Ranking the Best and Worst Super Bowls
by Noah Cutting
January 13, 2024
Photo via ESPN
I’ve been an avid NFL fan ever since watching my first season in 2007. Of course, one of the highlights of the year for any football fan is the NFL’s championship game, the Super Bowl. Since I have been watching the NFL, all football fans have been treated to many amazing Super Bowls (along with a couple that weren’t so great). With Super Bowl 58 coming up in Las Vegas next month, I thought it would be fun to look back on recent Super Bowls (beginning with Super Bowl 42) and rank them from worst to best.
#16: Super Bowl 48 - Seattle Seahawks 43, Denver Broncos 8
MVP: Malcolm Smith (SEA) - LB - 10 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception, 1 touchdown
On paper, Super Bowl 48 looked like a very exciting matchup that should have resulted in a great game. It was strength vs. strength, with the Peyton Manning-led Broncos entering the game with the #1 offense in the NFL during the 2013 season, while the “Legion of Boom” Seahawks defense also ranked the best in the league. But, the game turned out to be a disaster for the Broncos from the very first snap when the ball went sailing over Manning’s head and into the end zone for a safety, giving Seattle a 2-0 lead. Things only got worse from there for the Broncos as the Seahawks put together one of the most dominant defensive performances in Super Bowl history. They intercepted Manning twice in the first half including a pick six by eventual Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith which gave Seattle a 22-0 lead at halftime. Percy Harvin followed that up by returning the opening kickoff of the 2nd half for a touchdown, making it 29-0. The game ended up in a 35-point rout, which to this day is the 3rd largest blowout in Super Bowl history.
#15: Super Bowl 53 - New England Patriots 13, Los Angeles Rams 3
MVP: Julian Edelman (NE) - WR - 10 catches, 141 yards
If you enjoy seeing high flying offenses going up and down the field, Super Bowl 53 was not the game for you. The first points weren’t scored until early in the 2nd quarter on a Patriots field goal which gave New England a 3-0 lead at the half. The Rams answered with a field goal of their own in the 3rd to tie the game 3-3 heading into the 4th quarter. With 7 minutes to go, a beautiful pass from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski set the Patriots up at the 2-yard line and Sony Michel’s touchdown run gave New England a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Rams had a chance to tie it late, driving into Patriots territory, but Stephon Gilmore intercepted Jared Goff to give the Patriots, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady their 6th Super Bowl title.
Tom Brady celebrates his victories in Super Bowl LIII (left) and LV (right), the last two of his seven Super Bowl Championships.
Photos via Page Six and The US Sun
#14: Super Bowl 55 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31, Kansas City Chiefs 9
MVP: Tom Brady (TB) - QB - 21/29, 201 yards, 3 touchdowns
In his first year after leaving New England, Tom Brady led a Bucs team that became the first in NFL history to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium and Tampa Bay took advantage of the opportunity. Brady connected on 2 touchdown passes to Gronkowski, who came out of retirement to join Brady in Tampa before the season. The Bucs defense harassed Patrick Mahomes and the defending champion Chiefs the entire game. While Mahomes was sacked only 3 times, it felt like he was running for his life the entire game. That constant pressure resulted in one of the worst performances of his career, as he completed only 53% of his passes with 0 TDs and 2 picks. The big question of Tom Brady’s career to this point had been if he could still be successful apart from Bill Belichick and in his first season with Tampa Bay, he answered that question with a resounding "yes", winning a record 7th title.
#13: Super Bowl 50 - Denver Broncos 24, Carolina Panthers 10
MVP: Von Miller (DEN) - LB - 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles
For much of Peyton Manning’s time with the Broncos, it had been Manning and the offense that carried the Broncos to success, but in Super Bowl 50 it was the Broncos defense that helped to carry Manning to his long-elusive 2nd Super Bowl title in the final season of his career. Manning had looked like a shell of himself much of the 2015 season and that continued into the Super Bowl, as he threw for only 141 yards with an interception. But the Broncos defense was up to the task against 2015 NFL MVP Cam Newton and the Panthers. Denver jumped out to a 10-0 lead by the end of the 1st quarter thanks to Von Miller forcing a Newton fumble that was returned for a touchdown. The Panthers cut the lead to 10-7 early in the 2nd quarter, but with the dominance of the Denver defense, it never really felt like the game was in doubt and Manning got to ride off into the sunset and finish his career with a title.
#12: Super Bowl 45 - Green Bay Packers 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 25
MVP: Aaron Rodgers (GB) - QB - 24/39, 304 yards, 3 touchdowns
Super Bowl 45 pitted an ascending Aaron Rodgers and the Packers against a prime Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, who were seeking to win their secon title in three years. The Packers played brilliantly in the 1st half, jumping out to a 21-3 lead thanks to two Rodgers touchdown passes and safety Nick Collins returning a Roethlisberger interception for a touchdown. The Steelers continued to push, getting TDs from Hines Ward and Rashard Mendenhall to cut the lead to 21-17. But every time the Steelers seemed to be back in the game, the Packers always had an answer and a Mason Crosby field goal gave the Packers a 31-25 lead with 2 minutes to go. The Packers defense came up with one last stop, only allowing one first down on the Steelers final drive and preventing Roethlisberger from leading a game winning drive as he had 2 years earlier in Super Bowl 43. Rodgers won his first (and to this day only) Super Bowl title and the Lombardi trophy returned to Green Bay for the first time in 14 years.
Will we ever see Rodgers hoist another Lombardi trophy?
Photo via Dallas Morning News
#11: Super Bowl 54 - Kansas City Chiefs 31, San Francisco 49ers 20
MVP: Patrick Mahomes (KC) - QB - 26/42, 286 yards, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Patrick Mahomes led the Chiefs to the Super Bowl in just his second full season as the starter and his team faced off against the 49ers. The two teams went back and forth in the first half and the game was tied 10-10 at the half. The 49ers dominated early in the 2nd half, intercepting Mahomes twice and taking a 20-10 lead on Raheem Mostert’s 3rd quarter touchdown. But the Chiefs, who had rallied from double digit deficit in each of their other two playoff games during the 2019 postseason, would not be denied. They scored 3 touchdowns in the final 6 minutes of the game to take a 31-20 lead, with Damien Williams scoring a go-ahead TD with 2:44 to go and a game-sealing TD with 1:12 left. With the win, the Chiefs captured their first championship in 50 years.
#10: Super Bowl 44 - New Orleans 31, Indianapolis Colts 17
MVP: Drew Brees (NO) - QB - 32/39, 288 yards, 2 touchdowns
In the first matchup in Super Bowl history to feature two teams that each had a QB throw for more than 4,000 yards in the regular season, it was Peyton Manning’s Colts who controlled much of the first half, with Drew Brees and the Saints unable to get much offense going. Indianapolis led 10-6 at the half before Saints coach Sean Payton made the incredibly bold decision to start the 2nd half with an onside kick, which the Saints recovered. The two teams traded scores before Jeremy Shockey’s touchdown with 5 minutes to play gave the Saints a 24-17 lead. It looked as if the Colts had a game-tying drive in them, as Manning led them down the field to the Saints 30-yard line. But Saints corner Tracy Porter picked off a Manning pass and returned it for a TD, giving the Saints a two-score lead and sealing the first Super Bowl title for Drew Brees and the city of New Orleans.
#9: Super Bowl 56 - Los Angeles Rams 23, Cincinnati Bengals 20
MVP: Cooper Kupp (LAR) - WR - 8 catches, 92 yards, 2 touchdowns
The 2021 Rams were a team truly fit for Hollywood, featuring stars such as Matthew Stafford, Aaron Donald, Cooper Kupp, Von Miller, and Odell Beckham Jr. They went up against Joe Burrow and the Bengals, who upset the Chiefs on the road in the AFC championship. LA’s two star receivers, Beckham and Kupp, each caught a touchdown in the 1st half to give the Rams a 13-3 lead. But, two touchdowns from Burrow to Tee Higgins, including a 75-yarder on the first play of the 2nd half, put Cincinnati on top. The Bengals held the lead for much of the 2nd half, but Stafford led the Rams down the field and tossed a TD to Kupp with 1:25 to play to give the Rams the lead. The Bengals attempted a potential game-winning drive, but Aaron Donald’s sack of Burrow on 4th down clinched a title for LA.
#8: Super Bowl 47 - Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31
MVP: Joe Flacco (BAL) - QB - 22/33, 287 yards, 3 touchdowns
Early on in Super Bowl 47, it looked as if Baltimore was going to roll to a championship. The Ravens held a big lead at the half and then Baltimore's Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the 2nd half for a touchdown to extend the lead to 28-6. But, shortly after that, a stadium power outage caused a 34-minute delay which seemed to completely shift momentum from Baltimore to San Francisco. The 49ers proceeded to score 17 straight points, cutting the lead to 28-23. The Ravens got a field goal to extend their lead to 31-23. Then, a Colin Kaepernick touchdown with 9:57 to play gave the Niners a chance to tie the game with a 2-point conversion. However, the 2-point play failed and Ray Lewis (playing in his final career game) and the rest of the Ravens defense held on for the rest of the game, giving Baltimore their second title and preventing years of conspiracy theories about the power outage.
#7: Super Bowl 57 - Kansas City Chiefs 38, Philadelphia Eagles 35
MVP: Patrick Mahomes (KC) - QB - 21/27, 182 yards, 3 touchdowns
Super Bowl 57 featured the top seed in both the NFC and AFC, as well as featuring brothers facing off in the Super Bowl for the first time (Jason and Travis Kelce). It was an exciting back-and-forth game, with the Eagles taking a 24-14 lead into halftime before the Chiefs took an early 4th quarter lead on a Kadarius Toney touchdown. The Chiefs extended the lead on a Skyy Moore TD, but Jalen Hurts led the Eagles down the field and ran in a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie the game at 35 with 5 minutes to play. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs drove down the field into field goal range and the Eagles defense appeared to come up with a stop, but a controversial holding penalty on the Eagles’ James Bradberry extended the Chiefs drive and allowed them to run the clock down. Harrison Butker’s 27 yard field goal with 8 seconds remaining put the Chiefs on top and gave Kansas City and Andy Reid their 2nd title in 4 years.
10 years after the Harbaugh brothers faced on another as coaches, the Kelce brothers made history.
Photos via MLive and People
#6: Super Bowl 51 - New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28 (OT)
MVP: Tom Brady (NE) - QB - 43/62, 466 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
28-3. A score that will live in infamy for the Atlanta Falcons. After a scoreless 1st quarter, the Falcons, seeking their first title, came out flying in the 2nd quarter, scoring touchdowns for an early 14-0 lead. They would extend that lead late in the 2nd when Tom Brady threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. The Falcons took their now infamous 28-3 lead in the 3rd quarter on a Matt Ryan TD pass to Tevin Coleman. But after that, it was all Patriots. They cut the lead to 28-20 late in the 4th and then got the ball back. Shortly after Julian Edelman made a miraculous diving catch to keep the Patriots’ drive alive, James White’s touchdown with 57 seconds to play followed by a tying 2-point conversion sent the Super Bowl to overtime for the first time in history. At the start of overtime, it seemed inevitable that if the Patriots won the coin toss, they would march down the field and win the game, and that’s exactly what happened. James White scored his third TD of the game to give the Patriots the win as Tom Brady solidified himself as the GOAT by leading New England to their 5th title and the largest comeback in Super Bowl history.
#5: Super Bowl 46 - New York Giants 21, New England Patriots 17
MVP: Eli Manning (NYG) - QB - 30/40, 296 yards, 1 touchdown
In a rematch of Super Bowl 42 from five years prior, the Giants and Patriots faced off in Indianapolis. The Giants jumped out to an early 9-0 lead after a safety and a Victor Cruz touchdown. The Patriots then proceeded to score 17 unanswered points for a 17-9 lead early in the 3rd. The Giants chipped away with 2 field goals in the 3rd, but still trailed with 3:46 to play. Once again, Eli Manning found magic late in the Super Bowl, completing a long pass to Mario Manningham in between two defenders on the sideline. Ahmad Bradshaw’s touchdown with 57 seconds to go gave the Giants a 21-17 lead. Brady had one last chance to drive the Patriots down the field for the win. He guided New England to midfield before his hail-mary pass to Rob Gronkowski fell just short on the final play of the game. Eli Manning and the Giants proved to be Brady’s kryptonite again, defeating New England again for their second title in five years.
#4: Super Bowl 52 - Philadelphia Eagles 41, New England Patriots 33
MVP: Nick Foles (PHI) - QB - 28/43, 373 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception
The Eagles started the 2017 season 11-2, but it looked like their Super Bowl hopes were dashed after starting QB Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL in Week 14. But in stepped Nick Foles who led Philadelphia through the playoffs and into the Super Bowl where the Eagles faced the defending champion Patriots. The two teams traded scores in the first half, with the Eagles holding a 15-12 lead late in the 2nd quarter. The Eagles then pulled off the “Philly Special” for a touchdown with tight end Trey Burton tossing a touchdown pass to Foles. New England took their first lead of the game on a Gronkowski TD with 9 minutes to play, but the Eagles answered with a 14-play drive which ended in a Zach Ertz touchdown. Trailing 38-33, Brady and the Pats attempted a game-winning drive, but Eagles edge rusher Brandon Graham forced a fumble. The Eagles managed a field goal to extend their lead to 8 points. With one last chance to tie the game, New England drove to midfield, but came up short in their bid for a 3rd title in 4 years despite Brady throwing for a Super Bowl-record 505 yards. Instead, it was Foles and the Eagles winning their first championship.
#3: Super Bowl 49 - New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24
MVP: Tom Brady (NE) - QB - 37/50, 328 yards, 4 touchdowns, 2 interceptions
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks came into the game seeking to be the first NFL team since the 2003-04 Patriots to repeat as champions. First half Seattle touchdowns by Marshawn Lynch and Chris Matthews were matched by Patriots touchdowns by Gronk and Brandon LaFell and the game was tied 14-14 at the half. The Seahawks scored ten 3rd quarter points for a 24-14 lead, but Brady led New England to two 4th quarter TDs, including a go-ahead score to Julian Edelman with 2:02 to play. In large part due to a miraculous catch from Jermaine Kearse (who caught the ball while on his back), the Seahawks drove to the New England 1-yard line. Despite having “Beast Mode” Lynch in the backfield, Seattle inexplicably attempted a slant pass over the middle and Patriots CB Malcolm Butler read the play perfectly, intercepting the ball to give New England the win.
Photo via Bleacher Report
#2: Super Bowl 43 - Pittsburgh Steelers 27, Arizona Cardinals 23
MVP: Santonio Holmes (PIT) - WR - 9 receptions, 131 yards, 1 touchdown
Early on, the Steelers defense stifled the Cardinals and helped to provide an early 10-0. The Cardinals bounced back, getting a 2nd quarter TD to cut the Steelers lead to 10-7. Arizona drove into the red zone again and threatened to take the lead just before halftime, but James Harrison intercepted Kurt Warner at the goal line and returned it the length of the field as time expired in the first half to extend the Pittsburgh lead to 17-7. The Cardinals trailed 20-7 at the start of the 4th quarter, but then scored 16 unanswered points with a safety and 2 touchdowns from Warner to Larry Fitzgerald, the second of which gave Arizona a 23-20 lead with 2:37 to play. Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers drove to the Arizona 6-yard line and Pittsburgh retook the lead for good on Santonio Holmes’ toe-tapping touchdown in the back corner of the end zone with just 35 seconds to play.
#1: Super Bowl 42 - New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14
MVP: Eli Manning (NYG) - QB - 19/34, 255 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception
Admittedly, as a Giants fan, I am probably a little biased, but in my mind, Super Bowl 42 is the greatest I’ve ever watched. On paper, the showdown looked like a mismatch with the wild card Giants taking on the 18-0 Patriots who were seeking to complete just the 2nd perfect season in NFL history. The Giants quickly proved that they wouldn’t be pushed around by orchestrating a 10-minute possession on the game's opening drive for a field goal. The Giants defense flustered Tom Brady like few teams had in the 2007 season, sacking him five times. The Giants would take a 10-7 lead with 11 minutes to play, but the Patriots responded and a Randy Moss touchdown gave New England a 14-10 lead with 2:40 to play. The Giants drove to their own 44-yard line, but faced a 3rd and 5. It was then that Eli Manning and David Tyree combined for one of the greatest plays in NFL history. Manning barely escaped being sacked and heaved the ball downfield to Tyree, who made “The Helmet Catch” to keep the drive alive. A Plaxico Burress touchdown gave New York the lead with 35 seconds to go and two hail-mary attempts from Brady to Moss fell incomplete, giving the Giants their third Super Bowl title and one of the biggest upsets in the history of sports.
Which Super Bowl is your favorite? Let us know on Twitter (or X, if you insist on calling it that) @5thGoalSports