Super Bowl Kickoff: 20 of the Best Super Bowls of All-Time

Super Bowl Kickoff: 20 of the Best Super Bowls of All-Time

With Super Bowl kickoff less than two weeks away, there’s no better time to take a look back at some of the greatest Super Bowls in NFL history. There are so many great games to choose from, so narrowing the list down to 20 won’t be easy, but there are definitely some that stand out.

The NFL was formed in 1920 and up until 1933, the champion was crowned based on winning percentage during the regular season. In 1932, a tie between two teams forced a playoff game to crown the champion. The following season, the NFL played its first NFL Championship game.

The NFL Championship remained a staple of the NFL season until talks of an AFL-NFL merger started in 1966. This led to the first ever AFL-NFL Championship in 1967 between the two champions of each league – a game that officially became known as the Super Bowl in 1970.

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Remembering 20 of the Best Super Bowl Kickoff Matchups

Super Bowl Kickoff: 20 of the Best Super Bowls of All-Time
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The NFL has hosted 55 Super Bowls since 1967, with Super Bowl LVI between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals being the league’s 56th edition. In that time, we’ve seen a wide range of teams and players do what they do best on the world’s biggest stage in all of football.

Super Bowl kickoff has such a rich history and is one of the most-watched sporting events in the world. Since 2010, the event has pulled in at least 100 million TV viewers 10 times. The two times it didn’t hit the mark were in 2019 (98.2 million viewers) and 2021 (91.6 million viewers). 

As we prepare ourselves for Super Bowl LVI, let’s take a moment to remember some of the great performances the football community has witnessed over the past 50+ years. There’s a lot to choose from, but we think we’ve gathered 20 of the best Super Bowl kickoff matchups ever.

20. Super Bowl VII

Super Bowl VII was played between the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins (now known as the Washington Commanders) on January 14th, 1973. The Dolphins defeated the Redskins 14-7 to capture their first of two consecutive Super Bowl wins, as well as a perfect 17-0 season. 

The Dolphins scored all 14 of their points in the first half – a 28-yard touchdown pass from Bob Griese to Howard Tilley and a one-yard rushing touchdown by Jim Kiick. A 49-yard fumble return touchdown brought the Redskins within a TD, but they couldn’t complete the comeback. 

19. Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV was played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers on February 6th, 2011. The Packers defeated the Steelers 31-25 to win their first Super Bowl since 1997 and fourth Super Bowl in franchise history. The game was decided in the fourth quarter. 

The Packers got off to a quick start and took a 14-0 lead into the second quarter. They extended that lead to 21-3, but the Steelers scored a TD right before halftime. Another Steelers’ TD in the third brought them within four points, but Green Bay outscored them 10-7 in the fourth quarter.

18. Super Bowl LIV

Super Bowl LIV was played between the Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers on February 2nd, 2020. The Chiefs defeated the 49ers 31-20 to capture their first Super Bowl since 1970 and their second Super Bowl in franchise history. Patrick Mahomes was named MVP. 

The Chiefs took a 10-3 lead with nine minutes left in the second quarter, but the 49ers scored 17 unanswered points to take a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter. That’s when the Chiefs woke up and scored 21 unanswered points in the final six minutes of the game. It was quite a turnaround.

17. Super Bowl V

Super Bowl V was played between the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Colts (now known as the Indianapolis Colts) on January 17th, 1971. The Colts defeated the Cowboys 16-13 to capture their first ever Super Bowl. It was the first Super Bowl played since the NFL-AFL merger.

The Cowboys took an early 6-0 lead with a field goal in the first and second quarter, but the Colts quickly tied it up with a 75-yard TD pass from Johnny Unitas. A Craig Mortion TD pass gave the Cowboys a 13-6 lead, but the Colts scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win. 

16. Super Bowl XLVI

Super Bowl XLVI was played between the New England Patriots and New York Giants on February 5th, 2012. The Patriots were searching for revenge against New York, who ended their perfect season in the Super Bowl four years prior. Unfortunately, Eli Manning got in the way.

The Giants took a 9-0 lead before letting the Patriots climb back to take a 10-9 lead at halftime. Another Patriots’ touchdown gave them a 17-9 lead, but two Giants’ field goals cut into that lead. With 57 seconds left, the Giants scored a touchdown and eventually won the game 21-17. 

