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TGS SPECIAL REPORT...BRONCOS-SEAHAWKS & RANKING THE SUPER BOWLS!
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


It seems as if everyone has their favorite Super Bowl memories. For us at THE GOLD SHEET and others who also remember the “Supe” from its beginnings in January of 1967, however, the event takes on extra meaning. That’s because we’re part of a generation that can recall the entirety of the Super Bowl history, and one reason we believe this particular event holds such a special place in the hearts of the American sporting public beyond the simple fact it is the ultimate game of the nation’s most popular spectator sport.

But unlike the Rose Bowl, World Series, Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Olympics, or most other enduring sporting classics in which no one is around any longer who remembers those events at their origins, the Super Bowl is a relative newcomer in that sporting pantheon, as any folks in their mid 50s or older have a good chance of remembering the “Supe” from its outset in the late 1960s.

Indeed, a review of the history of the Super Bowl is like a brief panorama of nearly five decades of life and work for us at TGS as we recall each of the games, and where we were when we watched them, not to mention what we happened to forecast in those past battles!

We’ve mentioned before how we were at the first Super Bowl (and yes, it was called that in the press despite the official ”AFC-NFL World Championship game” designation) at the L.A. Coliseum on January 15, 1967 between the Packers and Chiefs. It has also become an increasingly fascinating topic each successive year to the various sports talk show hosts who feature us as guests throughout the season and into Super Bowl week.

In our corresponding issue last year, we provided a detailed recollection and account of that first Super Bowl, which was hardly played in a vacuum, as the occasional modern-day journalist likes to suggest. Indeed, along with Ali-Frazier I in 1971, we can hardly recall a more anticipated sporting event in our lifetime. There had been wishful thinking in preceding years of such a matchup, which began to gain steam in December of 1963 when Sports Illustrated suggested “A Coming World Series AFL vs. NFL” on its cover, featuring San Diego Chargers QB Tobin Rote handing off to RB Paul Lowe in the same issue that included stories about the recently-retired Bob Cousy’s debut as Boston College’s new head basketball coach, Joey Giardello’s middleweight title fight win over Dick Tiger in Atlantic City, and a thrilling Army-Navy game in Philadelphia when West Point misjudged the clock in the final seconds and ended the game without running a final play from the Mids’ 2-yard-line, keeping the Annapolis bunch at No.2 in the polls and setting up a Cotton Bowl showdown with top-ranked Texas. One heck of an issue!

The AFL vs. NFL debate was tackled by famed SI journalists Dan Jenkins, who took a pro-AFL approach, and Tex Maule, who was notorious for his belief that the AFL was an inferior product and suggested the NFL teams might be “40 to 50 points” better than their counterparts from the “other” league. He further reckoned that any matchup between the AFL and NFL might be analogous to the one-sided recent Floyd Patterson-Sonny Liston heavyweight title fights. Whatever, it was really “game on” from that point forward until the respective league champions Chiefs and Packers finally got together three years later.

(The real boiling point of the AFL-NFL rivalry, however, came during preseason games between 1967-69; by popular demand, we’re re-running our unique review of that era on our website this week.)

Each Super Bowl, however, has a different twist, and the upcoming SB XLVIII is no different. It’s the first “cold weather” Super Bowl and first in the Northeast. It also features two teams (Denver and Seattle) with a history of meetings from the days they not only competed in the same conference, but also the same division, the AFC West, from 1977-2001.

In fact, the history of the Broncos-Seahawks rivalry dates to the nascent days of the Seattle franchise and the summer of 1976, when the Seahawks played their first-ever games in the preseason. We recall being in Reno and watching Seattle’s debut on TV from the brand-new Kingdome against the 49ers on the same day the Montreal Olympics would conclude. The Seahawks, under HC Jack Patera, a longtime Vikings assistant to Bud Grant, would make a late whirlwind rally behind a then-unknown QB named Jim Zorn to come within a few yards of tying San Francisco in the last seconds before losing honorably, 27-20. A few weeks later, Seattle would travel to Denver for a preseason game against the Broncos, whose head coach John Ralston was under pressure to get the team to the playoffs and was not afraid to extend margins that campaign, even in the preseason. Pulling no punches, Denver rolled to a 52-7 win.

