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Greatest Super Bowls: No. 1, Super Bowl XLIII

February 4th, 2011 by Aaron Schatz Creator, FootballOutsiders.com

Each weekday until Super Bowl Sunday, Hulu and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz are counting down the 10 best Super Bowl games in history with the help of NFL Films. Check our Spotlight page every day to see the latest pick. The final selection, and the greatest Super Bowl of all-time: the 2008 season’s showdown between the Cardinals and Steelers.

This recent entry onto the list of great Super Bowls didn’t include many lead changes, but it did feature a big comeback and a huge near-upset. The Arizona Cardinals were a surprise NFC champion after finishing the regular season 9-7, and Pittsburgh was leading the game 20-7 at the end of the third quarter. Then Arizona fought their way back with two Larry Fitzgerald touchdowns and a safety, taking a 23-20 lead. But Pittsburgh got the ball back with 2:37 left, and Ben Roethlisberger led a 78-yard drive that ended in an acrobatic Santonio Holmes touchdown grab with less than a minute remaining.

Great plays are what made this game particularly memorable. James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return to end the first half may be the greatest defensive play in Super Bowl history; Fitzgerald’s 64-yard touchdown reception is a thing of beauty; and Santonio Holmes’ ability to keep his feet in bounds for the catch that won the game was superhuman.

Follow Aaron Schatz on Twitter @FO_ASchatz.

Last comment: about 14 hours ago 5 Comments

Greatest Super Bowls: No. 2, Super Bowl XXIII

February 3rd, 2011 by Aaron Schatz Creator, FootballOutsiders.com

Each weekday until Super Bowl Sunday, Hulu and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz are counting down the 10 best Super Bowl games in history with the help of NFL Films. Check our Spotlight page every day to see the latest pick. Today’s selection: the 1988 season’s showdown between the 49ers and Bengals.

This game featured five lead changes; three other times, the team that was behind tied up the score. Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason didn’t have a good day, but the Bengals stayed in the game thanks to special teams. (San Francisco’s Mike Cofer missed a field goal, while Cincinnati’s Stanford Jennings took a kickoff 93 yards to the house in the third quarter.)

Jerry Rice, considered by many to be the greatest player in NFL history, lit up the Bengals’ secondary with 215 receiving yards, including four different receptions for 25 yards or more. Joe Montana took the ball with 3:20 left and led a 92-yard touchdown drive that turned a loss into San Francisco’s third Super Bowl title. It may have been the greatest moment of his Hall of Fame career.

Follow Aaron Schatz on Twitter @FO_ASchatz.

Last comment: Aug 24th 2014 2 Comments

Greatest Super Bowls: No. 3, Super Bowl XIII

February 2nd, 2011 by Aaron Schatz Creator, FootballOutsiders.com

Each weekday until Super Bowl Sunday, Hulu and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz are counting down the 10 best Super Bowl games in history with the help of NFL Films. Check our Spotlight page every day to see the latest pick. Today’s selection: the 1978 season’s showdown between the Cowboys and Steelers.

This was the first-ever Super Bowl rematch and the only Super Bowl in history where both teams scored at least 30 points. The game is famous for both big touchdowns (John Stallworth had a 75-yard touchdown reception) and big non-touchdowns (Dallas tight end Jackie Smith dropped a pass in the end zone that would have tied the game at 21 near the end of the third quarter).

Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw was named Super Bowl MVP, but to be honest he was the most valuable player for both teams. Bradshaw turned the ball over three times in the first half, helping to keep the Cowboys in the game. The Steelers finally pulled away in the fourth quarter; they scored with seven minutes left, and when Dallas fumbled the ensuing kickoff, the Steelers scored again on the very next play. (Little-known fact: The fumble came thanks to a hit by Steelers reserve safety and eventual Super Bowl-winning coach Tony Dungy.) The Cowboys didn’t give up, however; they drove for a touchdown, recovered an onside kick, and then drove for another touchdown. But they couldn’t recover a second onside kick with 22 seconds left, and the Steelers were three-time champions.

