The Super Bowl. Two words that will bring people of all ages to the television to watch the NFL’s two top remaining teams battle for football’s highest award, the Lombardi trophy, the crown of world champions, and everlasting football immortality.
Over the years, many fans were treated with nail biting finishers, spectacular single-game performances, players rising to the occasion and becoming household names, and plays that would forever be etched into legend. But at the same time, fans were presented with horrendous duds, lackluster performances, and follies that would humble even the proudest of NFL players. Now as Super Bowl XLIX draws ever so close, let’s look back at 5 of the Worst Super Bowls ever to be played.
Super Bowl VII: Miami Dolphins 14 – Washington Redskins 7
You would think with something like a ‘Perfect Season’ on the line, it would be a more competitive Super Bowl (See Super Bowl XLII). Instead NFL fans were treated to a snooze fest between the Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins. There was little to no offense throughout the entire game (Dolphins gained 253 yards total offense while Redskins gained only 228 yards of total offense, 9 total first downs for the entire game). The only highlight of the entire game was a botched field goal by Dolphins Kicker Garo Yepremian late in the 4th quarter that Redskins DB Mike Bass recovered for a 49-yard touchdown. Other than that, this gets stashed away in the NFL Films archives only to be shown as an ego booster to the ’72 Dolphins.
5. Super Bowl XXXV: Baltimore Ravens 34 – New York Giants 7
This was the one Super Bowl that a lot of Giants fans want to forget. The team that blew out the Minnesota Vikings 41-0 in the NFC Championship game ended up laying an egg against the Ravens. Suprisingly enough the game was still within reach at halftime (10-0). However the Ravens overpowered and dominated the Giants, outscoring them 24-7 in the second half. If you were not a fan of sloppy play, this was a game to avoid. Both teams failed to surpass the 250 total yards mark (Ravens’ 244 versus Giants’ 152), the Ravens committed 9 penalties while the Giants committed 6. Not to mention some controversy surrounding the game (MLB Ray Lewis getting away with murder charges, phantom penalties on the Giants). The only reason why this wasn't ranked higher was for the brief excitement where you had 3 touchdowns in less than 40 seconds (A 49-yard interception return for a touchdown by Ravens DB Duane Starks followed by a 97-yard kick return touchdown by Giants' WR/KR Ron Dixon followed by an 84-yard kick return touchdown by Ravens WR/KR Jermaine Lewis on the ensuing kickoff).
Thankfully there have been some more exciting Super Bowls of the new millennium and the Giants won two themselves. But if you were going to lead off with something into a new age, you want to put your best foot forward instead of falling flat on your face.
4. Super Bowls XXVII: Dallas Cowboys 52 – Buffalo Bills 17
In the early 90s, the Buffalo Bills ruled the AFC landscape. They won four consecutive AFC Championship games and had four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Unfortunately they also lost all four Super Bowl appearances. But out of those four, Super Bowl XXVII had to be the lowest point for them. They got an early lead 7-0 in the first quarter but not only failed to hold onto that, they couldn’t even remain competitive after the first half (Cowboys had 28-10 lead going into halftime). Heck, the Bills didn’t even show up in the second half at all (outscored 24-7, including 21-0 in the fourth quarter) To make matters worse, Bills’ starting QB Jim Kelly was knocked out in during the midpoint of the second quarter and backup Frank Reich had to take his place. But no matter who took snaps under center for the Bills, their defense could not stop the Cowboys offense (allowing 408 yards and 52 points). Hell, they couldn’t even stop themselves from screwing up. To this day, that Bills team holds the Super Bowl record of most turnovers (9) and most fumbles in a game (5). Not to mention that the only thing memorable about this Super Bowl was an all-time blunder by Dallas Cowboys DT Leon Lett.
They say that getting to the Super Bowl is tough, let alone have four consecutive appearances. But if you were watching this game, you’d wish you could watch anybody else but the Buffalo Bills since you already knew what the outcome of the game was going to be.
3. Super Bowl XLVIII: Seattle Seahawks 43 – Denver Broncos 8
The billing of this entire Super Bowl was the high-powered Broncos offense, led by future Hall-of-Famer QB Peyton Manning, versus the rugged, smash-mouth Seattle Seahawks defense. Not to mention that it was going to be played out in Metlife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ where everybody and their mother predicted it was going to flop. The good news though was that the weather was fine. The bad news, the game flopped harder than a NBA player. You could tell right off the bat when the Broncos’ C Manuel Ramirez botched the snap on the team’s first offensive play, let alone the first offensive play of the entire game, and caused a safety. From then on out, it was all downhill for the team from Denver. It was 22-0 by halftime in favor of Seattle, but the dagger came in the form of an 87-yard kickoff return from WR/KR Percy Harvin. Mind you, that was the opening kickoff of the second half.
Denver showed a pulse with a 14-yard strike from Peyton to WR Demaryius Thomas but turned out nothing more than to be a small blip. The only saving grace of that touchdown was the fact it prevented (or robbed as some fans might think) the only shutout in Super Bowl history. The Broncos were outclass, outplayed, and outcoached by the Seattle Seahawks. This game damaged Peyton’s career even more and gave his naysayers more ammunition of how he’s a ‘regular season’ quarterback and a choker in the playoffs.
2. Super Bowl XXIV: San Francisco 49ers 55 – Denver Broncos 10
Again with the Broncos? At least in Super Bowl XLVIII, they kept their opponent under 50 points and were at least within 35 points of ‘tying’ the game. A lot of Broncos fans kept saying that Peyton was no John Elway since Elway won 2 Super Bowls (Super Bowl XXXII & Super Bowl XXXIII). However prior to those two victories, Elway and the Broncos were nothing more than a whipping boys for NFC teams. They lost in convincing fashion to the Giants in Super Bowl XXV 39-20 and were blown out by the Redskins 42-10 in Super Bowl XXVI. But the worse came in Super Bowl XXIV at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers. How bad was this Super Bowl? It was by far one of the biggest ass-kickings in all of the 48 Super Bowls. The 49ers outplayed the Broncos in all aspects of the game. On offense, they outgained the Broncos in total yards (461 to 167) and in first downs (28 to 12). On defense, the 49ers out sacked the Broncos (6 for 33 yards loss compared to 1 for 0 yards loss by the Broncos) plus won the turnover battle (4 to 0). By halftime, the score was an insurmountable 27-3 in favor of the 49ers. Many fans were just looking for a way to get out of the Louisiana Superdome by the time the second half kicked off.
The 49ers continued to dominate the Broncos as Joe Montana made it look like anybody could throw on the Broncos (he finished the game 22-of-29 for 297 yard 5 TDs). So before Broncos fans start to criticize Peyton for his shortcomings, at least his team had the possibility of winning Super Bowl XLVIII where are Elway’s Broncos stood no chance in Super Bowl XXIV against the high-octane 49ers offense.
1. Super Bowl V: Baltimore Colts 16 – Dallas Cowboys 13
The final score of this Super Bowl doesn’t tell you how bad this game really was. How bad was this Super Bowl you may ask? Let’s look at the numbers shall we? First the turnovers. The Baltimore Colts had 7 turnovers for the game (4 fumbles lost and 3 interceptions), giving them the third highest amount in Super Bowl history. Dallas had 4 turnovers (1 fumble lost and 3 interceptions). The 11 total turnovers committed by both teams in the game ranks first all-time in Super Bowl history. Now let’s look at penalties. For a team that was supposed to be run by a disciplinary coach in Tom Landry, the Cowboys ended up committing 10 penalties for 133 yards. Those 10 turnovers actually ranks third all-time while the 133 penalized yards ranks first all-time. Now let’s look at gameplay itself. Both teams did not break the 50% completion percentage for the entire game (Cowboys went 12-for-26 for 46.2% while Colts went 11-for-25 for 44.0%).
To add into the realm of ‘points missed,’ the Colts’ kicker Jim O’Brien missed an extra point and field goal prior to his game-winning kick. On the Cowboys’ side, RB Duane Thomas ended up fumbling on the Colts 1-yard line early in the third quarter that would have given the Cowboys a 20-6 advantage and possibly the victory. If that doesn’t show you how poor this game was, this little nugget will. In Super Bowl tradition, the game’s most valuable player (the MVP) is selected from the winning team. In Super Bowl V, the winning team (the Colts) played so poorly that they didn’t even have an MVP. The MVP honors instead went to Cowboys LB Chuck Howley, marking the only time in Super Bowl history that a player from the LOSING team won MVP honors.
Now many people will say that just getting to the Super Bowl alone is an accomplishment in itself. However if you’re going to be playing on the NFL’s biggest stage and the biggest stage in all of American sports, you need to bring your A-Game and leave everything on the field. Hopefully Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks proves to be more of a nail bitter game. Otherwise come next year, you might see it make the list of the Top 5 Worst Super Bowls of All-Time.
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