Super Bowl 2011: Power Ranking the Top 25 Best Super Bowls Ever
The 25 best Super Bowls in NFL history features a number of nail-biters and exciting matchups through the game's 44-year history.
While the Super Bowl generally features two of the best teams in the NFL, the results don't always reflect the strength of each side.
With the 2011 Super Bowl almost upon us, how do the 25 best Super Bowl games stack up?
25. Super Bowl XXVI
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Date: January 26, 1992
Super Bowl XXVI featured the two most prolific offenses in the league facing one another.
The Buffalo Bills running back, Thurman Thomas, won NFL MVP and NFL Offensive Player of the Year that season.
Washington was led behind center by Mark Rypien with Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders as his weapons.
While Washington had one of the best defenses, Buffalo had one of the worst.
Both teams failed to score in the first quarter, but the Redskins absolutely dominated the second, putting up 17 points.
Buffalo showed some signs of life in the third quarter, putting up 10 points. They followed that up with a 14-point fourth quarter. While they scored 24 points in the second half, the deficit was too large for them to overcome.
Super Bowl MVP: Mark Rypien
Final Score: Washington 37, Buffalo 24
24. Super Bowl XXVIII
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Date: January 30, 1994
Jim Kelly led the Bills prolific offense to the best record in the AFC with a 12-4 mark. However, they managed to succeed in spite of their poor defense.
Emmitt Smith turned in an MVP season as he was backed up by Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin.
Super Bowl XXVIII featured a rematch of the very same teams from the previous Super Bowl.
Buffalo's defense held Dallas' offense to two field goals in the first half. Their offense, on the other hand, managed to put up 13 points to give them a 13-6 lead entering halftime.
The Cowboys turned things around in the third quarter and scored on a 46-yard fumble return by James Washington and an Emmitt Smith 17-yard touchdown run.
Smith ran for another touchdown in the fourth and the Cowboys finally sealed the game with a fourth-quarter field goal.
Super Bowl MVP: Emmitt Smith
Final Score: Dallas 30, Buffalo 13
23. Super Bowl VII
Date: January 14, 1973
The Miami Dolphins dominated the first half of the game. They scored a touchdown in the first quarter on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Bob Griese to Howard Twilley.
Jim Kiick added to that lead by scoring on a one-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Washington finally put some points on the board in the fourth quarter on a 49-yard fumble return by Mike Bass. However, they failed to tie the game up and ended up losing to Miami by a one-touchdown deficit.
Super Bowl MVP: Jake Scott
Final Score: Miami 14, Washington 7
22. Super Bowl IX
Date: January 12, 1975
The first half was a defensive battle with the only score coming on a safety. Dwight White managed to tackle Fran Tarkenton in the end zone.
Franco Harris padded the lead in the fourth with a nine-yard touchdown run.
Entering the final quarter, the Steelers held a 9-0 lead. However, a blocked punt recovered in the end zone by the Vikings' Terry Brown cut the lead to three. The field goal attempt failed.
However, the Steelers cemented their victory on a four-yard touchdown pass from Bradshaw to Larry Brown.
Super Bowl MVP: Franco Harris
Final Score: Pittsburgh 16, Minnesota 6
21. Super Bowl XVII
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Date: January 30, 1983
The 1982-83 NFL season was shortened after a 57-day players' strike. The regular season was shortened from 16 to nine games.
Miami finished with a 7-2 record, while Washington had an NFC-best 8-1 record.
The Dolphins relied on their defense and running game.
The Redskins, on the other hand, were a well balanced team from top to bottom.
Miami took a first-quarter lead on a 76-yard deep pass by David Woodley to Jimmy Cefalo.
The two teams traded points in the second-quarter, with each scoring 10 points apiece. However, the Redskins really opened things up against Miami in the second half, shutting them out and scoring 17 points to give them the win.
Super Bowl MVP: John Riggins
Final Score: Washington 27, Miami 17
20. Super Bowl XXXI
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Date: January 26, 1997
The Green Bay Packers tore through the NFC. They were the first team since the 1972 Miami Dolphins to score the most points and allow the fewest. Brett Favre won NFL MVP that season.
Bill Parcells coached the New England Patriots and he had Drew Bledsoe, Curtis Martin and Terry Glenn leading the way on offense.
Both teams didn't have much trouble getting through their respective conferences on a collision course for the Super Bowl.
Green Bay started the game strong, scoring the first 10 points. However, New England quickly responded with two touchdowns to end the first quarter with a 14-10 lead.
The Packers decimated the Patriots defense in the second quarter, adding 17 points to give themselves a 27-14 lead.
New England cut the lead in the third quarter on an 18-yard run by Curtis Martin.
But a 99-yard kickoff return by Desmond Howard and the successful two-point conversion that followed it gave the Packers a comfortable 35-21 lead that they maintained until the final whistle.
Desmond Howard was the first-ever special teams player to be named Super Bowl MVP.
Super Bowl MVP: Desmond Howard
Final Score: Green Bay 35, New England 21
19. Super Bowl III
Date: January 12, 1969
Joe Namath famously guaranteed a victory for the New York Jets prior to the game, even though they were massive underdogs heading into the third-ever Super Bowl.
The New York Jets defense held the Colts offense in check through the first three quarters. Meanwhile, the Jets offense managed to put up 13 points.
Baltimore finally scored with a touchdown run by Jerry Hill, but there were only three minutes remaining in the game with the Jets enjoying a nine-point cushion.
The Jets held on to win and Namath was named Super Bowl MVP despite not throwing a touchdown pass or completing a pass in the fourth quarter.
Most people tend to rate this Super Bowl much higher, but it was a rather uneventful game and not much of a contest.
Super Bowl MVP: Joe Namath
Final Score: New York 16, Baltimore 7
18. Super Bowl XL
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Date: February 5, 2006
Pittsburgh had a tough road to overcome in the playoffs, beating three of the top-seeded teams in the AFC.
Shaun Alexander had a dominant season winning the NFL MVP award. He helped lead Seattle's No. 1-ranked offense.
The first half was rather uneventful, with the only points coming from a Josh Brown field goal for Seattle and a touchdown run by Ben Roethlisberger.
Pittsburgh's Willie Parker exploded in the third quarter with a 75-yard touchdown run.
Matt Hasselbeck would respond with a 16-yard pass to Jerramy Stevens to cut the lead 14-10. A controversial holding call later in the third negated a second touchdown pass to Stevens.
A trick play in the fourth quarter had Antwaan Randle El throw a 43-yard bomb to Hines Ward to give the Steelers a 21-10 cushion. They held on to the lead and walked away Super Bowl champions.
Super Bowl MVP: Hines Ward
Final Score: Pittsburgh 21, Seattle 10
17. Super Bowl XLI
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Date: February 4, 2007
Peyton Manning finally got over the hump and led the Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl for the first time in his career. He would be pitted against the Chicago Bears.
Chicago's elite defense carried it through the regular season and the playoffs to earn the Super Bowl berth.
Devin Hester opened the game with a 92-yard kickoff return.
However, Manning responded about midway through the first quarter on a 53-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Wayne. The extra point failed and the Bears held a 7-6 lead.
Chicago built on the lead with a touchdown pass from Rex Grossman two minutes later to make it 14-6.
Indianapolis owned the second quarter with a 29-yard field goal and one-yard rushing touchdown to propel the Colts to a 16-14 lead.
The third quarter was a battle of kickers with the Colts getting six and the Bears three to make the game 22-17.
Kelvin Hayden capped off the night with a 56-yard pick six to seal the game in the fourth.
Super Bowl MVP: Peyton Manning
Final Score: Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17
16. Super Bowl XXX
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Date: January 28, 1996
Dallas dominated the first quarter with a field goal by Chris Boniol and a touchdown pass by Troy Aikman.
Neil O’Donnell put up the team’s first points in the second, but Dallas had a field goal in that quarter to give the Cowboys a 13-7 lead by halftime.
Emmitt Smith padded the lead with a third-quarter score.
However, Pittsburgh mounted a comeback by scoring 10 consecutive points in the fourth to cut the lead to three.
Dallas sealed the victory after Emmitt Smith ran for his second touchdown of the game to give the Cowboys a 10-point lead, which the Steelers couldn’t overcome.
Larry Brown was the first cornerback to be named Super Bowl MVP. He had two interceptions, which were both converted into touchdowns.
Dallas was the first team to win three Super Bowls in four seasons and made their legacy as a dynasty.
Super Bowl MVP: Larry Brown
Final Score: Dallas 27, Pittsburgh 17
15. Super Bowl XVI
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Date: January 24, 1982
San Francisco absolutely dominated the first half. Joe Montana ran and threw for a touchdown, with Ray Wersching adding two field goals.
The Cincinnati Bengals were shut out in the first half, trailing 20-0.
The Bengals quarterback, Ken Anderson, ran for a touchdown in the third quarter and threw another one in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 20-14.
However, Wersching added two more field goals for the 49ers to give them a 26-14 lead.
Ken Anderson threw for another touchdown in the fourth to cut the lead to five, but there were only 20 seconds left in the game. The Bengals onside kick failed and the 49ers ran out the clock to win the game.
Super Bowl MVP: Joe Montana
Final Score: San Francisco 26, Cincinnati 21
14. Super Bowl XIV
Date: January 20, 1980
The Los Angeles Rams enjoyed a home-field advantage for Super Bowl XIV, playing at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.
The two sides traded scores throughout the first with one touchdown a piece and three combined field goals. The Rams had a 13-10 lead heading into halftime.
Pittsburgh and Los Angeles traded touchdowns in the third to make the game 19-17 Los Angeles.
However, the Steelers dominated the fourth quarter, scoring on a 73-yard pass to John Stallworth and a one-yard touchdown run by Franco Harris.
Pittsburgh walked away with the 12-point victory and Bradshaw managed to secure the MVP award despite throwing three interceptions.
Super Bowl MVP: Terry Bradshaw
Final Score: Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19
13. Super Bowl XXXIX
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Date: February 6, 2005
The Eagles finally got over the hump and won the NFC Championship game after losing it three consecutive times. They headed into their matchup against the Patriots as the underdogs.
The game was a back-and-forth battle between the two teams as they traded touchdowns, entering the fourth quarter tied 14-14.
Corey Dillon broke the tie with a two-yard run to give the Patriots the lead. They added on to that lead with a field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
Philadelphia responded late in the fourth with a 30-yard touchdown pass to Greg Lewis to pull the Eagles within three. However, the drive consumed too much clock, leaving the Eagles with less than two minutes.
Their onside kick attempt failed and while they got the ball back with 46 seconds remaining, they were unsuccessful on their drive.
This win cemented the New England Patriots as a dynasty after winning three Super Bowls in four seasons.
Super Bowl MVP: Deion Branch
Final Score: Patriots 24, Eagles 21
12. Super Bowl X
Date: January 18, 1976
The Dallas Cowboys were the first ever Wild Card team to reach the Super Bowl.
Dallas and Pittsburgh traded touchdowns in the first, but Dallas took a second-quarter lead going into the half with a field goal by Toni Fritsch.
The third quarter was uneventful, with each side failing to put up any points, but the fourth quarter was full of fireworks.
The Steelers started the quarter with a safety, then followed it up with consecutive field goals. Finally, Lynn Swann caught a 64-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to give the Steelers the lead.
Roger Staubach responded by throwing a 34-yard touchdown pass to Percy Howard to close the gap to four.
With 1:22 remaining and the ball back in the hands of the Cowboys, Staubach drove the Cowboys into Steelers territory. He targeted Howard in the end zone twice, with the first bouncing off of Howard's shoulder and the second being intercepted on a tipped pass. The pick sealed the win for Pittsburgh.
Lynn Swann—who almost didn't play in the game due to a severe concussion—ended up not only playing, but took home Super Bowl MVP honors after recording four receptions, 161 receiving yards and the game-leading touchdown.
Super Bowl MVP: Lynn Swann
Final Score: Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17
11. Super Bowl V
Date: January 17, 1971
Super Bowl V wasn't very pretty—hence the nickname the "Blunder Bowl"—but it was a memorable one nonetheless. The two teams combined for a record 11 turnovers in the game and the Dallas Cowboys had a record 10 penalties.
The Baltimore Colts were a well-balanced team led by Johnny Unitas. Dallas, on the other hand, had a dominant defense and a strong running game.
Dallas scored the first points of the game with consecutive field goals. Baltimore responded in the second quarter with the first touchdown of the game on a 75-yard touchdown pass to John Mackey. However, the extra point was blocked.
Johnny Unitas was injured and knocked out of the game with a rib injury and was replaced by Earl Morrall. Down 13-6 at the half, the Baltimore Colts had to mount a comeback with their starting quarterback out. Baltimore tied the game in the fourth quarter on a rushing touchdown by Tom Nowatzke.
With five seconds left in the game, rookie kicker Jim O'Brien kicked a 32-yard field goal to give the Colts the win.
The MVP award went to a player from the losing team: Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley. However, he refused to accept the award due to his team losing the game.
Super Bowl MVP: Chuck Howley
Final Score: Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
10. Super Bowl XLIV
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Date: February 7, 2010
The New Orleans Saints made a magical run through the regular season and into the playoffs on their way to the Super Bowl.
Indianapolis was considered the favorite heading into the game after the Colts dominated the regular season.
The Colts took a 10-point lead in the first quarter on a field goal and touchdown pass thrown by Peyton Manning to Pierre Garcon.
The Saints responded in the second quarter with two field goals to cut the lead 10-6.
The momentum shifted in favor of New Orleans after Sean Payton made one of the gutsiest play calls in Super Bowl history. He called for an onside kick to open the second half, which the Saints managed to recover. They took advantage and scored on a touchdown pass to Pierre Thomas.
Joseph Addai responded midway through the third quarter to give the Colts a 17-13 lead.
Garret Hartley cut it to 17-16 with a late third-quarter field goal.
The Saints took back the lead in the fourth quarter with a touchdown pass to Jeremy Shockey.
The Colts had the ball with less than six minutes remaining, but Manning made a crucial mistake near the three-minute mark. He threw the ball to Reggie Wayne, but Tracy Porter broke on the ball and intercepted it for a 74-yard return touchdown.
New Orleans held onto the lead and won the franchise’s first Super Bowl.
Super Bowl MVP: Drew Brees
Final Score: New Orleans Saints 31, Indianapolis Colts 17
9. Super Bowl XXXII
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Date: January 25, 1998
The Green Bay Packers were the reigning Super Bowl champions and they were considered to be heavy favorites against the Denver Broncos, a Wild Card playoff team that season.
The game featured two Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks—John Elway and Brett Favre—dueling for supremacy.
The game was a back-and-forth battle through the first three quarters. Green Bay tied the game up early in the fourth quarter on a Brett Favre pass.
Terrell Davis ran in for a touchdown to give the Broncos a lead with only 1:45 remaining in the game. Davis, who sat out for the majority of the second quarter, still managed to rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns.
Favre drove the Packers deep into Broncos territory with less than a minute remaining, but the final attempt of the game was a broken up fourth down pass to seal the win for the Broncos.
Super Bowl MVP: Terrell Davis
Final Score: Denver 31, Green Bay 24
8. Super Bowl XIII
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Date: January 21, 1979
Super Bowl XIII featured two of the top defenses in the league. Pittsburgh had the "Steel Curtain", while Dallas had the "Doomsday Defense". Their strong defenses were backed up by prolific offenses.
