NEW ORLEANS—I am at the Super Bowl — No. XV for me — and I’m pretty sure I have seen it all. Well, maybe not “all” but over the years I’ve seen Gilbert Gottfried shouting at Bill Belichick, a Brazilian woman in a wedding dress proposing to Tom Brady, Michael Strahan singing, and this guy (pictured right) who defies description.
Who are the odds-on favorites to win the Super Bowl MVP trophy?
Pinpointing any big game MVP is a complete crapshoot. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways of handicapping the most likely candidates — or keeping Vegas from setting odds on favorites.
San Francisco and Baltimore will battle Sunday night in the 47th edition of the Super Bowl. As the world’s biggest sporting event each year, the Super Bowl’s Most Valuable Player is, in some sense, the most important athlete of each calendar year.
In 1990, coaching legends Joe Gibbs, Chuck Knoll and Don Shula were still patrolling the sidelines, while other notable members of the profession included Mike Ditka, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Parcells and Dan Reeves, to name a few. There, were, however, some not-so-notable names leading NFL teams back then, just as is the case today. For every Hall of Fame head coach like a Gibbs or Shula there have been plenty of Rod Rusts and Cam Camerons.
Here’s Athlon Sports' list of the worst NFL head coaching tenures since 1990:
20. Dave McGinnis, Arizona Cardinals (17-40, 2000-03)
The Good: McGinnis’ coaching tenure in the NFL goes back to 1986, when he started as a linebackers coach for the Chicago Bears. He is currently an assistant head coach with the St. Louis Rams.
The Bad: His head coaching career got off to a rocky start, going 1-8 as interim head coach for Arizona in 2000 following the firing of Vince Tobin, who started the season 2-5.
The Ugly: After going 7-9 in 2001, his last two Cardinals teams went a combined 9-21 in 2002-03, finishing 29th or worse in points scored and points allowed in both seasons.
19. Scott Linehan
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19. Scott Linehan, St. Louis Rams (11-25, 2006-08)
The Good: Started his head coaching career by going 8-8 in 2006. Offensive coordinator for Minnesota and Miami from 2002-05, has been in same capacity for Detroit since 2009.
The Bad: Things went downhill for him and the Rams after that 8-8 campaign in 2006. Opened the ’07 season with eight straight losses.
The Ugly: Won just three of his final 20 games, fired after starting 2008 season 0-4. Lost eight in a row to end tenure in St. Louis, as his Rams were out-scored by 178 points (22.3 ppg).
18. Joe Bugel
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18. Joe Bugel, Phoenix Cardinals (20-44, 1990-93)
The Good: Ended his tenure with the Cardinals on a high note, going 7-9 in 1993.
The Bad: Became offensive coordinator for Oakland Raiders in 1995 before getting another shot at head coach in 1997. Raiders went 4-12 that season, his last in the NFL.
The Ugly: Never finished higher than fourth in the division in any season as a head coach, his career winning percentage is just .300 (24-56).
17. Norv Turner
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17. Norv Turner, Oakland Raiders (9-23, 2004-05)
The Good: Has gone 114-122-1 (.483) overall in his 15 seasons as a head coach in the NFL, serving stints with Washington and San Diego in addition to Oakland. Was 56-40 in his six seasons leading the Chargers, which included three AFC West division titles. He has also been a successful offensive coordinator for several teams (Dallas, Miami, San Diego, San Francisco) and landed on his feet after getting fired by San Diego as Cleveland’s new offensive coordinator under new Browns head coach Rob Chudzinksi.
The Bad: Teams seemed to consistently underachieve; his career playoff record is 4-4 with just one conference championship game appearance (AFC, 2007).
The Ugly: Won just nine games in two seasons in Oakland. The Raiders’ rushing offense and defense ranked near the bottom of the league both seasons.
