The Greatest Super Bowls Part 5: The Top 5

February 06, 2010 | Dwayne Showalter

We made it.  From the worst Super Bowl ever when the 49ers destroyed the Broncos in XXIV to the final five.  My number one may surprise some people, but my guess is most would agree with all five remaining games being in the Top 5.  See if you agree, and if you missed the rest of the list, no fear, visit DwaynesWorld or just hit the links at the bottom of this entry.  And now, on with the countdown…

5.  Super Bowl XXV  Giants 20, Bills 19.  Bothteams went 13-3 in the regular season.  Buffalo making its first Super Bowl was no surprise, but the Giants, making their second appearance, needed an upset in San Fransisco to punch their ticket.  The game was played in the days after the U.S. military action to liberate Kuwait.  Emotions ran high before the game even kicked off.  The teams traded FGsin the 1st quarter.  The Bills scored the games first TD in the second quarter, ripping 80 yards through the Giants defense without even facing a 3rd down.  A sack in the endzoneput Buffalo up 12-3.  With3:43 left in the half, the Giants took over at their own 13.  The ground attack that was chewing up clock but not producing many points was shelved temporarily and a touchdown just before the half sent the teams in withBills in front, 12-10.  The opening third quarter saw the Giants grind-it-out attack net another TD and grab a 17-12 lead.   Later, Buffalo’s lightning quick offense scored on four plays and led 19-17.  The tiring Bills defense was back on the field andseverely bent, but stopped New York at the 3 yard line forcing a FG to give the Giants a one-point lead.  After an exchange of possessions, the Bills found themselves at their own 10 yard line and just over 2 minutes remaining.  With 8 seconds left, they were at the Giants 29.  A Scott Norwood field goal to win…and it stayed right the whole way.  No good. 

4.  Super Bowl XXXIV  Rams 23, Titans 16.  The Rams were a worst-to-first team in 1999.  The Titans had steadily been building themselves into a Super Bowl contender.  And the flash versus steadiness played itself out on the Georgia Dome turf.  In the first half, the Rams consistently moved deep into Titans territory but could never crack endzone.  They attempted five FGs.  Three were good, one missed and one never got off the ground when the snap was fumbled.  The Titans struggled and missed their only scoring chance when an Al Del Greco (a Ravens favorite) missed a 47-yarder.  The Rams led 9-0 at the half, but must have been disappointed in their lack of finishing power.  The Titans had another 47-yard FG blocked to start the third and the Rams seemingly seized control of the game with Tory Holt scoring the games first TD.  Then Steve McNair and Eddie George began to take the game over, something Ravens fans had seen before.   McNair scrambled for 23 yards and George carried six times, the final one going into the endzone.  Curiously, the Titans went for 2 and failed (a theme in these tight games).  They trailed 16-6 late in the third.  After forcing a punt, Tennessee embarked on a long scoring drive culminating with another George score (though his knee clearly was down before breaking the plane).  Time was running short but the Titans got the ball right back and Del Greco was true from 43 to tie the game with just 2:12 to go.  But the Rams struck like lightning.  Warner hit Isaac Bruce on the first play for a  73-yard score.  The Titans needed a TD to force overtime.  They needed 90 yards.  McNair was magical in the final drive but it would only go 89 yards.  With just six seconds to go from the 10 yard line and no timeouts, McNair’s pass to Kevin Dyson was caught at the two.  He was tackled by Mike Jones at the one.  The Rams had their first championship.

3. Super Bowl XLII  Giants 17, Patriots 14.  The Wild Card Giants had won 3 straight road playoff games to reach the title game.  The Patriots had won all 18 games they played, including a memorable Sunday night game in December against the Ravens and another in New York against the Giants.  The game was pretty much all about whether the Patriots could join the ’72 Dolphins as the only unbeaten teams in league history.  And if they lost, well, the Giants would claim their third Lombardi trophy.  New York took the opening kick and drove for nearly 10 minutes before settling for a short FG.  New England came right back with a 5 minute drive that ended witha TD on the 1st play of the second quarter.  From there, both defenses clamped down.  The Giants harassed Brady, sacking him five times.  The Giants couldn’t at all – until the 4th quarter started.  A long pass play to Kevin Boss set up a Manning touchdown pass to David Tyree giving the Giants a 10-7 lead with11 minutes to go.  After a trading punts, New England had 8 minutes and 80 yards to regain the lead.  In typical Brady fashion, the mission was accomplished.  But 2:42 remained and Eli Manning pulled off a drive at which even Peyton must have marveled.  His escape, scramble, heave to David Tyree, in my opinion, may be one of the top 3 or 4 plays in Super Bowl history, if not the top play.  A few plays later, Plaxico Burress pulled in the go-ahead score with35 seconds left.  Needing only a FG, another Giants sack put New England in trouble.  On third down, Brady uncorked a 76-yard rainbow to Moss that was batted away.  His final pass fell harmlessly to the turf.  And the Giants had done it.