After competing in the NFC West in 1976 (but playing a schedule that would instead have them face each NFC team once, plus fellow expansionist Tampa Bay), the Seahawks moved to the AFC West in 1977 (while the Bucs switched from the AFC West to the NFC Central) and would play each AFC team once, plus Tampa Bay again, during the course of the campaign. In the third week of the regular season, Seattle and Denver would meet for the first time in a meaningful game. The exciting and aforementioned Jim Zorn had become the Seahawks’ starting QB the previous year, but was injured prior to the matchup at the Kingdome vs. an emerging powerhouse Bronco team and its legendary “Orange Crush” 3-4 defense, then coached by Red Miller and on its way to its first Super Bowl appearance. Behind Zorn’s backup Steve Myer, Seattle put up a spirited fight before succumbing by a 24-13 count. The Broncos would be led in rushing by Illinois’ Lonnie Perrin (with 55 yards and a TD), while WR Haven Moses caught 92 yards worth of passes. Remember those names? By the end of that season the Seahawks had begun to make some noise, closing fast to finish 5-9, at that time the best-ever record for a second-year expansion team.

By the next year (1978) the Seahawks were full-fledged members of the AFC West and would play the Broncos home-and-away for each of the next 24 seasons. At times the rivalry would be a bit testy, and the teams even once met in the playoffs in 1983, when facing one another in the AFC wildcard game at the Kingdome. It was QB John Elway’s rookie year in Denver, but he did not start the game, instead being second-string (as he was much of that season) behind the well-traveled Steve DeBerg. Elway did get into the game in the second half, long after the Seahawks (in their first season under HC Chuck Knox) would seize control in an eventual 31-7 romp.

For the past dozen seasons, however, Denver and Seattle have faced one another just three times and not since 2010 in the regular season after the Seahawks switched conferences and moved to the NFC West in the great realignment of 2002. The teams have met more recently in the preseason the past couple of years; more reference to those matchups, and our breakdown of Broncos-Seahawks, can be found in our Super Bowl analysis.

Meanwhile, it’s time to finish our updated and revised TGS all-time Super Bowl rankings. After posting the “bottom half” of our ranings in our last issue, reprinted below, the countdown continues as we rank the Super Bowls from 23 all of the way to the all-time best (at least by our calculations).

47-XXXV, Baltimore 34 - N.Y. Giants 7 (at Tampa)...An exceedingly drab game with little or no drama, dominated by the Ravens defense, which rendered the Giants’ offense helpless while holding it without a score. Indeed, the only fireworks in XXXV came in bang-bang-bang succession in the 3rd Q, with TDs on successive plays by Baltimore’s Duane Starks (interception), New York’s Ron Dixon (kickoff return), and the Ravens’ Jermaine Lewis (yet another kickoff return). Otherwise, XXXV threatened to put Sominex out of business.

46-XXVII, Dallas 52 - Buffalo 17 (at Pasadena)...The Bills’ capitulation was particularly appalling because they simply didn’t seem so overmatched in this game. But their almost-comical nine turnovers precluded this from becoming the competitive affair most envisioned. Buffalo’s only highlight was WR Don Beebe streaking downfield to slap the ball out of Leon Lett’s hand before the latter would have scored one last TD for the rampant Cowboys.

45-XXVI, Washington 37 - Buffalo 24 (at Minneapolis)...More one-sided than the final might indicate, as the Redskins enjoyed 24-0 & 37-10 leads before a couple of garbage-time Buffalo TDs made the final more respectable. Thurman Thomas forgetting about his helmet at the start of the game portended a dispirited effort by the Bills, who lost contact early and were never in the game.

44-XV, Oakland 27 - Philadelphia 10 (at New Orleans)...A disappointing showing by the Eagles, who were down 14-0 before the 1st Q ended, contributed heavily to an absolute lack of drama in XV. Three TD passes by Jim Plunkett and 3 picks by Raider LB Rod Martin highlighted the surprisingly one-sided proceedings.

43-XXII, Washington 42- Denver 10 (at San Diego)...This one ceased to be a competitive affair about midway in the 2nd Q, when the Redskins were in the midst of the most-devastating stanza in SB history. The startling 35 points (including four Doug Williams TD passes) in that period required only 18 plays in the five TD drives and set a one-quarter SB scoring record that will be hard to top, and it was all the more amazing because Denver had looked ready to score an early KO of its own when it jumped to a quick 10-0 lead. When the carnage was complete, Washington had amassed a SB record 602 yards, and theretofore obscure RB Timmy Smith gained a SB-record 204 yards rushing. With the result a fait accompli, the second half more resembled a scrimmage than a championship game.

42-XXIV, San Francisco 55 - Denver 10 (at New Orleans)...The biggest-ever SB blowout lacked any drama whatsoever. But San Francisco’s dominance was so complete, and, indeed, breathtaking, that we felt almost privileged to watch such excellence.

41-XX, Chicago 46 - New England 10 (at New Orleans)...Although this game was absolutely no contest, it was a bit more entertaining than other title game blowouts simply because the “Super Bowl Shuffle” Bears were such a colorful (and absolutely dominating) bunch.

40-XXIX, San Francisco 49 - San Diego 26 (at Miami)...Though the final margin wasn’t quite as large as some other famous SB beatings, this game was every bit as one-sided as the worst of them, as the 49ers appeared capable of scoring whenever they pleased before easing up in the 2nd half. Complete mismatch.

39-XII, Oakland 32 - Minnesota 14 (at Pasadena)...The Vikings were simply manhandled in a battle that lacked much intrigue after the Raiders moved easily to a 16-0 halftime lead and cruised home. Oakland’s dominance was reflected in a then SB-record 266 yards rushing, with vet DB Willie Brown’s 75-yard interception return TD (captured so eloquently by Raiders radio play-by-play voice Bill King) a nice capper in the 4th quarter.

38-VIII, Miami 24 - Minnesota 7 (at Houston)...A surprisingly non-competitive game, as most figured the Vikings, with Fran Tarkenton back at the controls, rated a good chance. Instead, the outcome was never in doubt past the 1st Q, with the Dolphins practically disdaining the pass (Bob Griese only threw the ball 7 times!) and instead bludgeoning the Vikes behind Larry Csonka’s 145 yards rushing. A more impressive Miami win than in the Super Bowl vs. the Redskins the previous year.

37-XXXIII, Denver 34 - Atlanta 19 (at Miami)...Denver finally got to enjoy an easy Super Bowl win in a contest that lacked any sustained drama, with the Broncos up by as much as 31-6 in the 4th Q. In the aftermath, there would be a nice “feel good” factor as John Elway, in what would be his final game, was named MVP following his 336-yard passing night.

36-XXVII, Dallas 30 - Buffalo 13 (at Atlanta)...Even when the favored Cowboys seemed to sleepwalk through the 1st half, trailing 13-6 at intermission, there seemed to be an inevitability about XXVII that the Bills would again find a way to lose, as they had done in the three previous Super Bowls. It took James Washington’s 46-yard fumble return for a 3rd-Q TD to finally turn the tide, and Dallas never seemed in danger thereafter, with Buffalo providing little resistance in the 2nd half and surrendering meekly in the end.

35-VI, Dallas 24 - Miami 3 (at New Orleans)...Although the outcome was still in doubt at halftime, when Dallas led only 10-3, the Cowboys quickly took control in the 3rd Q, and Miami didn’t threaten thereafter. The enduring memory of this game was controversial Cowboy RB Duane Thomas (flanked by none other than Jim Brown) and his famous one-word answer (“evidently”) to a long-winded question from CBS broadcaster Tom Brookshier on the postgame show.

34-XVIII, L.A. Raiders 38 - Washington 9 (at Tampa)...Another good-looking matchup that failed to materialize, the outcome essentially decided by Jack Squirek’s 5-yard interception return TD off an ill-advised Joe Theismann screen pass just 5 seconds before halftime. Indeed, the Raider dominance was somewhat startling, with CBs Mike Haynes & Lester Hayes blanketing the Skin wideouts. A number of highlight-reel runs by Marcus Allen (en route to a then-SB record 191 yards rushing) provided some excitement after the outcome was decided.

33-XXXVII, Tampa Bay 48 - Oakland 21 (at San Diego)...This game was almost more interesting for its ironies (none greater than HC Jon Gruden, in his first year with the Bucs after leaving Oakland) than any action on the field. The Raiders made it mildly interesting in the 4th Q, cutting a 34-3 deficit to 34-21, before the Bucs capped the game with a pair of exclamation points in the form of two interception TDs in the last two minutes, their 2nd and 3rd such scores of the contest.

