Ranked – Best Super Bowl Games Of All Time (#41 – #31)

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Which was the best Super Bowl? Here are the first 10 Super Bowls in our list ranking the worst to the best.

Ranked – Best Super Bowl Games Of All Time (#52 – #42)

#41 – Super Bowl XV: Raiders 27 – 10 Eagles (1980)

With the Superdome wrapped in a yellow ribbon signifying the end of the of the Iran hostage crisis just five days prior; the nation was gripped by patriotism. What better way than to celebrate with football.

Under head coach Dick Vermiel advanced to their first Super Bowl appearance up against the 11-5 Raiders who headed into their third Super Bowl , searching for another Lombardi trophy. The Raiders showed the Eagles and a tearful Vermiel no mercy, becoming the first Wild Card team to ever win a Super Bowl.

Aided by two touchdown passes from quarterback Jim Plunkett, Oakland jumped out to a 14–0 lead in the first quarter of Super Bowl XV, from which Philadelphia never recovered. Oakland linebacker Rod Martin intercepted Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski three times en route to Super Bowl glory.

Plunkett was named the Super Bowl MVP, completing 13 of 21 passes for a total of 261 yards and three touchdowns.

 

#40 – Super Bowl XXXIII: Broncos 34 – 19 Falcons (1998)

John Elway’s final game saw him go out a champion and cement his legacy as one of the great quarterbacks to play the game, whilst giving the Broncos back to back Super Bowl victories.

Questions surrounding whether now 15 year veteran John Elway could do the double. Undeterred, Elway and Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan cruised to the top of the AFC with a 14-2 record. Atlanta, under former Bronco coach Dan Reeves made their first Super Bowl appearance in franchise history also finished with an impressive 14-2 record, beating Super Bowl veteran 49ers and Vikings respectively in the playoffs.

John Elway’s play making ability, including a booming 80 yard touchdown pass to receiver Rod Smith meant Denver scored 17 consecutive points to build a 17–3 lead in the second quarter, from which Atlanta could never really recover.

In the final game, Elway completed 18 of 29 passes for 336 yards with one touchdown and one interception, also scoring a 3 yard rushing touchdown on his way to becoming Super Bowl MVP.

 

#39 – Super Bowl XXI: Giants 39 – 20 Broncos (1986)

From Bronco victory to Bronco defeat and from one great quarterback to another. Phil Simms had the game of his life on the way to winning the Super Bowl, running over the Denver Broncos to seal the Giants first ever Super Bowl victory.

Lead by the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” defense, the running game of Joe Morris and the ability of Simms the Giants ended the season with a 14-2 record. The Denver Broncos, mostly thanks to the play of John Elway finished with an 11-5 record to clinch the AFC.

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 Members of the “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” during Super Bowl XXI (image courtesy of NFL)

The game was tight and the Broncos had a 10–9 heading into halftime. The Giants had the only score of the second quarter with defensive end George Martin’s sack of Elway in the end zone for a safety.

However, the Giants went on run after halftime, scoring 26 unanswered points through the third and fourth quarters. Simms was named the Super Bowl MVP, finishing the game with 22 of 25 passes completed for 268 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 25 rushing yards on 3 carries.

 

#38 – Super Bowl XXXVII: Buccaneers 48 – 21 Raiders (2002)

This Super Bowl was extra sweet for any Buccaneer fans and a little hard to swallow if you were a Raiders fan, the reason why: Jon Gruden.

After a string of poor performances, Gruden, hired as Raiders head coach in 1998, improved the floundering Oakland Raiders to 8-8 seasons in both 1998 and 1999. With veteran quarterback Rich Gannon at the helm, the team suddenly had one of the best offences in the league. Success continued with winning seasons and the signing of veterans Trace Armstrong and Jerry Rice. However, Gruden faltered and could never escape the playoffs (admittedly Gruden was dealt bad luck in the now infamous “Tuck Rule” game).

 

Unsatisfied, Raiders owner Al Davis traded the rights for Gruden to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for four draft picks and $8 million.

It’s fair to say the Buccaneers were desperate for success, unable to shake the reputation of losers. Despite having a strong defensive core with Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Rhonde Barber & John Lynch; the team had always struggled on offense. Despite initial issues adjusting, Gruden took his new team to the Super Bowl.

Without Gruden, the Raiders still continued their winning ways and were odds on favorites to win the 2002 Super Bowl.

The Raiders offence which looked so impressive under Gruden looked sub par as the Tampa Bay defense dominated the contest. Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon threw a Super Bowl record five interceptions, three of which were returned for touchdowns. Gannon continued to struggle in the game, sacked five times by the Buccaneers, who scored 34 consecutive points to build a 34–3 lead late in the third quarter.

Tampa Bay safety Dexter Jackson, was named Super Bowl MVP.

 

#37 – Super Bowl XL: Steelers 21 – 10 Seahawks (2005)

Pittsburgh entered the five rings club alongside the 49ers and Cowboys as legendary running back Jerome Bettis got the ultimate ending to his illustrious career, winning the Super Bowl in front of a Detroit home crowd. However officiating in Super Bowl XL however was met with criticism from reporters and fans soon after the games conclusion.

After a shaky 7-5 start, the Steelers rebounded and went on a four game victory run to end the regular season 11-5, entering the playoffs as a Wildcard team; winning all three post-season games on the road.

The Steelers would face off against the Seattle Seahawks, appearing in their first Super Bowl after an impressive 13-3 record.

Capitalizing on every play, the Steelers jumped to a 14–3 lead early in the third quarter with help from running back Willie Parker’s 75-yard touchdown run.

Seahawks defensive back Kelly Herndon 76-yard interception return drew thing close, with the score at 14–10. Pittsburgh responded with wide receiver, Antwaan Randle El’s 43 yard touchdown pass to Hines Ward to clinch the game in the fourth quarter.

Ward, who caught 5 passes for 123 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 18 yards, was named Super Bowl MVP.

 

#36 – Super Bowl VIII: Dolphins 24 – 7 Vikings (1973)

The Miami Dolphins repeated the successes of there undefeated 1972 season with a team many considered greater than that of 1972, despite Larry Csonka rushing for 145 yards and Bob Griese only throwing seven passes; the Dolphins triumphed over the Vikings.

This was the Dolphins’ third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. They recorded a 12-2 regular season, The Vikings were making their second Super Bowl appearance, similarly finishing the regular season with a 12–2 record.

Speaking on television before the game, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath said: “If Miami gets the kickoff and scores on the opening drive, the game is over”. Sure enough they did, and soon it was evident the game was Miami’s.

The Dolphins scored 24 unanswered points during the first three quarters, including two touchdowns on their first two drives. With time expiring in the first half, Minnesota’s best chance to gather momentum and conjure a comeback was available, but Vikings running back Oscar Reed fumbled the ball away at the Dolphins’ 6-yard line. From there the Vikings were unable to overcome Miami’s lead in the second half.

The Dolphins’ Larry Csonka became the first running back to be named Super Bowl MVP; both his 145 rushing yards and his 33 carries were Super Bowl records.

 

#35 – Super Bowl XXVIII: Cowboys 30 – 13 Bills (1993)

The Buffalo Bills entered the not only as underdogs but with the immense pressure of trying to win a Super Bowl, after defeat a previous three times. Unfortunately for Bills fans they were about to lose a fourth. The Cowboys, victorious in the Super Bowl the year earlier were confident under head coach Jimmy Johnson and a strong core of young talent.

Despite key players missing, like starting quarterback Troy Aikman, due to injury, the  Cowboys finished with a 12–4 regular season record and faced a repeat of Super Bowl XXVII against the Bills, who finished the season with an equally impressing 12-4 record. Mostly down to quarterback Jim Kelly and running back Thurman Thomas, and Buffalo’s ‘no huddle’ approach to offence.

Trailing 13–6 at halftime, the Cowboys were unfazed and went on to score 24 unanswered points in the second half, to the Bills had no answer. The Bills relied heavily on running back Thurman Thomas’ during the first half, but just 45 seconds into the third quarter, Thomas was stripped of the ball, and Dallas safety James Washington capitalized, returning the fumble 46 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.

From there, Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, who would eventually be awarded Super Bowl MVP, dominated the game. On Dallas’ next possession, Smith was handed the ball seven times on an eight-play drive, ending in a 64 yard, ending with a 15 yard touchdown run by Smith.

Smith had 30 carries for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns, while also catching 4 passes for 26 yards.

 

#34 – Super Bowl I: Packers 35 – 10 Chiefs (1966)

The ‘AFL – NFL World Championship Game’ is arguably the most historic game in the history of the Super Bowl simply because it was the first. The established NFL Green Bay Packers, guided by legendary coach Vince Lombardi took on the upstart AFL Kansas City Chiefs, fitting as Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt founded the rival AFL league.

Prior to Vince Lombardi, who turned the Packers into an NFL dynasty during the 60’s, posted a 12-2 regular season record and were viewed by reporters and fans to be firm favorites against Kansas City who finished the season 11-2-1.

