What are the Top 10 Super Bowl games of all time?
With the 2022 Super Bowl less than a month away now, we wanted to look back at the previous Super Bowls and rank them. There have been many great games during the existence of the NFL, and many of them will have to be snubbed off this list to fit the ten we have. With that in mind, these ten are our favorites based on the narratives/storylines surrounding the game, the entertainment value, and finally, how close the game was/did it come down to the wire?
So without further ado, let us begin with #1.
#1: XLIII – Steelers Vs Cardinals – 2009
One of the most if not the most entertaining Super Bowl in the history of the NFL was held in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida. The first half of this game was dominated by the 5-time champion Steelers (at the time), as they went into halftime with a 17-7 lead. The last of their scores this half was the notorious 100-yard interception return touchdown by James Harrison, which still holds the record for longest interception return in Super Bowl history.
The second half is where this game became more interesting in terms of score differential, as the Cardinals would go on to score 16 unanswered points. The latter two scores would be a safety for Arizona which would then go on to set up a 64-yard Larry Fitzgerald touchdown, which is another one of the most notorious plays in Super Bowl history.
With 2 minutes and 37 seconds left, we got to witness why Ben Roethlisberger is one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. In this span of time, the Steelers would go on to drive 78 yards down the field. On top of this, Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes, who had 8 receptions for 125 yards in the game so far, would go on to score the final touchdown of the game, catching the Steelers 6th Super Bowl title, and making them the first to accomplish this task. Santonio would have 4 receptions for 73 yards on the final drive of the game, which would explain why he won SB MVP.
Other factors in this game were the QB matchup (Big Ben Vs Kurt Warner), Troy Polamalu as a player, and future Hall of Famer, and this was also the last game legend John Madden would ever commentate. This game was ranked 4th on the NFL Network’s top 10 NFL games of all time and ranked #1 as the top Super Bowl of all time. This was also the most-watched Super Bowl at the time, with an average of 98.7 million viewers.
#2: XLII – Patriots Vs Giants – 2008
David vs Goliath. That phrase gets thrown around in sports quite a lot, but there was no time where it was more appropriate than February of 2008. With over 70,000 people packed into the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, the underdog New York Giants faced off against the undefeated New England Patriots. The biggest betting favorite in almost ten years, the Patriots entered this game as 12.5 point favorites. New England was the perfect team. Bill Belichick’s vaunted defense was paired with an offense led by MVP quarterback Tom Brady, who has just broken the single-season touchdown record, along with a new addition: Randy Moss, who also broke the single-season touchdown record. Their counterparts, the New York Giants, could not be more different. Led by Tom Coughlin and former number one overall pick Eli Manning, the Giants rode a balanced attack that was spearheaded by their unbelievable pass rush.
The Giants had to tough it out through the wild card and win three hard-fought battles, while the Patriots enjoyed a first-round bye and rode two multi-score wins to the big game. No one expected this to be a game. This was less of a competition and more of a coronation. Almost 100 million people crowded their living room to watch the Patriots assert their dominance and become the second team to ever have a perfect season. The Giants had other plans. After a first-half puntoff, Tom Petty serenaded the world and we were ready for another half of football with the Patriots leading 7-3 after 30 minutes. For New York, this was an absolute win. Holding this vaunted Patriots team to just seven points had them feeling about as good as you possibly can.
A scoreless third quarter led into possibly the greatest quarter in Super Bowl history. A Randy Moss touchdown with 2:42 left to play gave the Giants one opportunity to make history. The biggest play of the game came from little-known David Tyree. On third and long the Patriots defense swallowed up the little Manning brother for a sack, or so they thought. Manning fought out of the grasp, set his feet, and threw up a prayer to Tyree, which he pinned against his helmet for the biggest completion in New York Giants history.
A short while after that, Manning found Plaxico Burress in the endzone with 35 ticks left. Announcer Joe Buck encapsulated this game beautifully with a “The Patriots will not be perfect!” as a Tom Brady hail mary harmlessly hit the turf. A truly legendary game.
#3: XXXVIII – Patriots Vs Panthers – 2004
The “Greatest Super Bowl of All Time” according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, we have a matchup between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers. This would be the second NFC South team to make a Super Bowl back to back, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning the previous 2003 Super Bowl. This game was one of the most interesting Super Bowls of all time, to say the least, as neither team would score in the first 26 minutes and 55 seconds of the game, a Super Bowl record. Neither team would score in the first or third quarter, and yet by the end of the game, they had a combined 61 points and over 850 combined yards.
