From its start in 1967, the Super Bowl has slowly escalated into one of the biggest spectacles on earth. From the six hour pregame shows, to the lead up as to who is going to play the halftime show, there’s a huge market for the game outside the game. However, the game is always the story. Even for the dynasty teams like the Packers, Steelers, 49ers and Cowboys, it’s a struggle to go the distance from mini-camp all the way through the postseason to be the last man standing.
There’s been tons of memorable moments in these 48 games, from huge catches to monumental turnovers and game changing stops. Players know that it’s all on the line, and at times have gone above and beyond to make plays that define a championship, and their careers.
Of these 48 games, there has been plenty that have been awful. The 1980’s and early 1990’s saw games that wound up being blowouts, year after year. It seemed for almost two decades that the Super Bowl turned into nothing more than a coronation of the best team in the NFC.
The Denver Broncos broke the NFC’s dominance, by beating the Green Bay Packers in 1997, and since then it’s been very back and forth between the two conferences and their yearly power struggle.
With 48 Super Bowls in the books, today we take a look at the best of those games. The ones that fans relive year after year when they talk about the all-time best Super Bowls. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and relive the all-time best of the best, the “20 Best Super Bowls of All-Time.”
20. Super Bowl XVI – San Francisco 26, Cincinnati Bengals 21
The first of two eventual Super Bowl meetings between these two clubs, this one featured the upstart 49ers vs the Bengals, who boasted a high powered offense led by Ken Anderson. The Niners defense helped build a 20-0 lead at the half, but the game was by no means over. Cincinnati closed it to 20-14, and it took a huge goal-line stand by the Niners and two field goals to make sure San Francisco would walk away with their first Super Bowl title. Joe Montana, who threw for 157 yards and one touchdown (along with a rushing TD), took home the MVP.
19. Super Bowl XIV – Pittsburgh Steelers 31, Los Angeles Rams 19
This Super Bowl was a lot closer than the final score, as the Rams led the game 19-17 over the much favored Steelers entering the fourth quarter. Then the Hall of Fame combo of Terry Bradshaw and John Stallworth hooked up for a long touchdown and another big play downfield later in the quarter, which set up the last touchdown to seal the win. It was the final of the four Super Bowls for the 1970’s Steelers, a team that many still think was the best ever.
18. Super Bowl XIX – San Francisco 49ers 38, Miami Dolphins 16
This battle of two Hall of Fame quarterbacks saw a lot of back and forth early before the Niners put the game away with a huge second quarter. Joe Montana of the Niners outplayed young Dolphins gunslinger Dan Marino, as both threw for over 300 yards in the contest. The two teams put up a total of 851 yards, at that point a record for the Super Bowl. Montana had a huge day, throwing for 331 yards and three scores. He also had 5 rushes for 59 yards and 1 rushing TD.
17. Super Bowl XVII – Washington Redskins 27, Miami Dolphins 17
This was a back and forth battle between Hall of Fame coaches Joe Gibbs for the Redskins and Don Shula for Miami. The game saw the first kickoff return for a score by the Dolphins Fulton Walker, and Miami had a four-point lead, 17-13, in the fourth quarter. That’s when Gibbs rolled the dice with “The Diesel” John Riggins, who went off tackle for a memorable 43-yard score to give Washington the lead on a 4th-and-1. They added another score to clinch the win, securing their first Super Bowl title.
16. Super Bowl VII – Miami Dolphins 14, Washington Redskins 7
The bowl that completed the only perfect season in NFL history, as the Dolphins went 17-0, wrapping up with the season with a seven-point win over the Redskins. Miami’s defense dominated, with safety Jake Scott getting the MVP with two picks, including a key fourth quarter pick in the end zone he returned 55 yards. The game nearly ended 17-0, but Miami kicker Garo Yepremian had a field goal blocked, and instead of falling on it, he tried to throw a pass, which was picked off and returned for a score to close the game. In the end though, it was about the only thing that went wrong for the perfect Dolphins.
15. Super Bowl IV – Kansas City Chiefs 23, Minnesota Vikings 7
The final ever game between the AFL and the NFL, one that saw the AFL Chiefs beat up the Vikings, putting up 23 points on the Vikings famed ‘Purple People Eaters’ defense. The Chiefs offense, with head coach Hank Stram at the controls, confused the Vikings with multiple formations and motion plays the Vikings had not seen before. The Chiefs defense held the Vikings to just 67 yards rushing, and made life tough for QB Joe Kapp. In the end, the game showed just how far the AFL had come, taking out the best team in the NFL in dominating fashion
14. Super Bowl XXXIX – New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21
For the last title of the Patriots dynasty, they went 14-2 on the way to winning back-to-back titles with a hard fought win over the Eagles. Deion Branch had a huge night for the Pats, taking home the MVP with 133 yards and 11 grabs. The Pats defense made life tough for Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, sacking him four times and collecting three interceptions. The win put Tom Brady in a class of the all-time great Super Bowl QBs, as he became just the fourth QB to win three Super Bowls. Brady hit on 23 passes in the contest with two TD’s, helping New England win their third Super Bowl in four years.
13. Super Bowl XLVII – Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31
The memorable battle between the Harbaugh brothers saw the Ravens and 49ers go at it at the Superdome in New Orleans to wrap up the 2013 season. Baltimore dominated early, going up 28-6 at the start of the third quarter when Jacoby Jones took back the opening kickoff for a score. Then the lights went out for 34 minutes, and San Francisco started their comeback, bringing it to 31-29 in the fourth quarter, but the Ravens were able to hold the Niners off for an eventual three-point win in a game that was entertaining for most of the second half.
12. Super Bowl XXXII – Green Bay Packers 31, Denver Broncos 24
A back and forth battle that featured two of the great quarterbacks in John Elway for the Broncos and Brett Favre for the Packers. At the time of the game, the NFC was dominating the Super Bowl, and Green Bay came into the game as a heavy favorite. Denver was on a mission, with Elway finally getting his Super Bowl ring, and Terrell Davis wearing down Green Bay with a running game that dominated the contest. It was a classic game that will be remembered for the famous line by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen when he handed the trophy to Elway, as he bellowed:“this one’s for John!”
11. Super Bowl XLIV – New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17
A close game till the last few minutes, the underdog Saints used the inspiration from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to win their first title in an emotional win over the Colts. New Orleans trailed 10-0 before getting back in the game, and then head coach Sean Payton used a risky onside kick to gain a key second half possession. Drew Brees played a magnificent game, outplaying Peyton Manning and winning the MVP. Manning threw a late key pick which was returned for a score by Tracy Porter. The pick six clinched the win for the Saints with just over three minutes left
10. Super Bowl XXXVIII – New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29
One of the more wild Super Bowls, this one started as a snoozer and turned into a shootout in the second half with the two teams combining for 37 points in the final 15 minutes. The Patriots scored the most important of those points, as Adam Vinatieri nailed a 41-yard game winner to give New England their second Super Bowl in three seasons. A Super Bowl full of big plays, Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme combined to throw for 677 yards in the game.
9. Super Bowl XLV – Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25
Two legendary franchises battled it out for the 45th Super Bowl, with Aaron Rodgers outplaying Ben Roethlisberger in a six-point win in Dallas. Green Bay built a 21-3 edge with two Rodgers TD’s and a pick-six, but the Steelers fought back, and trailed just 21-17 before a key fumble led to more Packers points early in the fourth quarter. Up six in the final minute, the Packers D stopped Big Ben and held on for their fourth title win as Rodgers took home the MVP.
8. Super Bowl XXXIV – St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16
The Rams finished their Cinderella story with a seven-point win in the Super Bowl as Kurt Warner wrapped up a magical season with 414 yards and two scores in winning the MVP. The game will always be remembered for the last minute Titans drive that concluded at the one-yard line with linebacker Mike Jones stopping WR Kevin Dyson to clinch the Rams first Super Bowl win. No other Super Bowl before or after has ever come down the final yard like this contest.
7. Super Bowl XLVI – New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17
A rematch that is worthy to be in the top 10, the Giants and Patriots did battle for a second time in Indianapolis, with a key catch down the stretch (again) being a key play for the Giants. Mario Manningham pulled in a 38-yard catch with New York down 17-15 to get the ball to midfield late in the fourth quarter. The drive ended with Ahmad Bradshaw scoring a touchdown to make it 21-17 with 57 seconds left. The Giants stopped Tom Brady in the final minute to clinch their third Super Bowl title.
6. Super Bowl XIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31
Three years after their first battle, the Steelers and Cowboys renewed their rivalry in Super Bowl XIII. It was an offensive showcase, as the teams put up 66 points. Terry Bradshaw threw for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns, at the time breaking many Super Bowl records. He also took home the game’s MVP award. There were Hall of Fame players all over the field, and with both teams led by two great QBs in Bradshaw and Roger Staubach, this was a classic battle between two great franchises.
5. Super Bowl XXIII – San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16
This Super Bowl was the final game of Bill Walsh’s coaching career, and it came down to a monster outing by Hall of Fame WR Jerry Rice and a late Niners TD to secure the win. The winning TD came when Joe Montana led the Niners downfield , while down three points, hitting Rice a few times and then John Taylor to seal the win with less than a minute left. It was a vintage Montana drive, and, per usual, the Niners were great in the final two minutes, earning yet another title for Walsh in what was the finale for the great Hall of Fame coach.
4. Super Bowl XLIX – New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
From start to finish, this one was one of the most exciting Super Bowls of all-time. The game was tied at halftime before the Seahawks pulled away, leading 24-14 at the end of the third quarter. That’s when Tom Terrific stepped up, orchestrating two touchdown scoring drives and giving his team the lead. However, regardless of how good this game was for 58 minutes, it will be remembered for the last two minutes.
Down four points, Russell Wilson launched a bomb to Jermaine Kearse who caught the ball between his legs while on the floor. This set up the Seahawks at the six yard line. They ran the ball once to Lynch who brought them to the one. Then the unthinkable happened. The Seahawks called a slant across the middle on the goalline, Malcolm Butler picked off the ball and Tom Brady won his fourth Super Bowl ring. Classic.
3. Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
The first time these two met in the Super Bowl, it was all about the Patriots trying to duplicate the 1972 Dolphins as the only other undefeated team in NFL history. Instead it was one of the biggest upsets in Super Bowl history, as the Giants spoiled the party, holding New England to 14 points, and putting on a defensive showcase that no other team had done that season against Tom Brady and company. The final two minutes were some of the best in NFL history, with David Tyree making a crazy grab, and Plaxico Burress hauling in the winning score. The Patriots had no answers for the Giants on this day, and for the first time all year, walked off the field on the losing end.
2. Super Bowl XLIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
This game was the follow-up to the Giants-Patriots Super Bowl XLII matchup, and actually ended up being a better game with just as many big plays. Larry Fitzgerald ended a historic playoff run for Arizona with two fourth quarter scores that put the Cardinals ahead 23-20 with just over two minutes left. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger led Pittsburgh on an amazing drive, hitting WR Santonio Holmes with four huge passes, including the winner in the corner of the end zone with less than a minute left. It was a great pass, great catch, and great ending that not many could have predicted.
1. Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19
No other Super Bowl has been decided by one-point, and this one deserves to be considered the best Super Bowl match-up of all time. Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas led the Bills offense against a classic Bill Belichick-led Giants defense, which devised a plan to hold them in check. It didn’t work with Thomas, as he had a huge day, going for 190 yards from scrimmage, but it was the gutsy play of Giants QB Jeff Hostetler and his offensive teammates that gave the Giants a lead, putting the game in the hands of the New York defense. In the end, it came down to a memorable miss by Bills kicker Scott Norwood, which clinched the win for the Giants.
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