The Super Bowl, the jewel in the crown of USA’s rich sporting culture, looms large on the horizon, with Super Bowl LV taking place next month at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. With domestic viewing figures topping 100 million last year, and a growing global audience, the Super Bowl is also one of the most bet on events of the year – with the US domestic market alone estimated to be worth nearly $7 billion USD. (Click here for up-to-date odds and the latest NFL money line). While the two sides who will contest the 55th championship game are yet to be decided, one thing is for sure, very few annual sporting events can hold a candle to the NFL’s flagship spectacle. To whet the appetite ahead of Super Bowl LV next month, we have selected five classic Super Bowl encounters.
5. XXIII (1988) Cincinnati Bengals 16, San Francisco 49ers 20
Regarded as one of the all-time classics, Super Bowl XXIII threw up iconic moments for both coach and player as the 49ers snatched victory over the Bengals in Miami. Head coach Bill Walsh would announce his retirement in the locker room immediately after guiding the 49ers to their third championship under his leadership, before his successor, George Seifert, would lead the team to defend their title a year later. Star quarter-back Joe Montana put in a timeless performance to help his team to the win, but it was wide receiver Jerry Rice who would win the MVP award after scoring the winning touchdown, and setting a Super Bowl record for catching 11 passes for 215 yards.
Quarter-back Tom Brady inspired the New England Patriots to Super Bowl victory back in 2014. Image credit: Debby Wong/Bigstock.com
4. XLIX (2014) New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
Tied at 14-14 at half-time, defending champions, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks, built up a 10-point lead by the end of the third quarter, and looked in good shape to go back-to-back against Belichick’s Patriots. However, a Tom Brady inspired Patriots rallied to take a four-point lead into the dying stages, with the Seahawks finishing strongly. With 26 seconds left on the clock, Seattle had penned the Patriots back onto their own 1-yard line and looked set to snatch the victory, only for star quarter-back Russell Wilson to see his pass intercepted by rookie Malcolm Butler, whose career will forever be defined by that championship-winning intervention.
3. XXV (1990) Buffalo Bills 19, New York Giants 20
Both sides had posted a 13-3 record in the regular season, but the Bills entered the Super Bowl as seven-point favourites. Remembered as perhaps the closest Super Bowl on record, Bill Parcells’ Giants snuck a one-point victory over the Bills in a game full of drama down to the last, when Scott Norwood’s 47-yard field goal attempt in the dying seconds sailed wide right. The defeat sparked an unwanted record for the Bills, who would reach, and lose, the next three consecutive Super Bowls – a feat unmatched in history.
Quarter-back Eli Manning’s MVP display helped the New York Giants to Super Bowl success in 2007. Image credit: Debby Wong/Bigstock.com
XLII (2007) New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
Renowned as perhaps the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, the underdog Giants secured an incredible win over the much-fancied Patriots, who were one win away from going the entire season unbeaten – a feat which had been achieved only once before – by the 1972 Miami Dolphins. While the Patriots had gone 16-0 in the regular season, the Giants had comparatively stuttered into the play-offs with a 10-6 record, but a stunning tactical effort, built on an incredible defensive effort and quarter-back Eli Manning’s MVP display, saw the Giants win the championship with an 83-yard drive in the dying minutes of the game.
LI (2016) New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28 (OT)
Even in a sport full of so many contrasting opinions, you will find very few fans arguing against Super Bowl LI being the greatest finale of all-time. The Patriots down 28-3 in the third quarter, it seemed unthinkable that star quarter-back Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick would secure their fifth Super Bowl titles, but they did just that in a dramatic and epic comeback victory. The first Super Bowl to ever go into overtime, the Patriots, led by Brady throwing a then-record 466 yards, scored 31 unanswered points to seal a remarkable win.