The Ten Greatest Super Bowls of All-time (PART THREE)

5. Super Bowl XXXVI
Date: February 3rd, 2002
Location: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana.

The New England Patriots over the St. Louis Rams, 20-17.

The Rams were favored by 14 points in this game and nobody really gave New England much of a shot. The Rams and Patriots actually played one another during the regular season with St. Louis winning the game rather handily. The Patriots were unexpected AFC champions defeating the Raiders in the infamous "Tuck Rule" game and then beating the heavily favored Steelers in the AFC championship game. St. Louis, led by all-pro quarterback Kurt Warner, was going for their 2nd title in three seasons. New England built a 17-3 second-half lead with the help of Ty Law's 47 yard interception return for a touchdown and quarterback Tom Brady's touchdown pass just before the half. The Rams came back with two late scores, including Kurt Warner's touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl to tie the game at 17 with 1:30 remaining. Just when it looked like we would have the first overtime in a Super Bowl, Brady marched the Pats down the field and set up Adam Vinatieri's 48 yard field goal as time expired. This would mark the first time a Super Bowl ended on the game's final play. Super Bowl XXXVI was the first one played in February has it had to be pushed back a week due to the September 11th attacks. I find this game pretty intriguing because, much like Super Bowl XIII between Dallas and Pittsburgh, it changed the legacy of both franchises. A victory for the Rams would have given them their 2nd title in 3 years making them a dynasty of sorts. Instead, the Patriots surprising victory launched their dynasty as they would go on to win 2 more championships over the next 3 seasons and become the last team to win 3 Lombardi trophies in a 4 year span. New England's legendary playoff-run and Super Bowl triumph helped make Tom Brady a superstar. Just a 6th round draft-choice out of Michigan, not much was expected from Brady when he became the starter in 2001 after Drew Bledsoe went down with an injury. Brady parlayed his initial success into a hall-of-fame career and one of the top one or two quarterbacks of this era. The Rams franchise really hasn't been the same since this game, plummeting to the doldrums of the NFL in recent seasons. Kurt Warner went on to play with the Giants and then the Cardinals where he led Arizona to a surprising Super Bowl appearance before his team suffered another heartbreaking loss.

4. Super Bowl XXIII
Date: January 22nd, 1989
Location: Joe Robbie Stadium, Miami, Florida.

The 49ers over the Bengals, 20-16.

This was the second Super Bowl meeting between these two teams and only the 3rd rematch in Super Bowl history. San Francisco was expected to dominate this game much like they did in their first Super Bowl victory over the Bengals following the 1981 season, but things didn't go as planned. Despite two very high-powered offenses led by quarterbacks Joe Montana and Boomer Esiason, the two teams traded field goals in the first half and went into the locker room tied at 3. They traded field goals again in the 3rd quarter, but Cincinnati's Stanford Jennings returned a kick-off 97 yards for a touchdown giving the Bengals a 13-6 lead. The 49ers answered immediately and capped off a game-tying touchdown drive with a Montana to Jerry Rice touchdown in the 4th quarter. The Bengals took a 16-13 lead with 3:20 left on Jim Breech's third field goal of the day. Montana then marched his team 92 yards, hitting John Taylor with the game-winning touchdown pass with 34 seconds remaining. San Francisco claimed their third title of the 80's. Jerry Rice was named game MVP with a record 215 receiving yards and a touchdown. Montana also set a record with 357 yards passing. This was the only great Super Bowl of the 80's. In the decade's 8 Super Bowls prior to XXIII, the average margin of victory was 21 points. And the come-from-behind, game-winning march by the 49ers was the first one in the history of the contest. 49ers head coach Bill Walsh went out on a high note as he would retire following this game. Despite this, San Francisco repeated as Super Bowl champions the following season, clinching their 4th title and becoming one of the greatest teams of all time.  

3. Super Bowl XLII
Date: February 3rd, 2008
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona.

The New York Giants upset the New England Patriots, 17-14.

Super Bowl XLII was supposed to be a coronation for the New England Patriots who simply dominated the 2007 regular season, outscoring their opponents by nearly 20 points a game. New England set records on offense with 589 points and 75 touchdowns. Quarterback Tom Brady set a record with 50 touchdown passes and wide receiver Randy Moss, acquired in the offseason for a 4th round draft pick, also set an NFL mark with 23 touchdown receptions. The Patriots came into the game 18-0 and were looking to become the first team to have a perfect season since the 1972 Miami Dolphins went 17-0. The New York Giants took a different path to SBXLII struggling early in the year before recovering to make the playoffs as a wildcard with a 10-6 record. Led by Eli Manning, an effective running attack and a dominating defensive line, the Giants became just the third team to win three-straight road games to reach the Super Bowl. The two teams actually played eachother in the last regular season game which the Patriots won, 38-35, to cap their undefeated regular season. Ironically enough, the Giants were Miami's last regular season opponent in '72. Despite the offensive weapons on both teams, the game was a defensive struggle. New York sacked Tom Brady five times during the game and the Giants offense could only muster 5 first downs in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Giants managed to take a 10-7 lead late in the contest before Brady led the Patriots to the go-ahead score, hitting Randy Moss with a six-yard touchdown pass with 2:42 left in the game. New York wouldn't be denied, marching towards their destiny with an 83 yard drive for the ages. Key plays were Brandon Jacob's two yard run on 4th and 1 and an Eli Manning to David Tyree reception that will go down in history as one of the greatest plays of all time. On 3rd and 5, Manning escaped the grasps of a Patriots' defender and stayed alive long enough to unleash a pass 32 yards downfield. Tyree out-jumped Patriots' safety Rodney Harrison for the ball and cradled it against his helmet as he fell to the ground. Later in the drive, from the 13 yardline, Manning hit receiver Plaxico Burress for the game-winning touchdown pass with 35 seconds remaining. The Giants captured their 3rd Super Bowl trophy in franchise history while the Patriots had to settle for a "disappointing" 18-1 record. As the 2007 season unfolded, the Patriots were so dominant that a victory in this game would surely have stamped them with the label of "Greatest Team in History." Not only that, they would have matched the Steelers of the 70's with four titles in a six year span. The 2007 postseason was a coming-out party for Eli Manning, who finally lived up to being the number one over all selection in the 2004 draft and got out from under his older brother's shadow. Eli matched Peyton Manning's Super Bowl triumph of a year earlier making the Mannings the first siblings to win Super Bowls back-to-back. The Giants were the first wildcard team from the NFC to win a Super Bowl.

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