The Steelers were led by NFL MVP Terry Bradshaw, while the Cowboys were the reigning Super Bowl champs with Roger Staubach helming the offense.
Pittsburgh and Dallas traded touchdowns in the first quarter, but Pittsburgh scored two in the second with Dallas only scoring one. The Steelers went into the half with a 21-14 lead.
Rafael Septian drilled a field goal in the third-quarter—the only points scored in that quarter—to pull the Cowboys within four of the Steelers.
Pittsburgh started the fourth quarter with a 22-yard touchdown run by Franco Harris and they followed that up with a touchdown pass to Lynn Swann. That gave the Steelers a 35-17 cushion.
However, the Cowboys mounted a furious comeback, scoring two consecutive touchdowns on a pair of touchdown passes thrown by Roger Staubach.
With 0:22 seconds remaining in the game, Dallas attempted an onside kick but failed to recover it, allowing the Steelers to run out the clock and walk away with the victory.
Super Bowl MVP: Terry Bradshaw
Final Score: Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31
7. Super Bowl XXXVIII
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Date: February 1, 2004
The New England Patriots dominated through the regular season and playoffs that season.
The Carolina Panthers had a remarkable turnaround, going from a one-win team the previous season to NFC champions.
The first quarter was scoreless, but the two teams lit into one another in the second. Carolina put up 10, while New England had 14.
The second half played out in nearly the same fashion as the first, but the fourth-quarter was an extremely high-scoring affair. The two teams traded scores back-and-forth in one of the most exciting quarters in Super Bowl history.
New England started the fourth with a two-yard touchdown run, but Carolina responded with a 33-yard touchdown run followed up by an 85-yard touchdown pass.
The two sides traded touchdown passes again to tie the game 29-29.
Brady led the team down field with nearly a minute remaining to set Adam Vinatieri up for a field goal attempt, which he he made with only seconds remaining to give the Patriots the victory.
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady
Final Score: New England 32, Carolina 29
6. Super Bowl XXV
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Date: January 27, 1991
The Buffalo Bills—led by quarterback Jim Kelly—were favored to win against the New York Giants. Their no-huddle offense was among the very best in the league.
The Giants offense, on the other hand, was middling. However, led by Hall-of-Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, they boasted arguably the best defense in the NFL.
The two teams' defenses held the passing attacks in check for the most part, while the run game featured two 100-plus yard rushing performances from either side.
On the final possession of the game, Buffalo had the ball at its own 10-yard line with 2:16 remaining. The Bills drove up to the Giants' 29-yard line to setup a field goal attempt for Scott Norwood. His attempt went wide right and the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl.
Super Bowl MVP: Otis Anderson
Final Score: New York Giants 20, Buffalo 19
5. Super Bowl XXIII
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Date: January 22, 1989
The first half was rather ugly, with the tie scored at 3-3. It was only 6-6 late in the third quarter when the Bengals went up on a Stanford Jennings’ kickoff return.
The 49ers responded with Joe Montana leading the offense downfield, which ended on a 14-yard pass to Jerry Rice.
Cincinnati responded with a field goal to give the Bengals a three-point lead.
The final drive is one of the most memorable in Super Bowl history. Down 13-16, the 49ers drove the ball down 92 yards to take the lead with less than a minute remaining on a touchdown pass from Montana to John Taylor.
Jerry Rice was named Super Bowl MVP for his monstrous effort. He had a Super Bowl-record 215 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Super Bowl MVP: Jerry Rice
Final Score: San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16
4. Super Bowl XLIII
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Date: February 1, 2009
The Arizona Cardinals surprised the league that season behind the arm of Kurt Warner, as he led the team through the NFC to the Super Bowl that season.
Pittsburgh was favored to win the game behind Ben Roethlisberger and an imposing defense. The Steelers dominated the first three quarters. They held a 20-7 lead entering the fourth quarter.
