Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

Ranking the Super Bowls: Counting Down From 30 to 16

Posted on January 28, 2010 by A.J. Foss
Butch Johnson's acrobatic catch in Super Bowl XII helped lift the Cowboys to a title, but it would not have been ruled a catch based on today's rules.

Butch Johnson's acrobatic catch in Super Bowl XII helped lift the Cowboys to a title, but it would not have been ruled a catch based on today's rules.

Welcome to Part 2 of the series that ranks the Super Bowls from 43rd to 1st.

In this installment, we take a look at 30 through 16 with some Super Bowls that competitive for about a half or were not put out of reach until the final minutes of the game.

There are also some blowouts included in this installment that are more memorable because of a historic individual or team performance.

So, here is part two:

30. Super Bowl XII Cowboys-27 Broncos-10
The first half of this Super Bowl was perhaps the most bizarre 30 minutes in Super Bowl history.

Broncos quarterback Craig Morton was intercepted four times as Denver turned the ball over seven times in the first half but only trailed 13-0 at halftime as Cowboys kicker Efren Herrera missed three field goals in the half.

It took two spectacular touchdowns in the second half for Dallas to put the Broncos away; a 45-yard diving, fingertip catch by Butch Johnson in the third quarter to make it 20-3, followed by a halfback option pass from running back Robert Newhouse to wide receiver Golden Richards for a 29-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter.

29. Super Bowl IX Steelers-16 Vikings-6

This game marked the first of four Super Bowl championships in the 1970s for the Pittsburgh Steelers and their famed “Steel Curtain” defense.

Of the four Super Bowl wins, this was the best performance by the “Steel Curtain” as they recorded the first safety in Super Bowl history and limited the Vikings to 119 yards of total offense, 17 rushing yards, nine first downs, and did not allow an offensive touchdown (Minnesota’s touchdown came on a blocked punt).

However, it took until 3:31 to go in the game for the Steelers to put the Vikings away as quarterback Terry Bradshaw found tight end Larry Brown for a 4-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.

28. Super Bowl I Packers-35 Chiefs-10

The first Super Bowl between the AFL Champion Kansas City Chiefs and the NFL Champion Green Bay Packers was actually competitive for the first half as the Packers held a slim 14-10 lead at halftime despite being outgained 181-164.

But on the first series of the second half, Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson is intercepted by Packers safety Willie Wood, who returns it 50 yards to the 5-yard-line, setting up Elijah Pitts’ 5-yard touchdown run as the Packers outscored the Chiefs 21-0 in the second half as the Packers cruised to the easy victory.

27. Super Bowl XXVIII Cowboys-30 Bills-13
For a while, it actually looked like the Bills would win a Super Bowl as they lead the heavily favored Dallas Cowboys 13-6 at halftime.

But on the third play of the second half, Bills running back Thurman Thomas is hit by Leon Lett (yes, that Leon Lett) causing a fumble that is recovered by Cowboys defensive back James Washington, who returns it 46 yards for the touchdown that ties the game and swings the momentum back toward Dallas.

Following that touchdown, Emmitt Smith would score two more touchdowns as the Cowboys outscored the Bills 24-0 in the second half to hand Buffalo its fourth consecutive Super Bowl loss.

Devin Hester started Super Bowl XLI by returning the opening kickoff for a score, but the Bears were unable to build on the momentum.

Devin Hester started Super Bowl XLI by returning the opening kickoff for a score, but the Bears were unable to build on the momentum.

26. Super Bowl XLI Colts-29 Bears-17
They were many firsts to occur in this Super Bowl.

It was the first time a Super Bowl was played in the rain and the first time two African-American head coaches made it to the Super Bowl, Tony Dungy for the Colts and Lovie Smith for the Bears, and it was the first time the opening kickoff of the game was returned as Devin Hester returned it 92 yards for a touchdown.

Both teams turned the ball over three times in the first half as the Colts took a 16-14 lead into halftime.

The game remained tight until the fourth quarter when Colts defensive back Kelvin Hayden picked off a Rex Grossman pass and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown for the final points of the game and give Dungy the distinction as the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.

25. Super Bowl XX Bears-46 Patriots-10
Believe it or not, the Bears actually fell behind in this annihilation of the Patriots, as Walter Payton fumbled on the second play of the game, setting up a Patriot field goal to give New England a 3-0 lead.

However, the Bears would score the next 44 points, including a 1-yard touchdown run by defensive tackle William “The Refrigerator” Perry in one of the biggest blowouts in Super Bowl history.

But what made this blowout so memorable was the Chicago “46” defense.

The Bears allowed only 123 yards of total offense(-19 in the first half!), including only seven rushing yards, forced six turnovers, and sacked Patriot quarterbacks Tony Eason and Steve Grogan a total of seven times.

24. Super Bowl XXI Giants-39 Broncos-20

Giants quarterback Phil Simms had one of the greatest individual performances in Super Bowl history as he completed 22 of 25 passes for 261 yards and threw three touchdowns, as he was named MVP of the game.

The Giants’ win was not as easy as the final score indicated as the Broncos held a 10-7 lead and a first-and-goal at the Giants’ 1 –yard line early in the second quarter.

But the Giant defense forced the Broncos to attempt a field goal, which was missed by Rich Karlis from 23 yards out.

The goal line stand was the turning point of the game as the Giants would get a safety before halftime and then outscored the Broncos 30-10 in the second half.

23. Super Bowl XL Steelers-21 Seahawks-10
In the minds of Seahawks fans and neutral viewers, this was the worst officiated Super Bowl.

Several debatable calls including an offensive pass interference penalty on wide receiver Darrell Jackson on an apparent 16-yard touchdown catch, went against Seattle at key moments of the game that would have helped the Seahawks.

While some believe the referees aided the Steelers in their victory over Seattle, Pittsburgh got two spectacular touchdowns in the second half.

The first touchdown occurred on the second play of the half when running back Willie Parker ran for a 75-yard touchdown run for the longest run in Super Bowl history, giving Pittsburgh a 14-3 lead.

The second touchdown occurred midway through the fourth quarter and with the Steelers clinging to a 14-10 lead.

On a from the Seahawks 43-yard line, receiver Antawn Randle El took a wide receiver reserve and threw a long pass to Hines Ward for a touchdown that broke the Seahawks’ back.

After the game, Steelers running Jerome Bettis announced his retirement after receiving the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Even though the victory punctuated an undefeated season for the Dolphins, the lasting memory of Super Bowl VII is the comical "pass" of kicker Garo Yepremian.

Even though the victory punctuated an undefeated season for the Dolphins, the lasting memory of Super Bowl VII is the comical "pass" of kicker Garo Yepremian.

22. Super Bowl VII Dolphins-14 Redskins-7
The Miami Dolphins completed the only undefeated season in the Super Bowl era as they knocked off the Redskins in a defensive stalemate.

However, the most memorable play from this game was a moment of imperfection for the Dolphins.

With 2:07 remaining and leading 14-0, Dolphin kicker Garo Yepremian came on to attempt a 42-yard field goal.

The kick was blocked by the Redskins and ball bounced back to Yepremian, who picked it up and attempted to throw a pass.

Instead, the ball went straight up in the air and as Yepremain batted the ball back into the air, Redskins defensive back Mike Bass caught in midair and returned it 49 yards for the Redskins’ only touchdown.

The greatest blooper in Super Bowl history is now known in NFL annals as “Garo’s Gaffe”.

21. Super Bowl V Colts-16 Cowboys-13

Even though this Super Bowl had a thrilling finish as Colts kicker Jim O’ Brien kicked a 32-yard field goal with five seconds left to give the Colts a 16-13 win, the poor play of this game is why it is not higher.

The Colts and the Cowboys combined for 11 turnovers (seven by the Colts) and 14 penalties (10 by the Cowboys) leading this game to be nicknamed the “Blunder Bowl”.

This Super Bowl is unique for the fact that is the only time a player from the losing team was named MVP; Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley for intercepting two passes.

20. Super Bowl XXX Cowboys-27 Steelers-17
The Dallas Cowboys, the team of the 1990s, were very fortunate to win their third Super Bowl in four years.

The Steelers outgained the Cowboys 201-61 on offense in the second half but two atrocious interceptions by Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell that were picked off by cornerback Larry Brown set up Dallas’ two touchdowns in the second half.

The second interception came with 4:15 left in the fourth quarter and the Steelers with the ball on their own 32-yard line and trailing 20-17 when Brown intercepted an O’Donnell pass and returned it 33 yards to set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Emmitt Smith that put the game away.

If were not for those interceptions, the Steelers could have pulled off the upset.

19. Super Bowl IV Chiefs-23 Vikings-7
One year after the Jets upset the Colts in the Super Bowl, the AFL defeated the NFL again in the last Super Bowl before the merger of the two leagues.

This time, it was the Kansas City Chiefs who defeated the nearly two-touchdown favorite Minnesota Vikings in a convincing 23-7 win.

The memorable play of this game was a 5-yard touchdown run by Mike Garrett on the “65 Toss Power Trap” which was recorded for the NFL Films presentation of Super Bowl IV on the wireless microphone of Chiefs head coach Hank Stram.

Marcus Allen's run in Super Bowl XVIII may be one of the greatest individual plays in Super Bowl history.

Marcus Allen's 74-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XVIII may be one of the greatest individual plays in Super Bowl history.

18. Super Bowl XVIII Raiders-38 Redskins-9
The 1983 Redskins were what the Patriots were in their undefeated regular season a few years ago, as Washington scored a NFL-record 541 points during the regular season and finished the regular season with a 14-2 record, with their two losses by being one point each.

But in the Super Bowl, the Redskins were crushed by the Raiders in one of the biggest Super Bowl blowouts.

Two plays from this rout stand out; a 5-yard interception return by Raiders linebacker Jack Squirek on a screen pass with 12 seconds left in the first half to give the Raiders a 21-3 lead.

The second play was running back Marcus Allen’s amazing 74-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter that finished off the Redskins.

Allen’s run was the longest run in Super Bowl history until Willie Parker’s 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL.

17. Super Bowl XXII Redskins-42 Broncos-10
The Washington Redskins put together the greatest quarter in Super Bowl history in this Super Bowl against John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

Behind 10-0 at the start of the second quarter, the Redskins scored 35 points and gained 356 yards of total offense on just 18 plays to take a 35-10 lead into the half.

Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl, complete 9 of 11 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns in the quarter, on his way to 340 yards and being named the game’s MVP.

Running back Timmy Smith ran for a Super Bowl record 204 yards and scored two touchdowns and wide receiver Ricky Sanders caught 9 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns in the offensive onslaught.

Because of the historical significance of Williams’ performance and the numerous records set up the Redskins offense, this blowout is so high on the list.

Victory in Super Bowl XVI completed an improbable season for the San Francisco 49ers.

Victory in Super Bowl XVI completed an improbable season for the San Francisco 49ers.

16. Super Bowl XVI 49ers-26 Bengals-21
The Bengals almost pulled off the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history as they fought back from a 20-0 halftime deficit, only to fall short 26-21 to the San Francisco 49ers.

The difference in the game was a goal-line stand by the 49er defense late in the third quarter.

The Bengals had a first-and-goal at three-yard-line, including three plays inside the 1, but were turned away and come away with no points.

Despite being outgained 356-275, the 49ers forced 5 turnovers and came away with the first of five Super Bowl titles.

Joe Montana won the first of his three Super Bowl MVPs even though he only threw for 157 yards and one touchdown.

Check out Part I: Ranking Super Bowls 43-31

Be sure to check back on Sunday, January 31, for the Top 15 Super Bowls of all-time.

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