By Thomas Sellers Jr.
This Sunday’s big game should be a classic. If you look at the track record of the New England Patriots during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick Era, Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta will come down to the final seconds.
So as most of America is tuned into CBS this Sunday looking live into the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, some die-hard football fans will just be flat out mad their favorite team isn’t playing. But those who love the game will still enjoy the Super Bowl like any other year.
I love football so much that I wanted to take a moment to rank my favorite “Big Games” of all time. Full disclosure, I’ve been a San Francisco 49er fan since 1986.
Winners of five Super Bowls, my 49ers were hard to keep off the list. Then I realized I needed to be fair. San Francisco destroyed the San Diego Chargers in XXIX 49-26. In Super Bowl XIX the Miami Dolphins were drowned 38-16. Then back in Super Bowl XXIV, the 49ers set a record with 55 points beating the Broncos by 45 points.
By this point, you realize I am bragging on the scarlet and gold (insert your wink emoji here). Now that we’ve got that era of greatness out the way, let’s go down the list of my kind of top 10 of best Super Bowls of all time.
X. All the Patriots’ Super Bowls during the Tom Brady Era
XLIX, LI, XLII, XXXVIII, XLVI, LII, XXXIX
As I alluded to earlier, Tom Brady plus first Sunday in February equals great TV. The winner of five Lombardi trophies, Brady has won those games by a combined 19 points. In his three defeats, the Patriots were beaten 17-14, 21-17 and 41-33 by the Giants twice and by the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Super LI, the biggest game of the year finally went to overtime. It took a New England 25-point comeback to make history.
There are so many iconic moments involved in a Brady Super Bowl. Just to list a few: Give the ball to Lynch, Manningham’s great catch, McNabb throwing up on the field and two words — David Tyree.
What will be the lasting image from Brady’s ninth Super Bowl this Sunday? I know I will be watching about 8:30 p.m.
IX. Super Bowl III
Back on Jan. 12, 1969, the game between the American Football League and National Football League reached “super” status. On that day in the Orange Bowl in Miami, the New York Jets defeated the Baltimore Colts 16-7. Jet’s quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed a victory. What made this major news was Baltimore being huge favorites from the established NFL. The 15-1 Colts were going to continue the dominance of the NFL in the championship after the Green Bay Packers destroyed the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in previous years.
The New York Jets took the action to the feared Baltimore defense. A couple of big plays gave the Jets a lead to protect late and make history.
VIII. Super Bowl XLIII
The Arizona Cardinals were moments away from a championship on Feb. 1, 2009, in Tampa. But “Big Ben” Roethlisberger drive the Pittsburgh Steelers down the field and hit receiver Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone. Holmes got both sets of toes down in the cardinal red paint for the touchdown, giving the Steelers the franchise’s sixth Lombardi trophy.
The highlight of the 27-23 victory was Steeler linebacker James Harrison intercepting a Kurt Warner pass and racing 100-yards for a TD. That play was huge with every point counting so much.
VII. Super Bowl X
The first memorable Super Bowl game from start to finish had to be the 10th edition of the game. Two storied franchises took the astro turf of the Orange Bowl Stadium that January day in 1976. Shortly before America turned 200 years old in July, the Steelers and Dallas Cowboys put on the fireworks.
In a game full of big plays, Pittsburgh receiver Lynn Swann stole the show with two of the greatest catches ever. The tip reception near midfield is still used for highlight packages today. But maybe the better catch was Swann going out of bounces as he engaged the ball. He was able to contort his body back in bounds for the catch. Swann was the MVP of Pittsburgh’s 21-17 win.
VI. Super Bowl XIII
Fast forward three years, it was time for the Pittsburgh vs. Dallas rematch this time on the natural grass turf of the Orange Bowl.
This time the big plays were multiplied by three. The Jan. 21, 1979, showdown featured 318 passing yards from Steeler QB Terry Bradshaw. The Steel Curtain defense made enough crucial plays for Pittsburgh to win 35-31. The Steeler defense got a little help from Jackie Smith dropping a touchdown pass in the end zone all by himself. Once Smith had the football bounce off his chest, radio voice Verne Lundquist said, “Bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.”
V. Super Bowl XXXIV
The first Super Bowl of the new millennium was pretty entertaining. It had local flavor for us folks in the South with the St. Louis Rams taking on the Tennessee Titans in Atlanta.
The Jan. 30, 2000, game will be remembered for Ram and former Memphis Tiger Isaac Bruce catching the go-ahead touchdown from Kurt Warner. Warner threw for 414 yards on 45 attempts.
Opposing him that night was Alcorn State’s very own Steve “Air” McNair. McNair used his arm and legs to keep his team in the game. Trailing 23-26 in the final moments, McNair and Titans survived the rush of the Rams to have one more shot at tying the game. McNair hit receiver Kevin Dyson over the middle. Dyson tried to escape the grasp of Mike Jones. But the Ram linebacker still has a key to the city of St. Louis for stopping Dyson one yard shot in the Georgia Dome.
IIII. Super Bowl XXXII
“This one’s for John,” declared Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen over the microphone in San Diego. For more than a decade Denver legend John Elway was the face of the franchise and also the face of the American Football Conference’s frustration. From Super Bowl XIX to XXXI, the National Football Conference dominated the “Big Game.”
During that stretch, Elway suffered defeats in XXI, XXII and XXIV by a combined 136-40. Coming into Super Bowl XXXII, the Broncos were an underdog to defending champions the Green Bay Packers. Brett Farve and crew were supposed to slaughter the Broncos and the aging Elway. The 12-point underdogs hit the Packers with Terrell Davis early and often. The Denver running back earned MVP in the 31-24 win. But the lasting image of the night was Elway running for a first down and taking a hit that spun him like a helicopter in the air. The old man wanted that championship.
III. Super Bowl XXIII
No basis here on The Best Sellers’ List. I could easily make Montana Magic No. 1. But there were two more entertaining and important Super Bowls.
In typical Joe Montana fashion, he guided his San Francisco 49ers 92 yards down the field for the game winning touchdown in Super Bowl XXIII in Miami against the Cincinnati Bengals.
On Jan. 22, 1989, the Bengals fought the favored 49ers for every inch of the field in Joe Robbie Stadium. Cincinnati matched San Francisco big play for big play, including a Stanford Jennings kickoff return for a touchdown.
But the Bengals gave the ball to Montana late in the fourth quarter, trailing 16-13. All of America and late actor John Candy watched as Montana Magic concluded with a TD pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds remaining. The great 49er coach Bill Walsh left the professional field for the last time as a champion. By the way, MVP Jerry Rice set a Super Bowl record with 215 yards receiving for the 9ers.
II. Super Bowl XXXVI
If you noticed, earlier in this countdown I left out one of Tom Brady’s Super Bowl. Brady’s introduction to America’s big stage deserves to be mentioned alone. Flip the script from the 2019 game, back on Feb. 3, 2002, the upstart New England Patriots arrived in New Orleans preparing to shock the world and upset the Rams. “The Greatest Show on Turf” was eager to shine on the track of the Superdome.
But the defensive genius of Belichick was on display, limiting Warner and his crew to 17 points. The great Marshall Faulk was kept under control by the Patriots all game.
The Rams had to come back just to tie the game late. With most of America yelling at their television for New England to just run out the clock, Belichick exercised his faith in his young quarterback. Brady displayed what would become his trademark … poise. Brady got the Patriots in position for an Adam Vinatieri field goal. The legend drilled the kick as time expired for the 20-17 victory.
America rejoiced with the Patriots in a sea of red, white and blue. It was the refreshing image we needed just a few months removed from 9/11. It was OK to celebrate a game once again. We did it with a Patriotic upset.
I. Super Bowl XXV
This is the perfect recipe for a great Super Bowl. Take two teams with contrasting styles (New York Giants ground attack vs. the Buffalo Bills high-powered offense). Mix in a historic drive, late comeback, final field goal attempt and one-point difference, and you have the greatest Super Bowl ever.
The night began in Tampa with an amazing national anthem by the late Whitney Houston. With the country at war in Desert Storm, our hearts and minds were with our troops overseas.
Some of those brave men and women got a break to watch the game. Along with us, we enjoyed a classic. The underdog Giants held the ball for 40 minutes and 33 seconds. New York needed every precious moment with the ball to limit Jim Kelly and his Bills. Despite a couple of big plays from Buffalo’s Thurman Thomas, the Giants managed a 20-19 lead late in the fourth quarter. O.J. Anderson used his legs to carry the ball and New York to the advantage.
The Jan. 27, 1991, night filled with excitement, patriotic passion and drama came down to a field goal attempt from the Bill’s Scott Norwood. The 47-yard field goal went wide right and the Giants earned the victory.
That game and overall night set the standard for all Super Bowls to come.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for Journal West 10 Media LLC. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to email@example.com.