5. February 3, 2002 New England 20 St. Louis 17 Super Bowl XXXVI

The defending Super Bowl champs, the St. Louis Rams were 14 point favorites over the New England Patriots. The Rams featured the greatest show on turf with NFL MVP, Kurt Warner at QB. RB Marshall Faulk had rushed for 1382 yards with 21 TD's in the regular season.

The Rams took a 3-0 lead on their second drive in the first quarter on a 50 yard field goal by K Jeff Wilkins in the Superdome in New Orleans. The Patriots got on the scoreboard on a 47 yard TD interception return by CB Ty Law. St. Louis QB Kurt Warner was hit in the head by rushing LB Mike Vrabel, and his pass floated to the sideline where Ty Law was waiting. A second New England TD before halftime from QB Tom Brady to WR David Patten from the eight yard line stunned the heavily favored Rams.

Although the Rams would outgain the Patriots 427–267 in total yards, New England built a 17–3 third-quarter lead off of three St. Louis turnovers. After a holding penalty on LB Willie McGinest in the fourth quarter negated a Patriots fumble return by Tebucky Jones for a TD, Kurt Warner ran two yards for a score. The Rams forced a New England punt and scored on a 26 yard pass from Kurt Warner to Ricky Proehl, tying the game at 17.

Color analyst John Madden wanted New England to play it safe, and kneel on the ball to force the game into overtime. A near fumble on the first play from scrimmage turned into a five yard pass from Tom Brady to RB J.R.Redmond. Two more completions to J.R. Redmond, one to WR Troy Brown and one to TE Jermaine Wiggins set the stage for K Adam Vinatieri. Broadcaster Pat Summerall had the call. "It's right down the pipe." This marked the first time in Super Bowl history that a game was won by a score on the final play.

Janet Jackson was originally scheduled to perform during the Halftime Show, but allowed U2 to perform in tribute the events of September 11th.

4. January 23, 1989 San Francisco 20 Cincinnati 16 Super Bowl XXIII

The same two teams had met in Super Bowl XVI with San Francisco winning 26-21 over the Cincinnati Bengals. That game featured the goal line stand by the 49ers, stopping FB Pete Johnson just inches shy of a TD. The 49ers had only 10 men on defense on the 4th down carry.

In the first quarter, Bengals' Pro Bowl DT linebacker Tim Krumrie shattered his left tibia and fibula and had to be carted off the field, his mangled leg in an air cast. The game was delayed 26 minutes while medical personnel tended to Krumrie.

Cincinnati and San Francisco could only muster one field each for the first half scoring. Jim Breech of the Bengals booted a 34 yard field goal in the second quarter. The 49ers got a 41 field goal from K Mike Cofer in the first quarter.

The defensive struggle continued in the second half. San Francisco would sack Bengals' QB Booomer Esiason five times. Boomer completed only 11 of 25 for 123 yards and one interception and a QB rating of 42.5. The lone Cincinnati TD was a 93 yard kickoff return by WR Stanford Jennings.

San Francisco QB Joe Montana completed 23 of 36 passes for 357 yards and two TD's and a QB rating of 115.1. In the final drive, Joe completed eight of nine passes in marching the 49ers 92 yards for the winning TD. WR John Taylor’s 10 yard TD grab was his only catch of the game. RB Roger Craig caught eight passes for 101 yards, the first running back to have 100 receiving yards in a Super Bowl. WR Jerry Rice was named Super Bowl MVP after catching 11 passes for 215 yards and one TD.

Joe Belock, NYDaily News:
And it all started with an assist from John Candy. Trailing by three points and standing at his own 8-yard line, Montana broke the ice in a tense huddle by pointing out the Canadian comic actor in the stands.

3. January 22, 1979 Pittsburgh 35 Dallas 31 Super Bowl XIII

These same two teams had met three years earlier in Super Bowl X with Pittsburgh winning, 21-17 over the Cowboys. The Steelers were 3.5 point favorites in the fifth Super Bowl played in the Orange Bowl in Miami. Dallas was the defending Super Bowl champion.

Pittsburgh scored first after Dallas fumbled a handoff on a trick play. RB Tony Dorsett pitched to WR Drew Pearson for a potential pass to TE Billy Jo Dupree, but the exchange was bobbled and the Steelers recovered. Pittsburgh QB Terry Bradshaw tossed a 28 yard TD pass to WR John Stallworth.

Dallas responded with a Roger Staubach TD pass to WR Tony Hill. The Cowboys took the lead on a 37 yard Mike Hegman fumble return for a TD. The Steelers tied the score at 14 on a 75 yard second TD pass from Bradshaw to John Stallworth. Bradshaw's third TD pass of the half was a seven yard toss to RB Rocky Bleier.

The key play of the game was the 10 yard throw from Dallas QB Roger Staubach to a wide open TE Jackie Smith in the end zone. The dropped pass had the Cowboys having to settle for a field goal. A controversial interference call on Cowboys' CB Bennie Barnes on a collision with WR Lynn Swann set up an easy score for the Steelers.

Pittsburgh was able to withstand two late Dallas TD's, and an onsides kick attempt for the win. Steelers' QB Terry Bradshaw was named MVP. The "Steel Curtain" defense sacked Dallas QB Roger Staubach five times for losses of 52 yards.

Both head coaches, Chuck Noll and Tom Landry in addition to 14 players would be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The game came to be known as "Black Sunday" in Las Vegas. The point spread opened at Pittsburgh -3.5 points. As the Steelers backers placed bets on them, the sportsbooks adjusted the line. It eventually hit Pittsburgh -4.5, and then the Dallas money poured in on the Cowboys. It eventually settled at Pittsburgh -4. The game's final outcome of Pittsburgh 35 Dallas 31 meant the Las Vegas sportsbooks lost the vast majority of wagers on the game.

2. February 1, 2009 Pittsburgh 27 Arizona 23 Super Bowl XLIII

Both teams had QB's who had started in previous Super Bowls. Pittsburgh was led by Ben Roethlisberger while Arizona's success was the re-emergence of 37-year old QB Kurt Warner. The Steelers were attempting to win their sixth Super Bowl. The Cardinals entered the game seeking their first NFL title since 1947, the longest championship drought in the league. They had played in Chicago and in St. Louis, prior to Arizona.

Pittsburgh jumped an early 10-0 on an 18 yard field goal by K Jeff Reed and a one yard TD run by RB Gary Russell. The Cardinals cut into the lead at 10-7 on a one yard TD pass from Kurt Warner to TE Ben Patrick. Following an interception of a Ben Roethlisberger pass, the Cardinals looked to take a lead into halftime.
Kurt Warner's pass was tipped in the end zone and returned 100 yards by LB James Harrison on the final play for a 17-7 halftime lead for Pittsburgh.

Penalties thwarted three third quarter opportunities for the Steelers. They were able to garner only one 21 yard field goal by K Jeff Reed for a 20-7 lead. With just seven minutes 33 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, a one yard TD pass from Kurt Warner to WR Larry Fitzgerald made the score, 20-14. On the ensuing drive, Pittsburgh C Justin Hartwig was called for holding in the end zone. The two point safety made it, 20-16 with just under three minutes to play.

The Cardinals took only two plays to take the 23-20 lead on a 64 yard TD pass from Kurt Warner to Larry Fitzgerald. The Steelers marched 78 yards in eight plays for the winning score. The Ben Roethlisberger TD pass to WR Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone with Holmes managing to land with his toes inbounds before falling out of bounds completed the comeback.

Santonio Holmes was the Super Bowl MVP. Holmes had 9 catches for 131 yards. His performance overshadowed the brilliant effort by Arizona QB Kurt Warner who threw for 377 yards, three TD's and a 112.2 QB rating.

1. February 2, 2004 New England 32 Carolina 29 Super Bowl XXXVIII

NFL fans and sports writers widely consider this game one of the most well-played and thrilling Super Bowls; Sports Illustrated writer Peter King hailed it as the "Greatest Super Bowl of all time." Although neither team could score in the first and third quarters, they both ended up with a combined total of 868 yards and 61 points. The game was scoreless for a Super Bowl record 26:55 before the two teams combined for 24 points prior to halftime.

The Carolina Panthers were not able to generate any offense in the first quarter. The normally reliable Patriots' K Adam Vinatieri missed an easy 31 yard field goal, and had a second one from 36 yards out blocked. The Patriots finally got on the scoreboard in the second quarter on a five yard TD pass from QB Tom Brady to WR Deion Branch. Carolina tied the score on 39 yard TD pass from QB Jake Delhomme to WR Steve Smith. A 12 yard TD pass from Tom Brady to WR David Givens 18 seconds before halftime made the score, 14-7. Carolina converted a 50 yard field goal by K Jon Kasay as time expired for a 14-10 halftime score.

The third quarter was scoreless as New England moved into Panthers' territory to start the fourth. Patriots' RB Antowain Smith ran one in from the two yard line. This was the start of another scoring explosion, one that became one of the biggest explosions in Super Bowl history, with both teams scoring a combined 37 points in the last 15 minutes, the most ever in a single quarter of a Super Bowl.

Carolina scored three fourth quarter TD's. One was a 33 yard run by DeShean Foster, and two TD passes from Jake Delhomme. The first one covered 85 yards to WR Muhsin Muhammad and the other was a 12 yarder to WR Ricky Proehl. Just two years ago, Proehl had scored the tying TD as a member of the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

The Patriots were able to score a pair of TD's in the fourth quarter. The second one was a third down one yard pass to LB Mike Vrabel from Tom Brady. The final points in this thrilling matchup were a 41 yard field goal by K Adam Vinatieri. New England had won its second Super Bowl in three years.

New England held the ball for 38 minutes 58 seconds. The game featured three two point conversion attempts. Two of these by Carolina were unsuccessful. Carolina QB Jake Delhomme, after a slow start, finished 16 for 33 passing for 323 yards and three TD's with a QB rating of 113.6. Patriots' Tom Brady took home the Super Bowl MVP on 32 of 48 passing for 354 yards and three TD's.

The game is also known for its controversial halftime show in which Janet Jackson's breast, adorned with a nipple shield, was exposed by Justin Timberlake for about half a second, in what was later referred to as a "wardrobe malfunction." Along with the rest of the halftime show, it led to an immediate crackdown by the Federal Communications Commission, and widespread debate on perceived indecency in broadcasting.

Just before the start of the second half, a British streaker, Mark Roberts, ran onto the field disguised as a referee, undressed, and performed a dance wearing only a thong. He was tackled to the ground by Patriots linebacker Matt Chatham and arrested.

These two events can not diminish the greatness of this Super Bowl game.

Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.

Follow me on Twitter at @_prmurphy

For more of my articles, click here.

Paul Murphy 1/30/2015 08:00:00 AM Edit

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