Although not renowned for any spectacular plays, the first half of Super Bowl I was in fact highly competitive. The Chiefs managed to out gain the Packers in total yards, 181 to 164, to come within four points at halftime, with the score 14-10. Early in the third quarter, Green Bay safety Willie Wood, intercepted a pass and shifted momentum to the Packers, who scored 21 unanswered points in the second half with help form quarterback Bart Starr and hungover back-up wide receiver Max McGee.

Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, with 1 interception, was named MVP.

 

#33 – Super Bowl XIV: Steelers 31 – 19 Rams (1979)

This Super Bowl was viewed by everyone at the time to be a one-sided affair and as the score suggests, it was. One sports reporter sarcastically suggested that Bradshaw throw left-handed and that the Rams should be allowed to play with 12 men to make the Super Bowl more competitive.

The Rams barely made it too the post-season with a 9-7 regular season record. Relying heavily on the strength of their defense, which featured future hall of fame defensive end Jack Youngblood.

“A game for losers, played by losers”

 – Sports Illustrated on the NFC Championship Game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers which sent the Los Angeles Rams to Super Bowl XIV. 

The Steelers were the defending Super Bowl champions, and finishing the 1979 regular season with a 12–4 record, including playoff victories over the Miami Dolphins and the Houston Oilers.

Although the game started out as close during the first three quarters, with the Rams taking a surprising lead 13–10 at halftime. Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw linked up with wide receiver Lynn Swann on a 47 yard touchdown pass. A tussle for the lead saw LA regain the lead on a halfback option play with running back Lawrence McCutcheon’s 24 yard touchdown pass to Ron Smith.

Pittsburgh rallied and dominated the fourth quarter, scoring 14 unanswered points. Despite throwing three interceptions, Bradshaw was named Super Bowl MVP by throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns.

 

#32 – Super Bowl V: Colts 16 – 13 Cowboys (1970)

When a game is commonly remembered as the “Blunder Bowl” “, famous for poor play, a missed PAT, penalties, officiating miscues and a Super Bowl record eleven turnovers; it could be suggested that it’s a contender for worst Super Bowl ever.

With quarterback Earl Morrall and three receiving weapons in the shape of  Eddie Hinton and Roy Jefferson and tight end John Mackey. Alongside a strong defensive line, the Colts finished the regular season 11-2-1, finally granted the chance to make up for an embarrassing defeat in their previous Super Bowl appearance against the New York Jets.

The Dallas Cowboys relied on the running game on offence as quarterback controversy dogged the team throughout the 1970 season with Roger Staubach and Craig Morton fighting for the first string position and sharing snaps during the regular season. The now infamous “Doomsday Defense” was other key to the Cowboys success who finished with a 10-4 record.

“I haven’t been around many games where the players hit harder. Sometimes people watch a game and see turnovers and they talk about how sloppy the play was. The mistakes in that game weren’t invented, at least not by the people who made them. Most were forced”. 

 – Cowboys head coach, Tom Landry, on Super Bowl V. 

Despite sloppy play, this was arguably the first Super Bowl with any sense of drama as quarterback Morrall was taken out of the game with a broken rip and Colts rookie Jim O’Brien, who had an extra point blocked earlier in the game, drilled the decisive 32 yard field goal with just five seconds remaining, as Dallas once again became “next years team”.

For the first and so far only time in Super Bowl history the games MVP was awarded to a member of the losing team: Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley.

 

#31 – Super Bowl XVI: 49ers 26 – 21 Bengals (1981)

This was the Super Bowl which saw the rise of the 49ers in to a dynasty which would sustain throughout the 80’s, as legendary quarterback Joe Montana gained the first of his three Super Bowl MVP awards.

A fresh faced Montana aided the 49ers to a 13–3 regular season record with help from frequent target Dwight Clark and a strong defensive front which created problems for any team. The Bengals finished the regular season 12–4 , as Bengals veteran quarterback and league MVP Ken Anderson looked stiff competition for the 49ers.

 

Despite top performances from Bengals receivers Chris Collinsworth and Dan Ross who both had over 100 yards receiving; three Cincinnati turnovers helped San Francisco build a Super Bowl 20–0 lead at halftime, off a touchdown pass and a rushing touchdown from quarterback Joe Montana. Not to be outdone by Montana, the Bengals began to rally in the second half with quarterback Ken Anderson’s 5-yard touchdown run and 4-yard touchdown pass, but as the 49ers defense stood strong in the face of tough opposition and ultimately pulled the game out of reach, with a failed onside kick sealing the game for San Francisco.

Montana was named the Super Bowl MVP, with a total of 157 passing yards and one touchdown, while also gaining a rushing touchdown and 18 yards on the ground.

(Feature image courtesy of Tullio Saba, via Flickr (CC)

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Ranked – Best Super Bow…

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