10 Takeaways from Super Bowl LIII
I get it, casual football fan.
To you, I’m sure Super Bowl LIII was… boring.
I’m sorry the high-powered Rams offense and the Tom Brady-led Patriots couldn’t bring you the 74-point, 1000-yard offensive showcase that the Pats and Eagles did last year. And for the two squads this time around to manage only 16 points in the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever? It has to be a let down.
This game was WEIRD, man.
Even the halftime show was weird.
But hey, it was close the entire time except for the very end.
I mean, you know me. I’m only a LITTLE bit invested in it.
At 4:30pm (two hours before game time), I told my friend I could already feel my heart rate accelerating.
After Sony Michel scored in the fourth quarter to put the Patriots up 10-3, my heart rate did begin to decrease a little bit.
And as we speak, the Patriots are taking their victory parade through the streets of Boston.
They won their sixth Super Bowl championship on Sunday- weeks after I publicly wrote them off and declared them dead.
I whiffed. Like badly.
Man, six titles. The 99-day Boston sports drought is over. What a crazy ride this season was.
The Patriots established the run early, but Tom Brady’s second pass attempt of the game was intercepted. Fortunately for New England, they forced the Rams to punt.
And punt again.
Rams punter Johnny Hekker was busy in this game, punting on the Rams first eight possessions. It was just up to the Patriots to capitalize on the Rams not being able to do anything with the ball.
They didn’t do themselves any favors when Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal in the first quarter on New England’s second drive of the game.
But after the teams traded punts for three possessions, Gostkowski finally connected on a 42-yard field goal. 3-0, New England.
It would stay that way heading into halftime.
The halftime show was… underwhelming. We’ll talk about that later.
In the second half, it was more of the same. Just when it seemed like both offenses were about to get something going, the opposing defense would make a stop. Through the first half, the Rams (who had the second-ranked offense in football) managed only 57 yards.
LA nearly managed to break through in the third quarter, though. Brandin Cooks beat Stephon Gilmore and was left all alone in the end zone, and Jared Goff’s pass looked like it might put the Rams ahead. But Jason McCourty made an excellent recovery, and knocked the ball out of Cooks’ hands before he was able to maintain control. The Rams had to settle for a field goal,
and Greg Zuerlein connected on a 53-yard field goal, capping off a 10-play, 42-yard drive that tied the game at 3 heading into the fourth quarter.
It was from there that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels made some slight adjustments that almost immediately yielded results. The teams traded punts before the Patriots got the ball on their own 31.
Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski for 18 yards, then Julian Edelman for 13 yards. He hit Rex Burkhead with a short pass for 7, putting the ball at the Los Angeles 31. On the next play, Brady went back to Gronkowski, completing a pass for 29 yards that put the Patriots in the red zone for the first time.
Sony Michel punched it in from the 2, finally scoring the game’s first touchdown.
On the very next possession, Jared Goff threw off his back foot toward the end zone intended for Cooks. This time, Gilmore stuck with his man, and intercepted the underthrown ball.
9 plays and 72 yards later, all of them coming on the ground, Gostkowski nailed a 41-yard field goal, and that would prove to be all she wrote.
In a game that was supposed to be a Super Bowl shootout, it was the defenses of the two teams that ultimately claimed the day.
Julian Edelman was named the game’s MVP, as he was the most productive offensive player, with 10 catches for over 140 yards.
Bill Belichick became the oldest coach, at 66, to win a Super Bowl. Tom Brady became the oldest quarterback, at 41, to win a Super Bowl.
Despite the lack of scoring, there’s a lot to unpack here. Here are my ten immediate reactions to the game.
1. Patriots MVP- Bill Belichick.
This win was an important notch in Bill Belichick’s belt. With no outstanding players (at least not overtly), it came down to the coach’s game plan that made the difference. The defensive scheme work time and time again confused Jared Goff, to the point where you could see his uneasiness creeping in on him as the game wore on. From changing defensive plays inside 15 seconds on the play clock, to keeping constant pressure on Jared Goff and shutting down the running game, Belichick’s defensive mastery harkens back to Patriots victories like that in Super Bowl XXXVI, where they held the “Greatest Show on Turf” to 17 points while forcing three turnovers, and multiple AFC playoff games, against Peyton Manning and the Colts (2005, when the Pats held the league’s best offense to 276 yards and 3 points), and Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs in this season’s most recent AFC Championship game. Much like the Red Sox under the direction of Alex Cora, Bill Belichick showed us why he is the best coach in all of football with his preparation and proper execution.
