History Lesson

Seahawks-Broncos and 7 Other Thrilling Super Bowl Matchups

From Joe Montana’s march to David Tyree’s helmet catch.

John Biever/Getty,John Biever

Sunday’s Super Bowl matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos was totally one-sided. The Seahawks dominated the Broncos in all three phases of the game as they eventually cruised to victory by a score of 43-8. But not all Super Bowls are foregone conclusions. There are seven of the most thrilling matchups in the big game ever since the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs played in what was then called the first AFL-NFL World Championship Game in 1967.

Super Bowl V

Super Bowl V was an ugly game. It was close and hard fought but the game between the Baltimore Colts and the Dallas Cowboys set the Super Bowl record for most turnovers with the teams combining to give up the ball 11 times. Baltimore alone turned the ball over seven times, including four fumbles, while Dallas committed ten penalties for 133 yards. The game went down to the final seconds though when the Colts still triumphed 16-13 on a 32-yard field goal by rookie kicker Jim O’Brien, who previously had an extra point blocked earlier in the game. It was a tense matchup that made up in suspense for what it lacked in aesthetics.

Super Bowl XXIII

“Hey, isn’t that John Candy?” With three minutes left in Super Bowl XXIII, down a field goal and stuck on their own eight-yard line, Joe Montana got the San Francisco 49ers to stop worrying about the game and to focus on the rotund Canadian comedian in the stands. The game featured the 49ers, one of the iconic dynasties of the 1980s against the explosive offense of the Cincinnati Bengals. Although the 49ers defense had held the Bengals without an offensive touchdown (Cincinnati only reached the endzone on a kickoff return), an inconsistent night by Niners kicker Mike Cofer—-who missed two field goals—-left San Francisco down 16-13 with 3:10 left. But Montana, after mentioning John Candy, led his team in a methodical march downfield culminating in a 10-yard strike to receiver John Taylor with 34 seconds to win.

Super Bowl XXV

The only two words anyone remembers or needs to know about Super Bowl XXV is “wide right.” As time ticked down, the Buffalo Bills, down by only one point to the New York Giants, sent out kicker Scott Norwood to go for a game winning field goal from the Giants 29-yard line with eight seconds left. The game been a closely matched back and forth game with the star running backs for both teams, Ottis Anderson for the Giants and Thurman Thomas for the Bills, each rushing for over 100 yards and a touchdown. But it would all come down to a 47-yard field goal attempt by Norwood. He missed, pushing the ball just right of the goal posts and the Giants would win the game while the Bills would start a record streak of futility, losing four consecutive Super Bowls in a row.

Super Bowl XXXIV

Kevin Dyson was less than one yard short. The Tennessee Titans had clawed back from an early 16-0 deficit against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXIV to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. And then, after one play, the Rams went ahead on a long bomb from quarterback Kurt Warner to all-pro wide receiver Isaac Bruce to go ahead 23-16. The Titans ended up with the ball back in their hands on their 12-yard line with 1:48 to go. They need to drive 88 yards to score a touchdown and be able to force over time. Tennessee ended up able to go only 87. On the last play of the game, with six seconds left and no timeouts, quarterback Steve McNair threw a pass across the middle to wide receiver Kevin Dyson. Dyson was tackled by St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones a couple of yards shy of the end zone. The Tennessee wide receiver tried to battle through the tackle and extend his arm so that the ball could break the plain. He came up just a yard short and St. Louis won.

Super Bowl XXXVI

The New England Patriots, led by a scrappy backup named Tom Brady, were 14-point underdogs to the St. Louis Rams’ offensive juggernaut dubbed “The Greatest Show On Turf“ in Super Bowl XXXVI. The Patriots built up an early lead and were up by two touchdowns, 17-3, going into the fourth quarter but the Rams stormed back as Kurt Warner ran for one touchdown and threw for another to tie the game. With 1:30 left and no timeouts in a tie game, the Patriots got the ball back. Instead of playing for overtime, Brady coolly led the Pats down the field to the St. Louis 30. There, with seven seconds left, Brady spiked the ball to set up a field goal attempt by the Patriots’ star kicker Adam Vinateri. The kick was good and not only did the Patriots avoid overtime, it became the first time ever that a winning score in a Super Bowl was on the final play of the game.

Super Bowl XLII

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The New England Patriots came into Super Bowl XLII, an undefeated 18-0 team that was poised to be the greatest in NFL history. Their competition was a hot New York Giants team, which had won three road playoff games as a wild card to secure a spot in the big game. The Patriots had bested the Giants in the last game of the regular season but they would not be able to do so again. Big Blue put together a last minute drive highlighted by “the helmet catch,” the spectacular effort by backup wide receiver David Tyree to catch a desperation pass against his helmet with less than a minute left. The play, which went for 32-yards changed the momentum of the game and placed the Giants deep in Patriots territory with less than a minute left. Four plays and 20 seconds later, the Giants scored to go up 17-14, which would be their final margin in their astonishing upset win.

Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII looked it was going to be a blowout. The Baltimore Ravens were crushing the San Francisco 49ers early in the third quarter. Then, the lights went out. The blackout, which lasted for 22 minutes and delayed the game for over an half hour, marked a major turning point in the game. After power was restored the Superdome, the 49ers scored 17 unanswered points, narrowing Baltimore’s margin down to five. The game went down to a safety punt return as time ran out, after Baltimore punter Sam Koch strategically took a safety to run the clock down to four seconds, wagering that the improvement in field position would be worth giving up two points. That calculation was correct. San Francisco returner Ted Ginn was tackled after the game clock expired on the return and the Baltimore Ravens had won by a score of 34-31.