16. Dennis Erickson
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16. Dennis Erickson, San Francisco 49ers (9-23, 2003-04)
The Good: Overall NFL head coaching record is 40-56 (.417), as he went 31-33 in four seasons with Seattle (1995-98). He also has 179-96-1 career record as college head coach and won national championships at Miami in 1989 and ’91.
The Bad: Never fully embraced by 49ers fans, who along with the media questioned his hiring in February 2003 as the replacement for the fired Steve Mariucci. Salary cap problems throughout the roster hampered his ability to build a winner.
The Ugly: The 49ers went 2-14 in 2004 with both wins coming in overtime. The team ranked 30th in scoring offense (16.2 ppg) and last in scoring defense (28.2 ppg).
15. David Shula
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15. David Shula, Cincinnati Bengals (19-52, 1992-96)
The Good: Don Shula’s son went 7-9 in 1995.
The Bad: He followed that up with a 1-6 start in 1996, leading to his dismissal.
The Ugly: Has the second-lowest career winning percentage (.268) all-time among NFL head coaches (min. 50 career games).
The Good: Got his first head coach job at just 33 years old, won his first six games with Denver.
The Bad: Didn’t exactly endear himself to fans when he traded then-quarterback Jay Cutler to Chicago less than three months after being named Broncos’ head coach. Also traded up into the first round to select Florida quarterback Tim Tebow with the 25th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft.
The Ugly: Won just five of his final 22 games, fired after starting 2010 season 3-9.
13. Dick MacPherson
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13. Dick MacPherson, New England Patriots (8-24, 1991-92)
The Good: Coached at UMass and Syracuse for a total of 17 seasons prior to the Patriots, posting a 111-73-5 mark. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Bad: Didn’t have as much success in the pros, winning just a quarter of his games in his two seasons in New England.
The Ugly: The 1992 Patriots lost nine in a row to open season and their final five to finish things out. Team scored less than 13 points per game, including zero points three different times.
12. Mike Mularkey
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12. Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14, 2012)
The Good: Fared better as Buffalo’s head coach from 2004-05, going 14-18.
The Bad: First Bills team went from 9-7 in 2004 to 5-11 in ’05, losing eight of its last 10 games.
The Ugly: Didn’t get much of a chance or much help of any kind in his one and only season in Jacksonville. Injuries decimated the Jaguars’ offense, as the team struggled to score points (15.9 per game) all season and lost its final five games by an average of nearly 14 points per game.
11. Steve Spagnuolo
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11. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams (10-38, 2009-11)
The Good: Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants from 2007-08 and is credited as the architect of the defensive strategy employed by the team in its Super Bowl XLII victory over the previously undefeated New England Patriots.
The Bad: Had four different losing streaks of six or more games during his three seasons with the Rams.
The Ugly: In between a 7-9 record in 2010, Spagnuolo’s Rams won a total of three games (3-29) combined in the 2009 and ’11 seasons. Following his dismissal from the Rams, Spagnuolo served as New Orleans’ defensive coordinator in 2012, overseeing a defense that broke the NFL single-season record for most yards allowed.
10. Chris Palmer
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10. Chris Palmer, Cleveland Browns (5-27, 1999-2000)
The Good: Hired as head coach of expansion Cleveland Browns upon their return to the NFL in 1999. He also has served as offensive coordinator for Jacksonville (1997-98), Houston (2002-04), and Tennessee (2012).
The Bad: Lost first seven games with the Browns, he also had a separate seven-game losing streak during 2000 season.
The Ugly: His Browns’ offenses finished last in the NFL in both total and scoring offense in both seasons.
9. Art Shell
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9. Art Shell, Oakland Raiders (2-14, 2006)
The Good: Played tackle for 15 seasons for Raiders (1968-82), earning eight Pro Bowl invites and first-team All-Pro honors twice. Inducted into the Hall of Fame as a player in 1989 also finished head coaching career for the Raiders franchise with winning record (56-52 overall).
The Bad: After six successful seasons as head coach for the Los Angeles Raiders from 1989-94, where he went 54-38, he made the wrong decision in choosing to come out of retirement to coach the Oakland Raiders in 2006.