So, with 26:55 gone out of 30 minutes in the first half, the two teams would each score twice before the first half, leading to a 14-10 Patriots lead at halftime. The most notable plays came in the 4th quarter, as Jake Delhomme threw the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history, which was an 85-yard touchdown completion to Mushin Muhammad.
After 34 points scored in the fourth quarter, it came down to a final 3 points, a 41-yard field goal by the NFL’s all-time leading scorer Adam Vinatieri, giving the Patriots a 32-29 lead with 4 seconds left, after missing two kicks earlier in the game.
This game was also notable as the Panthers were one of the most interesting appearances in modern football history. An expansion team just 9 years prior to this game, the Panthers were 1-15 two years before this game, and here they were in the biggest game of the year shortly afterwards.
#4: XLIV – Saints Vs Colts – 2010
Miami, Florida has been home to many Super Bowls, and few have been as impactful as the one played in February of 2010. This game was what the NFL dreams of. Two hall of fame quarterbacks? Check. Talented skill players all around? Check. Heartwarming storyline? Check. Sean Payton and Drew Brees came to New Orleans at the worst possible time. Following the wreckage that Hurricane Katrina left in her wake, the city’s football team was in an equal amount of disarray. But, for what felt like the first time in years, the city had something bounce their way. The Miami Dolphins flagged the shoulder of Drew Brees, a talented but inconsistent (and now injured) quarterback from the San Diego Chargers. He was an upgrade over Aaron Brooks, but no one knew how much. Whatever the expectation was, he shattered it. An all-pro in his first season in the Bayou, Brees was shouldering the weight of a city on his back. Three years later, here they were, one game away from bringing a championship to a city that could barely stand just three years earlier. Their matchup, however, was quite the daunting task. Peyton Manning: NFL royalty, MVP, and the most unstoppable force on planet Earth. His Indianapolis Colts offense was a machine. They’d bury you under a pile of points and then sick their dominant pass rush on you. Vegas felt the same way, seeing as how they made the Colts 4.5 point favorites.
After a National Anthem from Carrie Underwood, we were off. Per expectation, the Colts had no problem putting up points early, racing out to a ten-point lead after one quarter. The Saints were able to make 10-6 at the half. Then, Sean Payton made one of “those” decisions. A decision that, had it worked, would be genius, but if it failed, would land him at the center of a media crucifixion. It worked, ambush. A surprise onside kick to start the second half gave the Saints the shot in the arm they needed.
Brees and Manning traded touchdown drives, making it 17-13, with the Colts still leading. Then, the onslaught started. The Saints would rattle off 18 straight points, including a 74-yard pick-six off of Peyton Manning from Tracy Porter. The Saints had done it. With a quarterback, the Chargers couldn’t wait to get rid of, in a city that had no hope just a few years earlier. The Saints took down the great Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts.
#5: XIII – Steelers Vs Cowboys – 1979
This Super Bowl is on the list for two reasons, records broken, and a close scoring differential nearly all game. This game is most notable for being the first rematch Super Bowl ever, and being a matchup of the first two teams and quarterbacks to make a Super Bowl twice in a decade. Terry Bradshaw Vs Roger Staubach, Tom Landry vs Chuck Noll, there was enough matchups here to warrant it being one of the most entertaining before the kickoff even happened. The next part is the most impressive, this game had a total of 25 future or current Hall of Famers competing in it either coaching-wise, front office-wise, or player-wise, which is an abnormal amount, to say the least. This list would include the following:
Steelers: Art Rooney (as an Owner), Dan Rooney (as a team admin), Bill Nunn (scout), Chuck Noll (HC), Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Tony Dungy, Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, and Mike Webster.
Cowboys: Tex Schramm (as a team admin), Gill Brandt (as a team admin), Tom Landry (HC), Mike Ditka (assistant coach), Ernie Stautner (elected as a player, assistant coach for this game), Tony Dorsett, Cliff Harris, Drew Pearson, Jackie Smith, Roger Staubach, Randy White, and Rayfield Wright.
This was clearly one of the most impressive matchups of all time, and the amount of Hall of Famers lived up to the hype. The battle for the first team to win 3 Super Bowls commenced. The first half would end up about as close as one would expect this game to be, at 21-14 by an intermission. Terry Bradshaw broke Bart Starr’s Super Bowl record for first-half passing yards, at 253 yards via the air, and also tied Johnny Unitas for the longest pass in Super Bowl history at 75 yards (see 8:10 in the video below) which was primarily due to receiver yards after the catch.
