As the 2021 Super Bowl approaches, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosting the game in their own stadium – the first team of all time to do so – against the Kansas City Chiefs, it is impossible to ignore the fact that this year will be unique for another reason. The Super Bowl attendance is projected to be 22,000 fans total. This will be the lowest of all time, taking the spot from the first-ever Super Bowl in 1967, which hosted 61,946.
With this Super Bowl’s crowd being unique, to say the least, let’s take a look at the 10 highest ever Super Bowl attendances, from Super Bowl I to LV.
10. Super Bowl VI – Tulane Stadium: 81,023
Tulane Stadium, in New Orleans, Lousiana, played host. For the first time, the Super Bowl broke the 80,000-person milestone.
Dallas won by a scoreline of 24-3, and QB Roger Staubach won Super Bowl MVP, after throwing two TD passes in the low-scoring affair. The Cowboys, who had lost the previous year to the Baltimore Colts, dominated the Miami offense, and remains to this day to be the only team in Super Bowl history to not give up a single touchdown.
9. Super Bowl XVI – Pontiac Silverdome: 81,270
The Niners won 26-21, and this marked the first-ever Super Bowl win for not only San Francisco – one of the most winning franchises of all – it was also the first championship for HOF QB Joe Montana.
‘Joe Cool’ won the game’s MVP, throwing for 157 yards and a single TD as well as scoring on a 1-yard rush. The Bengals almost managed to rally for a second-half comeback, but when their onside kick at the very end of the game was thwarted, they fell just short.
Dan Ross had a fantastic game with 11 receptions for 104 yards and 2 touchdowns. Unfortunately, his TD with less than 20 seconds to go was the last time Cincinnati got the ball.
8. Super Bowl XIX – Stanford Stadium: 84,059
For the second time in a row, the San Francisco 49ers win this one, earning their second Super Bowl in four years. This time it was in front of almost 85,000 fans, at Stanford Stadium in California.
Once again, Joe Montana led them to victory and was awarded the MVP, but this one was about as Super Bowl MVP of a performance you could muster.
He threw for 331 yards and 3 touchdowns, and once again scored a rushing TD, absolutely dominating the Miami Dolphins. Miami’s Dan Marino put up a fight with 318 yards of his own, but he threw 2 interceptions, and the Niners ran away with it, winning 38-16, after pitching a shutout for the entire second half.
This is the final time that we feature the Niners in this list, but these two wins are just two years of the Niners dominant ’80s and ’90s, a period in which they won 5 championships.
7. Super Bowl VII – LA Memorial Coliseum: 90,182
Seventh on our list is Super Bowl VII.
After featuring two losses for Don Shula and the Miami Dolphins, we now rewind to see them earn a gruelling 14-7 victory over the Washington Redskins. Just one year after their loss to the Cowboys, they put up an equally dominant defensive performance, and the Super Bowl MVP was awarded to Dolphins safety Jake Scott after he hauled in 2 interceptions.
The LA Memorial Coliseum hosted this game and it was the first game to break 90,000 attendees, setting the tone for what the biggest sporting event of the year could become.
6. Super Bowl XXVII – Rose Bowl: 98,374
The 27th Super Bowl was a historic and memorable one for many reasons, and it marked the final time that the Rose Bowl stadium in Pasadena would host the big game.
You will come to see a lot more of the infamous Rose Bowl Super Bowls later in this list, but this one – with the lowest Super Bowl attendance of them, at 98,374 – was special for numerous other reasons too.
Highest passer rating in postseason history (among QBs with at least 10 wins)
1. Aaron Rodgers 100.4
2. Joe Montana 95.6
3. Tom Brady 90.2
4. Joe Flacco 88.6
5. Troy Aikman 88.3 pic.twitter.com/MxBddaLvGi
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) January 20, 2021
Aikman’s dominant performance was shared alongside two more Hall of Famers on the offense with Emmitt Smith rushing for 108 yards and a score and WR Michael Irvin turning 6 receptions into 114 yards and 2 TD’s. This game will also be remembered for the halftime show, performed by Michael Jackson. This started the era of top-tier musical talent featuring at halftime. This is also the tied-third highest-scoring Super Bowl of all time with 69 total points.
5. Super Bowl XXI – Rose Bowl: 101,063
As we move into the second half our list of the biggest Super Bowl attendances, we finally break the 100,000 mark.
