Super Bowl XLIII: The Greatest Ever?

Benjamin HoganAnalyst IFebruary 2, 2009

A lovable underdog. A powerful dynasty.

Amazing plays. A dose of controversy.

Constant lead changes. A last-minute comeback.

That's the perfect recipe for an amazing Super Bowl.

Super Bowl XLIII has no doubt earned a berth on bloggers' lists of the greatest Super Bowls of all-time.

But was tonight's game the greatest of all?

Is the longest play in Super Bowl history, the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, and a stunning last-minute drive enough?

Let's review.

Going chronologically, the first Super Bowl that could arguably be on the list is SuperBowl III, a.k.a. Joe Namath's guarantee. Important game? Absolutely. Huge upset? You betcha.

Exciting, drama-filled game? Not so much. Gimme a seat in Tampa any day.

Then, we go to two Steeler-Cowboy matchups: Super Bowl X was filled with circus catches by Lynn Swann and a decent back-and-forth battle. But it lacked any last-second drama. Another point for Ben and Santonio.

Super Bowl XIII saw a hard-fought game between two bitter rivals, ending with the Cowboys trying to erase a 17-point deficit in the final few minutes—which they nearly did.

Now children, let's take a second to reflect and remember that the Steelers and Cowboys dominated their respective conferences in the 70s. This was Goliath vs. Goliath. While tonight's game was much more dramatically pleasing, Super Bowl XIII featured much better teams and was much more historically significant.

Slight edge to Cards-Steelers.

The next Super Bowl that can enter comparison is Super Bowl XXIII, featuring Joe Montana's last-minute drive to beat the Bengals. Cute moment. But the first three and a half quarters were just as pleasant to watch as a Lions-Raiders game. Next.

Super Bowl XXV made Scott Norwood the goat of Buffalo (unfairly, I might add, since the real blame lies on Marv Levy for running the ball every single play in the last three minutes, destroying the clock and leaving Norwood a 47-yarder on grass).

Another underdog story, the Giants, led by a dopey backup quarterback and a seemingly octogenarian running back, beat the dominating Bills in a game of constant lead changes.

The problem: the game's most memorable moments are a missed field goal and a safety. While a back-and-forth battle, it was one of the most conservatively called Super Bowls. I'll take Cards-Steelers.

Jump ahead to Super Bowl XXXII and Elway's triumph. An exciting game. Elway leading a late drive to finally get the monkey off his back after nearly two decades against the defending champion Packers.

Yes, while this year's game had more flash-and-dash, XXXII's historical significance trumps tonight's (at least at this moment). I'd take a seat in the end zone to watch Elway get spun around like the wheel from Hi-Ho Cherry-O.

Super Bowl XXXIV saw the Titans come one yard short of tying the Rams. An exciting few final minutes—but a snoozer the rest of the way. No thanks.

In Super Bowl XXXVI, the Patriots toppled the Rams' Greatest Show on Turf, favored by 14 points. Not only was it a huge upset capped by a few exciting final-minute lead changes, but it paved the way for New England to become an evil empire in the 2000s.

A conference-dominating team against a futile underdog who would later blossom into a powerhouse? Seems pretty important to me. I'd rather see Vinatieri as the clock expires.

Super Bowl XXXVIII featured the Patriots and Panthers in my personal favorite Super Bowl of all. It was the most exciting fourth quarter in NFL history, complete with a last-second field goal, but a horrible game from the first to third quarter. Being fair and objective, I'd have to take XLIII.

Finally, we come to last year's Super Bowl XLII. Perfection versus mediocrity. The cocky Patriots take the lead, and then watch Eli Manning and David Tyree make the greatest play in NFL history.

Then, in Joe Buck's words, "Manning throws, Burress alone, touchdown New York."

Overrated Tom Brady finally tastes ultimate defeat. Belichick walks off the field before the game ends and cries during the post-game interview. The second-biggest upset in Super Bowl history denies the Spygating dynasty perfection.

How can you beat that?

So, my revised list of greatest Super Bowls:

1. Super Bowl XLII- Giants def. Patriots

2. Super Bowl XXXVI- Patriots def. Rams

3. Super Bowl XXXII- Broncos def. Packers

4. Super Bowl XLIII- Steelers def. Cardinals

5. Super Bowl XXXVIII- Patriots def. Panthers

6. Super Bowl XIII- Steelers def. Cowboys

7. Super Bowl XXV- Giants def. Bills


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