As we draw ever closer to Super Bowl LV, between Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs and Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we are going to take a look back at the best Super Bowls of all-time.
This list will consider the excitement, the memorable moments and the context of each game. Let’s get started, and look at the top 5 best Super Bowls ever played.
5. Super Bowl XLII – Giants 17-14 Patriots
I promise that not every game in this list features the New England Patriots, although they are prominent and deservedly so.
I could have easily included more of their appearances if the list was longer, honestly, but we’re starting with one of the most iconic games they featured in. Super Bowl XLII pitted them against Eli Manning and the New York Giants, at the end of an undefeated campaign where they had gone 16-0.
In pursuit of perfection – a feat only achieved once ever, by the ’72 Dolphins – they just had to win one more football game. The Pats were favoured by 12 before this game, but it was never going to be easy. These two teams had met just five weeks prior in the final week of the regular season, when New England secured their unbeaten season with an epic 38-35 victory on the road in New York. This game wasn’t quite as high-scoring as that, but it was still pretty damn epic.
The Giants elected to receive the ball after winning the toss, and they then proceeded to absorb literally 10 minutes with the longest opening drive in Super Bowl history. Despite having to settle for a 3-0 lead, they turned a 60-minute game into a 50-minute one for Tom Brady and the Patriots offense. New England didn’t waste much more time, though, and on the first play of the second quarter, they made it 7-3 with a touchdown rush from Laurence Maroney.
That concluded the first-half scoring, as both defenses were dominating. Both teams recovered a fumble each and the offenses were being smothered. The third quarter was scoreless and mostly fairly uneventful, but as this list will demonstrate, the fourth quarter is often the most eventful in a great game of football.
On the Giants’ first fourth-quarter possession, they drove down the field with a 7-play, 80-yard drive which concluded with a touchdown pass to David Tyree. We’ll talk more about him later shortly.
This touchdown made it 10-7, but despite the small scoreline, the game felt like it was reaching a dramatic climax. With the season of perfection on the line, New England fought their way to regain the lead with a Randy Moss touchdown with just 2:42 remaining in the game.
This was the Giants’ last chance. They took it.
— Sunday Night Football on NBC (@SNFonNBC) February 3, 2021
This was the drive that afforded us the single most iconic moment in Super Bowl history. With 1:15 left in the fourth quarter, Eli Manning took the snap and faced almost immediate pressure from the Pats D-line. He had arms groping at him and his jersey was being practically ripped off, but he somehow managed to escape and throw up a hopeful pass towards Tyree.
The wideout, who usually couldn’t be further from the headlines, made the greatest catch we’ve ever seen.
He leapt up and as he tried to secure the ball. He pinned it to his helmet. As Patriots safety Rodney Harrison tried to make the tackle, Tyree fell down to the ground and somehow kept the leather from touching the field. There was maybe an inch between the ball and the ground, but he caught it. ‘The Helmet Catch’ made the literal David vs Goliath game come to fruition (the pun can hardly be avoided) and after the 32-yard gain kept the drive alive. Just a few plays later, Manning found Plaxico Burress wide open after a sluggo route to the endzone, for a beautiful game-winning touchdown. The drive went 83-yards in about 2 minutes, and the Giants took the lead, 17-14. The game ended and the perfect season was over. The New York Giants were champions for the third time in franchise history and the Pats had fallen.
Compared to the rest of the games on this list, this game was low-scoring and lacked the volume of memorable plays, but the one or two plays that stand out are so ridiculously iconic that the game will never be forgotten. The Giants had done it against all odds. They stopped a perfect season and they won off the back of the most iconic catch in NFL history, which helped consolidate it as one of the best Super Bowls ever and an incredible day in the lore of American Football.
Flick to page two for the next in our list of the greatest Super Bowls ever…