As we move ahead with two weeks worth of hype surrounding Super Bowl XLIII — or 43 for those less inclined to memorize Roman numerals – it’s important to remember that the game often fails to live up to the hoopla.
Except it seems when it is played in the sunny state of Florida.
Maybe it’s the families going to Disney World. Maybe it’s the palm trees. Maybe it’s the scene at South Beach. Who knows? But looking at the history of the NFL’s storied contest it jumps out that the games played here have been among some of the most memorable ever played.
The contest between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa will mark the 14th game to be played in Florida since the Super Bowl was launched in January 1967. Here’s my list of the Top 5 Super Bowls to be played here.
1. Super Bowl XXV – Tampa Stadium – Jan. 27, 1991: Last year’s clash between the Giants and the Patriots was a great game, but this contest may have been the best Super Bowl ever. It pitted the methodical and defense-oriented N.Y. Giants led by Big Tuna Bill Parcells against the explosive offense of the Buffalo Bills. The Giants were supposed to be the underdogs, but Parcells was able to use a solid running attack featuring Ottis Anderson to keep Buffalo off the field. The Giants had a 9-and-a-half minute scoring drive in the third quarter that sealed the Bills fate. Buffalo tried to march down the field in the waning seconds only to watch Scott Norwood‘s field goal sail wide. Final score: N.Y. Giants 20, Buffalo 19.
2. Super Bowl XXIII-Joe Robbie Stadium-Jan. 22, 1989: Everyone knew that Joe Montana was a remarkable quarterback but this cemented his place in NFL history. Trailing the Cincinnati Bengals in the final minutes, Montana led the San Francisco 49ers on a remarkable 92-yard scoring drive that finished with a touchdown pass to John Taylor. In the end it seems the Bengals were truly cursed: On the night before running back Stanley Wilson was suspended when he was discovered doing drugs. Early in the game defensive lineman Tim Krumrie broke his leg. This game turned out to be Bill Walsh’s final game as the 49ers coach. Final score: San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16.
3. Super Bowl III–The Orange Bowl-Jan. 12, 1969: This is the game that made the NFL what is today. Everyone talks about how the overtime win by the Baltimore Colts over the N.Y. Giants in the 1959 championship game was a big moment for football in American history. But so was this one. No one expected the N.Y. Jets of the American Football League to win. That’s why there so much attention focused on Joe Namath’s improbable victory guarantee. But Namath backed up his guarantee in one of the “biggest upsets in sports history” and helped make the Super Bowl the premier event in American sports. And who doesn’t love that image of Namath wagging his finger in the air as he trots off the Orange Bowl field? Final score: N.Y. Jets 16, Baltimore 7.
4. Super Bowl X–The Orange Bowl–Jan. 18, 1976: A great contest between two of America’s most storied NFL franchises. The Dallas Cowboys actually held a 10-7 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers heading into the final quarter but the Steelers were able to capitalize on the Cowboys mistakes to surge ahead. The biggest play of the game was a stunning 64-yard-touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to Lynn Swann, who wound up winning the MVP award after his 4 catches for 161 yards. Cowboys great Roger Staubach tried to lead the Cowboys back, only to have one of his passes intercepted in the end zone in the closing seconds of the contest. Final score: Pittsburgh Steelers 21, Dallas Cowboys 17.
5. Super Bowl XXXIX–Alltel Stadium–Feb. 6, 2005: This was supposed to be a cakewalk for the New England Patriots, but it didn’t turn out that way. They stumbled to a 7-7 tie with the Philadelphia Eagles at half time. In the second half, Tom Brady got the offense going somewhat, thanks to passes to wideout Deion Branch. Donovan McNabb showed why he is so beloved and so reviled in this game. In some instances he was brilliant and he was able to lead the Eagles on a fierce comeback attempt – with some help from a wide receiver with the name of Terrell Owens (who racked up 122 yards receiving despite having two screws in his ankle.) But McNabb also threw three interceptions, including one with less than a minute in the game that cemented the Patriots victory. Final score: New England Patriots 24, Philadelphia Eagles 21.