-7.

Super Bowl XI was not close, with the image of 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
Super Bowl XII, 1977 – The Raiders got back to the AFC Title Game for the fifth straight year, the only team to ever do so. Oakland faced their archrival, the Denver Broncos. Denver came out on top 20-17 when a Denver fumble short of the goal line was incorrectly ruled a touchdown.

The Cowboys represented the NFC in Super Bowl XII. Broncos quarterback Craig Morton was the losing quarterback for Dallas in the fifth Super Bowl. Roger Staubach led Dallas in their win the year later. In this game Denver committed seven turnovers in the first half, as Morton completed four passes to each team. Staubach won again, as Dallas cruised. It was their fourth Super Bowl, and they had won and lost twice. 27-10 Cowboys
Super Bowl XIII, 1978 – The Steelers returned after a two year absence, against defending champions Dallas. This was the rematch of Super Bowl X. Pittsburgh led 21-14 when a short pass to a wide open Jackie Smith was dropped in the end zone when he slipped and fell. Instead of the tying touchdown, a field goal cut the gap to 21-17.

A pair of touchdowns 18 seconds apart put Pittsburgh up 35-17, and they hung on for a four-point win for their third Super Bowl win. Dallas lost their third Super Bowl. Terry Bradshaw throwing bombs to Lynn Swann led to four catches for Swann and 164 yards. 35-31 Steelers.
Super Bowl XIV, 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 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, became the only team in NFL history to win their division for the seventh straight year. The Rams dominated in previous years, but could not get past Minnesota and Dallas.

Super Bowl 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 Super Bowl win in six years. 31-19 Steelers

The 1980s was about more than just glam rockers and big hair. Great traditions began in the National Football League, from President Ronald Reagan calling the Super Bowl champions to the first wave of major football video games to the Gatordade dumping on winning coaches. John Madden and Pat Summerall were soothing, and Alcoa presented “fantastic finishes.” The Super Bowl became a larger than life event.

Super Bowl XV, 1980 – The AFC had all five playoff teams 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 Don “Air” Coryell and quarterback Dan Fouts. The Raiders were led by Jim Plunkett, who only a couple years earlier was thought to be washed up. The owners of Oakland and San Diego hated each other, and Chargers owner Gene Klein blamed Raiders owner Al Davis for the rain, insisting that Davis hired a crop duster to seed the clouds. Davis never denied this ludicrous assertion, because it burnished 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

Super Bowl XVI, 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. The Cincinnati Bengals won the AFC.

The 49ers led 20-0 at the half. Down 20-7, the Bengals drove to the 49ers 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 onside kick. The 49ers began one of the great NFL dynasties. 26-21 49ers

Super Bowl XVII, 1982 – A strike shortened season had Roger Staubach successor Danny White leading the Cowboys to the NFC Title game for the third straight year. This year they played their hated rivals, the Washington Redskins. For the third straight year, playing on the road, the Cowboys lost.

The Redskins faced the Miami Dolphins in in a rematch of the Super Bowl ten years earlier. With the Redskins trailing 17-13, Joe Theismann 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 B’s” defense for an incompletion. This kept the game within reach, and the Redskins took a 20-17 lead. Facing a fourth and one 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

Super Bowl XVIII, 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 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 onside 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.

Super Bowl XVIII, 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 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 onside 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.

Super Bowl 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 ass on the tray, and the tray was bent.” The Raiders won their third Super Bowl in eight years, and the Redskins lost their second one. 38-9 Raiders.

Super Bowl XIX, 1984 – Dan Marino Shredded the NFL for 5084 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 Super Bowl 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 Super Bowl, and Miami lost their third Super Bowl in five appearances. 38-16 49ers

Super Bowl XX, 1985 – The Chicago Bears did their Super Bowl Shuffle, and their defense, led by Mike Singletary and Richard Dent, may have been the greatest of all time. 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 nor Dolphins would have won the Super Bowl that year, but they would not have been intimidated. The Patriots opened and closed the scoring in Super Bowl XX, but the Bears had an avalanche of points in between. 46-10 Bears

Super Bowl XXI, 1986 – The New York Giants won an NFL Championship in 1956, and in 1958 lost “the greatest game ever played,” to the Baltimore Colts. This was the Giants’ first Super Bowl. They played the Denver Broncos, who were led by John Elway. The Broncos defeated the Cleveland Browns in the AFC Title Game in overtime 23-20 after Elway led a 98-yard masterpiece comeback known as “the drive.”

The Broncos led Super Bowl 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 cliché. Harry Carson was the 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 Super Bowl, 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

Super Bowl XXII, 1987 – In another strike season, the Washington Redskins prevailed in the NFC, while the Broncos returned for the second straight year after again defeating Cleveland 38-33 in a game decided by “the fumble.”

Denver’s first play from scrimmage was a touchdown bomb, and at the end of the first quarter, the Broncos led 10-0. A blowout was shaping up, but not for Denver. Washington had the best quarter in Super Bowl history, scoring five touchdowns in the second quarter, 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

Super Bowl XXIII, 1988 – After 11 games, the 49ers were only 6-5, having just taken a beating to the Raiders. Joe Montana was sacked eight 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. The Niners faced the Bengals, who defeated the Bills in the AFC Title Game.

This was a rematch of the Super Bowl seven years earlier. Super Bowl XXIII had different leaders, with Sam Wyche instead of Forrest Gregg as coach, and Boomer Esiason at quarterback instead of Ken Anderson. The 49ers still had Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. They also now had a receiver who would become a legend in Jerry Rice.

The game was 3-3 at the half, and with three minutes left, the Bengals led 16-13. The 49ers were 92 yards away, and Montana earned his icy cool reputation by relaxing his teammates. With all of the pressure on him, Montana 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. Walsh retired after the game, and the 49ers had their third Super Bowl win. The Bengals lost their second. Joe Montana’s legacy was not done. 20-16 49ers

Super Bowl XXIV, 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 en route to the Super Bowl. However, Denver was mauled in those Super Bowls, each time by a larger margin, losing by 17, 19 and 32 points.

Super Bowl XXIV was worse, the biggest blowout in history. A 45 point shellacking earned the 49ers their fourth Super Bowl win, and the Broncos their fourth loss. 55-10 49ers

Super Bowl XXV, 1990 – The 49ers had the repeat, and were going for the three-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, which was another defensive thriller. The Giants kicked five field goals. The fourth one cut San Francisco’s lead to 13-12, and 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.

The 13-3 Giants went on to the Super Bowl to face Buffalo, to whom the Giants lost earlier in the season. The Bills only won 17-13 in that earlier game, but they had one of the greatest offenses of all time.

The Giants held the ball for over 40 minutes in the rematch 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 played smart football after taking over for an injured Simms. Hostetler, however, could only watch as Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas threw and ran the ball to get 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
Super Bowl XXVI, 1991 – The Bills and Redskins both returned. The Redskins were 14-2, losing one game on a Hail Mary and another on the last play in the final game when they had rested their starters. Like 1983, the Redskins again 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 Super Bowl in ten years. What made it more amazing was that Coach Joe Gibbs did it with three different quarterbacks. 37-24 Redskins

Super Bowl XXVII, 1992 – In the 1970s, it was the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers battling for supremacy. In the 1990s, it was the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers. The AFC was an afterthought, with the Bills reaching the game for the third straight year in 1992.

The Bills did overcome a 35-3 third quarter deficit to stun the Houston Oilers 41-38 in the Divisional round for the biggest comeback in NFL history. 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 by the Cowboys in the end zone prevented Buffalo from tying the game. Dallas won by 35 points, and would have set 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 lore gained a new wrinkle when the players messed up Johnson’s perfect hair, and owner Jerry Jones showed up on the sideline with a comb to fix it. 52-17 Cowboys

Super Bowl XXVIII, 1993 – This was a rematch of the year before. The Bills reached the Super Bowl for the fourth straight year. The Cowboys and 49ers met again in the NFC Title Game, an easy 38-21 Dallas win.
Buffalo actually led Dallas, 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. The Cowboys only led 20-13 after three quarters, 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 a record fourth straight Super Bowl loss. Despite back to back titles, an internal feud led to Jones firing Johnson and replacing him with Barry Switzer. 30-13 Cowboys

Super Bowl XXIX, 1994 – For the third straight year, the Cowboys and 49ers battled in the NFC, and this time the 49ers triumphed 38-28. 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. San Diego 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. While many credited Bill Walsh with building the team from George Siefert’s first Super Bowl win five years prior, Coach Siefert finally escaped the shadow of his predecessor with this win. The 49ers became the first team to win five Super Bowls, with zero losses. 49-26 49ers

Super Bowl XXX, 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, the Packers 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 survive against the Colts and go to the game they felt they should have been in a year earlier. For the third time in Super Bowl history, Dallas and Pittsburgh met.

Dallas was the better team, but the Steelers kept hanging around. Dallas led 13-0 and 20-7, but Pittsburgh closed to within 20-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left after a perfectly executed onside kick call by Bill Cowher led to a touchdown. With a chance to pull off the upset, Pittsburgh quarterback 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 Super Bowl title in eight appearances, and third in four years. Pittsburgh had their first loss in five trips. Jerry Jones and Barry Switzer won without Jimmy Johnson. 27-17 Cowboys

Super Bowl XXXI, 1996 – Brett Favre led the Green Bay Packers back to the Super Bowl for the first time in 29 years. The New England Patriots reached the game for the first time in 11 years. New England again benefitted from better teams being knocked out.

The first quarter was the highest scoring in Super Bowl history, with New England leading 14-10. By halftime, the Packers led 27-14. After the Patriots closed to 27-21, Super Bowl XXXI MVP Desmond Howard returned the kickoff 99 yards for the final points of the game. Bill Parcells took his second team to the Super Bowl, but did not prevail. 35-21 Packers

Super Bowl XXXII, 1997 – The Packers returned with relative ease for the NFC, while 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 afterwards, saying they let John Elway down. Elway 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 got necessary the yardage. Denver took the lead, and Brett Favre’s final drive stalled around midfield. Broncos 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

Super Bowl XXXIII, 1998 – The Minnesota Vikings’ offense torched the league to a 15-1 record with a revived Randall Cunningham throwing bombs to rookie receiver Randy Moss. A lock to finally win the big one, 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 all year, going 40 for 40, an NFL record. He missed this one, stunning the crowd. Atlanta tied the game, and even though Minnesota got the ball first in overtime, it was Morton Anderson who kicked the winning field goal for the 30-27 overtime shocker. Coach Dan Reeves was taking his second team to the Super Bowl. 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. Parcells was trying to take a third team to the Super Bowl. The Jets blocked a punt and led 10-0 in the third quarter, but the Jets could not overcome six turnovers as the Broncos won 23-10.

Super Bowl XXXIII was not close, as the Broncos coasted to their second straight Super Bowl win. Broncos Coach Mike Shanahan took delight in beating Reeves, who fired Shanahan as an assistant in Denver. John Elway retired after the game. 34-19 Broncos

Super Bowl XXXIV, 1999 – The St. Louis Rams, formerly of Los Angeles, had been terrible 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.”

Dick Vermeil had returned to the Super Bowl after a 19-year absence. Vermeil retired from 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, the Rams had defeated the Bucs in the NFC Title Game, 9-0. The Tennessee Titans, formerly the Houston Oilers, were led by Buddy Ryan disciple Jeff Fisher and represented the AFC.

The Rams led 16-0, but the Titans fought back and tied the game at 16-16 with two minutes left. One play later, Super Bowl XXXIV MVP Kurt Warner threw a 73-yard bomb for the go-ahead touchdown. He passed for 414 yards on the day.

Steve McNair led the Titans back to within striking distance with five seconds left. McNair’s 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

Super Bowl XXXV, 2000 – The Vikings were again cruising when a late-season collapse cost them home field. They reached the NFC Title Game, but were throttled by the New York Giants 41-0. Back to back home losses had the Giants reeling at 7-4 when Coach Jim Fassell made a bold prediction. He was considered laid back, but told the press that “this team is going to the playoffs.”

The AFC featured a 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 a brutal Divisional round game in Nashville that was tied 10-10 in the fourth quarter with Tennessee lining up for the go-ahead field goal. The Ravens blocked the kick and returned it for a touchdown. Then a pass to Eddie George was ripped out of his hands by Ray Lewis for the interception return to seal the 24-10 win.

The Ravens then went on the road and knocked out Rich Gannon from the AFC Title Game, eliminating the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens had almost no offense, going five straight games during the season without an offensive touchdown. Quarterback Trent Dilfer was considered a stiff by many.

In the Super Bowl, Dilfer threw 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 returned for touchdown put the Ravens up 17-0. This was followed by a kickoff return for a touchdown by the Giants. The Ravens then took the next kickoff for a touchdown. There were three touchdowns in less than a minute and the Ravens were up 24-7.

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 Lewis, 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

Super Bowl XXXVI, 2001 – The Rams returned for the second time in three years, exploding to a 14-2 record. They were facing a Patriots team who 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 defeated the Patriots 24-17 in Foxboro in a regular season game that was not that close. Yet Super Bowl XXXVI featured a Rams team that perhaps was overconfident.

Ty Law returned an interception for a touchdown and a 7-3 Patriots 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 90 seconds with which to work.

Brady 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. Perhaps the biggest upset since the Jets in Super Bowl III had taken place. 20-17 Patriots

Super Bowl XXXVII, 2002 – The Raiders, who had relocated back to Oakland from Los Angeles several years earlier, were seeking to avenge their disputed playoff heartache from a year earlier. They had difficult playoff wins over the Jets and Titans. The Raiders started 4-0, fell to 4-4, and finished 11-5. Rookie head coach Bill Callahan led the team, replacing Jon Gruden, who left to coach the Tampa Bay 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, who were led by young sensation Michael Vick. The Buccaneers played the NFC Title game at 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 stunned the Eagles. Ronde Barber’s 92-yard interception returned sealed the 27-10 win, and sent Gruden to face his old team.

The Raiders intercepted a pass on the third play of the game and led 3-0. The Bucs then crushed them, with a 34-3 lead. The Raiders fought 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 game’s final play, another interception was returned by Tampa Bay for a touchdown. The Bucs intercepted five Gannon passes, returning three for scores. Jon Gruden exclaimed, “How ’bout those Tampa Bay Buccaneers?”
The team who started 0-26 and wore orange pants were now pewter wearing champions. Tampa Bay won the battle of pirates. “Chucky,” the nickname for the scowling Gruden, 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 win. 48-21 Buccaneers

Super Bowl XXXVIII, 2003 – The Patriots finished 14-2, and faced the 15-1 Pittsburgh Steelers, who were led by Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben was 14-0 as a starter. The Steelers crushed the injured Patriots during the regular season. The healthy Patriots were favored in the rematch and won handily 41-27 in the AFC Title Game.

In the NFC, 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 1995 expansion team who reached the NFC Title Game in 1996. The Panthers injured Eagles 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. After a scoreless third, 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.

The Panthers 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. For the second time in three years, Adam Vinatieri nailed a 48-yarder on the final play of the game for the win. 32-29 Patriots

Peyton Manning of the Colts and Tom Brady of the Patriots were torching the league, and the 2004 NFL Draft was added three star quarterbacks. The San Diego Chargers with the top pick drafted Peyton’s younger brother Eli Manning, who refused to play for them. Eli Manning was traded to the San Diego Chargers for several picks, one of which was used to draft Philip Rivers. Rivers in San Diego led the Chargers getting rid of Drew Brees two years later. Brees went to the New Orleans Saints. The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Ben Roethlisberger. More than ever, the NFL was going to be a quarterback driven league. Super Bowls held from 2004 through 2007 reflected star quarterbacks at their best.

Super Bowl XXXIX, 2004 – The New England Patriots with Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady returned to the big dance for the second straight year and the third time in four years. In the NFC, the Andy Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles finally made it over the top in their fourth straight NFC Title game, and third consecutive one at home, by defeating Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons.

The Super Bowl was tied 7-7 and 14-14, but the Patriots had a 24-14 lead late in the game. Donovan 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. New England’s third Super Bowl win in four years made them a dynasty, with each win coming by three points. 24-21 Patriots

Super Bowl XL, 2005 – The Pittsburgh Steelers were 7-5 and on the verge of playoff elimination before running the table. They would play all of their playoff games on the road. After dispatching division rival Cincinnati Bengals, next came the Indianapolis Colts. Indy was led by calm coach Tony Dungy and megastar quarterback Peyton Manning. This year the Colts started 13-0, secured home field, and avoided archrival New England Patriots. The Colts were stunned at home by the Pittsburgh 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 Steelers easily dispatched Denver in the AFC Title Game. The Steelers played in Super Bowl 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 in six tries. Cowher would retire a year later. 21-10 Steelers

Super Bowl XLI, 2006 – The 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 San Diego Chargers were 14-2, but like previous Marty Schottenheimer coached teams, the Chargers melted 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 their playoff games. Not this time. He was intercepted, and the Colts won 38-34.

Indianapolis played the Bears in Super Bowl XLI. The NFC was awful that year, and any of the top four AFC teams would have been favored. Chicago quarterback Rex Grossman was the most criticized at his position since Trent Dilfer in 2000. The Bears had 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.

Hester returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Bears led 7-0 seconds into the game. Tony Dungy and Manning stayed patient, and led 22-17 in the fourth quarter. Grossman had critical interceptions in the fourth quarter, with the last one being returned for a touchdown to ice the game. Played in Miami rain, mud did not stain Dungy and Manning’s ring. Culturally, Dungy and Bears Coach Lovie Smith offered the first Super Bowl with two black head coaches. The men embraced after the game. 29-17 Colts

Super Bowl XLII, 2007 – The preordained AFC Title Game was again supposed to be the Patriots and Colts. The Patriots regained the upper hand by adding Randy Moss to their potent offense. In the regular season, the Colts led 20-10 in the fourth quarter but the Patriots fought back and won 24-20. In the playoffs, Norvelous Norv Turner, backup quarterback Billy Volek and the Chargers stunned the Colts 28-24. The Chargers lost to the Patriots.

The NFC featured even bigger shocks by the New York Giants. Led by no-nonsense coach Tom Coughlin and Peyton’s brother Eli Manning, Big Blue stunned superior opponents. The Giants defeated the 13-3 Cowboys 21-17, intercepting Tony Romo in the end zone on the final play. The Packers were also 13-3, and Brett Favre was favored to get back to the Super Bowl. The Giants defeated Green Bay 23-20 in overtime after Favre’s final pass as a Packer was intercepted.

The Giants and Patriots played in the regular season finale in New York. The Patriots won a thriller 38-35. The Giants finished 10-6. More shockingly, the Patriots finished 16-0 and looked to make history. The 1972 Miami Dolphins nervously held their champagne bottles, knowing that their status as the only undefeated team in history at 17-0 was tenuous. The Patriots, thanks to a schedule lengthened in 1978, were shooting for 19-0. The Giants were looking to shock the world. An expected offensive shootout was a defensive slugfest.

Unknown David Tyree was the Giants’ fourth receiver. When Manning found him for a five-yard touchdown pass, the Giants led 10-7 with 11 minutes remaining in the game. Brady was getting hit on every play, but led the Patriots 89 yards, eating up over eight minutes of clock.

On third down and goal, a touchdown pass to Moss put the Patriots up 14-10 with 2:42 remaining. The Giants took over at their own 17 yard line. On fourth and one from their own 37, battering ram Brandon Jacobs got the first down, and the Giants called their first timeout with 1:28 left. On third and five from the Giants 43 with 1:15 left, the NFL witnessed what may have been the greatest play in Super Bowl history. Manning was caught in the pocket. Two or three Patriots had a shot, and one had him by the Jersey for a certain sack. Manning somehow spun out, and heaved the ball deep 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. 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.

From the New England 14, Manning lobbed an end zone pass to Plaxico Burress. Burress faked out Ellis Hobbs, who had intercepted Manning earlier. The touchdown with only 35 seconds remaining saw history smashed, obliterated, and poured upside down. It was sweet vindication for Coughlin, who was almost fired before the season, and for defensive standout Michael Strahan, who contemplated retirement before the season. Strahan retired after the game. 17-14 Giants

For most of the first three decades, the Super Bowl trophy belonged to football royalty. The Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, and Pittsburgh Steelers won all won multiple Super Bowls. After the millennium, new franchises finally reached the big game. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won it all in 2002 and the Carolina Panthers reached the big game one year later. The end of the decade would see that trend continue as the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints finally reached the Super Bowl. Only one of them would be celebrating as the other suffered a gut-wrenching loss.

Super Bowl XLIII, 2008 – The entire season was crazy. Records meant nothing. Tom Brady went down for the season in Week 1 with a knee injury. The Patriots went 11-5, but missed the playoffs. The 12-4 Colts entered the playoffs having won nine straight, but lost their wild card game to the 8-8 Chargers. The top three NFC seeds, the 12-4 Giants, 11-5 Panthers, and 10-6 Vikings all lost.

The top AFC seeded 13-3 Tennessee Titans, were led by Kerry Collins, who took over in Week 1 from an injured Vince Young. Three teams reached the playoffs with rookie head coaches, with the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens also possessing rookie quarterbacks. The 2007 1-15 Dolphins improved to 11-5 Dolphins under team President Bill Parcells. Nobody went 16-0, but the Detroit Lions became the first team to go 0-16.

The AFC Title Game saw a brutal defensive bone lock between the Pittsburgh Steelers and their arch nemesis 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 nine-win teams. 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 surging and finishing 9-6-1. They beat the Vikings and stunned the defending champion 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 benched Matt Leinart before the season and Kurt Warner led the Greatest Show in the Desert. 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. 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.

Warner rallied the Cardinals with a slant pass to Larry Fitzgerald that went for a 64-yard touchdown. Fitzgerald looked at himself on the jumbotron as the Cardinals had the lead 23-20 with under three minutes to play. Big Ben Roethlisberger rallied the Steelers. With about one minute to go, Roethlisberger fired to the corner to the end zone over three defenders. Santonio Holmes made a ridiculous ballet catch where he somehow got both feet down in bounds. The Cardinals had one final shot, but Warner was hit and fumbled. Mike Tomlin became the youngest head coach to win a ring at age 34. 27-23 Steelers

Super Bowl XLIV, 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 the NFC, the Saints lost their final three games to finish 13-3. The AFC Colts got to 14-0 before benching players and finishing 14-2. Colts President Bill Polian 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 17-6 in the AFC Title Game before Peyton Manning and the offense got going as the Colts won 30-17.
In the NFC, Kurt Warner and the Cardinals beat the Packers 51-45 in an overtime thriller. The Saints dispatched the Cardinals 45-14 and 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 centered around Hurricane Katrina. Sean Payton was coaching his first Super Bowl. The Colts were a corporate machine. Rookie head coach Jim Caldwell stuck with the successful Tony Dungy model. Manning was looking to be the greatest quarterback of all time. The Colts took a 10-0 first quarter lead and led 10-6 at halftime.

Sean Payton called an onside kick to start the second half, the first time an onside kick had been called in a Super Bowl before the fourth quarter. Payton was rewarded for his bold move. From the Saints’ 42, Brees quickly got it done, hitting Marquis Colston for a 16-yard touchdown and a 13-10 Saints lead.

The Saints held the ball for 12 1/2 minutes in the second quarter and the beginning of the third quarter. A see-saw game saw the Colts up 17-16 when Indianapolis missed a very long field goal. In the fourth quarter, Brees hit Jeremy Shockey for the two-yard touchdown as the two-point conversion put the Saints up 24-17.

With 3 1/2 minutes to go, the Colts faced third and five from the Saints 31. Manning was destined to tie the game 24-24. Perhaps the Super Bowl would go to overtime for the first time. Manning was about to create a Super Bowl memory. Unfortunately for him and Colts fans, it was a bitter one.

Manning 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 only turnover of the game had the Colts needing a miracle.

Manning rallied the Colts, but on fourth and goal from the five, his pass to Reggie Wayne at the goal line was dropped. MVP Brees finished a ridiculous 32 for 39 for 288 yards. The 32 completions tied a Super Bowl record. The Saints first championship lifted up the entire Gulf region. 31-17 Saints

Super Bowl XLV, 2010 – The early preseason favorite Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings collapsed and their coaches got fired. Brett Favre did not repeat the magic carpet ride of the previous year as his 20th and final season was brutal. Favre’s understudy, Aaron Rodgers, flourished in Green Bay. Despite devastating injuries, the Packers closed strong to finish 10-6 and make the playoffs as the lowest seed. The Seattle Seahawks were the first team to win their division with a losing 7-9 record. The Seahawks won their opening playoff game when they eliminated the defending champion New Orleans Saints, but fell to Chicago. Green Bay became the first sixth seed in the NFC to ever win three road games. They intercepted Michael Vick with seconds to play to beat the Eagles 21-16. They throttled the top-seeded Atlanta Falcons 48-21. They beat their archrival Chicago Bears 21-14 in an NFC Title Game not as close as the score indicated.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots continued their winning tradition by finishing 14-2. The Indianapolis Colts struggled but finished strong to barely make the playoffs at 10-6. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens split a pair of defensive head knockers, both finishing 12-4 with Pittsburgh winning the tie-breaker.

The lowest 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 and Peyton Manning in Indy on the final play 17-16. Then the Jets went to New England, where several weeks earlier they had lost 45-3. New York shocked the Patriots 28-21. For the second straight year the Jets reached the AFC Title Game.

New York played at Pittsburgh, who won another tough playoff battle 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 1960s Packers won five NFL Championships including two Super Bowls. The 1970s Steelers won four Super Bowls. The Packers won the Super Bowl in 1996 and lost it in 1997. The Steelers lost one in 1995, then won it in 2005 and 2008.

The Packers jumped to a 21-3 but only led 21-17 after three quarters. With the Steelers driving for the lead 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 run out the clock. The Pittsburgh defense held Green Bay to a field goal. Roethlisberger had one final chance to be the hero. He led the winning drive three years earlier, but this time the two-minute drill went nowhere and the Packers held on defense.
Mike McCarthy joined Mike Holmgren and Vince Lombardi in having a street named after him. The MVP, Aaron Rodgers, escaped the shadow of 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. His fiery halftime speech was one part of a game that led him after 13 years to finally being a champion. He promised the Packers would go to the White House to visit the president, a Bears fan. With the win, the Packers got their trip to the Oval Office. 31-25 Packers

The turn of the century featured some thrilling Super Bowls and some bizarre phenomena. There was Tebowmania, and a guy catching a football on his helmet. The winning touchdown in one Super Bowl was scored by accident. On the sad side, some original owners passed away as Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders, Bud Adams of the Houston Oilers and Tennessee Titans, and Art Modell of the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens departed. 

Super Bowl XLVI, 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 the Giants defeated the archrival Dallas Cowboys to win the division and eke into the playoffs at 9-7. They crushed the 10-6 Atlanta Falcons 24-2. Then they shocked the 15-1 defending champion Green Bay Packers 37-20. The Giants won a defensive overtime slugfest against the 13-3 San Francisco 49ers 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 outplayed Giants to survive.

In the AFC, the New England Patriots were 13-3 and the top seed for the second straight year. They crushed the 8-8 Denver Broncos and ended Tebowmania for the year. The Broncos, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego 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 in the fourth quarter. Tom Brady leapt over the top to put the Patriots in front. With seconds left in the game, the Ravens with Joe Flacco 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.

The Giants and Patriots met in the regular season in New England. A 0-0 game at the half became a quarterback thriller late. 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 Patriots led the rematch 17-15 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining when a third down pass from Brady to Wes Welker was catchable, but high and incomplete. Welker could have all but sealed the game. Instead the Giants took a lead with the strangest touchdown in Super Bowl history.

Ahmad Bradshaw was supposed to stop at the one yard line so the Giants could bleed the clock. The Patriots were letting him score, and Bradshaw tried to stop, but fell backward into the end zone. The Giants had the lead but Brady still had over one minute to work another miracle. On the final play of the game, Brady’s Hail Mary reached the end zone and hung in the air forever before falling incomplete.

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 went in several weeks from the verge of the unemployment line to a legitimate contender for the Hall of Fame with his second ring. Coughlin tied his former boss Bill “The Tuna” Parcells. 21-17 Giants

Super Bowl XLVII, 2012 — Three of the four teams from the previous year’s Conference Title Games returned. In the NFC, the 49ers were at the Atlanta Falcons and trailed 17-0 at halftime. The 49ers mounted a furious rally and led by four points late when the Falcons drove to the San Francisco 10 yard line in the closing seconds. With everything on the line, the 49ers held on defense for the 28-24 win.

In the AFC, Peyton Manning was now with the Denver Broncos. Denver led the Baltimore Ravens 35-28 with barely more than 30 seconds to play. The Ravens needed a miracle and got one. Joe Flacco threw a 70-yard bomb that was completed to Jacoby Jones when the defender mistimed the jump. In double overtime, an interception of Manning led to the winning field goal for Baltimore 38-35.

The AFC Title Game was a rematch, again in New England. The Patriots led 13-7 at halftime, but this time there would be no suspense. Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and the Baltimore Ravens defense took the Patriots and hit them in the mouth for a 28-13 win.

The Super Bowl was the “Harbowl,” since Ravens Coach John Harbaugh and 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh are brothers. When Jacoby Jones returned the second half kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, the Ravens were cruising with a 28-6 lead. Then things got bizarre as the power went out in the stadium.

After a 34-minute delay, momentum changed and the 49ers clawed back to within five points with a chance to win it. Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Baltimore five yard line. Four chances yielded nothing as the Ravens survived a thriller. Ray Lewis retired after the game and Ed Reed played his final game for Baltimore by going out on top. 34-29 Ravens

Super Bowl XLVIII, 2013 —It was supposed to be the game of the year, but Super Bowl XLVIII turned out to be a giant mismatch. Only a few weeks after the Seahawks beat up Eli Manning and the Giants, they returned to Metlife Stadium in the greater New York metropolitan area and humiliated his older brother Peyton. The Seahawks barely survived the NFC Title Game against their hated rivals, the San Francisco 49ers. Late in the game the 49ers trailed 23-17 and were only a few yards from the winning touchdown. Colin Kaepernick went to the end zone for Michael Crabtree. Richard Sherman made a spectacular tip on the ball to his teammate Malcolm Smith, who intercepted it to lock up the win. In the AFC, Peyton Manning finally out-dueled Tom Brady again as the Denver Broncos took a 23-3 lead over the New England Patriots after three quarters and hung on to win 26-16.