32-II, Green Bay 33 - Oakland 14 (at Miami)...The Super Bowl concept was still enough of a novelty in January of 1968 that just seeing AFL and NFL teams on the same field was something special. Unlike the previous year vs. the Chiefs, however, Green Bay was in control from the outset and never seriously threatened. This SB would eventually gain more notoriety for being Vince Lombardi’s last game as head coach of the Packers.

31-XXI, N.Y. Giants 39 - Denver 20 (at Pasadena)...This was a bit more competitive than the Broncos’ other one-sided SB losses of the era, as Denver performed ably in the first half and even led at intermission, 10-9. But the game became a runaway before the 3rd Q ended when the Giants erupted behind Phil Simms’ deadly accuracy (completing 22 of 25 passes!) en route to a then-SB record one half record for points (30 of ‘em!).

30-XIX, San Francisco 38 - Miami 16 (at Palo Alto)...Unless you were a 49er fan, this one was a disappointment, as it failed to live up to its much-hyped “shootout” billing. The San Francisco defense, however, made sure there was no drama by muffling Dan Marino and his record-setting Dolphin offense, while Joe Montana & Co. toyed with an overmatched Miami stop unit.

29-XII, Dallas 27 - Denver 10 (at New Orleans)...What shaped up as an intriguing matchup failed to materialize as expected, as Denver self-destructed with 6 turnovers and QB Craig Morton was banished to the bench in the 3rd Q. Although the Broncos rallied briefly behind backup QB Norris Weese and hinted at a possible grandstand finish for a time in the second half, the Cowboys’ arsenal of weapons proved too much, with a couple of spectacular TDs (Butch Johnson’s acrobatic 45-yard TD catch from Roger Staubach, which might have been overturned had replay been in effect, and an option pass from RB Robert Newhouse to WR Golden Richards) sealing the outcome in the 2nd half.

28-VII, Miami 14 - Washington 7 (at Los Angeles)...Added significance because it was the final installment of the Dolphins’ perfect 17-0 season. But the game was mostly a bore after the Dolphins took control in the 1st half, with the “No-Name” defense throttling the Skins for most of the day. Became mildly interesting late in the 4th Q after Garo Yepremian’s infamous flubbed FG and Mike Bass’ subsequent TD return, but that was about the only drama of the afternoon.

27-XL, Pittsburgh 21 - Seattle 10 (at Detroit)...Although there was considerable drama for a time well into the 4th quarter, XL was a bit of a disappointment and hardly a shining hour for the referees, whose series of extremely questionable calls (almost all favoring the Steelers) at crucial moments of the game distorted the proceedings. Pittsburgh did capitalize when presented with opportunities, however, and used big scoring plays by Willie Parker & Hines Ward to shift the momentum in the second half.

26-IX, Pittsburgh 16 - Minnesota 6 (at New Orleans)...A taut affair (with a 2-0 halftime score!) dominated by LB Jack Lambert and the Steel Curtain defense, which held the Vikes to a SB-low 117 yards. Indeed, Minnesota’s offense didn’t score, but Matt Blair’s blocked punt and recovery by Terry Brown for a TD early in the 4th Q did get the Vikings within 9-6 and suggested a possible dramatic finish before game-MVP Franco Harris (a then-SB record 158 yards rushing) put the contest away, and giving beloved Steelers owner Art Rooney his first-ever title.

25-XXXIX, New England 24 - Philadelphia 21 (at Jacksonville)...The final score of the only Jacksonville SB suggests it might warrant a better ranking. But the game never had a real flow to it, there were few memorable plays, and the only enduring memories of XXXIX are the Eagles taking their own sweet time during a late drive that demanded more urgency, and Terrell Owens’ post-game complaints about Donovan McNabb. Hardly a classic.

24-XLI, Indianapolis 29 - Chicago 17 (at Miami)...Arguably the best 1st Q in SB history, featuring the first-ever opening kickoff returned for a TD (Chicago’s Devin Hester going 92 yards). But another SB first, almost an entire game played in a deluge, slowed the contest thereafter and exacerbated a feeble performance by Bears QB Rex Grossman. Although Peyton Manning and the Colts dominated the statistical battle, Chicago gamely hung around until Kelvin Hayden’s 56-yard interception TD return in the 4th quarter finally gave Indy some breathing room.

And now, the top 23 Super Bowl...all of the way to number one...

23-IV, Kansas City 23 - Minnesota 7 (at New Orleans)...There was always a delightful symmetry attached to this surprising result, as it evened the AFL-NFL ledger at 2 wins apiece before the merger and shut up the numerous “NFL supremacists” once and for all. More entertaining than the score suggests, with the brilliant and creative game plan of Hank Stram (“Sixty-five Toss Power Trap!”) immortalized by NFL Films.

22-I, Green Bay 35 - Kansas City 10 (at Los Angeles)...Historically, perhaps the most important Super Bowl of them all. No one knew what to expect, and the fact the underdog AFL Chiefs were definitely in the game at halftime, trailing the powerful Packers only 14-10, opened more than a few eyes (we know, we were there!). This one was a lot more interesting than many historians would lead you to believe.

21-XXXI, Green Bay 35 - New England 21 (at New Orleans)...Plenty of big plays, including a Super Bowl-record 99-yard kick-return TD by Green Bay’s Desmond Howard (game MVP) that effectively ended the upstart Patriots’ upset hopes in the 3rd Q. But the Packers always appeared in control, and the only late drama surrounded Green Bay’s attempts to cover the 14-point spread (a late missed FG by Chris Jacke kept the final margin at 14).

20-XVI, San Francisco 26 - Cincinnati 21 (at Pontiac)...The early-version Bill Walsh 49ers didn’t yet have Jerry Rice or Roger Craig, but they did have Joe Montana and an underrated supporting cast that was in control of this entertaining game a bit more than the final score suggests (a last-second Cincy TD cut the final margin to 5). Credit the Bengals for making it a bit more interesting when rallying from a 20-0 halftime deficit, though a dramatic goal-line stand (and a big tackle on Pete Johnson from unsung 49er LB Dan Bunz) kept Cincy at bay. Another unsung hero was 49er PK Ray Wersching, who hit 4 FGs and helped the 49ers with his effective kickoffs that consistently put the Bengals in poor field position.

19-XXX, Dallas 27 - Pittsburgh 17 (at Tempe)...The Steelers made this a more-compelling game than many anticipated, rallying from an early 13-0 deficit to close within 20-17 in the 4th Q, and might have pulled the upset had Cowboy DB (and game MVP) Larry Brown not made the second of his two picks of Pittsburgh QB Neil O’Donnell deep in the 4th Q, setting up the clinching TD for Barry Switzer-coached Dallas.

18- XLV, Green Bay 31 - Pittsburgh 25 (at Arlington)...This one teased at becoming a memorable classic, as the Steelers hinted at a dramatic comeback throughout the second half, but in the end there would be no late-game thrills as the Packer defense kept Pittsburgh far away from another last-minute miracle. Three costly giveaways including a poorly-thrown Ben Roethlisberger pass returned for a TD by Nick Collins late in the 1st Q put the Steelers in an early hole from which they could never escape.

17-XXV, N.Y. Giants 20 - Buffalo 19 (at Tampa)...Drama-wise, perhaps this one deserves to be rated higher, as it wasn’t decided until Bills PK Scott Norwood shoved his last-second, 47-yard FG just wide to the right. Norwood’s miss, however, remains the only really memorable play of a game that mostly bored because of the Giants’ ball-control tactics featuring RB Ottis Anderson (and backup QB Jeff Hostetler, who executed a bulletproof game plan) that were brutally effective, helping the G-Men control the ball for over 40 minutes vs. the high-powered and favored Bills. Though the finish was tension-packed, the game didn’t make for particularly exciting viewing in a rather tedious affair.

16-V, Baltimore 16 - Dallas 13 (at Miami)...Though perhaps the sloppiest Super Bowl with 11 turnovers (earning it the “Blunder Bowl” label instead), V nonetheless produced the first dramatic finish in SB history when Colts rookie PK Jim O’Brien nailed a 32-yard FG with only 5 seconds to play. Earl Morrall, one of the goats of SB III, relieved John Unitas at QB and performed admirably for the Colts, who still needed a couple of late picks by Rick Volk and, finally, by Mike Curtis off Cowboys QB Craig Morton to set up the tying and winning scores deep in the 4th quarter.

