Top 5 Super Bowls We Wish We Had Seen
Other than Baltimore Ravens fans, San Francisco 49ers fans and members of the Harbaugh family, it's hard to find people who aren't pleased with the pairing of teams in Super Bowl XLVI.
The New York Giants and New England Patriots meet in a rematch of what many consider the best Super Bowl ever. Since the Giants stunned the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII, every Super Bowl matchup has had some appeal.
Super Bowl XLIII might have seemed like an awkward and one-sided hookup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals. Many anticipated a Battle of Pennsylvania, but the Cardinals foiled that by beating the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship Game. However, the Cardinals gave the Steelers all they could handle in a game that also has a claim as the best all-time Super Bowl.
Also in the last five years we've had Drew Brees vs. Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLIV and two of the most storied franchises of the Super Bowl era, the Steelers and Green Bay Packers, clashing in Super Bowl XLV.
Not every Super Bowl is quite as interesting, however. Some years, a dream matchup doesn't become reality because one of the teams expected to get there doesn't get the job done in the conference championship game.
Let's take a look at the top-five Super Bowls that we wanted but didn't get.
No. 5: Super Bowl XLI, Colts vs. Saints (instead of Bears)
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I'm not saying that the Colts and Bears weren't the two best teams in the NFL in 2006. The Bears crushed the Saints 39-14 in the NFC Championship Game, so they deserved to be in the Super Bowl.
However, a Colts-Saints Super Bowl would have given us a Peyton Manning-Drew Brees matchup. Brees led the NFL in passing yards in 2006 and Manning was second.
Instead, we had to get excited about a Super Bowl in which Rex Grossman was one of the quarterbacks.
Grossman was third in the NFL with 20 interceptions, and he threw just 16 touchdown passes. His ineptitude was the biggest storyline of Super Bowl week.
On a rainy night in Miami, Super Bowl XLI lived up to its modest expectations. Grossman threw two interceptions as the Colts beat the Bears 29-17.
It wasn't a terrible game, and I know we got our Manning-Brees Super Bowl three years later. But rematches help Super Bowls stand out in history, like Steelers-Cowboys in the 1970s and Patriots-Giants during this era. Had Super Bowl XLIV been a rematch, Colts-Saints would have comparable marquee value.
And Super Bowl XLI might not have been so forgettable.
No 4: Super Bowl VI, Cowboys vs. Colts (instead of Dolphins)
We could have had a rematch of the first Super Bowl that had any drama to it.
In Super Bowl V, the Dallas Cowboys lost 16-13 to the Baltimore Colts on a field goal in the final seconds.
The Cowboys returned to the Super Bowl the following year. There would be no rematch with the Colts, however, because the Miami Dolphins defeated the Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship Game.
I'm not saying the Dolphins didn't earn their trip to the Super Bowl, but they clearly weren't ready for the big time. They lost 24-3, scoring the fewest points of any Super Bowl participant.
No. 3: Super Bowl XXIX, 49ers vs. Steelers (instead of Chargers)
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No, this isn't sour grapes because I'm a Steelers fan.
It's just that this was the best chance for a dream Super Bowl matchup between the team of the '70s and the team of the '80s.
It certainly seemed to be shaping up that way when the 49ers (13-3) and Steelers (12-4) both finished with the best record in their conferences in 1994. The Steelers had their best team since the Steel Curtain era, but were stunned 17-13 by the Chargers in the AFC Championship Game.
The 49ers probably would have beaten the Steelers, but the Steelers likely would have put up more of a fight than the Chargers, who lost 49-26 after falling behind 14-0 less than five minutes into the game.
Steelers-49ers would have been a Super Bowl match made in heaven. ESPN used to splice NFL Films footage from Steelers-49ers regular-season games into a fictional game between the 1970s Steelers and 1980s 49ers.
It was an example of the ridiculous programming ESPN used to fill some of its airtime back then, but it also shows how huge a Steelers-49ers Super Bowl would have been.
The Steelers were a win away from a rematch against the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX 10 years earlier. They were the only team to beat the 15-1 49ers that year. But the 1984 Steelers were only 9-7 and were beaten 45-28 by the Dan Marino-led Dolphins in the AFC Championship Game.
Super Bowl XIX, which the 49ers won 38-16, didn't exactly live up to the hype. But a Steelers-49ers Super Bowl wouldn't have been any better. It's doubtful Mark Malone could have beaten Joe Montana twice in the same season.
Also, Steelers-49ers wouldn't have been as highly anticipated in 1984 as the 49ers hadn't yet established themselves as the team of the '80s.
The time for that epic matchup was 10 years later, but it wasn't to be.
No. 2: Super Bowl XXXIII: Broncos vs. Vikings (instead of Falcons)
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The only thing worth remembering about Super Bowl XXXIII was Atlanta Falcons' safety Eugene Robinson getting arrested the night before for trying to pick up a prostitute who turned out to be an undercover police officer.
Then during the game, Robinson was burned by Denver Broncos' receiver Rod Smith for an 80-yard touchdown pass in the play pictured here. That gave the Broncos a 17-3 lead in the second quarter. It was never a game after that. The Broncos took a 31-6 lead at one point and won 34-19.
It would have been better if the Minnesota Vikings had taken care of business and beaten the Falcons in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.
Yes, the Falcons were 14-2. But the teams they beat had a combined winning percentage of .391.
The 15-1 Vikings scored 556 points, the most in a season to that point. They're the highest-scoring team to not reach the Super Bowl.
Randall Cunningham had a renaissance year for the Vikings. The 13th-year quarterback was named All-Pro with 34 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He led the NFL with a 106.0 passer rating.
Imagine a Super Bowl with the star power of John Elway and Randall Cunningham? And throw in NFL AP Offensive Rookie of the Year Randy Moss.
The Vikings couldn't get it done, however, in the NFC Championship Game. Gary Anderson, who hadn't missed a single extra point or field goal during the regular season and playoffs, missed a 38-yard field goal attempt that would have given the Vikings the lead with 2:07 left in the game.
Morten Andersen kicked a 38-yard field goal in overtime to give the Falcons a 30-27 upset victory and earn them a trip to a snoozer of a Super Bowl.
No. 1: Super Bowl XX: Bears vs. Dolphins (instead of Patriots)
We were deprived of a classic Super Bowl when the Miami Dolphins fell short of Super Bowl XX.
The Dolphins were the only team to beat the 1985 Chicago Bears, defeating them 38-24 in Miami in Week 13 on Monday Night Football.
Not having a Bears-Dolphins rematch in 1985 is like not having a sequel to "The Godfather."
The New England Patriots were the better team on the day of the AFC Championship Game, upsetting the Dolphins 31-14 in Miami, but they were steamrolled 46-10 by the Bears in Super Bowl XX.
The 12-4 Dolphins couldn't have done any worse than that. The 38 points they scored on the 15-1 Bears were the most any team scored on them that season. After Week 3, no team put up more than 19 points against the Bears.
You can argue the 1985 Bears are the best team in NFL history. That argument would be stronger had the Bears fixed their only blemish of that season with a win over the Dolphins rather than the Patriots in Super Bowl XX.
All we can do is wonder "What if?"