Super Bowl LIII is only days away and the customary levels of intrigue and hype are surrounding the Atlanta-hosted showdown between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams.
Tom Brady v Jared Goff – who comes out on top?
Are we set for a shootout or a defensive slugfest? Will the Rams overcome the void of experience on the big stage and repeat the Eagles’ upset of the Pats from 12 months ago? And where will this Super Bowl rank in the annals of the greatest ever? As Super Bowl fever takes hold, we named our five best of all time.
Super Bowl XXIII – San Francisco 49ers d Cincinnati Bengals 16 @ Miami, January 22, 1989
You thought the Patriots’ Tom Brady-led overtime drive to win the Conference Championship a fortnight ago was impressive? Legendary quarterback Joe Montana steered his San Francisco 49ers on a phenomenal 92-yard drive with 3:10 remaining in Super Bowl XXIII and the Cincinnati Bengals leading by three in what would be arguably the defining moment of his career.
In the huddle, Montana famously pointed out comedian John Candy in the stands to calm his teammates’ nerves. Montana pulled the strings flawlessly with ball in hand thereafter, eventually finding Joe Taylor with a 10-yard touchdown pass with just 34 seconds remaining.
Earlier, Stanford Jennings’ 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Jim Breech’s field goal looked set to carry Cincinnati to its first Super Bowl triumph. The Bengals haven’t been back to the big dance since.
G.O.A.T. wide receiver Jerry Rice’s 215-yard game edged Montana (who threw for a Super Bowl record 357 yards) for the MVP gong, though ‘Joe Cool’ would claim the honour for the third time in his career as the 49ers went back-to-back with a 55-10 demolition of the Denver Broncos a year later.
Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants 20 d Buffalo Bills 19 @ Tampa, January 27, 1991
The New York Giants’ eclipse of the Buffalo Bills ranks among the NFL’s biggest upsets – and certainly one of the most dramatic Super Bowls on record.
A seesawing classic of the highest order, the match pitted the Giants’ counterattack against the Bills’ revered no-huddle offence. The Giants – who halted the 49ers’ bid for three straight titles in an NFC Championship Game boilover – took a 17-12 lead into three-quarter time. Thurman Thomas’ 31-yard touchdown run put the Bills in front but a Matt Bahr field goal gave the Giants a one-point advantage with time winding down.
After a magnificent drive and with 20 seconds on the clock, Bills kicker Scott Norwood pushed his 47-yard match-winning attempt wide.
Giants running back Otis Anderson scooped the MVP honour, while defensive coordinator Bill Belichick – current coach of the Patriots – was widely credited for his role in the triumph.
The agonising loss marked the beginning of a golden period for the Bills laced with extraordinary heartbreak. They would go on to lose the next three Super Bowls in succession. The franchise has not made it past a Divisional Playoff since that run and have just one Wild Card appearance to show for their last 19 seasons.
Super Bowl XLIX – New England Patriots 28 d Seattle Seahawks 24 @ Glendale, February 1, 2015
Love ’em or loathe ’em, there’s no question Tom Brady and the dominant New England Patriots know how to turn on a good Super Bowl. NFL.com rated all nine of the Patriots’ nine appearances in the Brady era (2001-present) among the top 25 Super Bowls of all time – with five in the top 10.
Punch was followed by counterpunch as Brady and Russell Wilson duelled spectacularly, with both teams scoring two touchdowns in the second quarter for a 14-all halftime scoreline. The Seahawks were on course for back-to-back titles after they scored the only 10 points of the third quarter, but Brady engineered two touchdowns (giving him four for the game) in the final term to set up a four-point lead.
Then in one of the most notorious moments in Super Bowl history, Seattle called a pass play on second and goal from the 1-yard line with 26 seconds left – instead of the obvious option of using Marshawn Lynch to steamroll through for the winning TD. Malcolm Butler picked off Wilson to clinch the game for the Pats.
Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin became the first player ejected in Super Bowl history for throwing a punch at Rob Gronkowski in the dying seconds as the Patriots ran out the clock.
Super Bowl XIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 35 d Dallas Cowboys 31 @ Miami, January 21, 1979
One of the first truly great Super Bowls, the 13th edition became regarded as the standard bearer for many years after a stunning showdown between the 1970s’ two dominant teams.
It was also the first rematch of previous Super Bowl combatants, the Steelers having downed the Cowboys 21-17 in Super Bowl X. Both teams were chasing an unprecedented third Super Bowl success.
Dallas led 14-7 early in the second quarter, but Pittsburgh went on a 28-3 run that seemingly wrapped things up. The Cowboys refused to relent, however, and quarterback Roger Staubach produced two touchdown passes inside the last two and a half minutes to set up a grandstand finish, with the Steelers ultimately hanging on.
A thrilling encounter packed with memorable moments, pivotal errors and controversial calls, Super Bowl XIII smashed the existing highest-scoring Super Bowl record by 19 points, while only four since have produced a bigger total.
Super Bowl LI – New England Patriots 34 d Atlanta Falcons 28 @ Houston, February 5, 2017
When Super Bowl M rolls around in the year 2966, it’s unlikely we will have witnessed another comeback to match the Patriots’ stunning revival two years ago.
The Atlanta Falcons were headed for one of the all-time Super Bowl upsets at 28-3 over the seasoned New England Patriots in the third quarter. But Tom Brady went ballistic as the Pats posted three unanswered touchdowns – including 2-point conversions off the latter two – to send a Super Bowl into overtime for the first time.
Unsurprisingly, the OT coin toss – won by New England – proved crucial. The Patriots parlayed their irresistible momentum into a championship-winning drive from the kick-off, culminating in Jim White barrelling over for the touchdown from two yards.
Brady overtook Joe Montana with his fourth Super Bowl MVP award.
But the biggest winner on the night was undoubtedly university student John Goehrke, who fenagled a date with Eugenie Bouchard after the tennis bombshell went off early and declared the Falcons as Super Bowl champions.