15-III, N.Y. Jets 16 - Baltimore 7 (at Miami)...For a long while, the historical significance of this one (first AFL victory after Green Bay wins the previous two years) demanded its inclusion in the top ten, although some recent thrillers have pushed Jets-Colts down the list. This one made Joe Namath famous after his brash “guarantee” of victory before the game. The Jet defense, RB Matt Snell (121 yards rushing and scorer of New York’s lone TD), PK Jim Turner (3 FGs), and Colt sloppiness (5 TOs) also figured prominently in game that seemed almost surreal as it unfolded, since few figured the 18-point underdog Jets had a chance to stay close, much less win! (Read more about SB III on these pages online this week)

14-XVII, Washington 27 - Miami 17 (at Pasadena)...An entertaining Super Bowl that, save perhaps for John Riggins’ exploits that included a then-SB record 166 yards rushing and a memorable, 43-yard TD run on a 4th down play with 10 minutes to play that finally put the Redskins ahead for good, seems to have been forgotten by many gridiron aficionados. The Dolphins didn’t do much offensively (only 176 yards of offense and a mere 4 pass completions combined between QBs David Woodley & Don Strock), but stayed close thanks to Jimmy Cefalo’s 76-yard TD reception and Fulton Walker’s SB-record 98-yard kickoff return TD in a game that remained tense deep into the 4th quarter.

13-XIV, Pittsburgh 31 - L.A. Rams 19 (at Pasadena)...We think this one has been a bit overlooked by Super Bowl historians, as it featured plenty of spectacular plays and a gutsy performance by the underdog Rams, behind QB Vince Ferragamo, who actually led after each of the first three quarters of play. A 25-yard HB-option TD pass from Lawrence McCutcheon to Ron Smith gave the Rams their final lead at 19-17, but XIV is more remembered for the spectacular play of Steeler wideouts Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, the latter catching a 73-yard bomb from Terry Bradshaw to put the Men of Steel up for good at 24-19 and then effectively sealing the deal with another highlight-reel, 45-yard grab to set up Franco Harris’ late, clinching TD.

12-XXXII, Denver 31 - Green Bay 24 (at San Diego)...Breaking a 13-year run of NFC Super Bowl dominance, the underdog Broncos finally prevailed after four previous SB failures in an exciting game that might be best remembered for QB John Elway’s “helicopter” scramble that secured a key first down on a 3rd-Q Denver TD drive. Yet it was RB Terrell Davis who ended up the game’s MVP with 157 yards rushing and 3 TDs, the last a game-winning 1-yard blast with only 1:45 to play.

11-X, Pittsburgh 21 - Dallas 17 (at Miami)...Though not regarded as highly as their Titanic battle three years hence, the “bicentennial” Pittsburgh-Dallas clash was a memorable one nonetheless, if for no other reason than confirming Steeler WR Lynn Swann’s brilliance with a couple of unforgettable grabs (including a late 64-yard TD catch) en route to a then-SB record 161 receiving yards. No matter Swann’s heroics, this one turned out a bit closer than Pittsburgh fans would have liked due to Roger Staubach’s 34-yard TD pass to Percy Howard (Howard’s only career catch!) with 1:48 to play, then, after getting the ball back in the last minute, moving close enough for Staubach to bomb toward the end zone from inside the Steeler 40 in the final seconds, before Glen Edwards’ pick finally sealed the game on the last play.

10-XLVI-NY Giants 21 - New England 17 (at Indianapolis)...Eerily similar to their meeting four years earlier at Glendale, this one was another grandstand finish that was also decided in the last minute by a late, long Giants TD drive led by Eli Manning, and featured another circus deep-ball catch by one of his wideouts (this time Mario Manningham after David Tyree’s heroics four years earlier). Tom Brady was bombing into the end zone on the final play, but a cautious short-passing game and lack of big plays limited the impact of the Patriot “O” throughout.

9-XXIII, San Francisco 20 - Cincinnati 16 (at Miami)...Lots of drama, as despite being outgained by a near 2-to-1 margin, Cincy hung tough thanks to Stanford Jennings’ 93-yard kickoff return TD late in the 3rd Q and a couple of missed FGs by 49er PK Mike Cofer, and even held a late 16-13 lead thanks to a Jim Breech FG with only 3:20 to play. But the incomparable Joe Montana cemented his place in Canton by authoring perhaps the best winning drive in Super Bowl history, taking the 49ers 92 yards to the title, culminating with a 10-yard TD toss to John Taylor with just :34 to play.

8-XLIV, New Orleans 31 - Indianapolis 17 (at Miami)...More compelling than the final scoreline suggests, as the underdog Saints were still trailing deep into the 4th Q and didn’t put the game away until Tracy Porter’s 74-yard interception return for a TD with 3 minutes to go. Although the game lacked some anticipated fireworks, it had sustained drama, with Porter’s interception and a nervy onside kick called by Saints HC Sean Payton to begin the second half ranking as highlights alongside QB Drew Brees’ nearly-flawless performance.

7-XIII, Pittsburgh 35 - Dallas 31 (at Miami)...Long considered the standard by which great Super Bowls should be measured, this one featured great teams, great players, and great plays, though the most-enduring memory of XIII might be veteran Cowboys TE Jackie Smith dropping a sure TD pass that would have leveled the score at 21 apiece in the 3rd Q. It was also an unofficial title bout for “team of the decade,” as each had won two Super Bowls in the ’70s prior to kickoff. All it lacked was a real down-to-the-wire finish, as a belated Dallas rally in the final few minutes narrowed a 35-17 Steeler lead to the 35-31 final margin. Though the last TD, scored with 22 seconds to play, caused apoplexy for many wagerers and Vegas sports books, with the pointspread having bounced between 3½-4½ for much of the previous two weeks!

6-XXXVI, New England 20 - St. Louis 17 (at New Orleans)...Any Super Bowl decided on the final play (in this case Adam Vinatieri’s 48-yard FG at the gun) deserves a high ranking. Though it took a while for this one to warm up after the underdog Patriots kept the high-powered Rams at bay until the 4th Q, when Kurt Warner rallied St. Louis from 14 points down to a 17-17 tie. Rather than play for overtime, however (as TV analyst John Madden infamously suggested), New England went for the win, and Tom Brady (then 24 years old) led a dramatic drive that resulted in Vinatieri’s game-winning FG.

5-XXXIV, St. Louis 23 - Tennessee 16 (at Atlanta)...Last plays don’t get much more dramatic than what we saw in XXXIV! And Ram DB Mike Jones hauling down Titan WR Kevin Dyson just short of the goal qualifies as at least the most-electrifying last-play in SB history. Much of this game didn’t suggest such a dramatic finish, however, as the Rams moved methodically to a 16-0 lead late in the 3rd Q before the Titans started to stir. But this game came alive in the 4th Q, as Tennessee rallied to tie before Kurt Warner’s 73-yard TD bomb to Isaac Bruce with just 1:52 to play proved to be the winning points and a prelude to some last-second thrills.

4-XLII, N.Y. Giants 17 - New England 14 (at Glendale, AZ)...For three quarters, the undefeated 18-0 Patriots, on the doorstep of pro football immortality, simply could not shake the scrappy 12-point underdog Giants, who used their stubborn defense to create an extremely taut and tense affair reminiscent of a nervy pitching duel in baseball. Then, not unlike the last lap of 10,000-meter race at the Olympics, both broke into a sprint for the finish line, with three lead changes in the final quarter. In the end, however, it was the surprising G-Men on top, with Eli Manning answering Tom Brady’s late TD drive with one of his own that was capped by a 13-yard TD pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds to play. A circus catch by WR David Tyree on New York’s final drive (after a Houdini-like escape in the pocket by Eli) rates alongside Lynn Swann’s acrobatics a generation earlier and the aforementioned late-game snare by the Giants’ Mario Manningham four years hence, as among the best catches in Super Bowl annals.

3-XLIII, Pittsburgh 27 - Arizona 23 (at Tampa)...Although one of the chippiest SBs, big plays and a wild fourth quarter made XLIII one to remember. The Steelers looked on the verge of a KO several times, first after dominating early action, then after LB James Harrison’s 100-yard TD interception on the last play of the first half staked Pittsburgh to a 17-7 lead at the break. The Cards’ defense grimly kept the Steelers within earshot until the Kurt Warner-led offense finally awakened in the 4th Q, and for a moment it appeared as if Larry Fitzgerald’s 64-yard TD catch with 2:37 to play would give the Big Red their first title in 61 years. But Ben Roethlisberger, who had been mostly muted since the 1st Q, calmly drove Pittsburgh downfield for the winning TD pass in heavy traffic to Santonio Holmes with just 35 seconds to play.

