Where does Super Bowl 49 rank?
In the days of 24/7 media coverage and the maniacal usage of social media, everything that happened a minute ago is considered the best of all-time. Michael Vick on Monday night against the Washington Redskins in 2012? Best performance ever. When the Denver Broncos rolled to last year's Super Bowl behind Peyton Manning and his band of helpers? Best team ever. Only, neither were even close.
On Sunday, we arguably saw the best ever. The New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 in one of the all-time great games that simply happened to be in the Super Bowl. The contest had it all; legacies on the line, high drama, an obvious and huge turning point, Tom Brady authoring an improbable comeback, and the two best teams in football going toe-to-toe.
Last week, I wrote a piece ranking each of the previous 48 Super Bowls from worst to first. The top five read as follows:
5. Super Bowl XXXVI – Patriots 20, Rams 17
4. Super Bowl XLII – Giants 17, Patriots 14
3. Super Bowl XXIII – 49ers 20, Bengals 16
2. Super Bowl XXV – Giants 20, Bills 19
1. Super Bowl XXXIV – Rams 23, Titans 16
Super Bowl XLIX jumps ahead of New England's first title without question. While that game was significant because it was the birth of a dynasty and such a massive upset, the Rams played horribly that night. St. Louis put on a poor showing and was beaten by an upstart Patriots team.
From there, it is tough. The overall quality of play on Sunday night eclipses my fourth-ranked game, but does it have more impact than a potential perfect season? The Giants pulled off an shocker for the ages, taking down a New England team all the pundits believed to be unstoppable. Still, Super Bowl XLIX had a better matchup and came down to the 1-yard line, so it moves ahead of Super Bowl XLII.
Despite the magnitude of Joe Montana slaying the Bengals with 34 seconds left in Super Bowl XXIII, this was a better contest. Bill Walsh coached his last game with San Francisco that evening, and the contest was terrific. However, Cincinnati was nowhere near the level of Seattle or New England. Ultimately, the 49ers were expected to win by most and did.
I believe Super Bowl XLIX belongs third on the list, behind Super Bowls XXV and XXXIV. When New York beat Buffalo, it was a matchup of two fantastic teams with a finish for the ages. The two games ranked ahead of Sunday's spectacle also featured zero turnovers, which says something for quality of play.
Super Bowl XXXIV is dragged down a smidge because the Titans don't have any all-time players, but they were an excellent team. The main storyline of course was Kurt Warner and his improbable journey, being capped in the most unlikely of fashions. St. Louis' win also finished at the goal line, with Mike Jones stopping Kevin Dyson on the game's final play.
Any of those top three can be debated without end as the best ever. What can't be debated is everyone who watched Malcolm Butler intercept Russell Wilson saw a play which will live forever.
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