Unless you’re a Falcons fan, last night was one of the best sporting events I ever watched, and that’s coming from someone who isn’t a Patriots fan (Pats -3, all time backdoor cover). Super Bowl 51 was everything I wanted as a sports fan: big plays, a huge comeback, money in my pocket, and a kick ass halftime show from Lady Gaga. It’s all I could have asked for with my New York Giants choosing not to participate in the big game and graciously allowing Tom Brady to win his fifth Super Bowl.
Now that the NFL season is over and I’m a sad miserable shell of myself, I’m going to do what most sports writers in the world are probably doing today after that great game we got last night, and that’s ranking the five Best Super Bowls in NFL history. I should probably preface this by saying that I’m only 25 years old, so I’ve only seen so many Super Bowls in my life. However, I am a historian of the NFL, so any game on this list that I was not alive for I have a pretty good understanding of how the game went. Without further ado, here are the best Super Bowls in the history of the NFL.
5. Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants vs. Buffalo Bills
WIDE RIGHT. Yes, I know that I said I’m a Giants fan, so I might be a bit biased on this one. I wasn’t alive for this game, but by all accounts this was one of the best Super Bowls ever played. The high-flying Buffalo Bills offense was led by their three-headed monster in quarterback Jim Kelly, running back Thurman Thomas, and wide receiver Andre Reed. They were favorites heading into the game. On the other side of the field, you had the Giants, who were known for their defense and had backup quarterback Jeff Hostetler filling in for the injured Phil Simms. The Giants won by taking away the passing attack from the Bills and jamming their receivers at the line. And yes, we all know what happened at the end when Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood missed a game-winning field goal wide right. It was the first of four consecutive Super Bowl losses for the Bills.
4. Super Bowl XLIX – New England Patriots vs. Seattle Seahawks
This isn’t the last time we’re going to see the Pats on this list, so if you can’t stand them, brace yourself. The Seahawks were on the verge of repeating as Super Bowl champions and held a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, and then some Brady guy you may have heard of flipped the script and took a 28-24 lead late in the game. Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson gave New England trouble all game, led a very impressive drive late in the game, and put the Seahawks yards away from winning a second straight Super Bowl. The big play of the drive was an incredible juggling catch from wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, which would have been one of the greatest catches in NFL history, but coach Pete Carroll decided to call a pass play from the one-yard line with Marshawn Lynch in the backfield. Wilson threw a pick to cornerback Malcolm Butler and the game was sealed. Credit to Butler though, because it was an incredible play he made on the ball.
3. Super Bowl XLIII – Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals
This game provided us with two of the best plays in both Super Bowl and NFL history. With the Cardinals about to punch it in for a touchdown right before the half, linebacker James Harrison picked up Kurt Warner in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for a touchdown to close out the first half, giving the Steelers all of the momentum. However, the second half was all about Arizona wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who scored two huge touchdowns, one giving the Cardinals the lead late in the game. As it turned out, it wasn’t enough as Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a game-winning drive, where he found wide receiver Santonio Holmes in the back of the end zone for the winning score, giving the Steelers their record sixth Super Bowl.
2. Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants vs. New England Patriots
I really wanted to put this one at number one because it was one of my greatest moments as a sports fan, but I’m as objective as they come, and didn’t want to play favorites. We all know the story. The 18-0 Patriots were on the cusp of immortality and just had to get through the underdog New York Giants to become the second team in NFL history to go undefeated, but my man Eli Manning had something to say about that. After putting serious pressure on Tom Brady all night, the defense had their only slip-up of the game, letting Brady drive the Pats down the field and find Randy Moss in the end zone to take a 14-10 lead late in the game. All hope seemed lost for me and Giant fans everywhere on a third and long when it looked like Eli was about to take a sack, but he broke out of the tackle and just chucked the ball deep down field to find receiver David Tyree, who jumped up and pinned the ball against his helmet for a 32-yard gain. A few players later, Elite Eli found Plaxico Burress for a late touchdown, and the G-Men won 17-14, crushing the Pats’ hopes of an undefeated season. It was also the first of two times that Eli took down Brady and Belichick in a Super Bowl, something no other quarterback has been able to do, just in case any of you forgot.
1. Super Bowl LI – New England Patriots vs. Atlanta Falcons
Maybe I’m being a prisoner of the moment here, but goddammit, Super Bowl 51 was something special. First ever Super Bowl to go to overtime too, not that you haven’t been told that for the millionth time or anything. I didn’t think there was any chance the Patriots could come back and win that game, especially after the pick six from Robert Alford. They were down 25 points in the second half for God’s sake! Then Brady pulled off the most incredible comeback I’ve ever seen and led the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl title. The play of the game came from Julian Edelman on the game-tying drive where he pinned a ball to a Falcons’ defender’s leg, then juggled it, and came down with the catch to pick up a huge first down. A lot of people are saying the Falcons choked away their 28-3 lead and that may be true, but I personally give more credit to the Patriots for taking it from them. I still can’t believe that they needed two touchdowns to go with two two-point conversions to tie the game, and they freaking did it. I’m pretty sure everyone and their mother knew that once the Pats won the coin toss in overtime, that was all she wrote for Atlanta, as running back James White scored the winning touchdown to cap off a great drive led by Brady. Did it help that I had money on New England this game? You bet your sweet ass I did, but even if I didn’t, that was truly one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen.