July 25, 2010
Great, But Not Patriotically Great, Super Bowls
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Naturally, you want Tom Brady to get fitted for one for the thumb and then daydream about his "next one".
There have been 44 Super Bowls as of this writing, and the Patriots have been in six of them. Their record is level at 3-3, which is very good if you can somehow ignore the horrific result of the last one they were in. Some teams get there and never win (Buffalo and Minnesota especially), then some teams get there only once and enjoy beginner's luck (the Jets, the Ravens, and now the Saints). Pittsburgh has won six of them, San Francisco and Dallas five each. That's a little less than 3/8ths of all of them. But the three games the Patriots won mean that fans can still walk tall and proud when their team name is uttered.
Still, just because the Patriots aren't in more of these big games nor have won more means that the games don't mean a lot to this region. We'd like to present to you the five worst non-Patriot Super Bowls, then the five best non-Patriot Super Bowls. To make either list, the quality of the game is not the leading criteria, but rather the quality of the result of the game. Anyone can put "wide right" and "one yard short" on their short lists of greatest Super Bowls ever. These games will represent Super Bowls which Patriot fans have either loved or loathed.
Both lists will be presented in chronological order.
The Five Worst Non-Patriot Super BowlsSuper Bowl VII: Miami vs. Washington
We're still hearing about this Miami team, and we're all sick of it.
Despite Garo Yepremian throwing the worst looking pass in NFL history which was returned for a touchdown by Mike Bass, the Dolphins defeated the Washington Redskins 14-7 to complete a perfect 17-0 season in 1972. To this day, this Dolphin team drinks a toast amongst each other when the last team to lose their first game continues their legacy. They did this with a weak schedule in a 14-game season, but they still reign supreme because they did not lose a single game.
In 2007, the Patriots won their first 18 games to exceed Miami by one. But losing Super Bowl XLII to the Giants meant the Dolphins would not shut up. Mercury Morris was particularly vocal all during Super Bowl week, saying things like "It's one thing to be in the neighborhood, but another to kick the door in!" The Patriots left the hood after the loss in Glendale, Arizona, but if Indianapolis had at least wanted to in 2009, they would have come back to pay a call on Morris.
Super Bowl XI: Oakland vs. Minnesota
This should have been a Patriot win, but thanks to Ben Dreith, it was not to be.
Any Raider fan who complains about the Tuck Rule in 2001 should remember the horrid roughing the passer call in 1976 which helped prevent the Patriots from a 17-14 win at Oakland in the Divisional Playoffs. The hideous call on Raymond Hamilton prolonged that drive, and Kenny Stabler scored the winning touchdown which sent the Raiders forward in the playoffs, 21-17, and the Patriots home steaming.
All the Raiders had to deal with from that game on was an injury-depleted defending champion Pittsburgh team, and a snake-bitten Minnesota team who was no better at winning Super Bowls than William "Refrigerator" Perry was at missing meals. Oakland won both games easily, especially the 32-14 win over the Vikings in the big game. The Vikes could do nothing with "Old Man Willie" Brown; the Patriots could do nothing with referee Ben Dreith, who to this day still thinks he made the right call on a play which in 1976 was perfectly legal but would have been flagged today for a headslap.
Super Bowl XXXII: Denver vs. Green Bay
This was the all-time classic "who do you root for" game if you are a Patriot fan.
One year prior, Brett Favre sliced up and diced up a Patriot defense in New Orleans, and his Green Bay Packers team came into the 32nd big game as defending champ against John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Elway would complete his career never having lost to the Patriots, whose fans affectionately refer to the legendary Bronco quarterback as "Horseteeth".
You didn't want either quarterback to win, but one had to.
The winner was Elway, finally winning his first Super Bowl after losing his first three. Elway got the MVP and the glory, but it was running back Terrell Davis who was the real key to the 31-24 Denver win. Pat Bowlen proudly proclaimed "This one's for John!" at game's end, but how could you the Patriot fan be happy seeing Favre lose at the expense of Elway winning?
To say nothing of some loudmouth tight end for Denver who felt compelled to call on the National Guard the previous season.
Super Bowl XLI: Indianapolis vs. Chicago
Drat. Goober finally won one.
This column wrote that of all the three Super Bowls (up to that time) they were in, there was some adverse angle affecting the Colts. The loss in Super Bowl III was the biggest upset in football history. Their win in Super Bowl V featured a game with 11 combined turnovers and a player on the losing team getting game MVP. This game was played in a Miami quagmire.
The last thing you the Patriot fan wanted to see was Peyton Manning winning a Super Bowl. But win one he did, in a driving rainstorm against a Chicago team which hasn't had a legitimate quarterback since Sid Luckman (and yes, that includes Jim McMahon). So now, Manning had himself a Vince. Only one, mind you, but he finally won a big game after a litany of failures.
Super Bowl XLIV pushed Manning a little further back on the list of great quarterbacks. But in the Brady-Belichick era, other than winning, it's mostly about making sure that Brady stays ahead of Manning on everyone's list.
Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh vs. Arizona
Many Steeler fans still obsess that their team was better than the Patriots in both years where the Patriots came into Pittsburgh and won the AFC Championship.
So in 2008, the Steelers go out and win a record sixth Super Bowl. That gives the Steelers more fodder for bragging rights against the Patriots. It was their second win of the decade, one less than the Patriots, but Steeler Nation thinks they were the team of last decade.
It was a scintillating game, and everyone on the planet not based in western Pennsylvania wanted the Cardinals to win their first NFL championship in 60 years. But Santonio Holmes made a miracle catch late in the game to cement the win for the Steelers, and gave their fans the right to proclaim themselves as the best team in the Super Bowl era.
As bad as Cardinal fans felt, Patriot Nation felt far, far worse.
The Five Best Non-Patriot Super BowlsSuper Bowl IX: Pittsburgh vs. Minnesota
These were not your Steelers, they were your father's.
In 1974, the Steelers had never won an NFL Championship in their entire 41-year existence. They had burst into everyone's consciousness in 1972 thanks largely to that jarring 13-7 "Immaculate Reception" win over Oakland in a Divisional game before losing to the unbeaten Dolphins. Two years later, here they were at old Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, taking on Minnesota for the NFL title.
In an unusually cold and clammy day in the Big Easy, the Steelers scored the first safety in Super Bowl history and led 2-0 at the half. The Steel Curtain defense held firm and the Steelers beat Minnesota 16-6 to win the franchise's first championship. Seeing team founder Art Rooney hold aloft the Vince Lombardi trophy was a richly satisfying scene. These days, a Steeler win is regrettable, but back then, it was a sweet moment for a first class guy.
Hmmm. The Patriots also won their first championship in their 41st season. Talk about a nice inspiration.
Super Bowl XVI: San Francisco vs. Cincinnati
Bengal fans won't agree, as they have lost both their Super Bowls to the 49ers.
Bob Kraft has long held that his model for excellence in pro football was the 49ers of Bill Walsh. In 1981 the 49ers finally made it to a Super Bowl thanks to a miracle touchdown pass from Joe Montana to Dwight Clark to beat Dallas, 28-27 in the NFC Championship Game. Now they would head to Pontiac, Michigan to face Cincinnati, the first Super Bowl in a cold weather city.
Neither team had been there, so one of them would win their first Super Bowl. Montana, who was drafted low despite a decent career at Notre Dame featuring a lot of incredible wins and comebacks, authored the first of four Super Bowl wins as quarterback for the 49ers. They beat Cincinnati, 26-21 to win the first NFL title in team (and first title of any kind in city) history. It was a game where it was a shame for either team to lose, but for Patriot fans, their inspiration had taken root.
Super Bowl XIX: San Francisco vs. Miami
Montana returned to the big game three years later, in his team's backyard. The game, the only one played at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, was billed as the greatest championship game in history. You had Montana pitted against super sophomore quarterback Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins. Marino, over the years, would turn out to be another quarterback who was seemingly over-heralded, one whom Drew Bledsoe would always be compared to.
The sad truth is that, whatever Miami envisioned they had in Marino, this would turn out to be his only Super Bowl, and Montana killed him. Actually, Montana killed the Miami defense, and Marino was overwhelmed by a superior 49er team which won, 38-16. Marino had a generally good but not great game, but he was no match for Montana, who was establishing himself as the best quarterback in the game up to that time.
Super Bowl XXXVII: Tampa Bay vs. Oakland
Tuck Rule? Hah. Tuck that, Raiders.
Bum Phillips, the old Houston Oilers head coach, once said that Don Shula "could take his'n and beat your'n, then take your'n and beat his'n". Jon Gruden did just that in Super Bowl XXXVII. He took Oakland to snowy Foxborough Stadium and lost the Snow Bowl in 2001, then the next year found himself coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a falling out with Al Davis, and wound up playing Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII.
All year long, the Raiders whined about getting cheated in the snow at Foxborough. They seemed to vindicate that claim by winning the AFC Championship the following year. But they ran up against a buzzsaw known as the Buccaneer defense, and the results were stunning.
The only negative about this game was that Warren Sapp got a ring because of this. But seeing Tampa Bay dismantle the loquacious Raiders, 48-21, was richly satisfying to watch. Tampa Bay had set losing standards during their first years of 1976-78, but in 2002 the team finally got to hold up the big trophy.
And the Raiders were finally shut up, and haven't done squat since.
Super Bowl XLIV: New Orleans vs. Indianapolis
This was a double-feel-good Super Bowl.
It was great to see New Orleans finally win a Super Bowl after being one of the most gracious hosts in the history of the game. They parlayed gutsy coaching and a brilliant second half into a 31-17 win over the Colts, to send the Big Easy into a celebration which helps ease the pain of a region which has had to deal with hurricanes and oil leaks for most of the last few years.
But of course, you have to think selfish in these parts, and the fact that Manning lost was far sweeter than watching the Saints do the most satisfying Benson Boogie ever.
Manning's team lost to his dad's old team, but most of all, Manning still trails Brady in Super Bowl wins, three to one. If you're a Patriot fan, that means everything. For all the flak the Patriots take for SpyGate and being unpopular nationally, the Brady-Manning sidebar is one conflict the Patriots always want the lead in.
There are still many observers out there who think Manning is the best quarterback today, others who think he is the best ever. In February, that crowd was silenced for now, and thank goodness.
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