As big an event as matching up the two best teams in football is, more often than not, that combination doesn’t often make for the most exciting Super Bowls. First of all, we’re not REALLY matching up the best teams in the league. We’re matching up the best teams in the NFC and AFC. Secondly, it doesn’t matter if the Romans were battling the Greeks (I’m not a history scholar, btw), no matchup could EVER live up to the hype of any Super Bowl. Seriously. Even the best Super Bowls still feel like a let down. Maybe because with the parties, the ads, the halftime show, the incessant lead-up, the terrible food, it’s like being stuck in sensory overload. When it’s over you just sort of have a headache.
But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been exciting Super Bowls. There’s been a few. At least nine. Otherwise I wouldn’t make this list. Ok. I would make this list even if there were zero, but there were, coincidentally about nine exciting Super Bowls that managed to not be complete debacles.
You wanna know what they are? Good. Cause you’re gonna find out whether you want to or not!
(Just kidding. You’re free to leave at any time.)
Don’t care if this wasn’t close. I’d rather see a high-scoring blowout with one (two?) iconic teams than a defensive struggle that last for four damn hours. Thurman Thomas couldn’t find his helmet. Leon Lett makes an ass out of himself. Jerry Jones enters the second act of his Scarface-like rise to power.
9. Super Bowl XXVII: Cowboys 52, Bills 17
Just because I hate a Super Bowl doesn’t mean it’s not exciting. The Fins went 17-0 this season. That must have been exciting at the time. Now it’s just a tragedy because those jerk Dolphins are still banging pots and pans over their not-that-impressive accomplishment. Also, if a game was 14-7 in 2015, Goodell would walk out onto the field with a pistol and start showing cornerbacks in the thigh. And how awesome is this halftime show?
8. Super Bowl VII: Dolphins 14, Redskins 7
Again, not close, but…Jim McMahon, the Fridge scores a touchdown. Walter Payton, SUPER BOWL SHUFFLE. That’s exciting. The Bears defense was a bigger star here than their prolific offense. If every Super Bowl was exactly this exciting, everyone would be content.
7. Super Bowl XX: Bears 46, Patriots 10
A rare close game goes a long way. It keeps the gamblers engaged and they’re the backbone of any good Super Bowl audience. I just made that up, but it sounds right, doesn’t it? Donovan McNabb through up before this game. I’m sure that had to do with nerves and definitely nothing to do with Campbell’s Chunky Soup.
6. Super Bowl XXXIX: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
This had the Ickey Shuffle. It had Joe Montana and the rest of the 49ers, who were starting to get a reputation as the Super Bowl house band. The Bengals had no business hanging with these guys, and yet they did. The Bengals had the upper hand until the Niners took it from them wit ha John Taylor TD. A guy (Tim Krumrie) broke his leg. EXCITEMENT.
5. Super Bowl XXIII: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
This was exciting because the NFL’s first star, Joe Namath, was in the limelight. And man, did he milk it. Broadway Joe guaranteed a victory leading up to the game, and this was back in the day when people were dumb enough to pay attention to nonsense like that. Because he’s a legend, he won and came through on his promise, which puts this in the pantheon of matches like the Flu Game and other contests defined by one person.
4. Super Bowl III: Jets 16, Colts 7
This was the second of the Bills four SB appearances, and people had regarded them as an AFC juggernaut, and not so much the Washington Generals of the Super Bowl. I don’t want to put too much emphasis on the fact that this came down to a field goal (lots of crappy games come down to a field goal, too), but this one was pretty evenly matched. It was a good Super Bowl, then Scott Norwood lined up for the game winner and it was solidified as a great Super Bowl, regardless of where the kick went.
3. Super Bowl XXV: Giants 10, Bills 19
Two world class teams going straight after each other in a game that not only lived up to the hype then, but stands up to the legend now. Staubach, Bradshaw, Randy White playing with a cast, and a legendary dropped ball. My recap won’t sell it, but hopefully the video highlights above will give you a sense.
2. Super Bowl XIII: Steelers 35, Cowboys 31
The helmet catch was the most exciting play in Super Bowl history. Probably. It allowed the Giants to stay in the game, and ultimately cost the Pats the undefeated season. Hatred of the Patriots reached a fever pitch this season, and everyone outside of New England and the NFC East was rooting against them. And they lost. Even my recap is exciting. (No it’s not.) All Super Bowls are high stakes, but this one stood apart for the stakes, and the quality of the game. #1.