The Ugly: His 2006 Raiders allowed a respectable 20.8 points per game, but scored nearly half as many (10.5 ppg), a big reason why they won just two games. The offense scored six or fewer points six times and were shutout completely on three different occasions.
8. Romeo Crennel
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8. Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs (4-15, 2011-12)
The Good: Has won five Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach with the New York Giants (1986, ’90 seasons) and New England Patriots (2001, ’03, ’04), where he had the opportunity to work under Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick.
The Bad: His championship pedigree has never carried over to his head-coaching jobs. His overall record is 28-55 (.337), including 24-40 as Cleveland’s head coach from 2005-08.
The Ugly: Only winning season came in 2007 when he led the Browns to 10-6 record, but they still missed the playoffs. Went 2-1 as Chiefs’ interim head coach to close out 2011 and get him the full-time gig, but followed that up with 2-14 mark this past season. The Chiefs fired him on Dec. 31.
7. Marty Mornhinweg
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7. Marty Mornhinweg, Detroit Lions (5-27, 2001-02)
The Good: Been more successful as offensive coordinator for San Francisco 49ers (1997-2000) and Philadelphia Eagles (2006-12).
The Bad: First career win didn’t come until 13th game, a 27-24 victory over Minnesota.
The Ugly: Won his five games by a combined total of 18 points. Biggest win was by five points (three times).
6. Lane Kiffin
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6. Lane Kiffin, Oakland Raiders (5-15, 2007-08)
The Good: Following his success as offensive coordinator at USC, was hired by Al Davis in January 2007. At the time, he was the youngest (31) head coach in Raiders franchise history and in the entire NFL since 1946. Landed back in the collegiate coaching ranks when he was named University of Tennessee’s head coach in 2009. Left Tennessee after just one season to return to USC as the Trojans’ head coach in 2010.
The Bad: Finished his first and only full season with the Raiders 2-10 after getting off to a 2-2 start. In college, he has established a pattern of running afoul of the NCAA and rubbing his peers the wrong way during his time at both Tennessee and USC.
The Ugly: Fired by Davis “for cause” just four games (Raiders went 1-3) into the 2008 season. His 2012 USC team, which was ranked No. 1 in just about every major preseason poll, stumbled to a 7-6 record, including a disappointing 21-7 loss to Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl.
5. Rich Kotite
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5. Rich Kotite, New York Jets (4-28, 1995-96)
The Good: Went 36-28 as Philadelphia Eagles head coach from 1991-94.
The Bad: Lost five games in 1995 by seven or fewer points.
The Ugly: Lost 12 in a row from 1995-96, lost seven games in ’96 by 14 or more points.
4. Rod Marinelli
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4. Rod Marinelli, Detroit Lions (10-38, 2006-08)
The Good: After getting fired from Detroit, he joined Chicago as assistant head coach/defensive line in 2009 and became defensive coordinator the following season. The 2012 Bears defense finished first in the NFL in takeaways, third in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. Hired earlier this month as Dallas' defensive line coach under new Cowboys' defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
The Bad: His Lions’ teams were out-scored by a total of 440 points in his three seasons, for an average of 9.2 per game.
The Ugly: Even though they went a perfect 4-0 in preseason play, the 2008 Lions went winless during the regular season, becoming the first NFL team in history to go 0-16.
3. Cam Cameron
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3. Cam Cameron, Miami Dolphins (1-15, 2007)
The Good: Cameron enjoyed considerably more success as an offensive coordinator for both the San Diego Chargers (2002-06) and the Baltimore Ravens (2008-12). His Chargers’ offenses from 2004-06 ranked in the top 10 in the NFL in total offense and top 5 in scoring offense.
The Bad: His lone coaching win came in the Dolphins’ 14th game of the season, a 22-16 overtime win against a Ravens team that would finish with just five wins.