After that, only one field goal was scored in the 3rd quarter by either team, which led to a 21-17 Pittsburgh lead. The Steelers would then turn on the jets and pull away though, scoring 2 touchdowns in 19 seconds against Dallas in the 4th quarter, which was too much for Dallas to overcome despite bringing it back to a 4 point ballgame. An all time great matchup between two of the most successful franchises in this era, and one with an exceptional amount of talent across the board on both teams.
#6: XLIX – Patriots Vs Seahawks – 2015
There have been a lot of games labeled the greatest collection of talent on one field. This game certainly has the right to be up there. To many, the 2014 New England Patriots may have been Bill Belichick’s best roster. You know the names Brady, Gronkowski, Hightower, McCourty. But how about Darrelle Revis and Chandler Jones. Two guys whose Patriot careers were rather short found themselves playing in the Super Bowl on their way to potential spots in Canton, Ohio. On the other side, the Seahawks were new money. After finding gem after gem in the draft, the Seattle Seahawks were loaded, especially on defense. The Legion of Boom was still going strong, with young quarterback Russell Wilson leading the charge on offense with Marshawn Lynch behind him. This game was going to be awesome. Everyone knew it, including Vegas, who listed the Patriots as a slight one-point favorite. The Seahawks were looking to repeat as champions, which was last done by Brady and company just a decade earlier. The Patriots found themselves in a ten-year Super Bowl drought after two crushing losses in the big game in 2007 and 2011.
The game lived up to expectations. After a first-quarter feeling out process, the offenses woke up. Trailing 14-7 with under a minute to play in the first half, Wilson and the Seahawks quickly drove down and tied the game just before the break with a touchdown to little-known Chris Matthews, the star of the game for Seattle. Katy Perry’s performance woke up the Seahawks defense, as they dominated Brady and company in the third quarter. A Tom Brady interception, followed immediately by a Seattle touchdown, seemed to spell the end for the Patriots. It was not. The Brady Bunch scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns and turned the game over to Bill Belichick, Matt Patricia, and the Patriots defense. Three Russell Wilson completions put the Seahawks at the New England five-yard line. The final one was a circus catch by Jermaine Kearse that seemed to bounce off of every part of his body.
A four-yard run put them at the one-yard line. Seattle was a yard away from repeating. Just turn around, hand it to Marshawn and the game will be”¦ oh my God they threw it. Wilson dropped back and tried to find Ricardo Lockette in the endzone, but instead found undrafted free agent Malcolm Butler. The game was over. Brady and the Pats broke their dormant decade and were once again on top of the world. They didn’t know it yet, but that play ended that era of Seahawks football. They never recovered from the friction of blowing that opportunity. A dynasty was brewing but never came to fruition.
#7: XLVII – Ravens Vs 49ers – 2013
The game many remember as the blackout bowl or the Har-bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana, where brothers Jim and John Harbaugh coached against each other with their respective teams, as well as Jay Harbaugh (Jim’s son) who was on the Ravens coaching staff. This was a game most notable for being the 49ers’ first Super Bowl loss ever in franchise history, and only their second to date. This would be the last game for Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis, who was also with the Ravens for Super Bowl XXXV, and was the only Raven left from the first roster for the team in 1996. San Francisco would come in as 4 point favorites due to their better record, however, this would not be the case. The first half was dominated by Baltimore, who was led heavily by Joe Flacco’s 3 passing touchdowns where they would go into halftime with a 21-6 lead.
The first play of the second half would continue in the Ravens’ favor, as Jacoby Jones would return the kickoff for a Super Bowl record 108 yards (2nd longest play in NFL history) which would put the Ravens up 28-6.
Then”¦blackout. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome would go on to partially lose power during the game and would remain half-dark for 34 minutes until being returned to full power. This random act would be like a second halftime for San Francisco, who would go on to score 17 unanswered points on the Ravens making it 28-23 Baltimore. The game would end up being 34-29 Baltimore, when the 49ers drove down to the opposing 7-yard line, but turned the ball over on downs where controversy struck, as Michael Crabtree was hit during the play and many believed it should be defensive pass interference. San Francisco would then intentionally take a safety to close out the game and ensure victory.