2. Rams MVP- Johnny Hekker. I guess.
If you can him an MVP. Hekker did a lot of work in the game, punting 9 times. He also set the record for the longest punt in Super Bowl history at 65 yards. But aside from that, the Patriots’ scoring drives came on punts that landed outside the New England 20 yard line. Honestly, it could have been the Rams defense for keeping the Patriots to 13 points. It could have been, but they lost. Last time I checked, losing teams don’t have MVPs.
3. In a season dominated by offense, this Super Bowl showed us that defense hasn’t gone away.
I think this season spoiled us. I think players like Patrick Mahomes have spoiled us. Not to put this all on the 2018 NFL MVP, but he did throw for 50 touchdown passes this season, and his Chiefs were lighting up opposing defenses. And when we saw a 54-51 instant classic between the Rams and Chiefs on a Monday night (or even a 43-40 game between the Chiefs and Patriots), everyone assumed that this offensive gun show was just the new way of the NFL now, that defenses were becoming obsolete because teams with great offenses could score pretty much at well. Take a look at coaches like Sean McVay, even. He’s young, pretty (that has nothing to do with it but his physical appearance was a main talking point at my Super Bowl party), and has a great football mind. He’s made headlines with his near-photographic memory. It’s flashy, it’s new, and because the new kid was successful in such a high-profile, exciting way, we all thought the league was turning into the high-powered offense show. This Super Bowl showed us that defense still wins championships. The Patriots’ defensive unit, a squad devoid of a real A-list star, played cohesively and dominated. The Rams didn’t run a single play inside the red zone. High-powered offense, who?
4. The blame for the Rams offensive ineptitude can be placed on Jared Goff...
The guy looked like a deer in the headlights. What stood out to me is his obvious unraveling as the game progressed. On the Rams’ first drive, Goff was flushed out of the pocket, then slyly got rid of the ball, throwing it away before stepping out of bounds. On a play in the 2nd quarter, on 3rd down, he was flushed out of the pocket once again, pressured by three Patriot defenders. Rather than chucking the ball away, he took a 14-yard sack, sinking to his knees in what looked like total defeat and concession to the play. The Patriots would change their defensive plays inside the 15-second mark on the play clock and Goff had no idea what to do. Now, it is not Jared Goff’s fault that his pass intended for Brandin Cooks (that should have put the Rams ahead) was knocked away by Jason McCourty. McCourty made an excellent defensive play. But the Gilmore interception in the fourth to ice the game was absolutely his fault. It was a terrible throw, on the run, off his back foot, and under thrown. Goff’s a good player, but he didn’t look ready for prime time in this game.
5. But the real blame deserves to be placed on Sean McVay. He’s not as smart as we think he is.
I feel like the Rams spent so much time on defense trying to contain Tom Brady and the Patriots offense, that they completely forgot to develop their offense. It’s like they just thought that their offense was good enough and just kind of left it as-is to “play their game” against the Patriots. McVay got 100% outcoached in this game. He conceded that in his postgame speech; talking about “buzz sequences” and “quarters strategies” or “packages” or whatever. I’m convinced that he’s just using football jargon to make himself sound smarter than he actually is. I was so surprised that the Rams didn’t come out and try to catch the Patriots off guard with some no-huddle, or some more play action, or perhaps even running the ball on 3rd and short instead of trying to force the ball to your receivers that were being covered to no end, especially late in the game when it began to turn into a stalemate. It’s like McVay had this whole game plan developed, except he did it in reverse. They ran the ball early, and then we never heard from Todd Gurley again (I think he was hurt). 27 of the Rams’ plays went for zero or negative yards. He focused too much on defense and forgot to coach the offense. He could have made some adjustments and those never happened. When you play the Patriots, and especially in a high-stakes game like the Super Bowl, you better be ready to play a full 60-minute game that is constantly in motion. Bill Belichick would rather tell you nothing and make you think he’s stupid than try to prove he knows everything. Now, McVay is not a bad coach. But he’s got a lot of learning to do in order to be a truly great one. This time, the master is the victor, not the pupil.
6. The halftime show was hot garbage.
Again, if you were a casual fan, everything about the four-plus hours of game sucked. And that includes Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi’s performances during the halftime show. Was there no one else, NFL? Have you really burnt bridges with every other big name performer that we had to listen to Maroon 5 sing “She Will Be Loved”??
This was probably the most bizarre group of performers ever assembled for a halftime show. Adam Levine looked like he was having the time of his life, clearly. And he just kept taking off clothes. Now, I’m not going to lie, I like Maroon 5. I don’t think they’re bad. But I just think they were a bad pick. And cramming Travis Scott and Big Boi (but not Andre)? This whole thing was a culmination of the NFL’s connection to the outside world. Bland and out of touch.
AND ANOTHER THING. Don’t show me Spongebob and then give me Travis Scott singing Sicko Mode. How DARE you.
7. Sony Michel has come into his own and I apologize for everything I’ve ever said about him.
Michel has been brilliant for the Patriots on ground in the latter half of the season. In this game alone, he rushed 18 times for 94 yards and a touchdown. But more than that, he’s turned into the sturdy, solid, every-down back the Patriots haven’t had since Corey Dillon was in the backfield.
My one qualm is that I wish his selection had been in a later round of the draft, but I am pleased to see Michel has blossomed into a good running back, and I hope the Patriots don’t screw it up with him in three years.
8. Tom Brady has at least one (or more) playoff runs left in him.
There is no “cliff.” Let me just say, first and foremost, that this “cliff” everyone wants Brady to fall off does not exist. He is not going to wake up one morning and suddenly be like Charles Barkley from Space Jam. The dude is a phenomenal athlete, and this season has shown me that he’s got the stuff to continue playing at a high level. Between the ages of 39 and 41, the guy has won two Super Bowls, and in the one he lost, he threw for 505 yards, which was a Super Bowl record.
It has never been about going out on top for Tom Brady. He will stop playing once he feels he is no longer able to. I think he wants another ring, another MVP, another passing record. He wants more. And the rest of the world is going to have to live with the fact that the man that Father Time forgot is going to be torching defenses for the foreseeable future.
9. The Patriots got hot at the right time.
In my funeral for the Patriots a few months ago, I said that I hoped that Bill Belichick hadn’t shown us the full potential of his team, and I think we saw that during this playoff run. It started with a dismantling of the Chargers, and then two great defensive showings against the Chiefs and Rams. Even after dismal months to open and close the season, they got the job done- even after everyone counted them out. Again.
I almost feel like Belichick could be recycling old game plans from his first go-around of Super Bowls: his teams aren’t fantastic on paper, but they play strong, hard-nosed football, and they’ll beat you on the ground as well as on the defensive side of the ball.
But whether Brady is throwing for 500 yards, or the defense gets 7 turnovers, what matters is that the Patriots were playing the best football at the right time. Their 18-1 season in 2007 showed us that it doesn’t matter how good you play in September. If you don’t play well in January and (especially) February, nobody cares. The Patriots played their best and smartest football when it mattered most. Love them or hate them, they earned this one.
10. You are a slave to the Super Bowl.
That’s right. Even if you have a negative opinion on the game. If you watched the game and found it boring and did nothing about it, you are a slave to the game.
Why were you still watching if the game was boring? Just turn it off. Don’t bitch about it on Facebook or Twitter about how boring it was, just turn it off! If you liked defense, that game was incredible. Just because it wasn’t another 41-33 game doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good game.
You can call it boring all you want. But you can’t stop watching. That’s the effect this game has on people- it will make you wait for things to get exciting. But don’t complain when you get let down by it. You chose to watch it, not the television.
Anything I missed? Tell me your thoughts from the Super Bowl! Leave a comment down below.
Don’t forget to check out my other Super Bowl article, the Top 10 Super Bowls of All Time, by clicking HERE.
Top 10 Super Bowls of All Time
Well, Super Bowl LIII is in the books.
And let me just say outright that it doesn’t make this list.
But, for what it’s worth, the Super Bowl has given more than a few games to remember. In honor of Super Bowl Sunday, let’s take a look at the best Super Bowl of all time.
Super Bowl XIII
Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31
January 21, 1979
Orange Bowl- Miami, Florida
If you explain to someone in the 1970s what the NFL was like, look no further than Super Bowl XIII, which featured the Steelers and Cowboys- definitively the two best teams of the decade. The Steelers offense featured Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. On defense, the “Steel Curtain,” including “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Hamm, and Mel Blount. The Cowboys, led by coach Tom Landry, had an impressive group of their own, led by future Hall of Famer Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett and Drew Pearson.
In the third quarter, with the Steelers leading 21-14, Staubach spotted tight end Jackie Smith wide open in the middle of the endzone. Smith slipped in the end zone and could not hang on to the pass, which would have in all likelihood tied the game. The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal to make it 21-17, only to see the Steelers pile on two more touchdowns to make it 35-17. The Cowboys would not go quietly, scoring twice with under seven minutes to play, but the Steelers recovered the onside kick to ice it, with a 35-31 victory.
Super Bowl XXXVIII
New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29
February 1, 2004
Reliant Stadium- Houston, Texas
Everyone remembers this game for Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s infamous moment at the halftime show. But there was a game surrounding it, thank you very much. Super Bowl XXXVIII was scoreless for the first quarter and a half, and it looked to be headed in the direction of a low scoring football game. But the teams combined for 24 points in the last 3:05 and never looked back. The Carolina Panthers, who the year before finished 1-15, actually led in the fourth quarter of the game, as Jake Delhomme hit Muhsin Muhammad with an 85-yard touchdown pass to put Carolina up 22-21. But Tom Brady and the Patriots struck back with an 11-play, 4-minute drive to regain a 29-22 lead. The Panthers would tie it thanks to a pass from Delhomme to Ricky Proehl (who tied Super Bowl XXXVI for the Rams), but simply left too much time on the clock for Tom Brady (not to mention a kickoff from John Kasay that went out of bounds), as the Patriots drove down to the Carolina 28-yard line, allowing Adam Vinatieri to make the game-winning 45-yard field goal. The Patriots would win their second Super Bowl in three years. I would say this game really marked the beginning of the Patriot dynasty, as New England would win their third Super Bowl the next year.
Super Bowl XLVI
New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17
February 5, 2012
Lucas Oil Stadium- Indianapolis, Indiana
The New York Giants finished the season 9-7, which was the lowest ever winning percentage for a Super Bowl winning team (56.3%). The Patriots, who finished 13-3, were looking for their fourth Super Bowl title, and to avenge their loss from four years earlier, when the Giants had spoiled their potential undefeated season. Still, the Giants needed overtime to defeat the 15-1 Green Bay Packers in the NFC Title Game, and the Patriots lucked out on a missed field goal from Billy Cundiff in the AFC Championship Game. But here they were.
The Giants jumped out to a 9-0 lead before the Patriots roared back with 17 unanswered points. The Giants would add 6 more, and the two would enter the fourth quarter with New England up, 17-15 (of course, what would a Super Bowl with the Patriots be if not close and absurdly dramatic). With 4:06 left in the game, New England had the ball at the Giant 44-yard line on 2nd and 11. Tom Brady fired a pass to a wide open Wes Welker at the New York 21. Welker, famous for his solid hands, dropped the pass, which would have made the Giants burn their last time out and all but put the game away had he completed it. The Patriots had to punt, and Eli Manning once again worked his playoff magic, connecting with Mario Manningham on a 38-yard gain, where Manningham managed to keep both feet in bounds on the play. The Patriots famously let Ahmad Bradshaw score a touchdown to put the Giants up 21-17, giving Brady and the Pats 57 seconds to drive down the field and score. They could not, and the Giants handed Bill Belichick and New England their second Super Bowl loss in 4 years, bringing the New England dynasty into serious question.
Super Bowl XLVII
Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31
February 3, 2013
Mercedes-Benz Superdome- New Orleans, Louisiana
Everything changed when the lights went out. The Ravens were running away with the game, leading 28-6 after the opening kickoff of the second half, thanks to three Joe Flacco touchdown passes, and Jacoby Jones returning the second half kickoff for a touchdown. But then came the power outage (thanks, Beyonce!), stopping play for 34 minutes- one of the more bizarre episode the Super Bowl has ever known. But once the power was restored, everything changed for Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers.
San Francisco went on a tear in the third quarter, scoring 17 unanswered points to bring the score to 28-23 heading into the fourth quarter. With just over 10 minutes remaining, and the Ravens up 31-23, Colin Kaepernick scampered 15 yards for an electrifying touchdown run, putting the Niners behind by only 2. However, Kaepernick’s attempted two point try fell flat, and the pass sailed over the head of Randy Moss, keeping the game 31-29 with 9:57 left. The Ravens tacked on another 3 with a Justin Tucker field goal, but a 34-29 game was still within reach for San Francisco, as they got the ball back with just over four minutes left. San Fran made it all the way back to the red zone, but were stopped by the Ravens defense in a terrific goal line stand, turning the ball over on downs. Ravens punter Sam Koch iced a Baltimore victory by running out of his own end zone for a safety with 4 seconds left to play. In the battle of the Harbaugh coaches, John was victorious. The Ravens defense carried them all season long, and it was fitting that Ray Lewis finished his career on top with a 34-31 Super Bowl victory.
Super Bowl V
Baltimore Colts 16, Dallas Cowboys 13
January 17, 1971
Miami Orange Bowl- Miami, Florida
Ah, the Blunder Bowl. A record 11 turnovers. But hey, this was the first Super Bowl to be played after the completion of the AFL-NFL merger, so that has to count for something. Super Bowl V is most notable for the game’s final play, as Jim O’Brien hit a 32-yard field goal with 5 seconds to play to break a 13-13 tie, and give the Baltimore Colts their first Super Bowl championship.
The Colts overcame a 13-6 deficit in the fourth quarter, even after losing Johnny Unitas before halftime. Earl Morrall, the Colts backup, looked shaky, as he threw an interception on the first play of the fourth quarter. However, Tom Nowatzke’s 2-yard touchdown run tied the game at 13 with just over 7:30 left to go. The teams traded punts, and the Cowboys ended up in Colts territory with less than two minutes to play. But a costly penalty (an absurd 15-yard-plus-a-spot-foul-for-OFFENSIVE-HOLDING; thank goodness the NFL amended the rule in 1974) pushed the Cowboys back into their own territory, and and interception gave the ball back to Baltimore. With nine seconds to play, kicker Jim O’Brien was called on to be the hero for the Colts. He succeeded.
Another fun fact about this game is that the MVP went to Chuck Howley. Howley’s two interceptions were, to that point, a Super Bowl record.
Did I mention that Chuck Howley played for the Cowboys? The 70s were a weird time, man.
The Top 10
Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24
January 25, 1998
Qualcomm Stadium- San Diego, California
The Packers were defending champions, and 11-point favorites against an aging John Elway and the Denver Broncos. What strikes me most about this game is the play of Denver RB Terrell Davis, who, despite suffering a migraine headache and missing most of the second quarter, rushed for 157 yards and a Super Bowl record three touchdowns.
With the game remaining close pretty much all the way through, the Packers battled back from early turnovers and a 17-7 deficit, and tied the game at 17 early in the third quarter. Brett Favre wasn’t going away quietly. But John Elway and the Broncos, poised to shake their previous Super Bowl demons (having lost their franchise’s last four appearances- not to mention the AFC’s 13-game losing streak in the Super Bowl), had plans of their own. Elway hit Ed McCaffrey for 36 yards, putting Denver at the Green Bay 12 yard line. On 3rd down, Elway scrambled and dove for a first down. He was hit by LeRoy Butler and Mike Prior while airborne, that he was spun around in a play that would become known as “The Helicopter.” The play kept the Bronco drive alive, and Davis would score the touchdown, capping off a 92-yard march down the field. Green Bay would score early in the fourth to tie it, but both defenses tightened up after that. With 1:45 to go, Davis punched in his third rushing score of the day, putting the Broncos up for good, and winning them their first Super Bowl title.
9. Super Bowl XXIII
San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16
January 22, 1989
Joe Robbie Stadium- Miami, Florida
“Isn’t that John Candy?” asked 49ers QB Joe Montana before leading a game-winning drive to win Super Bowl XXIII. Leave it to Montana to be endlessly cool and awesome. These two teams had met previously in Super Bowl XVI, which the 49ers won, 26-21. But this time, unlike the game seven years prior, Cincinnati had upper hand for much of the contest. Thanks to a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Stanford Jennings, the Bengals found themselves up 7 heading into the fourth quarter.
But again, this is Joe Montana and Jerry Rice we’re talking about here. San Francisco orchestrated a four-play, 85-yard drive, ending with a 14-yard strike from Montana to Rice to tie the game at 13. After some great defensive play, Cincinnati made it back to the 49er side of the field, and Jim Breech nailed a 40-yard field goal to put the Bengals back on top, 16-13. Due to a penalty by San Francisco on the ensuing kickoff, the 49ers found themselves at their own 8 yard line with 3:10 left to go. Montana proceeded to pick the Bengals apart, finding receivers like Rice and running backs like Roger Craig for medium to large chunks of yardage, all the way down the field. Finally, with just over 30 seconds left, Montana fooled the Bengals and found John Taylor for the game-winning touchdown. Jerry Rice was named MVP, with 11 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown- though Joe Montana could have easily been named MVP in his own right thanks to that masterful drive.
8. Super Bowl XXXVI
New England Patriots 20, St. Louis Rams 17
February 3, 2002
Louisiana Superdome- New Orleans, Louisiana
We’re here, 17 years later, telling this story again. David vs. Goliath. Of course, the roles in 2019 are reversed. But back in 2002, it was the Patriots, led by then-second year player, first year starting QB Tom Brady, who entered the Superdome as 14-point underdogs against Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams- the “Greatest Show on Turf.”
Early on, it was the Patriots defensive efforts who stifled the Rams, leading to a pick-six by New England cornerback Ty Law (congrats on the Hall, Ty!). Brady would capitalize on third Rams turnover by finding David Patten in the back of the endzone to put the underdog Patriots up 14-3 at halftime. They’d add a field goal to increase the lead to 17-3. The spread was officially covered. But in the fourth, everything changed. What was originally a scoop and score touchdown by Patriots DB Tebucky Jones was called back by a penalty, and the Rams took advantage of the new set of downs- cutting the lead to 7 on a Kurt Warner touchdown Run.
