Ranking the Top 10 Super Bowls of All-Time

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – FEBRUARY 04: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (9) makes a touchdown catch during Super Bowl LII on February 4, 2018, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, MN. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

In six days, the entire country will sit down for an uncertified holiday and join together to watch the culmination of the NFL season.

There have been good Super Bowls, bad Super Bowls, and Super Bowls that will stand the test of time. As we get closer to Super Bowl LVI, let’s take a look back at the 10 best in NFL history.

Some criteria for the top game – we ranked the top Super Bowls based on overall game first. Side stories do not matter in this. It’s all about how the game actually played out. There has to be big plays on both sides of the ball, and not just lopsided from one quarter to the next.

10. Super Bowl XXXII – Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

Our first Super Bowl on the countdown was a sneaky good one that doesn’t really get a lot of credit anymore. Denver came in with an aging John Elway as a wild card team and had to play the defending Super Bowl champion Packers and league MVP, Brett Favre.

The Packers were favored by 11 but quickly found out that it wasn’t the 80’s Broncos they were playing. Down 17-7 in the first half, Green Bay quickly tied it back up in the second half at 24. Late in the fourth quarter, Elway and a rising star in Terrell Davis drove Denver into the lead with under two minutes to go. The Denver blitz was able to suffocate Green Bay shortly after to seal the franchise’s first Super Bowl win.

For a while, this Super Bowl was as good as it gets. Great QB’s, defenses that made some incredible plays, and stars all over the field. It helps that the signature play of the game, Elway’s eight yards scramble in the third quarter, was far removed from the actual outcome of the game.

Still, this was certainly a great Super Bowl that set up the dominance the AFC was about to have in the 2000’s.

9. Super Bowl LI – New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28

The largest comeback in Super Bowl history clocks in at number nine for a few reasons. First, let’s get to the game. Super Bowl LI was a tale of two halves. Atlanta roared out to an early 21-3 lead after two, and eventually led 28-3 in the third quarter.

Obviously we all know what happened next. Belichick’s defense put the clamps down on Matt Ryan, Kyle Shanahan refused to run the ball, and Tom Brady orchestrated one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.

The first Super Bowl to go into Overtime, and first NFL championship to go into an extra period since the
1958 Greatest Game Ever Played”. There’s a lot to like about this game if you’re a Pats fan. A lot to hate if you root for Atlanta, but as good as this Super Bowl was, it left a ton more to want.

It only comes in at #9 because there really wasn’t much of a game. The Falcons dominated New England for two quarters. Seriously, it didn’t even look like a competitive game. Then it was New England’s turn to destroy.

Two halves of football in which one team beats down on another isn’t exactly a great game. It gets bonus points for the comeback and overtime period, but from a game perspective? There’s a lot more out there to like.

8. Super Bowl XXV – New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

There are plenty of upsets that make this list. But at the current time, none were bigger than Bill Parcells and the Giants upsetting a Buffalo Bills team with one of the most creative offenses in NFL History.

The Giants went into the 1990 playoffs without their Starting QB, and RB, and somehow breezed through upset after upset in the NFC Playoffs. Then, facing the Bills offense with their “K-Gun” no-huddle approach, Parcells rode journeyman, OJ Anderson for the entire game, while keeping Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas on the sideline.

After blowing a 12-3 first-half lead, the Bills offense rallied to take a 19-17 lead as the fourth quarter started.

However, an exhausted Bills defense could not stop Anderson or QB Jeff Hostetler when it counted. The Giants would take a 20-19 lead late into the game when Scott Norwood hooked a game-winning field goal wide right, and the Giants ended up winning their second Super Bowl.

As Super Bowl’s go, this was a great game. Excellent play calls, paired with unbelievable moments, set the stage for an excellent game, and an excellent upset.

7. Super Bowl XIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 35, Dallas Cowboys 31

Some of the early Super Bowls weren’t the greatest. This one lived up to the billing. The Steel Curtain against Doomsday. Bradshaw vs. Staubach. Chuck Noll vs, Tom Landry. This Super Bowl featured 25 Hall of Famers combined and set the stage for what the Super Bowl SHOULD be.

The Steelers jumped out early and often on Dallas, with some great plays on both sides. The unbelievable catches by Rocky Bleier, Lynn Swann and Stallworth. The defensive plays from both sides. A fight on the field that almost got Jack Lambert kicked out. And a comeback from Staubach that just was too little too late.

Pittsburgh had a 35-17 lead in the forth quarter when Staubach quickly scored two TD’s in under 30 two minutes. The highlight of those drives of course, was Hall of Fame TE, Jackie Smith dropping an open TD pass in the end zone that stalled a drive in the third quarter.

All in all, this game had everything fans look for in a Super Bowl. The reason it sits at number seven though is that while the players on both sides were unlike anything we have seen in the modern Super Bowl games, the ending was quite anti-climactic and it was more about Pittsburgh holding on in garbage time, than Dallas getting miracles.

6. Super Bowl XXIII – San Francisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

Another absolute classic. People will debate where this game lies on the all-time list, and you can honestly move any game I have in the top five with this one and I’ll be ok with it. The Bengals had one of the best turnarounds from ever with Boomer Esiason actually winning the MVP award in 1988.

The 49ers had their usual cast of characters. Roger Craig was the OPOY that year, Jerry Rice was becoming the greatest WR of all-time and Joe Montana was, well, Joe Montana.