The event itself began awkwardly when Super Bowl III hero Joe Namath flipped the coin before heads or tails was chosen by Denver. His flub was quickly forgotten by a flub once the game began.

Seattle lowered the Legion of Boom on Denver’s offense on the first play from scrimmage and never let up. From the Denver 14-yard line, confusion at the snap caused the ball to be snapped high over Peyton Manning’s head for a safety. The Seahawks led 2-0 only 12 seconds into the game. After the free kick, Steve Hauschka hit field goals from 31 and 33 yards out to make it 8-0 Seahawks. The first quarter would end with the Broncos having only one yard rushing and zero first downs.

In the second quarter after Denver nearly fumbled it away, on the next play Manning was intercepted by safety Kam Chancellor, setting Seattle up at the Denver 37. Defensive pass interference on Denver led to Marshawn Lynch banging in from one yard out to make it 15-0 Seahawks.

Manning finally got the offense going with an eight-minute drive. On third and 13 from the Seattle 35, Manning was hit by Cliff Avril as he threw the ball. Last week’s hero Malcolm Smith intercepted it and raced 69 yards for a touchdown as the Seahawks had a 22-0 lead over the shell-shocked Broncos with only 3 1/2 minutes left in the half.

Last year after the second half kickoff was returned for a touchdown, the lights were turned out due to an electrical problem in the Superdome. This year, a short kickoff was deliberately done to avoid Percy Harvin. Harvin took it on a high bounce, broke tackles, and raced 87 yards for a touchdown. Just like in the first half, it took exactly 12 seconds into the second half for the Seahawks to score. The 29-0 lead did not affect the electricity, but this time it was the Seahawks who turned out the lights.

Manning went deep to Denarius Thomas, but Thomas had the ball chopped out of his hands. Malcolm Smith recovered the fumble. From the Denver 23, a short pass to Jermaine Kearse went for a touchdown when five Denver defenders forgot how to tackle. The Broncos had mailed it in as the Seahawks led 36-0.

On the last play of the third quarter, Manning threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Thomas as the Broncos trailed 36-8 but prevented the shutout. The onside kick failed and Wilson would throw a 10-yard touchdown to Baldwin to make it 43-8 Seahawks. Manning was hit and fumbled for Denver’s fourth turnover on the day.

The 35-point blowout was tied for the third largest margin in Super Bowl history. Manning now has two Super Bowl losses to go with to his one victory. He is still one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, but discussion of him as the very best will probably be put on hold.

The 2013 Legion of Boom Seahawks defense will not rank with the 1985 Bears, 2000 Ravens, or the Steel Curtain of the 1970s, but they are now in the history books. The Pacific Northwest saw the Seahawks win its first Vince Lombardi Trophy in two trips while the Broncos became the first NFL team to lose five Super Bowls to go along with their two wins.

Pete Carroll became the third coach to win championships at the college and NFL levels. Carroll was given two Gatorade baths by his players instead of one. In one of many postgame interviews, the joyful Carroll said, “We’re not sleeping tonight. This party is getting started as soon as you guys let me go.”

Malcolm Smith became the third linebacker to win the MVP trophy. Russell Wilson became the fourth quarterback to win the Super Bowl in his first two seasons. A bizarre moment occurred during Smith’s postgame interview when a deranged man seized the microphone and yelled that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the American government. Smith remained relaxed and mentioned that somebody should “check his press pass.”

The normally loquacious Richard Sherman, who created a storm after Seattle won the NFC Title Game, was very relaxed and mellow after the Super Bowl. He knows that Manning likes to simulate defenses in practice, but pointed out that it is tough to simulate the speed and aggression of the Seattle defense. He refused to call the Seahawks the best defense ever, simply saying he was glad they were even in that conversation mix. When asked if he was the best cornerback in the league right now, he smiled and said, “Yes, sir.”

Hilarity ensued when Doug Baldwin interrupted Sherman’s press conference to tell everybody that “this cornerback is mediocre.” Sherman laughed and jokingly called Baldwin “pedestrian.”

The normally quiet Marshawn Lynch remained that way.

Peyton Manning made no excuses, saying that the Seattle defense “caused a lot of our mistakes.” The word “Omaha” was not heard once, perhaps because of the noise that the 12th man brought from Seattle to New York.

Denarius Thomas set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions, which was of little consolation.

A gracious John Fox, when asked how a Denver offense that set a record 606 points in the regular season could muster only one score, said, “We just simply ran into a buzz saw.”

What the Broncos ran into was the Legion of Boom. On this Groundhog Day, the only shadows seen were Broncos receivers nervously dreading the constant battering from approaching Seattle defenders.

The Seahawks defense talked it. Then they walked it. They began the game and ended the 2013 NFL season with a boom. 43-8 Seahawks

Super Bowl XLIX, 2014 — The NFC playoffs were pure chaos. The Detroit Lions totally outplayed the Dallas Cowboys in the Wildcard round but lost when Calvin Johnson’s winning catch was ruled a non-catch. Johnson soon retired. The Cowboys totally outplayed the Green Bay Packers but lost in the Divisional round. In the NFC Title Game the Packers dominated the Seattle Seahawks but somehow lost. With 5 minutes left the Packers led 19-7 as Russell Wilson was intercepted for the fourth time. Yet the Seahawks finally scored to get within 19-14. On the onside kick, a Packers player who was supposed to just block tried to field the ball. He fumbled it and the Seahawks recovered. The Seahawks took a 22-19, and Aaron Rodgers in the final seconds led a drive for a field goal to send the game into overtime. Wilson threw his third touchdown pass in 5 minutes as the Seahawks won a stunner 28-22. Rodgers after the game said the Packers would take the loss to they graves. The guy who fumbled the onside kick was cut. The AFC was supposed to be Manning and Brady again, but the Denver Broncos were stunned at home by Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts 24-13. Broncos coach John Fox, despite being in the Super Bowl one year earlier, was fired after the game. In the AFC Title Game, the New England Patriots carpet-bombed the Colts 45-7. After the game, a scandal involving deflated footballs would engulf the Patriots for two years.

After an entire NFL season and tons of pregame hype, Super Bowl (49) XLIX finally got underway. The Seahawks won the coin toss but elected to defer. From the start, the Patriots outplayed the Seahawks but had little to show for it. Tom Brady led a drive that consumed over 7 1/2 minutes off the clock but Brady was intercepted in the end zone for a scoreless opening quarter.

Seattle did very little on offense as the New England cornerbacks blanketed the Seattle receivers. In the second quarter Brady found Brandon LaFell for an 11 yard touchdown to make it 7-0 Patriots. Seattle kept playing smash mouth and finally got a drive going. On 3rd and 2 from the New England 3, Marshawn Lynch tied the game 7-7.

After a touchback New England only had 2:16 to work with. That was plenty of time for Brady. On 2nd and 5 from the Seattle 22, Brady went deep to Danny Amendola for the touchdown and a 14-7 Patriots lead. The drive was helped along when the Seahawks jumped offside on 3rd and 3. After a touchback, the the Seahawks had only 30 seconds left. With 11 seconds left from the New England 44, Wilson went deep to Lockette for 23 yards with a defensive facemark moving the ball to the 11 with 6 seconds left.

Pete Carroll has a new nickname: BOSS, which stands for Balls of Solid Steel. With fans pleading for a field goal try, he called a quick pass play. Wilson went to Chris Matthews for the touchdown. Brady was 20 of 27 for 177 yards two touchdowns and one interception by halftime. Russell Wilson was only 2 of 4 for 50 yards before the last drive of the half. Yet by halftime Wilson had 84 yards passing and a touchdown. Despite the Seahawks being outplayed, the Super Bowl was tied 14-14 at halftime.

The halftime show and commercials have nothing to do with football, concluding all discussion of the halftime show and the commercials. Seattle after a touchback moved down the field in the third quarter and soon faced 3rd and 1 from the New England 8. Lynch got the carry and got wrapped up tight. On 4th and 1, this time Pete Carroll opted for the field goal. Steve Hauschka hit from 27 to make it 17-14 Seahawks.

New England got it back and soon faced 3rd and 9 from their own 32. Brady fired over the middle and was intercepted by Bobby Wagner. Seattle took over at midfield. From the New England 38, Wilson ran for 15 and defensive holding tackled on 5 more. Lynch barreled for 14 yards down to the 4. Wilson found a wide open Doug Baldwin for a 3 yard touchdown for a 24-14 Seahawks lead with 5 minutes left in the third quarter. New England again could not move the ball and Seattle faced a critical 3rd and 2 at the Patriots 47. Wilson went deep and had Jermaine Kearse for a long gain, but Kearse dropped the ball. Seattle missed a chance to turn out the lights as the game went to the fourth quarter.

New England got the ball back but on 3rd and 1 saw a run up the middle knocked back by the entire Legion of Boom. New England got it back and soon faced 3rd and 14 from their own 28. Brady fired over the middle to Julian Edelman for a 21 yard gain. Unnecessary roughness on Seattle had the Patriots within striking distance. On 3rd and 8 from the Seattle 25, Brady found Edelman for 21 yards down to the 4. Brady found Amendola for the touchdown as the Patriots were within 24-21 midway through the fourth quarter.

Seattle quickly went 3 and out and the Patriots got it back at their own 36. Brady did what he does. With 2:52 to play on 1st and goal from the 5, a run gained 2 yards. For some reason Pete Carroll did not call a timeout. Brady hit Edelman on the next play for a 3 yard touchdown. The Patriots led by 4 and the Seahawks after a touchback had 2:02 left and all of their timeouts.

Wilson went deep to Lynch for a 31 yard gain just past midfield. After an incomplete pass, Seattle burned a timeout to avoid a delay of game penalty.  From the New England 38, Wilson went deep to Jermaine Kearse. Kearse was well-covered, but he bobbled the ball and made a juggling catch that was every bit as ridiculous as the David Tyree miracle in this same stadium seven years ago. Tom Brady could only watch helplessly as the Seahawks had the ball at the New England 5 yard line with 1:06 to play.

Lynch got the carry and gained 4 yards down to the one, and now it was Bill Belichick who inexplicably refused to take a timeout. With 26 seconds to play, the entire world expected Beast Mode to get the carry. Instead from the shotgun, Wilson threw a slant pass over the middle that was intercepted in the end zone. A stunned Seattle defense and the entire 12th man looked in disbelief. Seahawks Offensive Coordinator Darrell Bevell may be burned in effigy. The entire fourth quarter saw terrible play calling and bad clock management by both coaches.

Seattle had every chance to put the game away but didn’t do it. Richard Sherman was only thrown at once the entire game. Wilson finished 12 of 21 for 247 yards and 2 touchdowns, but the one interception at the end of the game that will haunt him forever. Tom Brady was the MVP, going 37 for 50 or 328 yards, 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

Seattle missed out on becoming a dynasty. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and big fat Vince Wilfork won their fourth Super Bowl in six tries over the last fourteen years. Super Bowl 49 is now in the books. In three months the NFL Draft will be held in Chicago. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are now on the clock. For now, the New England Patriots are the best team of the 2014 NFL season. 28-24 Patriots

Super Bowl L, 2015 — In the NFC, the Carolina Panthers started 14-0 and finished the season 15-1. They smashed everything in their path, including a 49-15 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC Title Game. In the AFC, the New England Patriots started 10-0 but went 2-4 down the stretch with a patchwork offensive line. The Denver Broncos also went 12-4. The Broncos had home field advantage in the AFC Title Game because they had beaten the Patriots in the regular season. Peyton Manning missed several games with an injured foot, and Brock Osweiler led the stirring comeback win over the Patriots. In the regular season finale with the offense lethargic, Broncos coach Gary Kubiak benched Osweiler and brought Manning back in. In the AFC Title Game, a missed extra point had the Patriots trailing 20-12 instead of 20-13. Tom Brady led a stirring comeback in the final seconds. On 4th and goal, he threw the touchdown pass. However, forced to go for a 2 point conversion, Brady, pass bounced wildly in the air and was intercepted. The Broncos survived 20-18 as Michelin Man Wade Philips’s defense got the job done. After the game, Manning hugged rival coach Bill Belichick and said this might be his “last rodeo.”

Joe Montana tossed the coin. Carolina won the toss and surprisingly elected to defer. From the Denver 20, Peyton Manning came out throwing, completing his first pass for 18 yards. After easily moving into the red zone, the drive bogged down. Brad McManus hit the 34 yard field goal to make it 3-0 Broncos.

From the Carolina 19, a third down completion by Cam Newton near the sticks was ruled short of the first down. Carolina went 3 and out.

Denver got it back and soon faced 3rd and 1. Out of the shotgun, Manning threw a completion in the flat for no gain as a pair of Carolina defenders made a perfect tackle. Carolina took over at their own 15.

Newton threw a 24 yard completion that was ruled incomplete. Replay clearly showed the ball never hitting the ground. Yet on further review the incompletion stood. The refs messed up. 2 plays later Newton was sacked near his own goal line by Von Miller. Miller ripped the ball out of Newton’s hand. The fumble was recovered in the end zone by Denver for a 10-0 Broncos lead.

With the Broncos in total control, their cornerback Aqib Talib was not. After Denver stopped Carolina again on third down, Talib took a stupid taunting penalty. In the second quarter the Panthers finally got going. Newton moved the Panthers with his arm and his legs. A completion inside the 5 saw Talib get flagged again for a face mask. From the 2, Jonathan Stewart jumped over the top like Marcus Allen used to do. Talib jumped offsides on the extra point as the Panthers were within 10-7.

On the next Denver series Manning fell down, got up, and threw incomplete. Ron Rivera again challenged the call and on further review Manning was down by contact for a sack. However, only 4 minutes into the second quarter, Carolina was out of challenges.

The Panthers did now have the momentum, beginning their next series at midfield. Yet they went 3 and out anyway after a trick play went nowhere.

Then things got bizarre. Norwood took a punt and 2 Carolina players refused to tackle Norwood, thinking it was a fair catch. Norwood never signaled for one. He raced 61 yards to the Carolina 14. Making things even more chaotic, running into the punter was never called. Denver again got away with one.

On 3rd and 1 from the 5, Anderson got stopped cold. Gary Kubiak decided to go for it. It appeared Carolina had another stop. Then it appeared a second effort meant first and goal. Finally offensive holding on Denver meant 4th and 11. McManus hit the 33 yard field goal as the Broncos led 13-7 midway through the second quarter.

Newton ran for a first down, fumbled, was ruled down your contact, and saw another personal foul on the Denver defense move the ball to midfield. On the next play Mike Tolbert fumbled for the second time, and this time Denver recovered.

CJ Anderson took a handoff, broke several terrible attempts at tackling, and raced 34 yards to the Carolina 25. On 3rd and 8, Manning was intercepted. Big man with football got a big paw in the air and somehow caught the ball. Yet Carolina again could not move the ball as a well thrown third down pass was dropped. The defense was solid but Carolina receivers dropped several passes.

Denver went 3 and out as the Panthers took over at their 18 at the 2 minute warning. After getting to midfield with 18 seconds left, Newton was sacked to end the half.

The Panthers came out firing in the third quarter. Newton hooked up with Ted Ginn Jr. On a seam route over the middle for a 45 yard gain. They connected again for 14 more yards. Another well thrown ball inside the 5 became another dropped Carolina pass as the drive stalled. The 44 yard field goal try by Graham Gano doinked off the upright no good.

Taking over at their own 33, Manning passed the Broncos into the red zone. On 2nd and 5 from the Carolina 12, Manning threw incomplete twice. McManus hit the 30 yard field goal to make it 16-7 Broncos.

On the next series Newton went deep and took a shot just as he threw the ball. Brown out-jumped double coverage for a 42 yard defense. Again the Panthers were on the move. Again they self-destructed. A pass to Ginn that should have been caught went off his hands for an interception. The Broncos took over at their own 5 yard line.

Early in the fourth quarter with the Broncos driving, Manning twice had the ball knocked out of his hand for a fumble. The second time the Panthers recovered at midfield.

A completion to Funchess gained 11 and a run by Stewart gained 17 more to the 22. On 3rd and 10 a pass to Ginn was dropped again, although Denver got away with blatant defensive pass interference. Gano hit the 39 yard field goal. The Panthers were down 16-10 with a full 10 1/2 minutes remaining in the game.

After an exchange of punts, the Panthers had another chance with 4 minutes left from deep in their own territory. Newton went back to pass and had the ball knocked out of his hand again. Newton had a chance to dive on it and backed away. Perhaps he thought it was an incomplete pass. Denver recovered at the Carolina 5 yard line.

On 3rd and goal, Manning threw high and incomplete. Yet in a game where the Panthers made far too many mistakes, the last one killed them. Defensive holding meant 1st and goal at the two. On the next play Anderson got the carry and stretched just past the plane of the goal. Manning hit Fowler for the 2 point conversion. The Broncos led by 14 with 3 minutes left.

Carolina needed a miracle. They would not get one. Von Miller was named the game’s MVP. Peyton Manning won his 200th game, breaking a tie he held with Brett Favre. Favre was elected to the Hall of Fame one day earlier. If this is Manning’s last rodeo, he will join Favre in Canton in five years.

John Elway got his first win as an executive two years after a nightmarish loss in the big game. It was the third Super Bowl win in Broncos history against five defeats. The Panthers lost in the big game for the second time, having yet to win one.

Both Manning brothers Peyton and Eli have 2 Super Bowl wins. Peyton Manning also lost twice in the big game.

Elway’s backup quarterback Gary Kubiak is now a Super Bowl winning head coach. Former head coach and beloved defensive coordinator Wade Phillips got his ring. In a beautiful tribute of things coming full circle, John Elway mentioned owner Pat Bowlen, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. Two decades after Bowlen shouted, “This one’s for John,” Elway held up the trophy and thundered, “This one’s for Pat.” 

For league MVP Cam Newton, it was a bitter loss after a 15-1 season.

Like Elway, Manning went out on top. Super Bowl 50 and the 2015 NFL season were now in the books. 24-10 Broncos

Super Bowl LI, 2016 — The Atlanta Falcons played the New England Patriots in the 51st Super Bowl. After last year’s boring slugfest, Super Bowl LI will be talked about until the end of time itself. The 11-5 Falcons were in the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history. The 14-2 Patriots were playing in the Super Bowl a record ninth time. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady were appearing in their seventh Super Bowl, having won four of their previous six appearances. Brady was suspended the first 4 games of the season due to his role in the Deflategate scandal from two years earlier. He entered with a determination to prove he could win games honestly. This was expected to be a Patriots coronation. As ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman has reminded us for the last 30 years, “That’s why the play the games.”

From the Houston stadium where the Texans play, President George Herbert Walker Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush came out for the coin toss. Despite being in a wheelchair, Bush 41 flipped the coin to loud raucous cheers from fans and players on both teams. The Bushes are beloved in their home city of Houston, and it was a very classy display by the fans.

The first quarter featured plenty of surprised but no points. On 3rd and 1 from their own 34, Laguerette Blount got the carry and no yards as the Patriots actually punted after a 3 and out on their first series. The Falcons took over at their own 8 yard line. On Atlanta’s first ply from scrimmage, Devonta Freeman took a pitchout and raced 37 yards. Yet on 3rd and 5 from midfield, Matt Ryan was sacked. It would not be the last opportunity Atlanta would waste. The Patirots moved from their own 10 to the Atlanta 40, but a sack of Brady ended that drive. In the second quarter the Patriots had moved from their 18 to a 1st and 10 at the Atlanta 33. It looked like New England was ready to strike first. Blount got the carry, gained 4 yards, and then fumbled the ball away. These two teams each had 11 turnovers in the entire regular season, the fewest in the league.

From the Atlanta 29, Ryan turned on the explosiveness. He went Julio Jones for gains of 19 and 23 yards. Freeman then ran for 15, 9, and the final 5 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 Falcons lead. The Patriots went 3 and out and the Falcons took over at their own 38. Ryan kept firing, hitting Torry Gabriel for 24 and Jones for 18. On 3rd and 9 from the New England 19, Ryan went to Hooper for the touchdown. All of a sudden the Falcons led 14-0.

Then came the strangest drive of the half. The Patriots moved the ball from their own 25. Thee times the Patriots faced a key third down conversion Three times the Falcons were called for defensive holding. After over 6 minutes, the Patriots now faced 3rd and 6 at the Atlanta 23 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half. Brady fired over the middle and never saw Robert Alford. Alford jumped the route and returned the interception 82 yards for a touchdown. In front of a stunned world, the Falcons led 21-0.

