The “Super Bowl” matches up the American Football Conference champion against the National Football Conference champion each year. As we approach Super Bowl XLVIII, let’s take a look at some of the previous top matchups that have taken place among these storied contests.
Super Bowl X. Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Dallas Cowboys. Played at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida, on January 19, 1976. Against a strong Dallas defense, Terry Bradshaw miraculously found Lynn Swann late in the game for a 64-yard touchdown to give Pittsburgh a 21–17 lead in the fourth quarter. Dallas would not give up, however, as they forced a fumble late in the match on Pittsburgh’s own 39-yard line. Dallas’ Roger Staubach drove his team down to the Pittsburgh 10-yard line and on the final play of the game threw an interception to seal the 21–17 victory for the Steelers — their second championship in as many seasons. Lynn Swann was named Most Valuable Player for his performance in the Pittsburgh victory.
Super Bowl XXIII. San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals. Played at Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami, Florida, on January 23, 1989. Cincinnati took a 16–13 lead on a 40-yard field goal off of the foot of kicker Jim Breech with 3:20 remaining in the contest. The Joe Montana-led 49ers received the ball one last time and would march downfield during an 11-play drive, covering 92 yards, which was capped off by a game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass from Montana to wideout John Taylor. Jerry Rice was named MVP that year.
Super Bowl XXXIV. Tennessee Titans vs. St. Louis Rams. Played at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 30, 2000. Steve McNair brought his team back from a 16-point deficit in the second half to tie the brawl at 16–16 with 2:21 remaining. On the very first play of the next possession, the Rams’ Kurt Warner fired a bomb to wide receiver Isaac Bruce for a touchdown to regain the lead for St. Louis. Tennessee would respond once again by driving all the way down to the Rams’ 10-yard line with a mere 6 seconds remaining. Without no timeouts left for Tennessee, McNair rushed to the scrimmage line and completed a pass to wideout Kevin Dyson, who was stopped at the 1-yard line without scoring, thus ensuring the Rams’ 23–16 victory. Kurt Warner was named MVP for his effort.
Super Bowl XXXVIII. New England Patriots vs. Carolina Panthers. Played at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, on February 1, 2004. With only 6:53 remaining in the contest, The Carolina Panthers assumed their first lead, at 22–21, on an 85-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Jake Delhomme. Tom Brady would respond for New England, taking them downfield 68 yards for a touchdown and successful two-point conversion, so regaining their lead at 29–22 with 2:51 remaining. Carolina would fight back, however, tying the game one last time with 1:08 remaining at 29-29. After a short drive from Brady and the Patriots, Adam Vinatieri was set up for a game-winning field goal attempt, a loft he would successfully complete and so achieve a 32–29 victory for New England. Tom Brady was named MVP of that Super Bowl.
Super Bowl XLII. New York Giants vs. New England Patriots. This game was played at The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale Arizona on February 3, 2008. Heavily favored New England marched through their season and playoff matchups to a record of 18-0 leading into this game, looking to become the second undefeated team in NFL history (72′ Miami Dolphins). The New York Giants, 13-6 entering the contest, were the largest underdog in Super Bowl history. A David vs Goliath matchup, where most of America didn’t give the Giants much of a chance. As the battle got underway, though, some of the fans’ perspective would change rather quickly. The Giants were first to get on the scoreboard, as they took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter. They would hold The Patriots scoreless in the quarter, only to surrender an early second quarter touchdown to RB Laurence Maroney on a 1 yard run as New England jumped out in front 7-3. The Giant’s stout defense kept them in the contest by constantly getting pressure on New England’s quarterback Tom Brady and the leagues record breaking scoring offense. The score remained the same through the half and into the fourth quarter. With 11:05 remaining in the game, Eli Manning hit wideout David Tyree for a Touchdown to recapture the lead, 10-7. Brady would respond with a magnificent drive of his own, going 11 plays before finding a wide open Randy Moss on 3rd and goal, to take a 14-10 lead. The next possession had an electric feel to it as Manning led the Giants on a historic drive that was highlighted with a circus catch made by Tyree using one hand and his helmet to corral a 33 yard pass at the New England 24 yard line. With 35 seconds left, and on third down, Manning floated a perfect pass to Plaxico Burress for a touchdown to seal the victory 17-14 for the New York “Football” Giants, in what was one of the most surprising upsets in league history. Manning was named Most Valuable Player for his remarkable play in the contest.
Super Bowl XLIII. Pittsburgh Steelers vs Arizona Cardinals. This game was played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida on February 1, 2009. A great matchup between two quarterbacks with Super Bowl experience, Kurt Warner (previously twice with The St. Louis Rams) & Ben Roethlisberger (second appearance with the Steelers). Arizona was looking for their first Super Bowl title, while Pittsburg on the other hand had their eyes set on an incredible sixth title for the steel city. Pittsburgh jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter before Arizona was able to calm their nerves and put together a solid drive. During this drive, Warner led them nine plays that was capped off with a 1 yard touchdown strike to Ben Patrick to make the score 10-7. The following possession, Arizona’s Carlos Dansby intercepted Roethlisberger. Warner led the Cards’ down to the Pittsburgh 1 yard line before throwing an interception of his own to James Harrison, that went for a Super Bowl record 100 yard interception return for a touchdown which increased Pittsburgh’s lead to 17-7 at halftime. After the break, Pittsburgh added a field goal with 2:11 left in the third quarter to extend the lead even further to 20-7. Warner would respond by having another long drive ending with a touchdown pass to wide out Larry Fitzgerald making the score 20-14 halfway through the fourth quarter. The following possession ended rather quickly, as Pittsburgh was called for a holding penalty in the end zone, resulting in an automatic safety and Arizona getting the ball back, now down only 20-16. Two plays later, Warner hit a streaking Fitzgerald in the middle of the field, for a 64 yard touchdown pass and Arizona’s first lead of the game, 23-20. Roethlisberger would respond by orchestrating a magnificent drive during which he hit wide out Santonio Holmes on a 40 yard pass that went down to the Arizona 6 yard line with 49 seconds remaining. Two plays later, Roethlisberger hit Holmes again in the corner of the end zone for one of the best catches in Super Bowl history, as he tapped both feet just inside the side line for a game winning score as Pittsburgh defeated Arizona 27-23, claiming that previously mentioned sixth championship in the process. Holmes was named Most Valuable Player for his performance.