The Super Bowl! The single greatest sporting event in the world. There is nothing else like it. Sure, every four years, sports fans are glued to the screens to watch the World Cup. And March Madness seems to garner the attention of the sports world when tourney time comes around. None of these events, however, compare to the sheer magnitude of the Super Bowl. All of America comes together with friends and family to watch the game. Men, women, children and all those in between – everyone suddenly tunes in to what has become a cultural phenomenon and unofficial national holiday.
Amid the Super Bowl parties, showered with barbecues, pizzas, chicken wings, and all that good stuff, there is also a big game to be played. And over the years, we have all witnessed some of the most incredible performances on the sports world’s grandest stage.
The pressure to win a Super Bowl is as high as it gets. Such opportunities are rare. Many of the game’s greatest players never even get a chance to play in this game. Even the ones who do get to play often don’t realize it could be their only opportunity.
With all of that in mind, let’s dive in and take a look at the greatest Super Bowls of all time.
Super Bowl XXXIX (2004-05)
Final Score: New England Patriots 24 – Philadelphia Eagles 21This was a back and forth roller coaster ride for NFL fans, who got to watch a true battle of wills unfold in front of their eyes. The Eagles were led by quarterback Donovan McNabb and wide receiver Terrell Owens. The tandem showed up for the big game, with Owens securing nine catches for 122 yards in the game. But it was not enough to take down a surging Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who secured their back to back championships, as well as three in four years, thereby launching the start of their decade and half of unmatched domination.
Super Bowl XVI (1981-82)
Final Score: San Francisco 49ers 26 – Cincinnati Bengals 21
The first of Joe Montana’s Super Bowl victories was one of the best as well. Montana was able to lead his team to a commanding 20-0 lead by halftime. But the Bengals weren’t just going to give up, admirably clawing their way back to trim the lead to 20-14. Unfortunately for Cincinnati fans, it was not enough, as they were unable to overcome what would end up being the start of an incredible run of domination by Montana and the 49ers through much of the 1980s.
Super Bowl XXXI (1996-97)
Final Score: Green Bay Packers 35 – New England Patriots 21
Brett Favre became a legend in the Green Bay area after winning the Super Bowl at the end of the 1996 season. He was by far the best quarterback in the NFL in the mid 90s, after winning the league MVP Award three consecutive years from 1995 through 1997. This Super Bowl put him over the top, throwing for two touchdowns in the process. Desmond Howard’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was the highlight of this Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XXXIII (1998-99)
Final Score: Denver Broncos 34 – Atlanta Falcons 19
The Broncos were able to get the second of back to back Super Bowls in the late 90s, sending John Elway off into the sunset in style. This time around, the Broncos played a much more balanced game, with a healthy dose of both Terrell Davis and Elway slinging the ball all over the field. One of the most memorable moments from the game was a deep 80-yard touchdown pass from Elway to Rod Smith. And suddenly Denver went from having no Super Bowls to two in as many years.
Super Bowl XL (2005-06)
Final Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 21 – Seattle Seahawks 10
Big Ben’s first Super Bowl was not won on the back of his throwing arm. In fact, he had a terrible game, in which he only threw for 123 yards on the day. In the end, a star-studded defense, led by safety Troy Polamalu held the Seahawks in check all night. And the Steelers were able to get a big game out of eventual MVP Hines Ward, who caught a 43-yard touchdown from fellow receiver Antwaan Randle El, on a fourth quarter trick play.
Super Bowl 50 (2015-16)
Final Score: Denver Broncos 24 – Carolina Panthers 10
A classic matchup of the number one offense (CAR) versus the number one defense (DEN) in the league. The Broncos came out and proved they had one of the best defenses in NFL history. What was a potent and explosive offense all year long faced a hungry pass rush, led by edge rusher Von Miller. Miller strip sacked Panthers quarterback Cam Newton several times over the night, including on a late fourth quarter drive to seal Peyton Manning’s second career Super Bowl ring.
Super Bowl XLV (2010-11)
Final Score: Green Bay Packers 31 – Pittsburgh Steelers 25
Another star was born on this day, as Aaron Rodgers reached the pinnacle of the sport, forever justifying the Packers’ decision to let Brett Favre go in his favor. In the game, the Packers jumped all over Pittsburgh, to take a commanding first half lead. But after Charles Woodson broker his collarbone, the Steelers began to mount a strong comeback. In the end, Green Bay came up with a critical defensive stop to win the championship.
Super Bowl XLIV (2009-10)
Final Score: New Orleans Saints 31 – Indianapolis Colts 17
Peyton Manning’s attempt to claim his second Super Bowl title fell short in this game, as Drew Brees and the Saints brought the Lombardi Trophy to the Big Easy. In a close game, Saints head coach Sean Payton called an onside kick to open the second half. As Manning and the Colts marched down the field trying to tie the game in the waning moments, Tracy Porter intercepted his pass and returned it for a touchdown. And that was all she wrote.
