Yesterday we started ranking the Super Bowls of the past decade. Today we will finish with the top five.
As a reminder, here is my criteria.
- Overall quality of the game.
- Some Super Bowls matter more than others. This is talking about historical context. Some games secure the legacy of historic teams. Others cost teams a place in history. These have a higher priority.
- How many memorable moments were there?
- What were the compelling storylines?
5. Super Bowl XLVI: Giants 21 Patriots 17
This was a rematch of the classic Super Bowl these teams had played four years earlier. Once again it came down to the very end. Once again Eli Manning came through with a clutch drive to win it. Once again the Giants completed a miracle pass, this one to Mario Manningham. The Giants won their second title in five seasons.
4. Super Bowl XLVII: Ravens 34 49ers 31
This one was five yards away from being perhaps the most controversial Super Bowl ever. With the Ravens leading 28-6 early in the third quarter, the power went out in the Superdome. This delayed play for 34 minutes. A game that had been dominated by Baltimore had a complete momentum swing as the 49ers stormed back. Trailing 34-29, the 49ers drove the ball to the Baltimore 5 with under 2:00 left, but the Ravens made a goal line stand. It was a storybook ending for Ray Lewis, and John Harbaugh beat his brother Jim.
3. Super Bowl XLIII: Steelers 27 Cardinals 23
This was another game that came down to the last play. It had an iconic game-winning drive and two of the most memorable Super Bowl plays ever. There was James Harrison's 100 yard interception return for a touchdown as time expired in the second quarter and Santonio Holmes' incredible toe tap touchdown with 35 seconds left to cap the game-winning drive and give Pittsburgh the championship.
2. Super Bowl XLIX: Patriots 28 Seahawks 24
The ending was unfortunate from a Jets perspective, but this game had it all. The history angle definitely adds luster to it. You had a New England team looking to extend a dynasty with a fourth championship. You had a Seattle team perhaps on the verge of launching one with a second straight title. There was a star who came out of nowhere. Chris Matthews was working a Foot Locker a few months early. He was cut less than a year later, but he went over 100 receiving yards with a touchdown for Seattle. There was a 10 point fourth quarter comeback. There was also an incredible final drive that saw a circus catch set Seattle up at the New England 5 with just over a minute to play. A touchdown would win the title for Seattle. Then there was a controversial playcall and an interception by an undrafted rookie. It was tough to top the drama and historic significance of this one...
1. Super Bowl XLII: Giants 17 Patriots 14
...But this Super Bowl did. On Sunday the Broncos and the Panthers will be the 99th and 100th teams to take the field in a Super Bowl. Only two of those 100 entered with a chance to complete the perfect season. The Patriots were one of them in this game. Neither team ever led by more than 7 points. Despite a 7-3 New England halftime lead, it felt like the kind of game the Giants wanted to play. Then the fourth quarter had three lead changes, two of which happened in the final three minutes. The play that set up the touchdown might have been the greatest in Super Bowl history. On the final drive, Eli Manning evaded three defenders who had their hands on him for a sack. He threw the ball down the field, and David Tyree trapped it against his helmet for a 32 yard gain. Either play on its own would have lived in Super Bowl lore. The fact both happened on the same play made it even more incredible. The fact that it happened on a game-winning drive made it even more incredible. The fact a perfect season hung in the balance puts it into the conversation for most iconic single play in the history of the NFL. Manning finished the drive with a touchdown pass to Plaxico Buress with 35 seconds left. The Giants won their third championship.