The Ugly: His Dolphins were out-scored by 170 points (437 to 267); the team averaged less than 99 yards rushing per game and allowed more than 153.
2. Rod Rust
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2. Rod Rust, New England Patriots (1-15, 1990)
The Good: Spent 14 seasons in the NFL as a defensive coordinator for Kansas City (1978-82, ‘88), New England (1983-87), Pittsburgh (1989), the New York Giants (1992), and Atlanta (1996)
The Bad: Won just one game in 1990, a 16-14 victory in Indianapolis.
The Ugly: His Patriots were out-scored by 265 points in 1990, an average of 16.6 points per game. Five losses were by 28 or more points.
1. Bobby Petrino
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1. Bobby Petrino, Atlanta Falcons (3-10, 2007)
The Good: Parlayed his success as the head coach at Louisville and his reputation as an offensive-minded coach into the Falcons’ job in 2007.
The Bad: With only three seasons worth of NFL coaching experience prior to taking over the Falcons, including just one as an offensive coordinator (2001, Jacksonville), Petrino never seemed to be able to adjust to the pro game. Neither of the NFL offenses he was responsible for ranked higher than 20th in total or scoring offense in either of his two seasons.
The Ugly: Resigned just 13 games into the season, informing the team, his coaching staff and the players of the decision via a four-sentence statement printed on a piece of paper. He left the Falcons to go back to the college ranks, becoming Arkansas’ new head coach, leading the Hogs to a 34-17 record in four seasons. He was fired by Arkansas this past April for cause after a motorcycle accident involving a female passenger revealed an adulterous affair and a string of poor decisions made by Petrino in hopes of keeping it secret.
Ellerbe talked about his Super Bowl preparations, Ray Lewis, Joe Flacco and more
Unless a nagging ankle injury sidelines him, Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe should line up next to Ray Lewis when the Ravens’ defense takes the field in Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday. An undrafted free agent out of Georgia who signed with the Ravens following the 2009 NFL Draft, Ellerbe has asserted and established himself in his fourth pro season.
How many great teams fell just shy of Super Sunday? Athlon ranks them all.
It seems that each year the NFL is filled with a handful of great teams that just seem to blow it when it comes to the playoffs, never realizing their full potential by making it to the Super Bowl. Teams like the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots certainly met that criteria this season. That got us to wondering which teams throughout NFL history have had the talent, but perhaps not the luck to make it to the big game.
The most important, interesting, intriguing and amazing Super Bowl Stats
NFL football is the greatest reality TV program of all time. The Giants and Colts made sure of that back in 1958. Each NFL fall is a completely new and original experience for every player, fan and coach alike. New stories, new personalities, new winners and new losers. And new statistics.
Here are the most important, most intriguing and most bizarre statistics to keep in mind about the 46-year history of the Super Bowl:
While not every Super Bowl has been a great game, there have certainly been more than enough “instant classics” that have left their own lasting impressions. With 46 Super Bowl games in the history books, here is Athlon Sports’ list of the five greatest battles for the Lombardi Trophy.
5. Super Bowl XLIII Result: Pittsburgh defeats Arizona 27-23 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Fla., on Feb. 1, 2009
Although the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals made our list of worst teams to ever play in the Super Bowl, that doesn’t mean they didn’t give their AFC counterparts a good game. Pittsburgh entered Super Bowl XLIII a seven-point favorite and jumped out to a 17-7 halftime lead, thanks to linebacker James Harrison’s Super Bowl-record 100-yard interception return for a touchdown to end the second quarter.
The Steelers extended the lead to 20-7 entering the fourth quarter when the Cardinals’ offense finally came alive. Quarterback Kurt Warner found wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone for a touchdown with less than eight minutes to go, giving the Cardinals their first points since 8:43 remaining in the second quarter. After driving into Steelers’ territory on their next possession, the Cardinals were forced to punt, but were able to pin the Steelers on their own one-yard line. Two plays later, an offensive holding penalty called in the end zone resulted in an Arizona safety and cut the lead to just four points.