Super Bowl XLVII (2012-13)
Final Score: Baltimore Ravens 34 – San Francisco 49ers 31
This game had a little bit of everything. One thing you usually don’t see every day (or ever for that matter), is a clash of two brothers coaching against each other in the Super Bowl. The Harbaugh brothers did just that, and the game did not disappoint. The Ravens were able to take a substantial 28-6 lead in the second half. But then, in a strange occurrence, the power went out in the stadium, leading to a 34-minute delay of the game. By the time playing resumed, Baltimore had lost all of its momentum, and the 49ers were able to mount a strong comeback, cutting the lead to 28-23 in the third quarter alone. But it was not enough to overcome a determined Ravens team, who strategically took an intentional safety in the final minutes to help secure the championship.
Super Bowl XVII (1982-83)
Final Score: Washington Redskins 27 – Miami Dolphins 17
The Dolphins came out strong in this one, taking a 14-3 lead going into halftime. But Washington stayed true to their game plan, looking for the right opportunity to strike back. With under five minutes remaining in the game, they found it in the form of a 43-yard touchdown scored by running back John Riggins, on a critical 4th down play. The touchdown gave the Redskins the lead, going up 20-17, and eventually they took the win.
Super Bowl X (1975-76)
Final Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 21 – Dallas Cowboys 17
The Steelers captured their second Super Bowl victory in a row when they defeated the Cowboys in Super Bowl X. While it was the Steelers’ Steel Curtain defense that led the team to the big game, the offense was able to put together some big plays to secure the win. In particular, Lynn Swann’s 64-yard touchdown catch helped to put Pittsburgh up for good. Though the Cowboys were eventually able to make it a close game, a win against the Steelers proved to be too daunting of a challenge for Dallas to overcome in this game.
Super Bowl III (1968-69)
Final Score: New York Jets 16 – Baltimore Colts 7
This game earned its place on this list for many reasons. To start off, this was the first official championship game to be named the “Super Bowl.” In the days leading up to the game, the public consensus was that the Colts would have a resounding victory. Joe Namath famously and publicly assured a Jets victory, despite the fact that his team was the underdog. At the time, most people believed that NFL teams were far superior than their AFL counterparts. Adding to that sentiment was the team’s respective performances leading up to the game itself. While the Colts had a 13-1 record, the Jets were 11-3. Despite the lack of public faith, Namath and the Jets wound up victorious, paving the way for the AFL to get the proper recognition it deserved.
Super Bowl XXXVI (2001-02)
Final Score: New England Patriots 20 – St. Louis Rams 17
This is the game that started the Patriots dynasty. Prior to this day, The Pats had never won a Super Bowl or championship of any kind. It was truly the beginning of an era. Bill Belichick and sophomore quarterback, Tom Brady, shocked the world, when they took down the “Greatest Show on Turf.” With a feisty defense on New England’s side, they were able to implement a game plan to slow down the Rams offense. Eventually, it all came down to Brady driving the ball down the field and setting up Adam Vinatieri for his first Super Bowl winning field goals.
Super Bowl XXXVIII (2003-04)
Final Score: New England Patriots 32 – Carolina Panthers 29
When it rains it pours… and after winning their first Super Bowl in upset fashion just two years prior, New England was hungry for more. For the majority of the first half, neither team was able to score a single point. And then, of course there were 24 points scored in the final (roughly) three minutes of the half. The fourth quarter also saw a whopping 37 total points scored between the two teams, leading to a back and forth thrill ride for fans. Adam Vinatieri nailed a 41-yard field goal, with just four seconds left on the clock, to give the Patriots their second Super Bowl title in three years.
Super Bowl XXV (1990-91)
Final Score: New York Giants 20 Buffalo Bills 19
The old mantra “defense wins championships” was proven here once again. Both of these teams came in to the postseason with a 13-3 record. But each achieved their success in quite different ways. The Bills fielded a high-powered no-huddle offense, while the Giants’ defense permitted an NFL low 212 points on the season. Something had to give. As the relatively low final score indicates, the Giants defense was largely able to handle the Bills’ potent attack. Despite their low scoring output, the Bills had the chance to win the game, but it didn’t happen. Kicker Scott Norwood missed a 47-yard field goal as time expired that could have given them the victory. The last minute drama to decide the champion is what dictated this game’s high ranking among the best Super Bowls in history.
Super Bowl XXXII (1997-98)
Final Score: Denver Broncos 31 – Green Bay Packers 24
“This one’s for John” were the infamous words spoken by Broncos owner Pat Bowlen. The statement referred to the fact that John Elway, who had taken the team to three Super Bowls during his career and lost all of them, was finally able to secure the elusive Super Bowl ring. A 37 year-old Elway laid his body on the line several times during the game, most notably on the renown “helicopter play.” This was the first Super Bowl victory for Denver, and it was thanks to this defense combined with a dominant Terrell Davis, they were able to out-duel back-to-back MVP Brett Favre and the Packers to win it all that year.