After a touchback Brady ran the 2 minute drill well. With 23 seconds left in the half, the Patriots had a 1st and 10 at the Atlanta 15. Brady went to White for 12 yards down to the 3, but a killer offensive holding penalty followed by a sack had the Patriots facing 3rd and 18 from the 23 with 5 seconds left. Stephen Gostkowski hit the 41 yard field goal but the Patriots were down 21-3 at halftime.

The Falcons got the ball to start the third quarter but quickly went 3 and out. The Patriots took over at their own 47 with a golden opportunity to get back in the game. Instead 3 plays lost 2 yards and the Falcons got it back at their own 15. Ryan quickly hit Gabriel for 15 yards and then went deep to Gabriel for 35 more. Ryan found Mohammed Sanu for 13 more yards. On 3rd and 4 from the New England 9, Ryan threw incomplete. Yet defensive pass interference on the hero from two years ago, Malcolm Butler, instead meant 1st and goal at the 6. On the next play Ryan hit Tevin Coleman for the touchdown. With 8 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, the Falcons were winning a 28-3 laugher. By the end of the game, nobody would be laughing. Football fans worldwide would be gasping for air.

After a touchback, the Patriots needed more than a miracle. They needed several miracles. With 6 minutes left in the third quarter, the Patriots faced 4th and 3 at their own 46. They had to go for it. Brady found Danny Amendola for 17 yards. On 3rd and 8 from the Atlanta 35, Brady evaded pressure and scrambled up the middle for 15 yards. Brady hit White for a 5 yard touchdown. On a day when virtually nothing was going right for the Patriots, Stephen Gostkowski doinked the extra point off the upright no good. The Patriots were down 28-9, and they needed 13 plays and 6 1/2 minutes to go 75 yards. All the Falcons had to do was grind down the clock and they were Super Bowl champions. Call it lack of experience. Call it bad luck. Call it terrible play-calling. What happened in the fourth quarter will be dissected forever.

Kyle Shanahan as offensive coordinator calls the plays for the Atlanta offense. Throughout the game, he had Ryan taking snaps out of the shotgun. Matty Ice had a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating entering the fourth quarter. In the fourth quarter up by 19, some coaches get attacked for being too conservative. Yet Shanahan went in the other direction. He went beyond aggressive to the point of recklessness. Several mind-numbing calls deserve to be scrutinized. As for the Falcons themselves, one field goal at any point in the fourth quarter would have iced the game.

Bill Belichick called a surprise onside kick that did not work. The Falcons took over at the New England 41. A few yards would allow Matt Bryant and his mega-leg to put the game away. On 2nd and 1 from the 32, the Falcons were in field goal range. On the next play, Coleman lost a yard, but the real killer was offensive holding. Now the Falcons were back out of field goal range. On 3rd and 11, needing only a few yards, Ryan was sacked for a 9 yard loss. The Falcons began the fourth quarter punting on fourth and 25 at their own 44. The Patriots took over at their own 13. They were barely alive, but alive.

The Patriots moved to a 3rd and 1 at the Atlanta 32. Brady went deep to Marcellus Bennett for a 25 yard gain. Yet from 1st and goal at the 7, the Atlanta defense came up big as a pair of sacks on Brady moved the Patriots back to the 15. Despite holding the ball for 12 plays and 5 minutes and moving 80 yards, they then moved 8 yards backward. Needing 3 scores, Bill Belichick opted for the field goal. Gostkowski hit from 33. With 9:40 left in regulation, the Patriots were still down 28-12. They needed more miracles.

The Falcons soon faced 3rd and 1 at their own 36 with 8 1/2 minutes left. All the Falcons had to do was run the ball straight up the middle. If they convert, the clock keeps grinding down. If they get stopped, they punt. It was the simplest decision in the world. Kyle Shanahan called a pass play. This was a horrendous decision, because an incompletion would stop the clock. An incompletion would have been less of a disaster than what actually happened. Ryan went back to pass, was sacked for an 11 yard loss, and fumbled the ball. The Patriots recovered at the Atlanta 25. The Atlanta defense had been heroes all game, and the offense was trying to give the game away.

Again the Atlanta defense rose to the occasion with another sack of Brady. Yet on 3rd and 11 from the Atlanta 26, Brady found Mitchell for 12 yards, Amendola for 8 more, and Amendola again for the 6 yard touchdown. Despite the Atlanta blunder, only 6 minutes remained. A stop on the 2 point conversion try would keep it a 2 score game and pretty much end it. Belichick went to his bag of trips. Brady jumped up high like the snap went over his head. However it was actually a wildcat snap to White, who banged in the end zone. The Patriots were within 28-20.

NFL MVP Matt Ryan still had the lead and a chance to put the game away. The Falcons were pinned at their own 10 yard line. A perfectly executed screen pass from Ryan to Freeman went for 39 yards. Ryan then went deep to Jones, who made an acrobatic catch at the sideline and somehow got 2 feet down inbounds. The 27 yard gain had the Falcons with 1st and 10 at the Atlanta 22. Only 4:40 remained on the clock. All the Falcons had to do was run the ball three straight times, kick a short field goal, and the game was over. Without doing anything, they were in position for a 40 yarder. On 1st and 10 Freeman lost one yard. Not a problem as the clock ticked down below 4 minutes. Then Kyle Shanahan called another mindless play.

On 2nd and 11, rather than run the ball again, it was deja vu all over again. Ryan went back deep and was sacked for a 12 yard loss. This time he held on to the ball. The Patriots took their first timeout with 3:50 to play. The Falcons were now facing 3rd and 23 from the Patriots 35. A field goal try would be 53 yards, but still very much in Bryant’s range. A run that gained nothing would still give Bryant a chance to finally put the game away. Bryant never got the chance. Shanahan called another pass play. Ryan hit Sanu for 9 yards, but offensive holding killed the Falcons. Had the Patriots declined the penalty it would have been 4th and 14, but Bryant would be trying a 44 yard field goal. Belichick accepted the penalty. Now the Falcons faced 3rd and 33 from the New England 45. A give up run for a few yards would still give Bryant a chance at a field goal. For the umpteenth time, Shanahan called a pass. It was incomplete and the Falcons punted. The Patriots took over at their own 9 yard line with 3 1/2 minutes to go, 2 timeouts and the two minute warning. Everyone knew what was coming.

The Patriots were pinned at their own 9 yard line. Brady started out with a pair of incompletions on a day when several receivers dropped well thrown passes. On 3rd and 10 from their own 9, the Patriots were again on the verge of defeat. Again, Atlanta could not close the game out. Brady hit Chris Hogan for 16 yards. Brady then found Mitchell for 11 yards. From the New England 36 came another miracle. Brady fired over the middle, and the ball was batted up in the air by Alford, who had the interception for a score in the first half. despite three defenders in the area, Julian Edelman somehow caught the ball for a 23 yard gain. Replay showed that the nose of the ball hit the ground, which would nullify one of the craziest catches since the Patriots saw their perfect 2007 season get victimized by David Tyree. The referees called it a catch, and Dan Quinn challenged the call. Quinn lost the challenge, and the Falcons were now out of timeouts.

From the Atlanta 41, Brady then went to Amendola for 20 more yards as the clock hit the 2 minute warning. From the Atlanta 21, Brady hit White for 13 and again for 7. From the one yard line, White got in. Despite a collapse, a stop on the 2 point conversion would still allow the Falcons to escape with the Lombardi trophy. Brady fired to Amendola, who appeared stopped but somehow stretched the ball just to the plane of the goal line. A 25 point deficit had been erased. Now the game was tied 28-28.

A deliberate short kickoff had the Falcons pinned at their own 11 yard line with 52 seconds left and 0 timeouts. Ryan hit Sanu for 12 yards, but the clock kept ticking. On 3rd and 6 from the Atlanta 27, Ryan went deep incomplete. 11 seconds remained. It was far too long for a Hail Mary, and an incomplete would give the Patriots the ball with a chance for a winning field goal try of their own. The Falcons had no choice but to punt. For the first time in NFL history, the Super Bowl was going to overtime.

The Falcons needed one break, and none were coming. The Patriots won the coin toss to start overtime. The only break would be that of the backs of the Atlanta defense. Brady put on a clinic, hitting White for 6, Amendola for 14, and Hogan for 18. On 2nd and 13 from the Atlanta 40, Brady found Edelman for 15. White ran for 10 more. Now the Patriots had 1st and 10 at the Atlanta 15. If somehow the Falcons could hold the Patriots to a field goal, Atlanta’s offense would get one chance with the ball.

It was not meant to be. Brady threw incomplete, but a killer defensive pass interference penalty meant 1st and goal at the 2. On 2nd and goal, White got the carry and appeared stopped cold. He bulled forward, and stretched the ball. Although he appeared just short, officials immediately ruled a touchdown. 4 minutes into overtime, the confetti came down and people flooded the field. As fans insisted that maybe the game was not over, it was. The greatest collapse in Super Bowl history came courtesy of 31 unanswered points.

Ryan did not play badly. He threw only 23 passes, completing 17 of them for 284 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Yet multiple sacks on pass plays that never should have been called along with his one fumble doomed the Falcons. Brady threw an NFL record 62 passes. He completed 43 of them for an NFL record 466 yards. He also had 2 touchdown passes and the one interception before the half.

Brady and Belichick are now the first player and coaches to win 5 Super Bowls. Brady became the first player to be the Super Bowl MVP for the fourth time. Brady and Belichick may or may not be the best player and coach ever. Such hyperbole is best left to barflies, but at least they are allowed to be in the conversation.

The Patriots were once the Patsies. Owner Robert Kraft has now presided over a dynasty that has won 5 Super Bowls in 17 years. The win was vindication for Brady, who missed the first four games due to his Deflategate suspension. Jimmy Garoppollo and Jacoby Brissett guided the Patriots to a 3-1 record. Meanwhile, the Patriots lost Rob Gronkowski to a back injury after Week 13. Belichick always says, “next man up.”

As for Kyle Shanahan, the day after the game he was expected to be named the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Maybe he was just being run out of town. Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is no longer the biggest coaching goat in Super Bowl history. Bevell made one horrendously miserable call a couple years ago. Shanahan made miserable calls for most of the fourth quarter, costing the Falcons the win. Nobody threw Shanahan under the bus, but he was clearly the goat.

For those who hate the Patriots, Lady Gaga was supposed to be the worst part of Super Bowl Sunday. She was far from it compared to the nightmarish fourth quarter. For those wondering of Brady or Belichick made a deal with the devil, it is quite possible that this is wrong. Maybe one of them IS the devil. The Falcons will take this loss to their graves, and they should. They blew a 25 point lead with 18 minutes left. They choked away a 19 point lead after three quarters. They choked away a 16 point lead with 7 minutes left. One field goal that Matt Bryant never got to kick was the difference. Super Bowl LI is now in the history books. 34-28 Patriots, OT

Super Bowl LII, 2017 — The AFC Champion New England Patriots were trying to win an NFL tying sixth Super Bowl. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are in the conversation for greatest coach and quarterback ever.

The NFC Playoffs featured a pair of late game heroics in the Divisional round, including a play for the ages. In one Divisional game, the New Orleans Saints overcame a 17-0 deficit to take a 24-23 over the Minnesota Vikings in Minnesota. The Vikings had the ball on their own 39 yard line. The hope was for a long completion to set up a winning field goal try. Case Keenum fired a sideline pass to Stefan Diggs. The defender mistimed the jump. Rather than go out of bounds, Diggs maintained his balance and raced all the way for the touchdown. The Vikings won 29-24 as the announcer screamed about the game that will forever be known as the “Minneapolis Miracle.” In the other Divisional game, the Eagles led 15-10 over the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons. With less than one minute to play, the Falcons moved to 1st and goal inside the 10. The Eagles defense forced 4 straight incompletions, including a 4th down scare where Julio Jones slipped. The NFC Title Game was less eventful as the Eagles throttled the Vikings 38-7 to deny the Vikings a chance to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium. 

The Patriots had a scare at home in the AFC Title Game. They faced a Jacksonville Jaguars team that outplayed the Pittsburgh Steelers 45-42 in Pittsburgh in a game that was not as close as the final score. The Jaguars team President was Tom Coughlin, who had beaten the Patriots twice in the Super Bowl when he coached the Giants. The Jaguars led 20-10 in the fourth quarter but could not close out the game. A combination of their inexperience and Tom Brady’s deep experience allows the Patriots at home to survive 24-20.  

The NFC Champion Philadelphia Eagles lost to these Patriots in the Super Bowl 13 years ago when the men in kelly green were led by 3rd generation West Coast Offense guru Walrus Lite Andy Reid. Now it was “little Andy,” 4th generation West Coast Offense guru Doug Pederson, leading the Iggles. Carson Wentz was out injured.

Nick Foles had an electric 2013 season under Reid, with 27 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Yet soon after that he regressed and was practically out of football. He returned in 2017 as a clear backup. When starter and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz went down with an injury late in the season, Foles had to be the next Jeff Hostetler. He had to be the next Tom Brady, an unknown 6th round pick in 2001 who only took the field when Drew Bledsoe was injured.

The Patriots had overcome a 28-3 deficit third quarter deficit to win it all last year. They trailed 24-14 in the fourth quarter three years ago before coming back to win it all. The Eagles had not won an NFL championship since 1960, when Chuck Bednarik gave Vince Lombardi’s Packers their only loss in an NFL championship game. This was a total mismatch. As ESPN uber-announcer Chris Berman constantly reminds us, “That’s why they play the games.”

The only chance the Eagles had to win this game would have to come from their defense. There was no way they could win a shootout. Their only chance was a slugfest. Again, “That’s why they play the games.”

The Eagles got the ball first and moved 67 yards in 14 plays. They took 7 minutes off the clock. On 3rd and 4 from their own 32, Foles hit Alshon Jeffery for 17 yards. On 3rd and 12 from their own 47, Foles went to Smith for 15 yards. Yet on 2nd and goal from the 2, a false start penalty was followed by a pair of Foles incompletions. Jake Elliott hit the 25 yard field goal for a 3-0 Eagles lead. The Patriots on their first play from scrimmage saw Brady throw incomplete under heavy defensive pressure. It was the last time he would face pressure for most of the game as the New England offensive line gave him plenty of time. The Patriots moved from their own 25 to a 3rd and 4 at the Philly 8. Brady threw incomplete and Stephen Gostkowski hit the 26 yard field goal for a 3-3 game.

What seemed a glacial pace all of a sudden turned into a rapid fire pinball machine match. From their own 23, the Eagles moved rapidly. Former Patriots running back LaGuerrette Blount ran for 36 yards. On the next play Foles went deep to Jeffery for a 34 yard touchdown. Special teams were a problem for both teams despite the game being played indoors. Elliott missed the extra point as the Eagles led 9-3. The Patriots got it back and soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 21. Brady went deep to Danny Amendola for a 50 yard gain. The Patriots began the second quarter facing 3rd and 2 at the Philly 9. Brandon Cooks got the carry and only gained one yard. Bill Belichick decided not to go for it, and Gostkowski came in for another 26 yard field goal try. The snap was fumbled, but somehow the Patriots still had enough time to spin the ball around. Gostkowski doinked it off the upright no good.

The Eagles then went 3 and out. The Eagles punted, which would normally be unremarkable except for one thing. It was the only punt of the entire game for either team. The Patriots took over at their own 37. Brady went deep to Brandon Cooks for a 23 yard gain. However, Cooks never saw Malcolm Jenkins, who blasted Cooks with a devastating legal block. Cooks stayed down, eventually got up, but did not return to the game. The Patriots soon faced 3rd and 5 at the Philly 35 when offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels went to the bag of tricks. A double reverse to Amendola saw him then throw the ball to a wide open Brady. The Patriots ran this very same play in a 2015 regular season game against the Eagles successfully. This time the ball was well thrown but Brady dropped it. It bounced off his fingertips. Michael Jordan was a lousy baseball player, and Tom Brady was not meant to be a wide receiver.

After the incompletion, the Patriots faced 4th and 5 at the Philly 35. After seeing the missed kick from 26 yards out, Belichick opted against a 53 yard field goal try. Brady threw deep incomplete and the Patriots turned it over on downs. A decade earlier Belichick passed up a 48 yard field goal try in a Super Bowl his Patriots lost 17-14. Time would soon tell if this was another mistake, especially since again the game was being played indoors. The Eagles soon faced 3rd and 7 at their own 38. Foles went to Zac Ertz for 19 yards and Jeffery for 22 more. Blount then broke free for a 21 yard touchdown run. Doug Pederson made the questionable decision to go for the 2 point conversion. Chasing points often backfires, and Foles threw incomplete. The Eagles led 15-3, but there were still 9 minutes left in the half.

After a touchback, a short pass from Brady to Ronny Burkhead went for 46 yards. Yet after that the drive died. Gostkowski hit a 45 yard field goal but the Patriots still trailed 15-6 midway through the second quarter. The Eagles soon faced 3rd and 4 at their own 31 when Jay Ajayi ran for a 26 yard gain. On the next play Foles went deep to Jeffery. Jeffery appeared to have the catch at the 2 yard line when things got bizarre. Jeffery somehow lost control of the ball from one hand, batted it up in the air with his other hand, and saw it intercepted pat the 2 yard line by Harmon. The Patriots took over at their own 10 and soon faced 3rd and 6 at their own 14. Brady threw incomplete but defensive holding kept the drive going. From their own 31, Brady went deep to Chris Hogan for a 43 yard gain. On the next play just before the 2 minute warning, White ran for a 26 yard touchdown. The special teams continued to struggle as Gostkowski hooked the extra point wide not good. Yet instead of trailing 22-6, the Patriots were only down 15-12. It seemed as if the Eagles best chance to win had evaporated.

Yet for all the talk about West Coast Offense dinking and dunking, Doug Pederson was going full pedal to the metal. He was also taking some of the boldest risks in Super Bowl history. On 3rd and 3 from the Philadelphia 37, a short pass from Foles to Corey Clement went for 55 yards. Yet on 3rd and goal at the one, Foles threw incomplete. This was a long one yard, closer to 2 yards. Pederson decided to go for it. He also called up the very trick play the Patriots failed to convert on. Foles lined up as a tight end. A double reverse saw Tim Burton throw to a wide open Foles in the end zone. Brady is a legend at quarterback, but on this day Foles was the better receiver. He caught the one yard touchdown as the Eagles took a 22-12 lead into the locker rooms. As bold as the calls was, by the end of the game Pederson would be taking an even bigger risk. Meanwhile, in another surprising move, with 3 seconds left from midfield, the Patriots opted against a Hail Mary. A short pass gained 23 yards, which meant nothing.

Justin Timberlake was the halftime show. I took a nap. Nothing against Timberlake, but halftime shows should be abolished and replaced with video highlights of past NFL games. Rather than try and force football fans to embrace pop culture, pop culture fans should learn who Vince Lombardi is. After all, it is his trophy the players are trying to win. The second half became an aerial show that turned this game into an instant classic.

After a touchback to start the second half, Brady went deep to Gronkowski for gains of 25, 24, 14 on 3rd and 6, for the 5 yard touchdown to get the Patriots quickly within 22-19. Yet every time it seemed the Patriots were poised to take the lead, the Eagles offense struck back. On 3rd and 6 from their own 19, Foles found Nelson Agholor for 17 yards. On 3rd and 1 from the New England 40, Foles hit Ertz for 14 yards. On 3rd and 6 from the New England 22, Foles went deep to Clement for the touchdown. Midway through the third quarter, the Eagles led 29-19. Yet after trailing last year by 25, a 10 point deficit was ho-hum for them.

After a touchback, Brady continued putting on a passing clinic. He hit Chris Hogan for 16 yards. On 3rd and 2 from the Philly 44, Brady hit Amendola for 18 yards. On the next play Brady went to Hogan for a 26 yard touchdown as the Patriots were within 29-26 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter. After a touchback, Foles went deep to Agholor for 24 yards and to Smith for 17 more. The fourth quarter began with the Eagles facing 3rd and 3 at the New England 16. This time Pederson did call a West Coast Offense play, and the short pass was blown up in the backfield for an 8 yard loss. Those who hate the West Coast Offense scream “throw it past the marker!” Elliott hit the 42 yard field goal to make it 32-26 Eagles, but now it was a one score game. What happened next was inevitable.

