The best Super Bowl games in history are those that feature drama, surprises, and nail-biting action. There have been no shortage of great Super Bowl games since the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I in January of 1967. Long time NFL football fans will no doubt have their own criteria for counting down the best Super Bowls ever, and I don’t expect my list to match any readers pick for pick. Still, I feel like I’ve come up with a pretty definitive list. Here are my picks for the top 5 Super Bowls of all time:
5 – Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19 – Any Super Bowl game that ends with a one point margin of victory has to at least get consideration as one of the best Super Bowl games of all time. So many championship games are out of reach by half time that fans are left yawning their way through the 3rdand 4th quarters. Thurman Thomas was a beast for the Bills, running for 135 yards and a TD, but even his heroics couldn’t pull out the game for the Bills. They had one last shot as Scott Norwood tried a 47 yard field goal attempt to try and win it, but the ball sailed wide right, and the Giants held on to claim the Super Bowl that year.
4 – Super Bowl XXXVIII – New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29 – Though Tom Brady’s season ending knee injury left the Patriots with a gaping hole at the QB position there is no question that this team has been the best in the NFL for the better part of a decade now. When they won Super Bowl XXXVI by defeating the powerful Rams they were dismissed as a Cinderella, one-shot wonder. However, when they came back two years later to nab their second Super Bowl title in 3 years, fans and media began to realize just how good Tom Brady and his New England Patriots really were. The game seesawed in the fourth quarter until Adam Vinatieri came through in the clutch again, kicking the game winning field goal to give the Pats a 32-29 victory. This game also featured Janet Jackson’s famous halftime show wardrobe malfunction. This has no bearing on this game’s inclusion on this list, merely a nod to a funny piece of Super Bowl lore.
3 – Super Bowl XXIII – San Fransisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16 – Though it wasn’t the best season in 49ers history (they finished the regular season 10-6), Joe Montana showed he still had a little magic left, and Jerry Rice was, as always, his favorite target. Rice caught 11 passes for a Super Bowl record incredible 215 yards, but when crunch time came Montana surprised everyone by hitting John Taylor for the Super Bowl winning touchdown. The 92 yard drive orchestrated by Montana that led to the touchdown is one of the clutch moments in Super Bowl history, and alone qualifies this game as one of the greatest Super Bowls of all time.
2 – Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14 – Everyone loves an underdog, and it could be argued there has been no bigger underdog in Super Bowl history than the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. The Patriots had been an unstoppable juggernaut all season, going a perfect 16-0 during the regular season, and cruising to easy victories in the first two playoff rounds. Tom Brady had chucked an NFL record 50 touchdown passes, and wide receiver Randy Moss had etched his own name in the NFL record book by catching 23 of those touchdown passes, breaking the legendary Jerry Rice’s long held mark of 22 in a single season. On paper it looked like it would be a cake walk, and even the most diehard Giants fans weren’t holding out much hope their team would leave the field victorious. The game was fiercely contested by both teams, and the fourth quarter was as edge-of-your-seat compelling as any drama I’ve seen unfold in professional sports. When the dust settled the Patriots were left staring in disbelief as Eli Manning and his New York Giants teammates accepted the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl champions.
1 – Super Bowl XXXIV – St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16 – As good as the underdog victory by the Giants was I had to give this legendary game the nod for top spot on the list of the top 5 Super Bowls of all time. Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk brought “The Greatest Show On Turf” into Super Bowl XXXIV, following their incredible 13-3 season. Though the Rams led through most of the game, some of the greatest drama in Super Bowl history unfolded in the fourth quarter. After the Titans scratched and clawed their way back to tie the game at 16, Kurt Warner connected with Isaac Bruce for a 73 yard touchdown to give the Rams a 7 point lead late. However, Steve McNair wasn’t about to let the book close that easily. He drove the Titans down deep into Ram territory, and only a spectacular defensive stop by Mike Jones on Kevin Dyson at the one yard line preserved the victory for the Rams. The play is one of the greatest in NFL Super Bowl lore and is known simply as “The Tackle”. A compelling game that had fans holding their breath until the final whistle, it was, in my humble opinion, the greatest Super Bowl game in NFL history.