2. Super Bowl XLIII  Steelers 27, Cardinals 23.  Super Bowl 42 was a tough act to follow but last year’s game did it.  Each team had a one-yard TD run and Pittsburgh added a FG to lead 10-7.  In the final seconds of the 2nd quarter, the Cardinals were poised to take the lead, or at least tie the game.  On first down, with 18 seconds to go, Kurt Warner threw it, and at the goal line, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison caught it.  And ran with it.  And ran with it.  Like Forrest Gump, he just kept running until nearly collapsing 100 yards away in the endzone.  Touchdown.  Game changer.  Instead of trailing, the Steelers led by ten at the half.  As Tyree’s catch the year before, it was one of the top plays in Super Bowl history.  The Steelers added a FG in the third before the Cardinals began to turn it on.   A 1-yard Warner pass to Larry Fitzgerald made it 20-14 with 7:33 to go.  With just 3 minutes left, the Steelers were pinned at the one.  They appeared to get first down on a pass play but were called for holding in the endzone.  Now they had to kick to Arizona with a slim four point lead.  Two plays later, the Cardinals led for the first time.  Fitzgerald’s 63-yard catch and run put them up 23-20.  But Ben Roethlisberger, who played miserably in his first Super Bowl, brought the Steelers to the brink of their 6thtitle.  On second down from the Cardinals 6, he connected with Santonio Holmes in the back corner.  Whether Holmes ever got both toes down on the turf is debatable, but it too could be considered on of the great plays of Super Bowl.  The Cardinals last ditch effort to win the game ended just past midfield when Warner fumbled.

And my Greatest Super Bowl of All:

Super Bowl XXXVIII  Patriots 32, Panthers 29.  I know with the freshness of the last two games, a lot of folks think there couldn’t be any game out there to top the finishes we just witnessed.  But the Giants win had two key components.  The Tyree catch and the 18-0 Patriots.  The Steelers win resonated because of the stunning Harrison and Holmes plays and the Cardinals stirring, but failed, comeback.  Super Bowl 38 rates number one because it was scoreless for nearly 27 minutes but at halftime it was 14-10.  No one scored in the 3rd quarter either.  But the game ended 32-29.

With three minutes left in the 2nd and the game scoreless, Deion Branch caught a 5 yard TD.  The Panthers went 95 yards in 1:58 to tie it.  New England went 76 yards and scored a TD with 18 seconds left.  A squib kick and long run off a draw by Stephen Davis set up a FG.  14-10 Patriots at the half.  After 15 more scoreless minutes, the Patriots extended the lead to 21-10 early in the 4th.  The Panthers streaked right down the field and scored on a 33-yard run as DeShaun  Foster soared over the goal line.  But the Panthers curiously went for two and failed.  They trailed 21-16.  At the end of the next Patriots drive, Brady made on of the few big game mistakes of his career, tossing a pick in the left corner of the endzone.  The Panthers took over and from their own 15 Jake Delhomme threw deep,  hit Mushin Muhammed in stride and 85 yards later, we had a new leader.  Panthers 22, Pats 21.  Again Carolina missed a two-point conversion.  If they had just kicked two PATs, they would have led by three.  Only seven minutes remained.  In typical Patriots fashion, they scored a touchdown on a pass to LB Mike Vrabel to reclaim the lead.  The Patriots converted their two-point try and led by seven.  Ricky Proehl caught two passes on the next drive.  The second tied the game at 29 withjust 1:08 to go.  After a bad kick gave New England the ball at the 40 yard line, Brady moved them just far enough to allow Adam Vinatieri a chance to win his second Super Bowl with a 41-yard kick.  It couldn’t  have been more true.  And New England had won the greatest Super Bowl of them all. 

Hope you enjoyed the countdown!  Let me know what you think.

Here are the links to the rest of the list
Games ranked 31-43
Games ranked 21-30
Games ranked 11-20
Games ranked 6-10
Games ranked 1-5