After a touchback, Josh McDaniels changed things up by calling 3 straight running plays by Burkhead, who ran for 5, 9 and 4. On 3rd and 3 from their own 46, Brady hit Amendola for a 7 yard gain. Brady then went deep to Amendola for a 30 yard gain. A third straight pass to Amendola gains d9 more down to the Philly 8 yard line. Brady went to Rob Gronkowski for the touchdown. This time the extra point was good. After trailing for over 50 minutes, the Patriots had their first lead of the game up 33-32 with 9 1/2 minutes left in regulation.

The Patriots took a timeout on defense with 8 1/2 minutes left with the Eagles facing 3rd and 6 at their own 29. It did not matter as both defensive coordinators Jim Schwartz and Matt Patricia saw their defenses gashed. Foles went to Ertz for 7 yards and a critical first down. Yet on 3rd and 1 from their own 45, Pederson again called a maddeningly frustrating West Coast Offense sideways pass. It went for no gain. Normally teams who run those plays have no running game. The Eagles had 2 quality running backs, but refused to play smash mouth. Now it was 4th and 1 with 5 1/2 minutes left. Pederson made one of the boldest calls in Super Bowl history.

The Eagles were at their own 45 yard line. Punting and playing field position and defense is what almost every coach would do. Yet nothing in this game suggested the Eagles defense was up to the task. Brady had led touchdown drives on 3 consecutive second half possessions. The New England offense did not punt the whole game. Neither defense at this stage had a single sack, much less a forced fumble. The only turnover of the game at this point was Foles’s interception, and that was a complete fluke. This game had no defense. So Pederson decided to go for it knowing a failure to convert would give Brady and his offense a short field. Yet a punt most likely meant the Eagles would never get the ball back. Going for it was the right call. As former Eagles hero Herm Edwards said, “You play to win the games.”

Foles fired high to Ertz, who was driven backward but not until after he had made the most critical 2 yard catch in Eagles history. From the Philly 48, Foles went to Agholor three straight times for gains of 10, 18 and 10. The Eagles held the ball for 14 plays and 7 minutes, forcing the Patriots to take their second timeout. On 3rd and 7 from the 11, Foles fired to Ertz inside the 5. Ertz caught the ball, took a few steps, and leaped over the plane of the goal. Once Ertz hit the ground in the end zone, the ball popped out, although Ertz caught the bobble. This led to an endless discussion of what constitutes a catch that the NFL still has not figured out.

Thankfully, the officials got the call right and clearly explained why they got it right. A receiver who catches the ball in the end zone has to maintain control of the ball all the way after hitting the ground. However, Ertz caught the ball outside of the end zone and took several steps. These were “football moves.” At that point Ertz was treated as a runner. One he broke the plane of the goal, it was a touchdown regardless of whether the ball popped out. Now it was time for the 2 point conversion try. Despite clear defensive pass interference, the pass was ruled incomplete with no penalty flag. Those who believe the Patriots get virtually every single call rom the refs had more ammo. With 2:21 left, the Eagles led 38-33. Yet a 5 point lead is not a 7 point lead. Then came the stunner.

On 2nd and 2 from their own 33 in a game with no defense, the Patriots finally became the victim of a defensive play. Brady had the ball knocked out of his hand by Brandon Graham. It bounced to Eagles defender Derek Barnett. 17 years after the Tuck Rule that started the Patriots dynasty, the refs were not able to bail out Brady this time. The entire world saw that when he finally moved his arm forward, it was with an empty hand. This fumble call stood.

With 2:09 left from the New England 31, this time Pederson played it very safe. A first down run forced the Patriots to take their final timeout. Another run took the clock to the 2 minute warning. With 1:56 left, on 3rd and 5 from the 26, a first down would end the game. However, a completed pass would stop the clock. A runner takes 45 seconds of time off the clock. This was a no-brainer. You must run the football in this situation. You don’t even think of throwing it. Blount got the carry and lost a yard. Elliott came in for a 46 yard field goal try. He would not be Ray Finkle. The kick wad perfect and the Eagled led by 8 points with one minute remaining. Yet a touchdown and 2 point conversion would tie the game.

A horrendous decision on the short kickoff resulted in the Patriots trying a lateral on the return. The decision failed miserably and the Patriots took over on their own 9 yard line. With 42 seconds left after 3 Brady incompletions, it was now 4th and 10. Yet Brady then found Amendola for 13 yards and then spiked the ball to stop the clock with 27 seconds left. Brady went to Gronkowski for gains of 11 and 16 yards as the Eagles took their final timeout on defense with 13 seconds left. After an incompletion, 9 seconds remained. The Patriots were just shy of midfield. It came down to one final Hail Mary from a quarterback who at age 40 still had a rocket arm. Brady went to the end zone, and everyone had a shot at it. Just like six years earlier, this heart-stopping attempt that seemed to hang in the air forever finally fell incomplete. The Evil Empire of Football had been defeated.

These teams combined for 1,151 yards, an NFL record not just for Super Bowls or playoffs but for any NFL game. Game MVP Foles finished 28 of 43 for 373 yards, 3 touchdowns, and the one interception. Foles also caught a touchdown pass as well. The Eagles also ran the ball for 164 yards and had 538 overall net yards of offense. Last year Brady had a Super Bowl record 466 yards passing, but that game went into overtime. This year Brady was 28 of 48 for a mind-blowing 505 yards. Brady had 3 touchdown passes without an interception, but he did have the fumble with the game on the line. Had Brady’s Hail Mary been completed, he would have broken Norm Van Brocklin’s record of 554 yards passing in any NFL game. The Patriots had 613 years of total offense.

The Eagles finally have their first Super Bowl after 2 prior losses, and their first NFL championship 57 years. The Patriots have won 5 Super Bowls, but have now lost 5 as well. It was the third Super Bowl loss with Belichick and Brady at the helm. In a bizarre move that will be questioned, Patriots defensive back Malcolm Butler did not play a single snap on defense. He was the hero of the Patriots Super Bowl win three years ago with his goal line interception. This year before the game he was crying during the national anthem. Apparently he got the news right before the game that he would not play on defense. He did play on special teams. There was no explanation given for his benching other than a terse statement by Belichick that it was not a disciplinary issue. Butler’s replacement was torched most of the game.

Also being torched is the Patriots staff. Belichick is losing both of his coordinators. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is headed to Detroit to be the head coach of the Lions. Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is headed to Indianapolis to be the head coach of the Colts. Rob Gronkowski said he was contemplating retirement, but that could be the emotion of the moment. He had 116 yards receiving in this game. Chris Hogan had 12 8 and Danny Amendola had 152. Yet despite all these yards, the Patriots lost. The idea that defense wins championships seemed to fly out the window on this night, the late sack-strip-fumble of Brady notwithstanding. Belichick and Brady both said they would be back next year, and they have a meeting with owner Robert Kraft to iron out some tensions that have developed over time.

The offseason begins, but leatherheads can take joy in knowing that the NFL Draft is barely 10 weeks away. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce that the 0-16 Cleveland Browns are now on the clock. Yet this night was all about the Philadelphia Eagles. Foles knows that he is a backup to Carson Wentz next year. Yet on this night, he became a Super Bowl champion and MVP. Doug Pederson was once an average, non-descript career backup. He backed up legend Brett Favre, and most people cannot remember a single game Pederson played in. He was an assistant coach to Andy Reid. Now he has as many Super Bowl wins as Favre and one more as a head coach than Reid. The 2017 NFL season is now in the books, and the Eagles are the 19th of 32 teams to win it all. Super Bowl (52) LII and the season are now history. 41-33 Eagles

Super Bowl LIII, 2018 — These playoffs saw all the wildcards go down in flames as the top two seeds from each conference reached the Conference Title Games. Both Conference Title Games were rematches of regular season thrillers. In the NFC, the Rams fell behind the Saints 35-14, came back to tie the game 35-35, and saw the Saints close it out 45-35 in New Orleans. The NFC Title Game was also in New Orleans. The Saints took a 13-0 lead but the Rams fought back. At the 2 minute warning with the game tied 20-20, officials missed a blatant defensive pass interference call on the Rams. Had it been called, the Saints could have taken the clock down and kicked the winning field goal. Instead they went ahead 23-20 but still left time on the clock. The Rams led an inspired late drive, tied the game in regulation, and won it in inspiring fashion in overtime when Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein leveled a 57 yard field goal. In only their second season together, Sean McVay, Jared Goff and todd Gurley were going to the big game. It was a bitter home defeat for Sean Payton and Drew Brees.

In the AFC, the Patriots finished 11-5 and reached the AFC Title Game for the 8th straight year. However, a shocking 34-33 road loss at the Miami Dolphins proved costly. The Dolphins won on some crazy laterals that included everything but the Stanford Marching Band. That game cost New England home field throughout the playoffs. In the regular season in New England, the Patriots led the Kansas City Chiefs 24-9 at halftime and 40-30 in the fourth quarter. The Chiefs have a phenom at quarterback in Patrick Mahomes and big time playmakers like Tyreek Hill. The Chiefs rallied to tie the game 40-40, but with 2 minutes left, that was more than enough time for Tom Brady. Stephen Gostkowski kicked the winning field goal at the gun for a 43-40 Patriots win. However, the rematch was in Kansas City, who did have home field. New England dominated early, taking leads of 14-0 and 17-7. The first three quarters were a slog. The fourth quarter was an epic shootout. Mahomes led the Chiefs to a 28-24 lead only to see Brady put the Patriots up 31-28 with only 39 seconds left. That was enough for Mahomes to put them in position for a tying field goal and a 31-31 game headed to overtime. The Patriots won the toss and the Chiefs never saw the ball. A touchdown meant a 37-31 Patriots victory.

Both second seeds went on the road and defeated the top seed in overtime thrillers. The Rams and Patriots are playing a rematch of the 2001 Super Bowl when the Patriots shocked the heavily favored Rams and their Greatest Show on Turf. The Patriots are in the Super Bowl for the 9th time under Tom Brady and Bill Belichick and the 10th time overall in franchise history. They are in the Super Bowl for the 3rd straight year. 

On Sunday, February 3rd in Atlanta, Super Bowl LIII (53) will be played just past 6:00pm Eastern time. By 10:00pm, The 2018 NFL season will be in the history books.

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