One of the things that makes the Super Bowl a great game is that every meeting is unique. Even when teams that have met already in the regular season are playing in the big one, everything changes (just ask the 2007 Patriots).
However, there are a few constants and lessons to be learned. Here are five things we've learned from the past five Super Bowls.
The quarterbacks that have won the most recent Super Bowls are as follows:
You might notice something there. All of them (with the possible exception of Eli Manning) are Top Five quarterbacks in the NFL. To make things even more lopsided, here are the opposing quarterbacks:
Again, outside of Grossman, all are phenomenal quarterbacks. You don't need an elite quarterback to get to the Super Bowl, and you don't even have to have one to win a Super Bowl, but having one sure makes things a lot easier.
2011 just made it more apparent than it already was.
Having an elite quarterback is very helpful, but the old adage "Offense wins games, defense wins championships," still holds true.
If you look at the stats from 2010's matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints, you'd think the Colts whipped the Saints.
The Colts beat the Saints in pretty much every category. They rushed for more yards, they passed for more yards, they were more efficient on both third and fourth downs and the Saints only won on time of possession by about 20 seconds.
Then you look at the score and see that it was 31-17 Saints? How? There was one turnover to the Saints, but that doesn't explain a 14-point difference when the Colts threw for 52 more yards than the Saints and nearly doubled them in rushing yards.
The Colts defense was unable to stop Brees at any point. The Saints had a lot of field goals in the game, but when you put points on the board nearly every drive, those field goals will add up.
The Saints broke the Colts' by finally pulling in an interception, which resulted in a touchdown. Had Indianapolis's defense been able to force turnovers—or at least pressure Brees—the result might have been different.
Big Ben Roethlisberger has established himself as a top five quarterback this season, but back in the 2008 season, he was just pretty good.
The 2008 season was the season of defenses. The best three teams in the league—the Steelers, the Ravens and the Titans—were all about trench defenses. The Steelers whooped the Cardinals—who were just 80-8 in the regular season in the Super Bowl.
The score was 27-23, but the game was not that close: 16 of Arizona's 23 points came in the fourth quarter, when the Steelers were playing modestly.
The Steelers had the No. 1 statistical defense in every category that season, and the Cardinals were unable to overcome them. James Harrison's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown didn't hurt, either.
In what was probably the strangest game I've ever seen, the New York Giants upset the undefeated New England Patriots 17-14.
Watching the game, the Patriots were better than the Giants in every aspect, but the Giants still won. Among the crazy things that happened in that game were a critical one-handed helmet catch by David Tyree and Eli Manning falling backwards and hurling the ball upward as he fell and still completing the pass.
It was the most improbable Super Bowl in the history of Super Bowls: A 19-0 record was just a formality before the game started, but the Patriots lost.
Just goes to show you that, even in the Super Bowl, anything can happen in the NFL.
Coming into the Super Bowl, the Bears were statistically one of the best teams in the league. They scored the same number of points per game as the Colts and had the second best defense in the league in terms of yards given up. And they had Devin Hester, the greatest kick returner to ever play the game.
However, the Colts had a secret weapon: Bears quarterback Rex Grossman.
Grossman was famous for inconsistent play, which is exactly what he brought to the Super Bowl. He turned the ball over three times (two interceptions and a fumble) in the 29-17 loss.
Peyton Manning, on the other hand, picked apart the Bears defense for 247 yards and a touchdown.
More than anything else, this game proved that you don't have to have an elite quarterback to win a Super Bowl, but you at least need a good one.
When you boil it down, any weakness that a team has is going to be exploited, and any weakness might be enough to cost a team the game.
Do you have a high powered offense, but a weak defense? Then, you're the 2009 Colts, and you're gonna lose to the Saints. How about the best defense in the league, but an offense that won't score a ton of points?
Good luck 2010 Steelers, the Packers are pretty tough.
Theoretically, the teams playing in the Super Bowl are the two best teams in the league, so the opposing team is going to know how to exploit every shortcoming that their opponents show.
When two teams of that caliber meet up, anything can happen, and that's what makes the Super Bowl the best game in all of football.