5. Super Bowl XXXVI – New England Patriots vs. St. Louis Rams – February 3, 2002
The Rams featured “The Greatest Show on Turf” – league MVP Kurt Warner at QB, RB Marshall Faulk and WRs Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt. The Patriots were led by second-year QB Tom Brady (who was filling in for Drew Bledsoe, who sustained an injury during mid-season), a stifling defense and clutch kicker Adam Vinatieri. The Patriots were 14-point underdogs, yet streaked out to a 17-3 lead. The Ram offense finally woke up in the fourth quarter, tying the game with 1:30 to play. But, it was too little, too late, as the Patriots drove down the field and set up Vinatieri with a game-winning 48-yard field goal, which he nailed, giving New England their first Super Bowl victory, 20-17. Brady was named MVP (16-27, 145 yards, 1 TD).
4. Super Bowl XXIII – San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals – January 22, 1989
With all apologies to Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos fans, this was “The Drive.” Trailing 16-13 with just over three minutes left in the game, San Francisco had the ball on their own 8-yard line. QB Joe Montana led the 49ers on one of his famous comebacks, marching the team 92 yards, eventually finding WR John Taylor in the end zone with 34 seconds left to play. Many say the drive was the defining moment of Montana’s “Joe Cool” reputation, especially when he attempted to calm his teammates in the huddle by pointing into the stands and stating, “Hey, isn’t that John Candy?” The Bengals got the ball back, but their offense, led by QB Boomer Esiason, WR Eddie Brown, RBs James Brooks and Ickey Woods (he of the infamous Ickey Shuffle) and TE Rodney Holman, couldn’t respond, giving the 49ers the comeback victory, 20-16. Jerry Rice, the 49ers legendary WR, was named MVP (11 catches, 215 yards, 1 TD).
3. Super Bowl XXV – Buffalo Bills vs. New York Giants – January 27, 1991
The Buffalo Bills had arguably one of the best teams in league history, featuring a tough defense and a high-powered, no-huddle offense led by QB Jim Kelly, WR Andre Reed and RB Thurman Thomas. The New York Giants had the league’s second ranked defense, led by LB Lawrence Taylor, but their offense was questionable. Starting QB Phil Simms was out for the season, so backup Jeff Hostetler led the Giants to the Super Bowl. After a defensive struggle, the Bills lead 12-10 at the half. After trading scores, the Giants kicked a late field goal and led 20-19. But, the Bills got the ball back on their own 10-yard line with 2:16 left in the game. The Buffalo offense marched down the field and set up kicker Scott Norwood with a 47-yard field goal to win the game. Norwood missed wide right and became the Super Bowl’s biggest goat, in the closest Super Bowl of all time. Ottis Anderson, Giants’ RB, was named MVP (21 carries, 102 yards, 1 TD).
2. Super Bowl XXXIV – St. Louis Rams vs. Tennessee Titans- January 30, 2000
“The Greatest Show on Turf” was in full flight this season, coming into the game with the league’s No. 1 offense. Warner was league MVP, and Bruce, Holt and Faulk were firing on all cylinders. The Titans were strong on both sides of the ball, and were led by QB Steve McNair, RB Eddie George, WR Derrick Mason and DE Jevon Kearse. Still, no one gave Tennessee much of a chance, and when they were down 16-0 in the third, it seemed like everyone was right. But, the Titan offense came alive and their defense stepped it up, leading a charge that would eventually tie the game. Then, Warner and Bruce connected on a 73-yard bomb to take the lead, 23-16. The Titans then got the ball on their own 10-yard line with 1:54 to go. McNair drove the team down the field, and with 6 seconds left on the Rams’ 10-yard line, he completed a pass to WR Kevin Dyson. Dyson was running towards the end zone and stretched out to score, but Mike Jones tackled him inches short of the goal line. Time expired and the Rams won the game. Kurt Warner was named MVP (24-45, 414 yards, 2 TDs).
1. Super Bowl XXXVIII – Carolina Panthers vs. New England Patriots – February 1, 2004
The Patriots were seasoned, more experienced, and heavily favored to win. Led by Brady, WRs Deion Branch and David Givens, RB Antowain Smith and one of the leagues best defenses, the Patriots were the best team in the league. But, the Panthers were red-hot and streaked through the playoffs, led by QB Jake Delhomme, WRs Steve Smith and Musin Muhammad, RBs DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis and a pretty strong defense of their own. The game was scoreless in the first quarter, but the teams got going in the second, and New England led 14-10 at halftime. It was scoreless again in the third, setting the stage for the most exciting fourth quarter in Super Bowl history. The Patriots took a 21-10 lead early in the fourth, and many thought the Panthers were done. But, their offense got rolling and put up two quick touchdowns to take a 22-21 lead (the Panthers failed a two-point conversion after the second touchdown). Brady and the Patriots responded with a touchdown of their own, followed by a successful two-point conversion, to take a 29-22 lead. The Panthers would not die, however, as Delhomme led them down the field, tying the game with a strike to WR Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left in the game. It was looking like this would be the first Super Bowl to go into overtime, but the Patriots weren’t done. Brady got the team downfield and set up Vinatieri for a 41-yard field goal for the win. Like he did two years prior, Vinatieri nailed the kick and won the game for the Patriots, 32-29. Brady was named MVP (32-48, 354 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT).