Super Bowl X: Pittsburgh’s 21-17 win over Dallas is hard to top. The game featured 14 Hall of Famers. It also featured a flurry of big plays, an incredible performance by Steelers receiver Lynn Swann (four catches for 161 yards) and controversy (Pittsburgh decided to go for it from the Dallas 41 with just more than a minute left on a fourth-and-nine play, giving the ball back to the Cowboys, who ended the game throwing a pass into the end zone). Ultimately it helped tip the scales of power in a pivotal decade. Pittsburgh is remembered as the team of the ’70s for winning four Super Bowls.
Super Bowl XXXV: Baltimore’s 34-7 win over the New York Giants was a testament to the Ravens’ great defense. It was also awful to watch. The teams combined for just 396 yards and the game featured probably the least-illustrious quarterback matchup of all-time — Baltimore’s Trent Dilfer against the Giants’ Kerry Collins. A good one to clean out the garage when the NFL Network does its yearly marathon of Super Bowl films.
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Best individual performance
Joe Montana, Super Bowl XXIV: Or maybe pick any of the other three Super Bowls he won. With Tom Brady having lost a couple Super Bowls, and Terry Bradshaw’s 4-0 record due in part to playing with one of the greatest defenses of all time, Montana remains the king of Super Sunday. He threw five touchdowns in the XXIV win over Denver in a 55-10 game that remains the largest margin of victory in Super Bowl history. Montana holds the Super Bowl record for passer rating (127.8), touchdowns (11) and interception percentage (zero in 122 attempts).
Worst individual performance
Craig Morton, Denver, Super Bowl XII: Hard to, er, top this stat line for a starting quarterback — 4 of 15 for 39 yards with four interceptions and a passer rating of zero in a 27-10 loss to Dallas. Worse yet, it came against his former team, Morton having started for Dallas in Super Bowl V before losing the job to Roger Staubach, and then guiding the Broncos to a chance at the ultimate revenge seven years later. Morton is the only person to lose as a starting QB for two different teams, without also winning (Kurt Warner lost for the Rams and Cardinals but also got a win with St. Louis).
It’s a little surprising going through all the betting lines in Super Bowl history and seeing how many were big — 14 have featured double-digit spreads. But the underdogs have outright won five of those games, including the past three times it happened. The first double-digit upset, though, remains the most meaningful — the Jets’ 16-7 win over the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. The Colts were favored by 18 points. More important, the game still cried out for legitimacy with the Packers winning the first two games by huge margins (the first Super Bowl didn’t come close to selling out). It’s a stretch to think that the rise of the NFL wouldn’t have happened anyway (and remember that the merger of the AFL and NFL was already in the works). But the Jets’ win undoubtedly hastened the Super Bowl’s rise as the eminent sporting event in the country.
Best “What if that had happened in the age of Twitter?” moment
Super Bowl halftime shows of the past weren’t the well-publicized affairs featuring marquee entertainers designed to keep everyone watching that they are today. Super Bowl XI in Pasadena, for instance, tried to piggyback on the popularity of nearby Disneyland with a presentation of “It’s A Small World” featuring the crowd waving placards on cue. This is one halftime show for which social media was invented a bit too late.