Top Ten Super Bowls of All Time


Sophia Williams

The long history of football all comes down to this

Ivan Martinez, Sports Editor

Super Bowl 50 (yes 50, not L) is finally here!

With the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos set to square off on football’s biggest stage this Sunday, it is a time of celebration for the NFL.  Ninety-five years of heart, guts, and glory will culminate this weekend with the type of spectacle only the NFL could produce.

With the Super Bowl’s golden anniversary just around the corner, it seems fitting that we should look back at some of the greatest games ever to grace the record books. Of course, not all Super Bowls are made equal; many have fallen into obscurity (does anyone outside Indianapolis remember Super Bowl V?). But many have proven to stand the test of time. Whether it be because of historical significance, a great individual performance, or a fantastic finish, some games have set themselves apart from the rest.

With this criteria in mind, I have compiled a list of what I believe to be the top ten Super Bowls of all time. Before anyone starts complaining about the biased millennial only including games from the last two decades, rest assured that every decade is represented in my list. If your favorite didn’t make the cut, just remember that this list was based on which games were the most memorable, not the most popular. Now that that’s out of the way, let it begin!

10) Super Bowl I GB: 35 KC: 10

You can’t get any more classic than the original.

Super Bowl I, or The First AFL-NFL World Championship Game as it was originally called, featured the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and the AFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. This was, of course, back before the two leagues merged together and became the NFC and AFC respectively. Back then the common belief was that the NFL was better than the AFL. In fact, the first Super Bowl was an afterthought.

When the Packers walked into Dallas for the 1966 NFL Championship Game, people assumed the winner would go on to win the Super Bowl without trouble. The Packers beat the Cowboys 34-27 and, just as people expected, went on to steamroll the Chiefs 35-10.

This may not have been the most exciting game ever, but nobody can deny it has had a lasting impact. Who could forget Bart Starr’s touchdown pass to Max McGee, or Willie Wood’s interception of Len Dawson? And it was because of this game that every season ends with one lucky team lifting the Lombardi Trophy, named after Packers Head Coach Vince Lombardi. Not to mention the fact that this game featured an absurd 17 future hall of famers, including 14 players, 2 coaches, and 1 owner.

9) Super Bowl XXXII Den: 31 GB: 24

Now this was an exciting game.

As we get set to watch Peyton Manning take the field at the age of 39 this Sunday, let’s not forget that he isn’t the first Broncos quarterback to play a Super Bowl in his twilight years. In 1997, John Elway led the Broncos to their fourth Super Bowl appearance under his guidance in hopes of finally bringing home a championship at the ripe old age of 37. And, boy, did he deliver!

Against the Green Bay Packers, Elway led the Broncos to victory in spectacular fashion. In the first half, the Broncos star running back Terrell Davis left the game with a migraine that heavily impaired his vision. However, Broncos Head Coach Mike Shanahan had Davis re-enter the game so that Elway could execute a play-action pass at the goal line. With Davis in the game to act as a decoy, Elway was able to roll to the right and walk into the endzone for an easy touchdown.

Elway would manage to make another play with his legs in the second half. Inside the Green Bay redzone tied at 17, Elway scrambled on third down and dove forward with total abandonment to pick up the first down, but not before being spun 360 degrees in the air in what was later dubbed “the helicopter”. The gutsy run by the 37 year old quarterback set up the touchdown to take the lead, eventually leading to a 31-24 victory.

This game had it all, from a terrific quarterback matchup in Elway Vs. Favre, to a litany of memorable plays. The game does get knocked down a peg for the lack of offensive fireworks (both quarterbacks combined for less than 400 yards passing), but the plays that will live on forever make this game a must on this list.

8) Super Bowl XLVII Bal: 34 SF: 31

Ah yes, a recent one.

Super Bowl XLVII may be just three years old, but it already looks to have the makings of an all-time great. The Harbowl, as it were, pitted coaching brothers Jim and John Harbaugh against each other in the first Super Bowl to involve siblings.

Baltimore looked to have the game locked up early, leading 28-6 early in the third quarter. However, momentum swung completely when the game suffered a power outage for 34 minutes. When the lights came back, the 49ers were ready to play.

San Francisco scored 17 unanswered points and then managed to come within 6 points late. Down 35 to 29, San Francisco managed to enter the Baltimore red zone at the two minute warning. The rally fell short, however, when quarterback Colin Kaepernick  overthrew Michael Crabtree in the endzone on fourth down.

Super Bowl XLVII may lack the pageantry of some of the other games on this list, but boy, is it memorable. People will be talking about the momentum-shifting blackout for years to come, even if the 49ers did fall short.

7) Super Bowl XXIII SF: 20 Cin: 16

Super Bowl XXIII had the 49ers meet the Cincinnati Bengals for the second time in seven years. This game, however, was the more memorable of the two as it spawned the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history up to that point.

The match started slowly, with both teams exchanging field goals for the only points of the first half. When Cincinatti finally found the endzone on a 93-yard kick return in the third quarter, the 49ers answered right back with a four-play 85 yard drive to tie it at 13.

After Cincinnati recorded the fifth field goal of the game, San Francisco was given the ball on their own 8-yard line, down 16-13, with only 3:10 left in the game. That’s when Joe Montana sprang to life. The 49ers quarterback led an 11 play drive in which he went 8/9 on passing, with the defining play being a 10 yard touchdown pass to Taylor with only 0:39 remaining. Taylor’s catch sealed the game and went on to be one of the most replayed moments in NFL history.

In addition to being a great game, Super Bowl XXIII belongs on this list because of the impact it had on a generation.  For years, every kid with a football and a field pretended to be Joe Montana on that final drive.


6) Super Bowl X PIT: 21 Dal: 17

This star-studded game was a cornucopia of hall of famers, with the the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys combining for 18 members. This was also the first Super Bowl to feature two former champions, and it showed.

The game itself was rather exciting, with Pittsburgh safety Glen Edwards sealing the victory with an end zone interception as time expired, but it was the highlight reel that put this game on the list. Steelers receiver Lynn Swann had perhaps the greatest game by a wide out in Super Bowl history with four catches for 161 yards, including two of the best catches Swann ever made. The first had Swann making a mid air catch on the sideline and somehow contorting his body back in bounds the get two feet in, and the second, nicknamed the “levitating leap”, involved Swann out-jumping a Cowboys defender and knocking the ball into the air before coming down with it mid-fall.

Lynn Swann’s spectacular game single handedly thrust this game among the all-time greats. If substance is your criteria, maybe this game should be lower on the list, but based purely on lasting impact, Super Bowl X is right where it belongs.

5) Super Bowl III NYJ: 16 BAL: 7

This may be the single most important Super Bowl of all time.

By the 1968 season, the AFL-NFL merger had already been announced, but nothing was set in stone. The merger was only experimental at this point, and many thought that after just a few years, the league would break apart due to NFL dominance. The New York Jets turned this theory on its head by upsetting the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in one of the greatest upsets of all time. The legacy of this game was only bolstered by the fact that Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed the victory in the week leading up to the game.

Namath’s guarantee, coupled with the magnitude of Baltimore’s defeat, made this the most memorable of all of the early-era Super Bowls. After all, if it weren’t for this game (and to a lesser extent the Chief’s victory in Super Bowl IV) the NFL and AFL would likely still be separated today.

4) Super Bowl XLII NYG: 17 NE: 14

Speaking of upsets

Super Bowl XLII is the upset story of our time. Facing an undefeated New England Patriots team led by Tom Brady and Randy Moss, both of which were in the middle of record-breaking seasons, nobody gave the New York Giants a chance.

As the sixth seed from the NFC, nobody believed the Giants could even get to the Super Bowl. Once they did, everyone assumed that they would be slaughtered on national television. Everyone, that is, except the Giants. Before the game, Giants standout Justin Tuck predicted a 24-17 victory, prompting Tom Brady to respond “We’re only gonna score 17 points?”.

Despite their record-breaking offense, the Patriots couldn’t even muster that many points. A relatively boring game to start, the Patriots seemed to have the game in hand when they took a 14-10 lead with 2:42 left in the game. That’s when Eli Manning led a masterful two-minute drill. On third and five from their own 44-yard line, Manning managed to avoid the rush of three Patriots defenders and let loose a deep pass for David Tyree. A relatively unknown tight end, Tyree made himself a household name with a spectacular catch in which he held the ball against his helmet and maintained possession to the ground.

The play took the Giants to the Patriots 24 yard-line, and four plays later Manning connected with Plaxico Burress in the corner of the endzone. The touchdown with 35 seconds left sealed the victory and ended the Patriot’s bid to become the first 19-0 team ever.

If you don’t remember this game, you don’t watch football. The definitive upset of the new generation, Super Bowl XLII easily made the top five, and ranking it this low was a tough decision.

3) Super Bowl XXXIV STL: 23 TEN: 16

Kevin Dyson was one yard short!

This game was an absolute gem in the midst of an era where Super Bowls were regularly blow-outs. In an era when Super Bowls rarely went down to the wire, you couldn’t get closer than this.

Down by seven points, the Tennessee Titans had the ball on the St. Louis 10-yard line with 00:06 remaining. The St. Louis defence was exhausted and a run play likely would have gauged them for a touchdown, but with so little time remaining and unable to stop the clock, Tennessee opted for a pass. Quarterback Steve McNair passed to wide out Kevin Dyson who was met by Rams Linebacker Mike Jones at the three yard line. Dyson stretched the ball in desperation, but could only stretch far enough to meet the 1-yard line. Time expired and the Rams claimed victory.

This game did not feature a record-breaking performance, nor did it have any historical significance, but to this day it is the closest (literally) we have ever come to a Super Bowl going to overtime. And while we’ve come close before, this is the only Super Bowl to come down to the very last second. For these reasons, Super Bowl XXXIV earned their spot in the top three.

2) Super Bowl XLIX NE: 28 SEA: 24

Sorry Seattle fans.

This week marks the one year anniversary of one of the greatest games we have ever witnessed. On February 2 last year, the defending champion Seattle Seahawks took on the New England Patriots. The Patriots, of course, are the last team to have won back-to-back Super Bowls (2003 and 2004) and made sure to keep it that way.

After trailing for most of the game, the Patriots took the lead with 2:02 left on the clock. Then, for the third time in less than 10 years, Tom Brady had to watch his Super Bowl opponent drive down the field as time ran down. with 1:05 left in regulation. Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for 33 yards to the 5-yard line in the most spectacular catch of the game. Kearse and Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler both fell to the ground after Butler had deflected it up, but Kearse managed to get a hand on it and tipped it so that it fell on top of him.

Kearse had made an incredible catch and set up the Seahawks to score the game winning touchdown, eerily similar to the two Super Bowl defeats that Tom Brady endure against the Giants. The following play had Marshawn Lynch take the Hawks to 2nd and Goal from the 1-yard line. Instead of giving it to Lynch again, however, the Seahawks chose to throw a pass on the goalline, where Malcolm Butler became the Super Bowl hero by intercepting Wilson. The interception with 0:20 remaining sealed the victory for the Patriots and, finally, gave Tom Brady his fourth Super Bowl ring.

While some would hesitate to rank Super Bowl XLIX so highly so quickly, rest assured that this game deserves to be ranked number two. Like Super Bowl XXXIV, this game had a fantastic finish at the goal line, while also serving as the game that solidified Tom Brady and Bill Belichick’s legacy as the best QB/coach duo ever. Get used to seeing this game replayed, because it’s never going away.

1) Super Bowl XLIII PIT: 27 ARI: 23

Ok, full disclosure, I am a Steelers fan.

I’m also a football fan with eyes, which is all it takes to realize that this was one of the greatest games of football ever played. There was something for everyone in this game. Want historical significance? This was the Steelers’ record breaking sixth Super Bowl win. Want great individual performances? Kurt Warner went 31/43 for 377 yards and three touchdowns, and Santonio Holmes caught nine passes for 131 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Want memorable plays? James Harrison’s 100 yard pick-six to end the first half may be the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history. This game even had a fantastic finish for crying out loud!

Kurt Warner seemed to have won the game for the Cardinals when he connected with Larry Fitzgerald for a 64 yard strike that gave them their first lead of the game. That is until Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers down the field to score the game winning touchdown with only 0:35 remaining. And that touchdown catch. Talk about perfection. There may never be a more awe-inspiring highlight than that of Roethlisberger’s pass sailing over three Cardinals defenders and into the outstretched hands of Santonio Holmes as he barely manages to keep both feet down in the corner of the endzone.

Super Bowl XLIII was the cream of the crop at a time when exciting Super Bowls have become the norm. Some may see this ranking as a case of short memory, but rest assured, this is the best Super Bowl ever played today, and it will likely be the best in a decade.