By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
With the pinnacle game of the NFL season nearby, I am going back through the archives to discuss the top 10 Super Bowls of all time. Our No. 9 game reminds us of this Sunday’s matchup, as two top tier QBs in Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers and John Elway of the Denver Broncos face off in Super Bowl 32.
The Green Bay Packers were the reigning world champions, having defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 31, and were looking to become only the second team to win back to back Super Bowls twice (Pittsburgh Steelers were the first). The team struggled early, going 3-2, before reeling off 10 wins in their next 11 games, including five in a row to end the season at 13-3. The Packers would clinch the No. 2 seed in the NFC, earning a first-round bye as the NFC Central Division Winners.
QB Brett Favre led the team with 3,867 passing yards and 35 touchdowns, clinching his third straight MVP. Pro Bowler RB Dorsey Levens churned out 1435 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, while WRs Robert Brooks (1010 yards, seven touchdowns) and Antonio Freeman (1243 yards, 12 touchdowns) paced the offense.
Defensively, the team was led by DE Reggie White (11 sacks) and SS LeRoy Butler (five interceptions). Both were 1997 Pro Bowlers.
Their divisional matchup was against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, whom the Packers beat twice in the regular season. Behind a stifling defense that picked off QB Trent Dilfer twice, the Packers rode Levens' legs and Favre’s arm to the 21-7 win.
The NFC Championship against San Francisco once again saw the defense step up, as a crucial interception by Eugene Robinson set up a Favre to Freeman score, and Green Bay used their defense again to win 23-10, and clinch a return trip to the Super Bowl.
The 1996 Denver Broncos went 13-3 and fell short in the divisional playoffs. Determined not to fail, especially as leader John Elway was aging, the Broncos came out hot in 1997. They won six straight games, and then the bye week hit. Denver would win three of their next four out of the break, before losing three of six to finish 12-4, second in the AFC West.
Despite being 37, Elway still managed to throw for 3,635 yards and 27 touchdowns. Hot-shot Running Back Terrell Davis was a huge boon for Denver, racking up 1,750 yards and 15 touchdowns. TE Shannon Sharpe earned another Pro Bowl nod with 1107 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The defense was led by LB John Mobley, who had 96 tackles, four sacks, and an interception.
Their wild-card matchup once again pitted them against the Jacksonville Jaguars. This time, however, Denver would be victorious, racking up 511 yards of offense, 184 of them from Davis on the ground, as Denver scored 21 straight points and Jacksonville never recovered, losing to the Broncos 42-17.
Their divisional showdown was against AFC West rivals Kansas City Chiefs. The two teams split their season series. The playoff game would be as tightly contested as their regular season matchups, but behind two touchdowns from Davis, Denver would prevail 14-10.
In the AFC Championship game, two touchdowns by Elway gave the Broncos enough breathing room, and they held on for the 24-21 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, and clinched a Super Bowl berth.
Heading into the game, much talk was made of the 13-game winning streak by the NFC, as well as Denver’s ineptitude in Super Bowls (0-4). At the same time, Green Bay had the first ever three-time MVP in Favre, as well as a Super Bowl title to their name.
The Packers struck first in the Super Bowl, becoming the third team to score a touchdown on the opening drive, thanks to a 22-yard Favre to Freeman pass, and the score was 7-0. Denver, not to be outdone, promptly returned the favor, tying the game up on a one-yard touchdown run by Davis.
A Favre pick gave Denver the ball at the Green Bay 45, and a QB bootleg by Elway gave Denver their first lead of the game 14-7. Another turnover by Green Bay gave Denver good field position, and a 51 yard field goal capped 17 straight unanswered points, and Denver took a 17-7 lead.
Green Bay would hold onto the ball on their next drive, marching 95 yards down the field, and a six yard pass to TE Mark Chumra with 12 seconds left in the half cut the lead to three, 17-14 Denver.
The Packers would force a fumble of their own on Denver’s first drive of the third quarter, but after stalling at the nine, managed only a field goal to tie the game up 17-17.
Denver would regain the lead on a 13-play, 92-yard drive, capped by a one-yard rush by Davis, his second of the day, and Denver was up 24-17. This drive was famous for the “Helicopter Play” that saw Elway spin in the air after being hit trying to gain a first down.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Denver maintained the slim margin, but Green Bay tied it up on four plays 90 seconds in, thanks to Freeman’s second touchdown reception, 24-24.
The game stayed tied until 1:45 left in the game, when Denver capped a 51 yard drive with Davis’s third rushing touchdown, 31-24. Green Bay wasn’t finished, marching down to the Broncos 35 yard line with 64 seconds left. However, the drive stalled, and Denver was finally victorious.
Two Hall of Fame QBs. A famous play. A game that wasn’t decided until the end. That is what makes a great Super Bowl of all time.