The Giants won 39-20, and QB Phil Simms won the MVP. Simms threw for 268 yards and 3 touchdowns and had a passer rating of 150.9, which is still the highest in Super Bowl history.
The Giants scored a safety, which has only happened in nine Super Bowls. This was also the first of two Super Bowl wins for legendary coach Bill Parcells. The game was 10-9 to Denver at halftime but the Giants put up an SB-record 30 points in the second half to bring home their first-ever Super Bowl.
4. Super Bowl XLV – Cowboys Stadium: 103,219
In the most recent Super Bowl on our list, taking place in 2011, we also get the final entry that is not in Pasadena.
This game was hosted in Cowboys stadium, with Jerry Jones attempting to reach the number one spot on our list, but failing quite infamously. They installed 15,000 temporary seats to try and reach their maximum possible capacity for Super Bowl XLV, however, due to delays to sort out the seating, which caused the relocation of fans (and led to legal issues) they fell short of the record by less than 1,000.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 24, 2021
The game took place between Mike Tomlin’s Pittsburgh Steelers and Mike McCarthy’s Green Bay Packers, ending with a final score of 31-25 in favour of the Packers. Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers threw for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns, and wideout Jordy Nelson had an impressive game with 140 yards and a score.
This was the most pass-heavy Super Bowl game of all time, with just 36 rushing attempts in total. Until they lost to the Buccaneers in the 2020 postseason, Green Bay was the last wildcard team to ever make it to the Super Bowl, and one of only six in history to win it.
3. Super Bowl XI – Rose Bowl: 103,438
This was the first time the Rose Bowl ever hosted the big game, and in doing so it raised the record Super Bowl attendance by over 13,000 people, with 103,438 fans.
This game was full of now-Hall of Famers, including Super Bowl MVP Fred Biletnikoff who interestingly won the award despite only catching four balls for 79 yards and failed to score – the only WR to ever be named MVP without breaking 100 yards. Clarence Davis rushed for 137 yards and Ken Stabler threw for 180 and a single TD, in HC Madden’s only Super Bowl win, just two seasons before he retired to go into television.
2. Super Bowl XVII – Rose Bowl: 103,667
The second highest Super Bowl attendance of all time once again features a Don Shula-coached Dolphins side falling short, this time to the Washington Redskins in 1983.
Miami struck first and scored the only points of the first quarter, with a 76-yard reception to Jimmy Cefalo and then Fulton Walker scored on a 98-yard kickoff return in the second quarter, but outside of these two huge plays, the Dolphins could do practically nothing to move the ball.
Redskins running back John Riggins won the Super Bowl MVP after rushing for a record-setting 166 yards on (also record-setting, and this one still unbroken) 38 carries.
His 181 total scrimmage yards was more than the entire Miami offense mustered. Miami managed just 176 despite a huge chunk of them coming on one play. John Riggins wasn’t the only successful rusher, though, as the team also set the record for the most rushing yards in a Super Bowl with 276 yards – a record that they themselves beat (280) which remains the record.
1. Super Bowl XIV – Rose Bowl: 103,985
And here we reach the record for the highest ever Super Bowl attendance with 103,985 people packed into the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, California, for Super Bowl XIV.
The fourteenth Super Bowl was a battle between the Los Angeles Rams and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rams had the closest thing that we have ever seen to a home advantage in the Super Bowl with the most fans in history attending the game in their home market. Until 2020, no team had ever played a Super Bowl in their home stadium, but this was the nearest any team had come. The Rams failed to win in front of the locals, however, losing 31-19.
The Steelers were the favourites heading into the game, and QB Terry Bradshaw led them to a smooth victory, winning the MVP award on the back of a 309 yard and 2 touchdown game, despite throwing 3 interceptions. Wide receiver John Stallworth turned just 3 receptions into 121 yards and a TD, with the score coming on a 73-yard catch and run. Bradshaw earned the record for the highest average gain with 14.7 yards per completion, and Stallworth set the same for highest per reception with 40.33 yards. The Steelers’ win in this game followed their previous win and represented the fourth time they won the Super Bowl in 5 seasons.
Pittsburgh remain tied for the most Super Bowls won by any franchise, and they hold the record at the core of this list, winning the highest attended Super Bowl in NFL history.