The 10 best Super Bowls: ranked
For many years the Super Bowl had a reputation as a disappointment. Perhaps inevitably for one of the most hyped events in every sporting year, the tendency was for tight games or uncompetitive blowouts. That trend has been reversed delightfully in the past decade or so, explaining the apparent recency bias of this list. But we begin in the Eighties:
10. Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16 (1989)
Joe Montana’s third Super Bowl win, a tight game best remembered for his calmness during the game-winning fourth quarter drive and the brilliance of wide receiver Jerry Rice. Harsh on the Bengals, who were forced to play without their best running back Stanley Wilson - he’d been caught using cocaine in his hotel room the night before the game.
9. Super Bowl III: New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7 (1969)
A huge upset. The first Super Bowl won by a team from the presumed inferior American Football League, the predecessor of today’s American Football Conference. Jets quarterback Joe Namath tipsily guaranteed victory beforehand. Not many took him seriously, but his side controlled the game and a newly competitive era in the league was born.
8. Super Bowl XXXIV: St Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16 (2000)
Mike Jones’s tackle left Titans wide receiver Kevin Dyson a yard short of a game-tying touchdown in the final play. A dramatic conclusion to the Rams’ fairytale season. Led by quarterback Kurt Warner they defied modest expectations. Warner won the MVP award and the high-powered Rams’ offense he led was christened ‘the greatest show on turf’.
January 30, 2000: The Rams beat the Titans 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV in Atlanta after Titans game-tying drive fell one yard short. pic.twitter.com/o58GFt9J2U
— This Day In Sports Clips (@TDISportsClips) January 30, 2023
7. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23 (2009)
Pittsburgh led by 13 going into the fourth quarter, partially thanks to James Harrison’s Super Bowl record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. The Cardinals fought back and held the lead with less than three minutes left. But the Steelers would not be denied, and put together a 78 yard drive. A six yard touchdown for Santonio Holmes sealed a thriller.
6. Super Bowl LII: Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33 (2018)
Best remembered for the gutsy ‘Philly Special’ trick play, in which quarterback Nick Foles received a touchdown pass from tight end Trey Burton. Foles, a journeyman quarterback, became briefly world-beating in the Eagles’ run to their first championship since 1960. He starred in this excitingly high-scoring game, which unusually involved only one punt by either team.
Five years ago today, the Eagles ran "Philly Special" in Super Bowl LII.
The rest is history 🏆
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 4, 2023
5. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31 (1979)
The moment the Super Bowl became a de facto national holiday for America. A rematch of Super Bowl X with two of the 1970s’ most dominant teams. After a turbulent first half the game tightened in the third quarter, with defences on top. The Steelers went 18 points up in the final quarter and just about survived a spirited late comeback from the Cowboys.
4. Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19 (1991)
Much-fancied Bills were undone by a missed field goal by Scott Norwood in the final seconds of the game. Still the only Super Bowl to be decided by one point, and first without a turnover by either team. A tense classic which would set in motion a torturous run of four consecutive defeats in the Super Bowl for the Bills.
3. Super Bowl LI: New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28 (2017)
The outrageous comeback which elevated Tom Brady to a higher plane. The Falcons led 28-3 but there was a sense of inevitability about their unravelling once the Patriots came to life towards the end. The scores were tied with less than a minute left, sending the Super Bowl into overtime for the first time. It took Brady one drive to clinch his fifth ring.
Six years ago today, the Patriots completed a stunning comeback over the Falcons to win Super Bowl LI 🤯
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) February 5, 2023
2. Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14 (2008)
The Patriots had been undefeated all season and were heavy favourites, but the game was closer than expected. With 2.39 left the Giants trailed by four points but in the decisive drive David Tyree caught a 32-yard pass from Eli Manning with one hand on the ball, and his helmet steadying it. Lead changed three times in a breathless fourth quarter.
1. Super Bowl XLIX: New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24 (2015)
Both teams performing, close throughout, a truly memorable moment. This had it all. The Seahawks needed a touchdown from a yard out with 26 seconds left. They had all-conquering running back Marshawn Lynch who would surely run it in? Instead they tried a pass, it was read and intercepted by Malcolm Butler and the Patriots were champions. Again.