Follow Aaron Schatz on Twitter @FO_ASchatz.

Last comment: Aug 29th 2014 2 Comments

Greatest Super Bowls: No. 4, Super Bowl XXXVI

February 1st, 2011 by Aaron Schatz Creator, FootballOutsiders.com

Each weekday until Super Bowl Sunday, Hulu and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz are counting down the 10 best Super Bowl games in history with the help of NFL Films. Check our Spotlight page every day to see the latest pick. Today’s selection: the 2001 season’s showdown between the Rams and Patriots.

The Rams had marched through the NFC leaving devastation and destruction in their wake, 14-2 while leading the NFL in points scored and finishing third in points allowed. The Patriots had somehow fought their way to 11-5 despite losing their big-name starting quarterback to injury and replacing him with a second-year unknown named Tom Brady. The Rams were favored by 14. Boston reporter Ron Borges famously predicted the final score as 73-0, Rams.
How did the Patriots manage the upset? Head coach Bill Belichick came up with a game plan so unique that Ron Jaworski ended up devoting an entire chapter to it in his recent book “The Games that Changed the Game.” Belichick decided that the secret to stopping the Rams was to concentrate on running back Marshall Faulk, not quarterback Kurt Warner. The Pats defenders hit Faulk mercilessly whenever he tried to run a receiving route, and that sent the whole Rams offense off course.

However, in the fourth quarter, Warner finally found his rhythm, and the Rams came back and turned a 17-3 deficit into a 17-17 tie with 1:30 left. TV commentator John Madden suggested the Patriots kneel on the ball and send the game to overtime, but Belichick knew he couldn’t risk Warner getting the ball back again. Somehow, the unheralded Brady worked the ball down to the Rams 30, mostly on passes to backup running back J.R. Redmond. Adam Vinatieri hit a 48-yard field goal as time expired, and the Patriots had accomplished the unthinkable.

By the way, no video review of this game is complete without watching some of the soaring halftime show by U2, which featured a tribute to the victims of the September 11 attacks.

Follow Aaron Schatz on Twitter @FO_ASchatz.

Last comment: Aug 28th 2014 2 Comments

Greatest Super Bowls: No. 5, Super Bowl XLII

January 31st, 2011 by Aaron Schatz Creator, FootballOutsiders.com

Each weekday until Super Bowl Sunday, Hulu and Football Outsiders’ Aaron Schatz are counting down the 10 best Super Bowl games in history with the help of NFL Films. Check our Spotlight page every day to see the latest pick. Today’s selection: the 2007 season’s showdown between the Giants and Patriots.

Many people consider Super Bowl III to be the greatest upset in Super Bowl history, but that’s largely because fans at the time didn’t understand that the AFL had caught up to the NFL in quality. This game truly was the greatest upset, considering how each team had played up to that point. The Patriots were 18-0 and aiming for the second perfect season in NFL history. Giants were a 10-6 wild card team that won its first three playoff games by just three points apiece.

So why doesn’t Super Bowl XLII rank higher on our list? Because it was extremely boring until the fourth quarter, with only ten points scored and a healthy dose of three-and-outs by both offenses. But oh, that fourth quarter. The Giants took the lead early in the quarter, and it looked like a historic upset was in the making. Then Tom Brady finally drove the Patriots down the field, and he threw a touchdown pass to Randy Moss with 2:45 left to put the Pats ahead 14-10. The Hall of Fame quarterback had thrown the game-winning touchdown; the defense just had to defend the Giants on one drive, and the Patriots would finish with a perfect season. But the Giants made impossible play after impossible play to get down the field, highlighted by little-used receiver David Tyree leaping and catching a pass against his helmet, maybe the greatest catch in NFL history. Eli Manning hit Plaxico Burress with 39 seconds left in the game, and New England’s dream of a perfect season was gone. Final score: Giants 17, Patriots 14.

Follow Aaron Schatz on Twitter @FO_ASchatz.

Last comment: about 7 hours ago 5 Comments