Later in the fourth, Warner would orchestrate a fantastic drive with passes to Az-Zahir Hakim and Yo Murphy, a long rush by Offensive Player of the Year Marshall Faulk, and finally a touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl to tie the game at 17 apiece. The problem with this is that no one new who Tom Brady was yet. So the 1:20 left on the clock was no problem for the young starter. Even with no timeouts, Brady led New England down the field, highlighted by a long catch by Troy Brown that put the Patriots in field goal range. Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal sailed through the uprights as time expired, and the Patriots had won their first Super Bowl in franchise history. And that was all we would ever hear from the Patriots until the end of time.
7. Super Bowl XXV
New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19
January 27, 1991
Tampa Stadium- Tampa, Florida
From the National Anthem on down, you could tell that this game was going to be a special one. It was the Bill Belichick-led defense of the Giants, against the no-huddle, K-gun offense of the Buffalo Bills. While neither team was really able to make up anything through the air, it was Buffalo who was able to dominate on the ground, as Thurman Thomas tore it up for 135 yards and a touchdown. Even though the Giants took the lead in the 3rd quarter on an Ottis Anderson touchdown run, Jim Kelly and the Bills came right back on offense, and executed a 63-yard drive at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth, which Thomas capped off with a touchdown. 19-17, Buffalo. Jeff Hostetler and the Giants countered with their own long drive, this one 14 plays for 74 yards. Even though New York failed to get into the end zone, Matt Bahr’s 21-yard field goal put the Giants back up by one.
Okay, now for the heartbreak. The Bills finally got the Giants to punt, and they did so with 2:16 left to play. Kelly was brilliant on the Bills’ last drive, and Thomas managed to squeeze a crucial seven yards from the 36 to the Giants’ 29-yard line, setting up a potential game-winning field goal with 8 seconds to play.
And then Scott Norwood happened. The 47-yard field goal wasn’t even close. It sailed wide right, and the Giants ran out the clock, and defeated the Bills in the closest Super Bowl game in history. Don’t worry, though. The Bills would make it back to the Super Bowl the next year. And the next year. And the next year.
They’d lose all of those, too.
6. Super Bowl XXXIV
St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16
January 30, 2000
Georgia Dome- Atlanta, Georgia
This is perhaps, at least by physical standards, the closest Super Bowl of all time. Mike Jones stepped up to tackle Kevin Dyson at the one yard line, sealing a 23-16 victory for the Rams.
The Titans were propelled to the big game thanks to “The Music City Miracle,” a magical lateral kickoff return for a touchdown to defeat the Buffalo Bills. The Rams and “The Greatest Show on Turf” offense had to turn to Kurt Warner, an undrafted QB who started in the place of Trent Green, and ended up defying all expectations, finishing the year with the best offense in football. But despite out gaining the Titans in the first half, 294-89, the Rams only had a 9-0 lead by halftime. They’d go up 16-0 midway through the fourth. But Steve McNair, Eddie George and the Titans rallied- they scored three times for 16 unanswered points to tie the game.
Of course, the Rams weren’t done. On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Warner found Isaac Bruce for 73-yards, putting the Rams up 23-16. It was Warner’s only completion of the fourth quarter, but it turned out to be the winner. McNair and the Titans found themselves at their own 12 with 1:48 to go, but effective ball movement and penalties committed by St. Louis allowed Tennessee into the red zone, with McNair escaping trouble on 3rd down and finding Kevin Dyson for 16 yards. The Titans used their final timeout with six seconds to go from the St. Louis 10 yard line, setting up one of the most famous plays in Super Bowl history.
McNair hit Dyson on a quick slant over the middle, but he still had a ways to go to reach the endzone. Mike Jones quickly wrapped Dyson up and brought him down at the one yard line as the clock ran out. The image of Dyson reaching for the goal line is one of the most memorable image in Super Bowl history. But this win for the Rams was the start of something truly special, as they would dominate the league offensively for the next three years.
5. Super Bowl LII
Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33
February 4, 2018
U.S. Bank Stadium- Minneapolis, Minnesota
The greatest offensive showcase in Super Bowl history. One punt. Over 1000 yards of offense. 74 points. A trick play. The Patriots, coming off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history the year before, traveled to Minneapolis for a rematch with the Philadelphia Eagles, a franchise looking for their first Super Bowl championship. This Eagles team finished 13-3, but it was thanks partially due to their backup quarterback Nick Foles, who took the place of Carson Wentz after the rookie tore his ACL in December.
There was one punt in this game. Just one. And, to that effect, hardly any defense at all. The Eagles torched the Patriots on offense from the start, jumping out to a 16-12 lead early in the game. Then came the trick play in question. Foles lined up his offense, then faked like he was going to talk to his offensive lineman, only to have the ball snapped to Corey Clement, who handed the ball to TE Trey Burton. Foles went out for a pass and was left uncovered, and Burton found him for a shocking score, putting the Eagles up 22-12 at halftime.
But of course, Tom Brady and the Patriots cannot be counted out. Managing to keep the game close, New England battled back in a fury, with Brady completing touchdown passes to Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan, eventually the lead 33-32 with 9:22 to go. Philly wouldn’t go down quietly. Foles and the Eagles went on a 14-play, 75-yard drive that chewed up 7:01, finishing with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Foles to Zach Ertz, and the Eagles were back on top, 38-33 after a failed two-point try.
Still, there were over two minutes to go, and New England was about to get the ball back with a chance to win the game with a touchdown. But on the second play of the drive, defensive end Brandon Graham stripped Brady of the ball for the game’s only sack. The Eagles tacked on another field goal. 41-33. Still, there was 1:05 left to go. Alas, a few Hail Mary attempts fell short, and the Eagles pulled the upset for the first Super Bowl victory.
The Patriots gained 613 yards in the game, the most ever allowed in a Super Bowl by one team, and the most ever allowed in a loss. Brady passed for 505 yards, a Super Bowl record. But it was Nick Foles’ heroics, and his 373 yards and 3 touchdowns that earned him MVP honors.
4. Super Bowl XLII
New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
February 3, 2008
University of Phoenix Stadium- Glendale, Arizona
An undefeated team. A catch. An upset for the ages. We’re clearly entering the “everyone beats the Patriots” section of the list. New England finished the year 16-0, becoming only the second team in NFL history to finish a regular season undefeated since the 1972 Miami Dolphins, and the first team to ever win 16 games in a regular season. Their opponents, the New York Giants, finished with a respectable 10-6 record and would be a Wild Card team. However, their defense was solid and, if Eli Manning showed up (which, I mean, he did, otherwise the Giants wouldn’t be here), New York was a force to be reckoned with.
For a game featuring one of the best offenses in NFL history- Tom Brady’s 50 touchdown passes and Randy Moss’ 23 touchdown catches- it was extremely surprising that the game was 7-3 at halftime. It came down to the fact that the Patriots’ defense could not get off the field on third down- the Giants held the ball for over 30 minutes, and took advantage of New England’s failures to convert on third down, as Manning found David Tyree to put New York up 10-7 in the fourth. Brady would find Randy Moss to counter, putting the Patriots up 14-10 with just over two minutes remaining.
And then, absurdity. The Giants had to go 83 yards in 2:39. On 3rd and 5 from the Giants 44-yard line, Manning dropped back to pass and was immediately pressured by multiple Patriots, including Adalius Thomas, Richard Seymour, and Jarvis Green, all three of them being able to grab at least a fistful of jersey. Manning evaded all three of them, and fired the ball downfield to David Tyree, who made a leaping, one-handed grab, and came down with the ball pinned to the back of his helmet, keeping the drive alive.
Every time I watch that play, I am shocked that Tyree catches that ball.
The Giants proceeded to drive down the field, where Manning found Plaxico Burress in the endzone with 39 seconds to play, putting the Giants up 17-14. A couple of Brady Hail Mary passes fell incomplete, and the Giants completed the upset. There would be no undefeated season for the Patriots.
3. Super Bowl XLIII
Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
February 1, 2009
Raymond James Stadium- Tampa, Florida
No one thought the Arizona Cardinals had a prayer to be in this Super Bowl at the start of the season. Still, the Cardinals and Steelers gave us an instant classic in Tampa. Remember Kurt Warner? Well, this was his comeback tour, having regained the starting job with the Arizona Cardinals. The Steelers won Super Bowl XL, and were looking to become the first franchise in NFL history to win six Super Bowls.
The Steelers jumped out to a 10-7 lead, but Arizona was driving down the field as halftime neared. With the Cardinals at the Pittsburgh 1, Warner’s pass for Anquan Boldin was intercepted by James Harrison, who returned it the length of the field for a 100-yard pick six, increasing the Steelers’ lead to 10 at halftime. In the third, the lead increased to 13. But when the fourth quarter rolled around, Arizona finally got rolling. They scored 16 unanswered points, including a safety and two Larry Fitzgerald touchdowns, the second one on a dramatic, 64- yard catch and run to put Arizona ahead 23-20 with 2:37 left to play.