Following the free kick, Warner connected with Fitzgerald again, this time from 64 yards, giving the Cardinals a three-point lead with less than three minutes to play. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger got the ball on his own 22-yard line with 2:37 and two timeouts, but he was immediately pushed back to the 12 after an offensive holding penalty. Four completions, the biggest being a 40-yard hook up with wide receiver Santonio Holmes, and a quarterback scramble, put the Steelers on the Cardinals’ six-yard line with only 48 seconds remaining.
After an incompletion to Holmes on the left side took six seconds off of the clock, the duo tried again on the other side and this time made Super Bowl history. Roethlisberger’s pinpoint accuracy and Holmes’ impressive footwork combined for one of the prettiest and most significant six-yard touchdown passes in NFL history, while also staking the Steelers to a four-point lead with 35 seconds remaining. Warner tried to answer, but a sack and forced fumble by linebacker LaMarr Woodley with 15 seconds left sealed Pittsburgh’s record sixth Super Bowl title. Holmes, who led all receivers with nine receptions for 137 yards, and that one memorable touchdown, was named the game’s MVP.
4. Super Bowl XIII
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4. Super Bowl XIII Result: Pittsburgh defeats Dallas 35-31 at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 21, 1979
The first-ever Super Bowl rematch also set up as a battle of two of the NFL’s titans at the time, as Pittsburgh and Dallas were both attempting to become the first franchise to win three world championships. The Cowboys were the defending Super Bowl champions, but the Steelers held a 1-0 edge in big game matchups against their NFC counterparts, having claimed a 21-17 victory in Super Bowl X.
Pittsburgh entered this one with a better regular-season record (14-2) and as a 3 ½-point favorite to the defending champion Cowboys (12-4). This game also is historic in and of itself in that it featured a total of 20 future Hall of Famers, 14 players and six coaches/front office members.
As for the game itself, even though it featured two of the league’s top defenses, this one had plenty of scoring as both teams took advantage of the others’ mistakes. Six turnovers were committed as the Steelers and Cowboys both finished with more than 300 yards of offense. The Steelers took a 21-14 halftime lead thanks to three Terry Bradshaw touchdown passes, two of which went to wide receiver John Stallworth.
A Franco Harris rushing touchdown followed by a Dallas turnover and scoring strike to Lynn Swann stretched the Steelers’ lead to 35-17 before Dallas countered. Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach threw a short touchdown pass and then, after recovering the onside kick, he threw another to cut the lead to four with just 22 seconds left. A second onside kick was unsuccessful, however, allowing the Steelers to run the clock out. Bradshaw (318-4-1) claimed the first of what would end up being consecutive Super Bowl MVP trophies, as the Steelers would successfully defend their world championship the following season.
3. Super Bowl XXIII
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3. Super Bowl XXIII
Result: San Francisco defeats Cincinnati 20-16 at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Fla., on Jan. 22, 1989
Cincinnati was looking to finally ascend to the top of the summit in the NFL by avenging a previous Super Bowl loss to San Francisco. The Bengals won the AFC with a 12-4 record, while the 49ers went 10-6 in the regular season. It was quarterback Joe Montana’s third Super Bowl and second against the Bengals, having beaten them 26-21 seven seasons earlier. This time around, the 49ers entered as a seven-point favorite.
By and large, this game is remembered for the final drive, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any memorable things that took place before that. For one, this game featured one of the most gruesome injuries ever seen, as television viewers and those in attendance watched helplessly as Cincinnati defensive lineman Tim Krumrie shattered two bones in his left leg on one of the game's early plays, which resulted in his ankle twisting nearly 180 degrees.
Field goals by each team provided all the first-half scoring and the first halftime tie in Super Bowl history. Both teams had their chances, but just couldn’t punch it into the end zone. Offsetting field goals followed in the third quarter until Cincinnati’s Stanford Jennings produced the second kickoff return for a touchdown in Super Bowl history, his from 93 yards, to give the Bengals a 13-6 lead near the end of the third quarter.
Montana and the 49ers responded with a 14-yard touchdown to wide receiver Jerry Rice evening the score for the third time. A missed 49-yard field goal by the 49ers’ Mike Cofer, his second unsuccessful attempt of the game, presented the Bengals with a chance to retake the lead, which they did on a 40-yard field goal from Jim Breech with 3:20 left.
Down 16-13, Montana and the 49ers took over from their own eight-yard-line. Unfazed, Montana provided the defining moment behind his “Joe Cool” moniker and wrote another chapter in what would be his legendary career in leading his team on an unforgettable 11-play, 92-yard drive. Throwing completions to Rice, running back Roger Craig and tight end John Frank, Montana drove the 49ers to the Bengals’ 10-yard line with 39 seconds left. On the next play, he hit wide receiver John Taylor for a 10-yard touchdown. It was Taylor’s only reception of the day, but one that put the 49ers ahead 20-16. The defense took care of the rest, securing the 49ers’ third Super Bowl title in as many tries.
As good as Montana was (then-Super Bowl-record 357 yards with 2 TDs, no INTs), it was Rice who was named MVP after posting a Super Bowl-record 215 yards receiving on 11 receptions (tied for the record) with a touchdown. The 49ers’ 13 total wins on the season are tied with the 2011 New York Giants as the fewest ever for a league champion (for a full season). San Francisco would successfully defend its world championship the next year in rather convincing fashion, demolishing Denver 55-10 in Super Bowl XXIV, which still stands as the biggest rout in the title game’s history.
2. Super Bowl XXV
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2. Super Bowl XXV
Result: New York Giants defeat Buffalo 20-19 at Tampa Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 27, 1991
Buffalo was playing in the first of what would end up being four straight Super Bowls, as the AFC champions used an explosive, no-huddle offense to power their way to a 13-3 regular-season mark. Included among the Bills’ victims prior to the Super Bowl were these New York Giants, whom Buffalo beat 17-13 in Week 15 of the regular season. Besides losing that game, the Giants also lost their starting quarterback, as Phil Simms went down with a broken foot that ended his season.
The Giants had made it to their second Super Bowl after posting an NFL-best 14-2 mark during the regular season. Ball-control offense and the league’s top-ranked defense were the keys to success for Bill Parcells' team, especially after Jeff Hostetler replaced Sims as the starting quarterback. Whether it was the regular-season outcome, the perception of Buffalo’s high-powered offense or Simms’ injury, the Bills entered the game heavily favored.
Buffalo lived up to that billing early, grabbing a 12-3 lead in the second quarter after sacking Hostetler in the end zone. However, the low score was also evidence that the Giants’ game plan, which was to run the ball to chew up time on the clock, limiting Buffalo’s possessions and then focusing their defensive efforts on limiting the Bills’ passing game, was working. A Hostetler touchdown pass with just 25 seconds left in the second quarter brought the Giants to within two points at halftime.
The second half was all about time of possession and the Giants dominated that category. For the game, the Giants’ ball-control offense had possession for a Super Bowl-record 40 minutes and 33 seconds. One drive alone consumed a then-record 9:29 in the third quarter. That 14-play, 75-yard drive resulted in an Otis Anderson one-yard touchdown plunge that gave the Giants their first lead of the game at 17-12.
Because of the Giants’ game plan and ability to run the ball, the Bills had it for less than eight minutes in the entire second half. However, after forcing the Giants to turn it over on downs, the Bills marched down the field and regained the lead on a 31-yard touchdown run by Thurman Thomas on the first play of the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing possession, the Giants put together another long drive, this one eating up 7:32 off of the clock, and even though the Bills held the Giants out of the end zone, a 21-yard field goal by Matt Bahr put the Giants back ahead 20-19. After both teams punted, the Bills took over at their own 10-yard line with 2:16 remaining. Quarterback Jim Kelly and Thomas moved the Bills down to the Giants’ 29-yard line, setting up kicker Scott Norwood for a 47-yard field goal with eight seconds on the clock. Norwood’s kick, however, went (barely) wide right as time expired, providing one of the most memorable plays in Super Bowl history, which also is the most heart-breaking moment in Bills’ franchise history.