However, the fourth quarter of this game is easily one of the most exciting in Super Bowl history.
Arizona scored 16 points in the fourth, with two touchdowns coming from Larry Fitzgerald and a safety coming on a holding penalty.
However, Roethlisberger orchestrated a masterful drive with 2:37 remaining. He led the Steelers on an eight-play, 78-yard drive. Santonio Holmes led the way for the team and caught one of the most memorable passes in NFL history to give the Steelers the lead.
Pittsburgh held up on defense and walked away victors.
Super Bowl MVP: Santonio Holmes
Final Score: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23
3. Super Bowl XXXIV
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Date: January 30, 2000
Super Bowl XXXIV featured the St. Louis Rams and Tennessee Titans.
St. Louis—better known as “The Greatest Show On Turf”—featured Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. They were one of the most prolific and exiciting offenses in NFL history.
However, the first half was mostly a defensive battle with the Rams holding a 9-0 lead.
St. Louis took a 16-0 lead in the third, but Tennessee went on to score 16 unanswered points to tie the game up.
Kurt Warner threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Bruce with less than two minutes remaining.
Tennessee would drive to the Rams 10-yard line on the final drive of the game and put themselves in a position to score and tie the game up.
The final play featured one of the most memorable moments in NFL history. It is known simply as “The Tackle”.
Kevin Dyson—a Titans receiver—caught the ball with only seconds remaining, but he was stopped one-yard short of the end zone by linebacker Mike Jones, preserving the victory for the Rams.
Super Bowl MVP: Kurt Warner
Final Score: St. Louis 23, Tennessee 16
2. Super Bowl XXXVI
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Date: February 3, 2002
The 2001-02 NFL season was the start of Tom Brady’s ascension to the league’s elite and the start of a Hall-of-Fame career.
He took over for Drew Bledsoe early in the season and the rest is history. He immediately had an impact for the team and led the Patriots through the AFC and to the playoffs.
The Patriots were up against the dominant St. Louis Rams, which were favored by 14 points.
The Patriots controlled the game through the first three quarters. Ty Law had a pick six, David Patten had a touchdown reception and Adam Vinatieri had a field goal to give the Patriots a 17-3 lead.
However, the Rams came alive in the fourth quarter behind Kurt Warner. He had a two-yard touchdown run and he threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl to tie the game 17-17.
With less than two minutes remaining, Brady led the Patriots down field to setup the game-winning field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
Super Bowl MVP: Tom Brady
Final Score: New England 20, St. Louis 17
1. Super Bowl XLII
Date: Fenruary 3, 2008
The New England Patriots were one of the most dominant and prolific teams in NFL history. They went undefeated in the regular season and entered the Super Bowl with an 18-0 record.
New York—which managed to get in as a Wild Card team—had one of the most memorable playoff runs, getting through the NFC on their way to the Super Bowl.
The Patriots were heavily favored in the game and virtually no one outside of the New York Giants locker room had them pegged as winners.
The first three quarters were a defensive battle, with New England leading 7-3 entering the fourth.
New York took a 10-7 lead four minutes into the fourth quarter on a touchdown catch by David Tyree.
New England eventually responded late in the fourth on a touchdown pass by Randy Moss to give the Patriots a 14-10 lead with 2:42 remaining.
The final drive by the New York Giants featured arguably the greatest play in Super Bowl history. Eli Manning was about to be sacked on third-and-five, but he somehow managed to escape the clutches of three Patriots’ defenders. He launched a deep pass to David Tyree, who pulled the catch down by trapping the ball on his helmet to keep the drive alive.
Plaxico Burress capped the drive off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to give the Giants a 17-14 lead with 35 seconds remaining. The Giants held on for the win and pulled off arguably the greatest Super Bowl upset in the history of the sport.
Super Bowl MVP: Eli Manning
Final Score: New York Giants 17, New England 14