This Given Sunday's list of the ten best Super Bowls. Remember, this series ranked the best games, not the best teams, players or plays. These games were the best finishing touches for your Super Bowl party.
No. 10: First World Championship, 1967 (Super Bowl 1) ‒ Highly watchable
Packers 35, Chiefs 10 – This game set the standard for all Super Bowls to follow and it was the first step to Vince Lombardi's NFL sainthood. But the standard was for the national pre-game fascination and what the NFL could do with it. The game itself was one-sided, but the novelty of the thing enthralled everyone. Lombardi said he was a nervous wreck after all the calls from NFL owners demanding a win.
The people who invented the BCS must have been infants then because they learned nothing from this about how to conclude a football season with certainty.
No. 9: Super Bowl 2010 (XLIV) ‒ Highly watchable
Saints 31, Colts 17 ‒ This was the breakthrough game for the Saints and for Drew Brees who finished the season as the league's top passer. That performance put him on the Mount Rushmore of NFL quarterbacks with Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning. Favre and Manning were the last two quarterbacks the Saints faced that season. A tight contest evolved to a back and forth contest in the third quarter. Brees threw a go-ahead touchdown to Jeremy Shockey with under six minutes to go. The Saints snuffed the Colts comeback when Tracy Porter grabbed Manning's intended pass to Reggie Wayne and returned it 74 yards for the score.
Living well was the best revenge for Brees against the Chargers who preferred Philip Rivers. Positive feelings about him earned a high rating for this game, but Bountygate was in this team's future.
No. 8: Super Bowl 2004 (XXXVIII) ‒ Highly watchable wardrobe malfunction
Patriots 32, Panthers 29 ‒ By the 2003 season, we all knew that Tom Terrific was special and we craved to see him in Super Bowls. We also loved that a new team (Panthers) broke through to the top. This game had everything you want in a football contest. Stars who perform like stars. Passing offense. A see-saw contest that closed with a game clinching play. Yeah, yeah. The Pats only had ONE real star, but Brady was enough.
The action in this game came in the second and in the fourth quarter. Jake Delhomme's scoring strike to Ricky Proehl tied the score for the Panthers with about a minute to go. Adam Vinatieri won it for the Patriots with his field goal with four seconds remaining. Instant classic.
As if the game weren't enough, Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction drove millions to an online search of precisely what she exposed that night. The NFL was not pleased. Jackson, all her relatives and MTV are banned for life from future halftime shows.
No. 7: Super Bowl 1986 (XX) ‒ Da Bears, Da Fridge, Iron Mike's regret
Bears 46, Patriots 10 ‒ America loves football for its project of power, the imposition of will and the unambiguous victory over strong opposition. It's how America sees itself and it's why the '85 Bears were such icons at the time. That defense was arguably the best ever. SNL's "Da Bears" shtick didn't hurt. It's now frozen in time by an insurance commercial involving the quarterback of their arch rival. The game itself might well have been shown on a nature channel showing grizzlies slaughtering baby sheep. That's how dominant the Bears were over Steve Grogan and the Patriots. It was must see TV and we weren't encumbered by doubt of the outcome.
Mike Ditka says the greatest regret of his coaching career was sending William Perry, instead of Walter Payton, in to score a touchdown. Fans ate it up, however. No big deal. With that defense, surely Payton will have lots of chances for Super Bowl scores. We never learn not to project one season into the next, do we.
No.6: Super Bowl 1993 (XXVII) ‒ Blowout game, but MJ made me look
Cowboys 52, Bills 17 ‒ It was the Bills' misfortune to fall victim to NFC East champions in four straight Super Bowls. This was the Cowboys' turn. Jimmy Johnson parlayed the Vikings' incredibly stupid trade for Herschel Walker into an NFL dynasty. The Bills drew first blood with a Thurman Thomas run. Then the Cowboys bled them for nine turnovers and 52 points. We only watched because it was the Super Bowl and because we could watch Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmett Smith.
Michael Jackson's halftime performance held serve for the NFL by holding viewers who might otherwise have tuned to the Puppy Bowl. It was an eye-opener for the NFL and for the networks on what celebrity performers could do for viewership. They've been chasing it ever since.
No.5: Super Bowl 1979 (XIII) ‒ Unforgettable
Steelers 35, Cowboys 31 ‒ This highly entertaining game was chapter two of the Steelers-Cowboys match-up from Super Bowl X, only this time, the teams brought offense to go with their gold standard defenses. Steelers receivers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth combined for 239 receiving yards and a score apiece. The Cowboys closed the gap to four points with under a minute to go. Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach cemented their path to the Hall of Fame.
The Steelers-Cowboys series was the first to give fans the shoot-out entertainment value they wanted. The '79 Super Bowl closed the door to the boring '70s era of defense-dominated games. Super Bowls became super and enthralled a culture. The Golden Age was at hand.
No.4: Super Bowl 2011 (XLV) ‒ Highly watchable
Packers 31, Steelers 25 ‒ The NFL continued its string of dramatic championship games and this time it served up a next gen star in Aaron Rodgers. The Packers jumped to an early lead and answered every Steelers attempt at a comeback. Roethlisberger's scoring strike to Mike Wallace brought the Steelers to within three. The Pack scored a field goal on the ensuing possession with a few minutes remaining.
No.3: Super Bowl 2008 (XLII) ‒ Highly watchable
Giants 17, Patriots 14 ‒ This was the most anticipated championship game since SB I. The Patriots were undefeated. The teams closed the season with a memorable shoot-out at the Meadowlands to close the regular season. The Manning family was represented in a second consecutive Super Bowl. New England was the prohibitive favorite although my crowd suffered Patriots weariness and hoped to see them lose. The teams traded leads on dueling TD passes. Manning made the decisive throw to Plaxico Burress for the winning score. The games signature play was Giants WR David Tyree's helmet catch of Eli Manning's pass. Manning shed the "Little Eli" moniker with the win.
No. 2: Super Bowl 2009 (XLIII) ‒ Highly watchable
Steelers 27, Cardinals 23 ‒ This was a game for the ages. It had everything. Celebrity quarterbacks. Ben Roethlisberger all grown up as a top tier playmaker. Kurt Warner making his third Super Bowl appearance and leading the once forlorn Cardinals. The star receivers were Hines Ward, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. The games watchable rating is based on the final two, very dramatic, scoring drive. Warner and Fitzgerald combined for a 64-yard touchdown pass play for the Cardinal lead. Roethlisberger answered with a drive ending with a scoring strike to Santonio Holmes with seconds remaining. Thrilling.
Boldin would appear in two other Super Bowls with two different teams. I know a lucky charm when I see one.
No. 1: Super Bowl 2000 (XXXIV) ‒ What a circus
Rams 23, Titans 16 ‒ This was a barn burner despite the low total score in the game. The Rams entered the game as the darlings of fantasy footballer everywhere with Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Az-Zahir Hakim and Ricky Proehl executing the Mike Martz' wide open offense dubbed "The Greatest Show on Turf." The wild card Titans (ex-Oilers) reached the title on a controversial special teams play, the Music City Miracle, in the Wild Card Round and then swept aside Peyton Manning and the Colts and the Jaguars for the conference title.
Fans were fascinated by the Rams passing game. Both teams seemed jittery in the first half. The Rams managed three field goals for the 9-0 lead. Each team found themselves in the second half. Warner threw a TD pass to Torry Holt. The Titans answered with two rushing touchdowns by Eddie George. Warner and Bruce combined for a 73-yard score that everyone hoped to see from the Rams. Then, Rams fans clenched every orifice as the Titans drove down field for the potential tie. St. Louis stopped Kevin Dyson at the one yard line as time expired.
The game offered a hint of what the Rams had been all season long and a promise of the brand of football the NFL strives to deliver.