#8: XXIX – 49ers Vs Chargers – 1995
“Would somebody please get this monkey off my back”. By 1994, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young had cemented himself as one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game. However, he had begun to draw criticism because of his inability to win a Super Bowl. The 49ers moved on from the older and injured Joe Montana, the greatest to ever play, for the up-and-coming Young. Montana had four Super Bowls and Young had yet to win one. But he found himself in South Florida, ready to take on the San Diego Chargers on the big stage. San Francisco also had something they had never had during the Montana era: Deion Sanders. Prime joined the 49ers as a free agent after four seasons in the dirty South. San Francisco had future Hall of Famers on both sides of the ball. Their counterpart, the San Diego Chargers, had one (Junior Seau). The 49ers were heavy favorites, and rightfully so. San Diego caught lightning in a bottle in a weak AFC.
The Chargers had no shot and the game reflected that. Young and his 49ers imposed their will on San Diego. For them, the Super Bowl was played weeks ago when they defeated the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. The 49ers were the undisputed best team on planet Earth and it showed. When the dust settled, San Francisco won 49-26 and had scored 42 points through three quarters. Steve Young set the NFL record for Super Bowl touchdown passes; a mark which still stands today. The 49ers outscored their three postseason opponents 131-69. One of the greatest collections of talent ever assembled, that team was simply dominant.
#9: XLV – Packers Vs Steelers – 2011
Ninth on the list of all-time greats, we have the first Super Bowl ever to be held in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A battle of two of the greatest quarterbacks of their time, Ben Roethlisberger and Aaron Rodgers. The records and status shown before this game were immense, such as:
- Team with the most championships (Packers, 9 prior to SB era, 3 during SB era) Vs team with the most Super Bowl victories (Steelers, 6)
- Packers were the first 6th seed in the NFC to ever make the Super Bowl
- Steelers tied the record at the time for most Super Bowl appearances at 8
- 766 people under the most attended Super Bowl ever (XIV at the Rose Bowl stadium)
On top of this, two other factors play in here, first, the Packers were the last wild card team to make or win the Super Bowl until Super Bowl LV just last year. Secondly, this was the most viewed program in American television history at the time, and is still the 6th most, and is within 6,000 viewers of the top ever (XLIX).
The game would live up to the hype as well, starting off with a heavy Green Bay domination as they would lead 21-3 early in the second, as Pittsburgh would reign it back in to 21-10 by intermission. The lead would be cut down to 28-25 by Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace as he caught a 25-yard touchdown. Then would score the 2 point conversion, hence 25, not 24, on a pitch to the outside from Ben to Antwaan Randle El.
The game would close as Mason Crosby kicked a dagger from 23 yards to put the Packers up 31-25, and then the Green Bay defense held the Steelers out for the last 2 or so minutes of the game (2:07 when the field goal was kicked). Overall, one of the all time great performances by any team in a Super Bowl, and a legendary game to witness at any point whether it be live or re-watch value.
#10: XXXIV – Rams Vs Titans – 2000
One. Yard. Short. The greatest show on turf stood atop the NFL world after Kevin Dyson came up just a yard short of sending the Super Bowl to overtime. It was the most shocking thing to happen in January of 2000, which is crazy considering Y2K was just 30 days ago. The St. Louis Rams were new money. They played the game differently. They firmly believed that offense is the way to win. With the most points scored and the best point differential in 1999, they were right. They were led by Kurt Warner, the NFL MVP who was bagging groceries not that long before this game was played. Accompanied by Hall of Famers all around, Warner had his Rams prepared to dismantle the underdog Tennessee Titans. The Titans, led by quarterback Steve McNair and running back Eddie George. Just a month ago, the Titans were eliminated”¦or so we thought. Buffalo Bills fans turn away. Tennessee got to this point thanks to a lateral on a kickoff, also known as the Music City Miracle.
Mainly a defensive struggle early, the Rams took a 9-0 lead into halftime. The halftime show, consisting of Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton, Phil Collins, Enrique Iglesias, and Edward James Olmos must have gotten everyone jazzed up because the Titans finally got on the board in the third quarter after falling behind 16-0. Tennessee would tie the game in the fourth quarter, but here came Warner. The Rams took the lead on a late touchdown, giving the ball back to Mcnair with a chance to play for overtime. Mcnair had it at the 12-yard line with 1:48 left to play. Then, Mcnair hit Dyson one final time. As he was wrapped up by the legs, his knees came to the ground. One. Yard. Short