Anderson, who ran for 102 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown, was named the game’s MVP, while Norwood was labeled the goat. Unfortunately for Norwood and the Bills things would not get better for them in the Super Bowl. After coming up just short in the closest game in Super Bowl history, the Bills would lose the next three, one to Washington and two in a row to Dallas, by a combined 65 points.
1. Super Bowl XLII
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1. Super Bowl XLII Result: New York Giants defeat New England 17-14 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Ariz., on Feb. 3, 2008
All that stood between the 2007 New England Patriots and their place in football lore was one more victory. The Patriots entered Super Bowl XLII a perfect 18-0, trying to join the 1972 Miami Dolphins as the NFL’s only undefeated world champions. The Patriots had already posted the first-ever perfect 16-game regular season, and done so by pounding teams by an average of nearly 20 points per game.
Behind an offense that scored an NFL-record 589 points (36.8 ppg) and a defense that allowed the fourth-fewest, the Patriots were already being labeled as the greatest team in the history of the game. Very few thought the NFC champion Giants, who barely made the playoffs as a 10-6 Wild Card team, would offer much, if any, resistance. After all the Patriots had already beaten the Giants once before, a 38-35 victory in the regular-season finale, and the team that was 18-0 entering this second meeting was a heavy, 12-point favorite. This also was a Patriots team behind head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady that was looking for a fourth Super Bowl title in seven seasons.
The Giants had other ideas, however, as they opened the game with a 16-play, 77-yard drive that lasted 9 minutes and 59 seconds, the longest ever in Super Bowl history. Needing four third-down conversions to keep it alive, the Giants ended up settling for a 32-yard field goal from Lawrence Tynes and an early 3-0 lead.
The Patriots responded with their own scoring drive, one that started with a 43-yard kickoff return. A key pass interference penalty on 3rd-and-10 gave the Patriots a 1st-and-goal from the one. Running back Laurence Maroney scored from there on the first play of the second quarter, putting the Patriots on top 7-3. That would be all of the scoring for the first half, as the two defenses forced punts or key turnovers to short-circuit the others’ drives.
Defense dominated the third quarter too as the Giants’ unit continued to hold Brady and the Patriots’ record-setting offense in check and off of the scoreboard. In the fourth, a 45-yard completion from Eli Manning to tight end David Boss, the longest play from scrimmage in the game, set the Giants up at New England’s 35-yard line. Four plays later, Manning found wide receiver David Tyree for a five-yard touchdown. Although it gave the Giants a 10-7 lead at the time, it would not end up being Tyree’s biggest play of the game.
Brady, who set a single-season record with 50 touchdown passes in the regular season, finally broke through two drives later, connecting with Randy Moss for a six-yard score. The Patriots had regained the lead at 14-10 with 2:45 remaining, history seemingly in their grasp.
Manning and the Giants got the ball on their own 17-yard line with 2:39 on the clock and all three timeouts. From there, Peyton’s younger brother grew up and left his own indelible impression on the history books, as Eli and the Giants marched down the filed, converting on three third downs and one 4th-and-two. Of course, the biggest conversion came on 3rd-and-five from the Giants’ 44-yard line with 1:15 remaining.
Having failed to connect with Tyree on the previous play, and narrowly missing ending the game by way of a New England interception in the process, Maning took another shot on third down. This time, it took Manning's best Houdini impression in the pocket to even get the pass off, as he avoided getting sacked even though two Patriots got a handful of jersey. Escaping from the pocket, Manning was able to throw it down the middle of the filed, where he found Tyree for a critical 32-yard gain. Tyree certainly did is part on the play, first out-leaping Rodney Harrison for the ball to make a one-handed catch (with an assist from his helmet) and then maintaining possession as he tumbled to the ground.
Three plays later, Manning connected with Steve Smith on 3rd-and-12 to get the Giants to the Patriots’ 13-yard line. On the very next play, Manning lofted a pass to a fairly open Plaxico Burress for a touchdown and a 17-14 lead. The Patriots got the ball back on their own 26-yard line with 29 seconds left and three timeouts, but the Giants sacked Brady and forced three incompletions, ending the Patriots shot at football immortality and sealing one of the most improbable wins in Super Bowl history.
Just like Peyton did the previous year when Indianapolis defeated Chicago, Eli took home Super Bowl MVP honors after out-performing Brady, the regular season MVP. Manning was at his best in the fourth quarter, when he completed 9-of-14 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. The Giants’ defense held the Patriots to a season-low 14 points and 274 yards of total offense. The fourth quarter alone featured three lead changes, a Super Bowl record.
Click on "Next" to see which Super Bowl games just missed making our Top 5
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Super Bowls Which Just Missed Our List (in chronological order, most recent to earliest)
Super Bowl XXXVI
The upstart New England Patriots, led by a young quarterback named Tom Brady upset regular-season MVP Kurt Warner and the St. Louis Rams by slowing down the “Greatest Show on Turf.” The Rams’ explosive offense had its share of trouble making plays against a physical, aggressive Patriots defense, as New England built a 17-3 lead entering the fourth quarter. Warner then led the Rams on consecutive scoring drives to tie the game with 1:30 remaining. Brady got the ball back at his own 17-yard line with no timeouts, but instead of running out the clock and going into overtime, he took matters into his own hands. Five completions set Adam Vinatieri up for the game-winning 48-yard field goal as time expired, giving Brady the first of his two Super Bowl MVPs and setting up the Patriots’ run of three world championships in four seasons.
Super Bowl XXXIV
The St. Louis Rams completed an improbable worst-to-first turnaround as they defeated the Tennessee Titans 23-16 in the Georgia Dome in the Super Bowl to finish things off. Quarterback Kurt Warner and company may not have gotten their storybook ending, however, if not for a game-saving tackle by linebacker Mike Jones on Titans’ wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Down a touchdown, the Titans had the ball on the Rams’ 10-yard line with no timeouts and six seconds remaining when quarterback Steve McNair hit Dyson at the five, who then tried to get into the end zone. Jones sprinted towards Dyson and wrapped him up around his legs, getting to him in just enough time to prevent Dyson from stretching the ball into the end zone. Jones’ tackle prevented the Titans from tying the game, giving the Lombardi Trophy to the Rams while also securing his place in Super Bowl history.
Super Bowl XXXII
Denver owner Pat Bowlen said it best when he declared “This one’s for John!” after accepting the Lombardi Trophy following the Broncos’ 31-24 victory over Green Bay. Quarterback John Elway finally had his coveted world championship after three previous disappointing Super Bowl losses, his coming at the expense of Brett Favre and the Packers. Statistically speaking, Favre got the better of this matchup of Hall of Fame quarterbacks, as he had 256 yards passing and three touchdowns with one interception, while Elway threw for just 123 yards and a pick. However, the Broncos won this game on ground behind MVP Terrell Davis’ 157-yard, three-touchdown effort and one memorable run by Elway.
Super Bowl III
New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath made good on his brash guarantee when he led his team to a 16-7 victory over Baltimore. This game is far more known for its historical significance than what took place on the field, as the Jets’ victory over the Colts showed that the smaller, seemingly inferior AFL could indeed compete with the bigger, more powerful NFL. Fittingly, Namath was named the game’s MVP, although his statistics – 17-of-28 for 206 yards passing and no touchdowns – speak volumes about the quality of play in this title contest. Even though the Jets and Colts had more than 300 yards of total offense, there were more field goals (three) than touchdowns (two) combined between them. The two teams also combined for six turnovers.