On the ensuing drive, though, it was Roethlisberger and the Steelers who went to work, picking apart the Cardinals defense, en route to a 6-yard touchdown pass from Big Ben to Santonio Holmes, the game’s MVP, who made a fantastic catch in the back of the end zone while falling out of bounds. The Steelers snatched victory from a valiant Arizona Cardinals squad, and became the first team to win six titles, surpassing the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers for most all time.
2. Super Bowl LI
New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28 (OT)
February 6, 2017
NRG Stadium- Houston, Texas
This was the first Super Bowl to ever require overtime to decide a winner. But what makes this game the second best Super Bowl is that it wasn’t much of a game to begin with- at least in the first three quarters. The Atlanta Falcons were all over the New England Patriots in the first half, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the second quarter. They capitalized on Patriots turnovers, and the play of Devonta Freeman, Matt Ryan, and Julio Jones was terrific. But what put the Falcons up 21 was Robert Alford, who intercepted Tom Brady’s pass and returned it 82 yards to the house. A Stephen Gostkowski field goal made it 21-3, but Tevin Coleman and the Falcons came right out after halftime and scored a touchdown. 28-3.
But there’s a reason we talk about 28-3.
The pessimist I am, I always thought this game was out of reach for New England. When James White scored New England’s first touchdown, Gostkowski missed the extra point. 28-9.
Gostkowski made a field goal. 28-12. It’s a two score game with 9:44 to go.
When Dont’a Hightower sacked Matt Ryan, forcing a fumble, and Alan Branch recovered at the Atlanta 25, I still didn’t think it was enough. Brady found Amendola, and James White added the two point conversion on the Kevin-Faulk-esque direct snap. 28-20. Okay.
Then came the Julio Jones catch. The absurd, diving catch along the sidelines, in New England territory. Now it had to be over.
But then Ryan took a sack. And then there was a penalty to push the Falcons out of field goal range. New England could get the ball back with 3:30 to go. Problem was, they were at their own 9 yard line. In order to score a touchdown, the Patriots would have to complete a drive that would be their longest of the year.
But then Brady found Hogan. And Malcolm Mitchell. And then Edelman.
Brady picked the Falcons defense apart, and James White found the end zone from two yards away. 28-26. Amendola added the two point conversion. Tie game.
Incredibly, the Patriots had all the momentum. And then, there was overtime.
When the Patriots got the ball first, you knew it was over. In 3 minutes and 58 seconds, New England drove down the field, and James White found the end zone, completing the 25-point comeback, and winning New England its 5th Lombardi Trophy.
1. Super Bowl XLIX
New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
February 1, 2015
University of Phoenix Stadium- Glendale, Arizona
I am adamant that this is the greatest Super Bowl of all time. The way it was played. The way it was a game the entire time. The catch that almost ended New England’s season. The shocking twist at the end. Super Bowl XLIX had it all.
The Patriots and Seahawks were the two best teams in the league during the 2014 season. The Seahawks looked to repeat as Super Bowl champions. The Patriots were looking for their first title in 10 years. The game line was a toss up. This game was going to be epic.
After a scoreless first quarter, the two teams exploded offensively, trading touchdowns twice. Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski to go up 14-7 with 28 seconds left. But the Seahawks, not to be outdone, drove 80 yards in 29 seconds, and Russell Wilson hit Chris Matthews for an 11-yard touchdown. 14-14 at the break.
In the third, it was all Seattle. Marshawn Lynch was unstoppable on the ground. Steven Hauschka tacked on a field goal to make it 17-14, and Wilson found Doug Baldwin to make it 24-14. To this point, no team had ever come back from down from 10 or more in a Super Bowl.
Enter: Tom Brady and the Patriots.
Using two long drives that chewed up a combined 8 minutes of clock time, Brady found Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman to come from behind, putting the Patriots up 28-24 with 2:02 to go.
On the first play after the 2 minute warning, Wilson found Lynch on a pass for 31 yards. He would find Jermaine Kearse for 33 more on a crazy pass that fell into Kearse’s arms after being batted up in the air. The crazy play gave the Seahawks the ball at the New England 5 yard line with 1:05 to go.
Marshawn Lynch brought the ball to the one yard line, and everyone thought he would punch it in from the one yard line. But on the next play, Wilson dropped back to pass, and his throw intended for Jermaine Kearse was intercepted by Malcolm Butler at the goal line.
One of the worst coaching decisions in Super Bowl history has affected the Seahawks franchise ever since.
The Patriots won Super Bowl LI in one of the greatest comebacks of all time. But the back and forth nature of the game define Super Bowl XLIX as the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
What’s your favorite Super Bowl? Leave a comment down below.