2-XXXVII, Baltimore 34 - San Francisco 31 (at New Orleans)...Into the third quarter, this one seemed more likely to rank low on the list alongside some of the blowout SB results of the ‘80s and early ‘90s before a turn of events with a surreal twist (a 34-minute delay caused by a partial blackout inside of the Superdome early in the 2nd half) presaged one of the most electrifying second halves in SB history. Baltimore had been cruising until the delay, up 28-6 and aided by an NFL postseason record 108-yard KR TD by Jacoby Jones, before the 49ers caught fire after the blackout and scored 17 unanswered points in just over 4 minutes to narrow the gap to 28-23. Behind suddenly-hot QB Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco continued to pile on the pressure in the 4th Q, pulling to within a missed 2-point conversion of tying the game, then threatening to steal the contest when a dramatic late drive reached the Ravens’ 7 inside of the final two minutes. Baltimore would gallantly repel the threat, take a subsequent safety, then hold its breath as SF’s Ted Ginn, Jr. came close to breaking a punt return on the game’s final play in a dramatic finish that left a nation limp.

1-XXXVIII, New England 32 - Carolina 29 (at Houston)...A rare Super Bowl slugfest with a dramatic finish. Though it took a while for this one to warm up (no scoring until late in 1st half), it turned into a real corker, especially a wild 4th Q (perhaps the best 15 minutes in SB history) that featured three lead changes and a total of 37 points. Carolina, which had rallied to take a 22-21 lead on an 85-yard TD pass from Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Muhammad with 6:53 to play, fell behind 29-22 on a Tom Brady-Mike Vrabel TD pass and Kevin Faulk 2-point PAT, only to level matters on a Delhomme-Ricky Proehl scoring pass with 1:08 to play. Brady then led a textbook game-winning drive, ending in Adam Vinatieri’s 41-yard FG at the final gun. Both defenses were spent by the end of the game, when the last team with the ball looked like it was going to win. Indeed, XXXVIII deserves to be remembered for the great game it was, rather than for Janet Jackson’s malfunctioning wardrobe at halftime!

SUPER BOWL XLVIII!!!


The Ravens’ thrill-packed 34-31 win over the 49ers in last year’s edition continued a recent trend of competitive and mostly-exciting Super Bowls, reflected in covers by underdogs in 9 of the last 12 “Supes” (including Baltimore last year) after an extended run of chalk-dominated and often blowout results for much of the ‘80s and early-to-mid ‘90s. SB favorites still lead underdogs by a 23-21-2 count (with one pick ‘em in SB XVI between the 49ers and Bengals), although that chalk edge is hardly as pronounced as it had become by the mid ‘90s.

Yet even with many recent competitive Super Bowls, almost half of them (22 of 47) have still been decided by 14 points or more, which relates to many historical results in pre-Super Bowl days when lopsided scorelines in title games were commonplace. Championship-game blowouts didn’t begin with the Super Bowl Shuffle ‘85 Bears; they’ve happened since the earliest days of the league, with several eras featuring more of them than others (such as the mid ‘50s, when a succession of NFL title games featured scorelines of 56-10, 38-14, 47-7, and 59-14). And, as we mentioned in our last issue when previewing the conference championships, the all-time NFL blowout occurred in the 1940 title game, when George Halas’ Bears overwhelmed the Washington Redskins, 73-0! That one-sided theme has also carried over to many college BCS title games as well, although for once we were also treated to a dandy in one of those a few weeks ago when Florida State caught Auburn at the wire in Pasadena.

Which team do we like, Broncos or Seahawks, at the Meadowlands this Sunday? Check out our detailed forecast to find out. And don’t forget, for more interesting TGS Super Bowl recollections, please check out our other pages on goldsheet.com).


SB PERFORMANCE BREAKDOWN

Favorites/Underdogs...23-21-2 (1 pick)
Favorites straight up...31-15 (1 pick)
Favored by 0-3...5-5
Favored by 3½-6...7-6
Favored by 7-9½...4-4-1
Favored by 10-13½...5-4
Favored by 14 or more...2-2-1
Overs/Unders...22-23-1

MARGINS OF VICTORY
MARGIN NO. OF GAMES


1-3...7
4-6...7
7-10...7
11-13...4
14 or more...22


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