Super Bowl LII (2017-18)
Final Score: Philadelphia Eagles 41 – New England Patriots 33
Talk about a crazy game of offensive production. The most recent Super Bowl ended up having the most total yards in any NFL game – ever! The Patriots and Eagles (the underdog in the game) put up a combined 1,151 yards of total offense. The Pats’ 33 points were also the most ever for a losing team in a Super Bowl. Brady broke the record for most passing yards in a SB with 505. He was a relentless quarterback who just wouldn’t give up and he tried for a hail mary in the last play of the game, but it fell short. In the end, Brady was unable to secure his sixth Super Bowl title. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Super Bowl XXXIV (1999-2000)
Final Score: St. Louis Rams 23 – Tennessee Titans 16
It’s amazing what a great quarterback can do for a football team. When Kurt Warner took over as the starting QB for the St. Louis Rams, not many people expected him to lead the team to Super Bowl glory. But Warner had big expectations for himself, and he altered the team’s culture into one with a winning attitude. In what would come to be known as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” the Rams found themselves at the center of the football world, behind a highly prolific offensive juggernaut. The Titans had the ball as the clock was ticking down on this championship matchup. With just six seconds left, Titans receiver Kevin Dyson caught a pass and was headed toward a tie. He was tackled inside the one-yard line, as his outstretched arm reached just short of the goal line.
Super Bowl XLIII (2008-09)
Final Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 27 – Arizona Cardinals 23
The return of Kurt Warner to the top echelon of NFL quarterbacks, helped the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl in highly unexpected fashion. In the game itself, the Steelers were able to build a comfortable 20-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But Warner and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald kept believing and ultimately retook a 23-20 lead with just over two minutes remaining. Big Ben was as clutch as ever, though, leading the Steelers 78 yards down the field, capped off by a six-yard touchdown strike to receiver Santonio Holmes. Pittsburgh would go on to become the first franchise to ever capture six Lombardi Trophies.
Super Bowl XIII (1978-79)
Final Score: Pittsburgh Steelers 35 – Dallas Cowboys 31
It says a lot when you become the first team to score 30 points in a Super Bowl and still lose the game. That’s what happened to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII. This game featured a lot of scoring and record-setting performances. For instance, Terry Bradshaw broke Bart Starr’s record for most passing yards in Super Bowl. He accomplished that feat by halftime, when he already had 253 yards. The 21-17 halftime score made things very interesting. And after the Steelers scored two touchdowns within 19 seconds in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys did their best to have a comeback, also scoring twice thereafter. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they came up short, and the Steelers became the first franchise to ever win three Super Bowls.
Super Bowl XLII (2007-08)
Final Score: New York Giants 17 – New England Patriots 14
The Pats had already established themselves as one of the strongest dynasties in NFL history by winning three Super Bowls in short order. None of those championship teams had been glorified quite like this squad, though, which came in to this SB with a perfect 18-0 record. They were the first team since the 1972 Dolphins to have an undefeated season, and the first ever with a full 16-game slate. These Pats were also considered one of the best offensive units of all-time, and it appeared that there was a major mismatch in this clash with Eli Manning and the Giants. After New York’s defense held the high-powered Pats to just 14 points, Manning had a chance to lead his team to victory with around two minutes left. This drive encompassed the infamous David Tyree helmet catch, which helped the Giants move the chains on their way to a shocking 17-14 Super Bowl victory.
Super Bowl XLIX (2014-15)
Final Score: New England Patriots 28 – Seattle Seahawks 24
The Seahawks had just come off a Super Bowl victory the year before, and were looking to solidify themselves as a dynasty, by taking down the real dynasty of the 2000s in the Patriots. In the game itself, the teams reached a 14-14 tie by halftime. The hawks were able to take a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but a hungry Pats squad was determined to reclaim their throne had other plans. With just over two minutes left in the game, Brady helped New England score twice and take a 28-24 lead. Russell Wilson drove the team all the way to the Pats’ one-yard line. And then, one the most controversial play calls happened when Seattle Coach Pete Carroll called a pass play. Wilson’s pass was intercepted by Malcolm Butler, and the Patriots secured their fourth Super Bowl title in dramatic fashion.
Super Bowl LI (2016-17)
Final Score: New England Patriots 34 Atlanta Falcons 28
If you enjoy a good comeback, this was one for the ages. In what many consider the greatest comeback in NFL history, the New England Patriots found themselves in a major hole late in the game. Down 28-3 in the third quarter on the grandest of stages, Tom Brady engineered a roaring explosion from his team. It included several touchdown drives and two point conversions. Falcons owner Arthur Blank had already joined the players on the sidelines thinking that the game was over. Little did he know, he would get a front row view of his team’s epic collapse.