What was the greatest Super Bowl ever played?


Joe Namath photo courtesy of the New York Jets

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(Eli Manning & Bill Parcells pictures courtesy of the New York Giants)
(Joe Namath picture courtesy of the New York Jets)

Talk of Fame Network

The Rams are headed home to Los Angeles in 2016, becoming the second NFL franchise to bolt St. Louis for financially greener pastures.

In this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll, in honor of the Super Bowl’s 50th anniversary, we ask our listeners and voters to select the greatest Super Bowl ever. So it’s ironic that three of the six entries feature teams with St. Louis roots – two games involving the St. Louis Rams and the other involving the Arizona Cardinals.

Just putting the slate of candidates together was tough enough. We left out both Dallas-Pittsburgh Super Bowls of the 1970s, both San Francisco-Cincinnati Super Bowls in the 1980s, Kansas City’s upset of the Minnesota Vikings in 1970 and New England’s triumph over Seattle last February on the late Russell Wilson interception.

So here’s our slate. Let us know what you think:

1969 New York Jets-Baltimore Colts. The Green Bay Packers rolled over the AFL champion in each of the first two Super Bowls, and the Baltimore Colts were expected to do the same to the AFL champion New York Jets in the third Super Bowl. There have been 14 double-digit favorites in Super Bowl history and there were none bigger than these Colts at 18 points. Baltimore rolled through the NFL at 13-1 and crushed Cleveland, 34-0, in the NFL title game. The New York Jets went 11-3 in the AFL, but that didn’t stop their quarterback, Joe Namath, from boldly guaranteeing that the Jets would beat the Colts. And they did. Matt Snell rushed for 121 yards and a touchdown and should have been the game’s MVP, but the award instead went to Namath for his guarantee. He passed for 206 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

SnellMattSB

(Matt Snell photo courtesy of the New York Jets)

1991 Buffalo Bills-New York Giants. The Bills were a dynasty in the making. They steamed through the AFC with their K-Gun offense, leading the NFL in scoring with an average of 27 points per game. That offense featured four future Hall of Famers: Quarterback Jim Kelly, halfback Thurman Thomas and wide receivers Andre Reed and James Lofton.  The Bills defeated the Giants 17-13 in New York in December and were seven-point favorites to do it again in the Super Bowl in January. But playing with a backup quarterback in Jeff Hostetler, the Giants had a masterful game plan – run the ball, control the clock and keep the K-Gun off the field. New York ran the ball 39 times and controlled the clock for almost 41 minutes.  The game came down to a final 47-yard field goal attempt by Buffalo’s Scott Norwood in the closing seconds. But he pushed it right, allowing the Giants to escape with a 20-19 victory.

2000 Tennessee Titans-St. Louis Rams. The Rams were the most unlikely of all champions in Super Bowl annals. St. Louis finished 4-12 in 1998 and then lost starting quarterback Trent Green in the 1999 exhibition season with a knee injury. That forced them to go with the inexperienced Kurt Warner, who promptly steered the Rams to a 6-0 start and a 13-3 finish. His arm transformed the Rams into the Greatest Show on Turf. St. Louis led the NFL in offense and scoring, and Warner was the NFL MVP. The AFC champion Titans were a wild-card playoff entry, so the Rams were a touchdown favorite. But the Titans roared back from a 16-0 third-quarter deficit to tie the game at 16 with 2:12 remaining in regulation. Warner then hit Isaac Bruce with a 73-yard touchdown pass 18 seconds later. But Tennessee drove the length of the field (78 yards) over the final two minutes, with the game ending at the St. Louis 1 when linebacker Mike Jones tackled wide receiver Kevin Dyson just short of the goal line.

Warner

(Kurt Warner picture courtesy of the St. Louis Rams)

2002 New England Patriots-St. Louis Rams. This Rams team was even better than the 1999 squad that won the first Super Bowl in franchise history. St. Louis finished 14-2, again led the NFL in scoring and Warner was again the NFL MVP. The Rams disposed of the Patriots in New England, 24-17, during the regular season and were 14-point favorites to do it again in the Super Bowl in February. The Patriots finished 11-5 and needed the controversial “tuck” ruling in the AFC title game against Oakland to advance to the Super Bowl. But the Patriots put together a masterful defensive game plan, mugging halfback Marshall Faulk and wide receivers Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt and Az Hakim every time the football was in their vicinities – and times when it wasn’t. The Rams tied the game at 17 on a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with 90 seconds left in regulation. The ensuing kickoff left the Patriots at their own 17 with 81 seconds remaining. But instead of playing conservatively for overtime, Tom Brady came out throwing. He completed five passes to move the Patriots 53 yards to the St. Louis 30, setting up Adam Vinatieri for a 48-yard, game-winning field goal. Thus, the legend of Tom Brady was born, and the Patriots dynasty had begun.

Tom Brady

(Tom Brady picture courtesy of the New England Patriots)

2008 New England Patriots-New York Giants. This time the Patriots became the felled giant. Tom Brady engineered a dream season for both himself and his team. Brady passed for 4,806 yards and a then-NFL record 50 touchdowns as the Patriots set a record for points in a season with 586. Brady was the NFL MVP, and New England became the first team in history to go 16-0. The Patriots beat the Giants 38-35 in New York in the regular-season finale and were 12-point favorites to do it again in the Super Bowl in February. But the Giants made life difficult for Brady this time, sacking him five times and limiting him to 266 yards on 48 passes. The Patriots took a 10-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but Eli Manning threw two touchdown passes, one to David Tyree and the other to Plaxico Burress, for the upset. The Patriots took a 14-10 lead on a short Brady-to-Randy Moss touchdown pass with 2:42 left in regulation. But Manning escaped a near sack on a third-and-5 at the New York 44 and completed a 32-yard pass to Tyree, who pinned the ball to the top of his helmet, to set up with the winning scored in the final 40 seconds.

2009 Pittsburgh Steelers-Arizona Cardinals. Kurt Warner raised the Titanic twice in his career, the first time in St. Louis and the second time in Arizona. The Cardinals went 9-7 to win the West, then upset 11-5 Atlanta, 12-4 Carolina and 9-6-1 Philadelphia in the NFC playoffs to claim their first-ever Super Bowl appearance. The Steelers went 12-4 to capture the AFC title and were a touchdown favorite in the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh took a comfortable 20-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but the Cardinals scored the next 16 points on two Warner touchdown passes and a safety. Warner’s 64-yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald with 2:37 left in regulation gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 23-20. But Ben Roethlisberger marched the Steelers 78 yards in eight plays, completing five passes for 84 yards, for the game-winning touchdown. Roethlisberger threw a laser pass to Santonio Holmes on the right sideline of the end zone with 35 seconds left. He barely got both feet down on the catch, and a replay upheld the score. Warner threw for 377 yards and three TDs in the defeat.

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