15. Super Bowl XLVII

Super Bowl XLVII was played between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens on February 3rd, 2013. It was an eventful game that saw both teams score north of 30 points. In the end, the Ravens defeated the 49ers 34-31 in what turned out to be a back-and-forth affair. 

The Ravens got off to a hot start, outscoring the 49ers 28-6 behind three TD passes by Joe Flacco and a kickoff return touchdown to start the second half. The 49ers started to show resistance and were only down 31-29 with 10 minutes left, but didn’t have enough in the tank.

14. Super Bowl XXXII

Super Bowl XXXII was played between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos on January 25, 1998. The Broncos would end up getting the best of the Packers, ruining Green Bay’s chance at back-to-back titles. Terrell Davis went off for 157 yards and 3 touchdowns.

Both teams traded touchdowns in the first quarter and the Broncos took a 17-7 lead in the second quarter, but the Packers scored a touchdown before halftime. The Packers tied it up early in the second half and both teams traded touchdowns not long after, but Davis scored the winning TD late in the game. 

13. Super Bowl X

Super Bowl X was played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys on January 18th, 1976. It was a slow game for the first three quarters, but things heated up in the final 15 minutes as the Steelers defeated the Cowboys 21-17 to win their second consecutive title. 

The Cowboys took a 10-7 lead into halftime, but the Steelers scored a safety with 12 minutes left, a field goal with nine minutes and seven minutes left, and a TD with 3:30 left to take a 21-10 lead. The Cowboys scored a touchdown with two minutes left, but that’s as far as they got. 

12. Super Bowl XXXVIII

Super Bowl XXXVIII was played between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots on February 1st, 2004. All the points were scored in the second and fourth quarters, striking an awkward balance in tempo. The Patriots came out with a 32-29 victory after a late field goal. 

After a scoreless first quarter, the Patriots took a 14-10 lead at halftime behind two Tom Brady touchdown passes. They extended the lead to 21-10 to start the fourth, but the Panthers quickly answered and took a 22-21 lead halfway through the quarter. Both teams traded touchdowns to tie the game at 29-29 before a Patriots’ field goal with four seconds left gave them a win. 

11. Super Bowl XIII

Super Bowl XIII was played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys on January 21st, 1979. The Cowboys were looking for revenge after Super Bowl X, but that revenge never came. The Steelers wound up winning 35-31 to secure their third Super Bowl win in five years. 

The Steelers and Cowboys traded touchdowns to open the first quarter. They did the same in the second quarter, but the Steelers would take a 21-14 lead into halftime. Pittsburgh extended the lead to 35-17 before allowing Dallas to score 14 unanswered, but the comeback wasn’t enough.

10. Super Bowl LII

Super Bowl LII was played between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. It was the second Super Bowl meeting between the two teams, the first coming in 2004. Despite being without their starting quarterback, the Eagles got their revenge with a 41-33 thriller of a win. 

It was the Eagles’ first ever Super Bowl win as they got off to an early start, outscoring the Patriots 22-12 in the first half. New England fought back in the third quarter and took a 33-32 lead with nine minutes left, but the Eagles scored nine points in the final two minutes to win. 

9. Super Bowl XXXVI

Super Bowl XXXVI was played between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots on February 3rd, 2002. It was Tom Brady’s first ever Super Bowl appearance in his first year as a starter. The Patriots defeated the Rams 20-17 thanks to a 48-yard field goal as time expired. 

The Rams scored first with a field goal near the end of the first quarter, but New England scored 17 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to take a 17-3 lead. After allowing the Rams to tie the game with 1:30 left, Brady led a game-winning drive to snatch the victory. 

8. Super Bowl XLIII

Super Bowl XLIII was played between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals on February 1st, 2009. It was the Cardinals’ first ever Super Bowl appearance, despite finishing the season just 9-7. The Steelers would end up winning 27-23 with a touchdown in the final minute. 

The Steelers got off to a 10-0 lead and extended that lead to 20-7 heading into the fourth quarter. The Cardinals mounted a comeback and took a 23-20 lead with 2:37 left in the game. With 35 seconds left, Ben Roethlisberger threw a strike to Santonio Holmes, leading them to victory. 

7. Super Bowl XXIII

Super Bowl XXIII was played between the San Francisco 49ers and Cincinnati Bengals on January 22nd, 1989. It was the second time the two teams were meeting in the Super Bowl, doing so in 1981 as well. The 49ers got the better of the Bengals, winning the game 20-16.

After both teams traded pairs of field goals through most of the first three quarters, it was the Bengals that scored the first touchdown thanks to a 93-yard kickoff return. Jerry Rice tied the game in the fourth quarter and Joe Montana threw another TD late in the game to win it. 

6. Super Bowl III

Super Bowl III was played between the New York Jets and Baltimore Colts (now known as the Indianapolis Colts). Back then, the game was called the AFL-NFL Championship. With the Jets beating the Colts 16-7, the AFL secured its first title after the NFL won the first two Super Bowls.

The game helped bring Joe Namath further into the spotlight as he lived up to his ‘Broadway Joe’ moniker. The Jets dominated most of the game and had a 16-0 shutout until the Colts scored a touchdown with three minutes remaining. Joe Namath threw for 206 yards. 

5. Super Bowl XXXIV

Super Bowl XXXIV was played between the St. Louis Rams (now the Los Angeles Rams) and Tennessee Titans on January 30th, 2000. The Rams ended up beating the Titans 23-16 en route to their first and only Super Bowl win in franchise history. It was certainly a nail-biting thriller. 

The Rams looked like they had it in the bag, securing a 16-0 lead with seven minutes left in the third quarter. Thanks to two touchdowns by Eddie George, the Titans tied the game up at 16-16 with two minutes left. Not even 20 seconds later, the Rams scored a 73-yard TD pass to win. 

4. Super Bowl XLIX

Super Bowl XLIX was played between the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots on February 1st, 2015. The game ended up bringing in over 114 million TV viewers, a record that still stands today. For reference, the most recent Super Bowl had 91.63 million TV viewers. 

After a scoreless first quarter, both teams picked it up in the second with a 14-14 tie at halftime. The third quarter belonged to the Seahawks, scoring 10 unanswered points. The fourth quarter belonged to the Patriots, scoring two touchdowns in the final eight minutes to win the game. 

3. Super Bowl XXV

Super Bowl XXV was played between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills on January 27th, 1991. It was the first of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances for Buffalo, though they didn’t win any of them. The Giants took this game 20-19 in a completely heartbreaking fashion.

The game was pretty even throughout. They were tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter and Buffalo had a slight 12-10 lead over the Giants at halftime. Both teams traded touchdowns in the second half, giving Buffalo a 19-17 lead before the Giants hit a field goal with eight minutes left. Buffalo had a chance to win the game as time expired, but missed the field goal wide right. 

2. Super Bowl LI

Super Bowl LI was played between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots on February 5th, 2017. The Patriots would get the best of the Falcons with a 34-28 win in overtime – largely thanks to a three-touchdown performance by James White. It was a highly intense game. 

The Falcons came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. They scored 21 unanswered points to start the game and had a 21-3 lead at halftime. They further extended that lead to 28-3 in the third quarter before allowing New England to put together the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history. They scored a remarkable 31 unanswered points in the final 17 minutes of play. 

1. Super Bowl XLII

Super Bowl XLII was played between the New York Giants and New England Patriots on February 3rd, 2008. It was the first of two Super Bowl meetings between the two teams. Coming into this game, Brady had never lost in the Super Bowl. Eli Manning apparently had the answer.

The Patriots held a 7-3 lead at halftime in what was a fairly uneventful game. That continued with a scoreless third quarter, but things got interesting in the fourth quarter. The Giants scored a TD early in the quarter and while the Patriots answered late in the quarter, the Giants would score a touchdown with 35 seconds left to win the game – a similar ending to Super Bowl XLVI. 

Are You Ready for Super Bowl Kickoff in 2022?

Super Bowl LVI is less than two weeks away and is set to be an exciting one as it features two teams no one expected to be in this position at this point of the season. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals fought hard to be here, so you know they’re leaving it all on the field.

Super Bowl kickoff is set for a 6:30PM ET start on February 13, 2022 in SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. Although it’s where the Rams play their home games, they will be acting as the away team in the Super Bowl. The game will be available on NBC for those with cable. 

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The Los Angeles Rams enter Super Bowl LVI as the favorites, but no one is ready to count the Cincinnati Bengals out. They’ve been tested greatly this postseason and have a knack for coming up big in clutch moments. That’s what makes the Super Bowl this year one to watch.

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