The game itself was really solid. The score was tied 3-3 at the half with some excellent defense having been played. The Bengals took the lead at 16-13 with just under four minutes to play, when Joe Montana and the 49ers went on one of the most famous, game-winning drives of all-time to win the game 20-16 off a John Taylor TD Catch.

Jerry Rice was game MVP with an incredible 11 catch, 215-yard performance, and the 49ers won their third Super Bowl. The game was excellent and clearly deserving of a top 10 ranking all-time.

5. Super Bowl XXXIV – St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

A lot of people talk about this game as an overrated Super Bowl for a number of reasons. The scoring only started in the fourth quarter and the defenses were excellent all-game.

Super Bowl XXXIV makes the top five because of its end, and the unbelievable performances that both teams ended up making. There’s the upstart Rams and league MVP, Kurt Warner jumping out to a 16-0 lead. The Titans clawing their way back thanks to heroics from Eddie George and a gutsy won’t-go-down effort from Steve McNair. The Rams taking the lead back with under two minutes to play and the Titans last hope of sending the game into OT being squandered one yard short. The game had literally everything you can hope for.

Kurt Warner won MVP after throwing for over 400 yards. McNair had close to 300 total yards and set a then Super Bowl record for rushing yards in a Super Bowl by a QB.

When a play like Mike Jones (not the Premier League ref) tackling Kevin Dyson one yards short of the goal-line, that’s a play that will stand the test of time and earns the rightful place as one of the top five Super Bowl’s ever.

4. Super Bowl XLII – New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

The greatest upset in Super Bowl history. The answer for the city of New York to the Red Sox coming back from 3-0 in the ALCS. The most improbable game ever watched in the modern NFL. Super Bowl XLII is a microcosm of the old adage “defense wins championships”.

We all know the story. The Patriots entered the Super Bowl expected to be crowned the greatest team of all-time with a perfect 19-0 season. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick were expecting their fourth Lombardi trophies and atop of their jobs as the greatest to ever do it. What could a wild card 10-6 Giants team do to them?

Welp, the Giants took apart the one true weakness the ’07 Patriots had, harassing Tom Brady all game with interior pressure and confusing defensive alignments. Much like Super Bowl XXXIV, the offensive onslaught didn’t begin until the second half.

The Giants hung around until late in the fourth quarter when Eli Manning, David Tyree and Plaxico Burress immortalized themselves forever in Giants lore with two unbelievable plays and the 17-14 lead. The Patriots had a shot with under a minute to go but that four-man pass rush of the Giants gave Brady his worst nightmare and his first Super Bowl loss.

It was a shocking ending to an excellent game. Giants coach Tom Coughlin outcoached Belichick. Eli Manning outplayed Brady. And the Patriots quest for a fourth Super Bowl was shut down….for about six years.

3. Super Bowl LII – Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33

Is there a need to explain? The Eagles were the best team in the NFL all throughout the 2017 season, got to the Super Bowl with a backup QB, and then had said-backup outduel the greatest QB of All-Time in a shootout as the underdogs.

What separates this game from Super Bowl LI the year before is that this game was back and forth throughout. Neither team really dominated the entire game as both offenses were going up and down the field.

There were even some key defensive plays made in that game as well. Nick Foles was picked off on a very solid play by Harmon. Malcolm Jenkins made a bone-shattering hit on Brandon Cooks, and the play of the game was a fumble forced in the final two minutes.

The NFL record holder for yards in a single game, points in a playoff game and yards passing, Super Bowl LII was the greatest offensive output in the Super Bowl ever. It deserves its spot at #3 on the all-time list.

2. Super Bowl XLIX – New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

Tom Brady has played in a lot of great football games. People can argue which was the more impressive feat but by far his best game was against Seattle in Super Bowl XLIX. The Seahawks were defending Super Bowl champions, had one of the greatest defenses in NFL History in the “Legion of Boom” and a very good offense.

The 2014 Patriots roster was, in my opinion, the best collection of talent the franchise has had including their 2000 dynasty. Darrelle Revis, highlighted a loaded defense and that was coupled with Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman and LeGarrette Blount on offense.

This game was as much a back and forth game as we’ve ever seen. Excellent plays on both sides of the ball. The Legion of Boom picking of Brady in the third, and then Brady having the greatest quarter of football he has ever played before or after.

This was Brady at his best, and he almost lost the game! Super Bowl XLIX will forever be known for the Seahawks having a second and goal inside the five and NOT running their power back in Marshawn Lynch. Instead Russell Wilson was picked off at the goalline and Malcolm Butler had one of the greatest defensive plays in Super Bowl history.

This was an awesome game.

1. Super Bowl XLIII – Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

Without question the greatest Super Bowl ever. The Steelers and their number one ranked defense against the Arizona Cardinals that caught fire at the right time.

You can look at every single quarter of that game, and a play that was made would have probably been the best play of any other Super Bowl.

Big Ben escaping pressure in the first quarter and finding Hines Ward for a big gain. James Harrison’s pick six to end the half. A 14 play-eight minute drive to set Pittsburgh up 20-7 in the third quarter. And then a fourth quarter bonanza. Fitzgerald catching two TD passes, one to put the Cardinals in the lead with under three minutes to play. Then Big Ben firing what was the greatest Super Bowl pass and future Super Bowl MVP, Santonio Holmes catching what is the greatest catch in Super Bowl history.

There’s nothing better than this game. There were defensive plays made on both sides. Offensive plays that will go down in the history books.

When a Super Bowl has two of the five greatest plays in Super Bowl history all in ONE GAME, that earns the top spot.

Seriously watch that game again and you’ll just be completely at a loss for what happened in that game.

Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire