Best Super Bowls of all-time – #4 – Super Bowl XLIII – Arizona Cardinals vrs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Cardinals shocked the football world following the 2008 season when they went from playoff also-rans to NFC Champions.  After defeating the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Championship game Arizona had a date with the mighty Pittsburgh Steelers of the AFC, who had just dismantled division rival Baltimore to earn a berth in the Super Bowl.  Playoff vet and former Super Bowl winning quarterback Kurt Warner led a young Arizona offense against Big Ben Roethlisberger and the defensive minded Steelers.

Super Bowl XLIII – Arizona Cardinals vrs. Pittsburgh Steelers – February 1, 2009, broadcast on NBC, announced by Al Michaels and John Madden

Big Ben quickly took the Steelers down the field on the opening drive of the game.  He was aided by two big pass completions, a 38 yarder to receiver Hines Ward and a 21 yard strike to tight end Heath Miller.  Eventually the Steelers had 3rd and goal from the 1 and Roethlisberger appeared to score on a scramble on the 3rd down play.  Arizona challenged the spot of the ball however and the call was overturned and all that the Steelers could manage out of their opening 71 yard drive was an 18 yard field goal by kicker Jeff Reed.  Arizona went three-and-out and Roethlisberger and the Steelers went right back to work with the long passes.  Big Ben hit receiver Santonio Holmes for 25 yards on the 1st play of the drive and hit Miller again for 26 more yards.  The Steelers offense capped off the drive when running back Gary Russell scored from a yard out to make it 10-0 Pittsburgh.  It was looking like the game would go the way the experts thought it would by the end of the 1st quarter.  The Steelers had two commanding offensive drives and had scored on both of them and the Cardinals had managed only one 1st down for the entire quarter.  It looked as if the Cardinals may not have been in the same league as the Steelers.

Harrison made the longest play in Super Bowl history on the last play of the 1st half

The Cardinals still had Kurt Warner, a veteran quarterback who had already started two Super Bowls while he was with the Rams.  He got things going in the 2nd quarter for the Cardinals when he connected with receiver Anquan Boldin for a 45 yard throw down to the Pittsburgh 1 yard line.  The very next play he found tight end Ben Patrick for a 1 yard TD throw to put the Cardinals on the board.  The Cardinals defense had stepped up themselves and had forced the Steelers to punt on their next two possessions.  After the Cardinals could not convert on their drive following the touchdown they punted it back to the Steelers.  The Cardinals D continued to play big.  They tipped a Roethlisberger pass at the line of scrimmage and linebacker Karlos Dansby grabbed the ball in the air for an interception at the Pittsburgh 34 yard line with 2:46 to go in the half.  Warner took the Cardinals offense down the field on 7 plays and got all the way down to the Pittsburgh 1 yard line with :18 left in the half.  Warner attempted to throw it into the end zone for a touchdown but linebacker James Harrison caught the ball at the goal line and then ran the ball all the way down the field for a 100 yard touchdown.  It was the longest play in Super Bowl history and it was reviewed to see if receiver Larry Fitzgerald had tackled Harrison short of the goal line after he had caught up with him but the refs upheld the call and just like that the pendulum swung 14 or even 10 points in the Steelers’ favor.  The score was 17-7 Pittsburgh at the half.

Larry Fitzgerald made big plays in the 2nd half for Arizona

The Cardinals were their own worst enemy at the start of the 3rd quarter.  After being forced to punt on their first offensive drive of the half the Cardinals defense committed three personal foul penalties on the Steelers’ next offensive drive.  The Steelers used 14 plays and 8:39 of the third quarter clock but they could not convert on a touchdown and settled for another Reed field goal to give them a 20-7 lead.  The Cardinals could not muster much more offense and they went into the final quarter trailing 20-7.

Santonio Holmes made an unbelievable game winning TD catch

Warner finally got the Cardinals offense going in the 4th quarter.  He took the Cardinals on an 8 play, 87 yard drive and connected with Fitzgerald, who made a leaping grab in traffic, to make the score 20-14 Pittsburgh.  After the teams exchanged punts the Steelers were pinned back at their own 1 yard line.  Center Justin Hartwig was called for holding in the end zone and that gave the Cardinals a safety and two more points to make it 20-16 Pittsburgh.  The Cardinals took the free kick and only needed two plays to cash in.  Warner connected with Fitzgerald again, this time on a catch and run of 64 yards for the game-leading touchdown.  The Cardinals had erased the 13 point deficit in a little over 5:00 of game time and took their first lead of the game at 23-20 with 2:27 remaining.  Pittsburgh started the next drive at their own 22 but a holding penalty quickly pushed them inside their own 15 yard line.  Big Ben quickly made up the ground as he hit Holmes with back-to-back passes of 27 yards.  After gaining 54 yards on two plays Big Ben hit receiver Nate Washington for 11 yards and then scrambled for 4 yards on the ground.  Big Ben hit Holmes yet again for a big play, this time for 40 yards down to the Arizona 6 yard line.  Two plays later Roethlisberger found Holmes again as Santonio made a miraculous diving catch in which he just tipped his toes down in the end zone to make a legal catch and give the Steelers back the lead at 27-23 with only :37 remaining in the game.  Warner had an opportunity for a last ditch effort.  He hit Fitzgerald with a 20 yard pass on the first play of the drive and then found running back J.J. Arrington for 13 yards.  Warner had one more heave but linebacker Lamar Woodley sacked him and knocked the ball loose.  The Steelers were once again Super Bowl champions and the Cardinals had come up just short on their miracle run.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona Cardinals 23

This was another game with a wild 4th quarter, much like the Panthers and Patriots game from 5 years earlier.  Holmes made what could have been one of the best clutch catches not only in Super Bowl history but in the history of the NFL to secure the victory for Pittsburgh.

The history of Super Bowl media day

Ah, Super Bowl media day is upon us.  It’s become a clown show in recent years with way too many media credentials being given out.  I guess that’s the way it is in the age of TMZ and all of that.  Every year there is a gorgeous Spanish model masquerading around as a reporter (and this year was apparently not an exception).  The real stars of media day however have been and always will be the players.  Sometimes they say dumb things, sometimes they say emotional things.  Some guys two opponents get together in good fun.

In 1979 outspoken Cowboys linebacker Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson gave the media the first great, outlandish quote on a Super Bowl media day by saying of Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw “he couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the c and the a.”  Bradshaw and the Steelers went on to win the game but even afterwards Henderson was defiant saying “I didn’t say that he couldn’t play, just that he couldn’t spell.”  Falcons cornerback Ray Buchanan and Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe took the trash talking to a whole new level in 1999 with the below back and forth on media day

Super Bowl media day in 2001 offered contrasting interviews from two stars with troubled pasts.  Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was involved in a stabbing in front of a club at last year’s Super Bowl and was found guilty of obstruction of justice in relation to the incident.  Lewis offered these ridiculous quotes on the matter on media day: “Yeah I got money. Yeah I’m black. Yeah I’m blessed, but at the same time let’s find out the real truth. The real truth is this was never about those two kids dead in the street, it’s about Ray Lewis. And that’s the same thing this is about and that’s not right.”  On the other side Giants starting QB Kerry Collins opened up with his past battles with alcoholism.  “The type of drinking I did was not every day, it wasn’t every other day. But when I drank, I didn’t stop. I never had just one beer. That wasn’t the way I drank. That loss of control was the main crux of my alcohol dependency.”  Collins felt a weight lifted off of his shoulders after spilling the beans on media day.  “I’m glad that it happened because it’s therapeutic for me in a sense. When you tell the truth, it frees you a little bit.”  Collins was crushed by the Ravens defense in the Super Bowl and Ray Lewis was named M.V.P. of the game.

Here is a clip involving some of the best, and worst, moments from Super Bowl Media day:

 

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NESN adds dream team of Dell and Stairs to broadcast team

Jenny Dell, not Matt Stairs

Jenny Dell has been hired by NESN to replace the outgoing Heidi Watney as the Red Sox field reporter for the 2012 season.  Dell is a Connecticut native who graduated from UMass and has since served as a reporter for ESPN, the MLB, the NBA, and NASCAR.  She also delivered AccuScore reports for ESPN.com.  Oh yeah, NESN hired Matt Stairs too.  Below is a link to the official press release from NESN:

http://www.nesn.com/2012/01/jenny-dell-matt-stairs-added-to-nesns-red-sox-broadcast-team.html?rs-img120=0

Honestly I think they are two good pick-ups for NESN.  Jenny for obvious reasons and Matt because he was sort of known as a clubhouse clown and it would be nice if they got a different sort of personality to go with guys like Eck and Rice and Gammons who basically all have the same personality.  The NESN team could use a little Kruk-ness and maybe Stairs can provide that.

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Best Super Bowls of all-time – #5 – Super Bowl XXXII – Green Bay Packers vrs. Denver Broncos

John Elway had been one of the best quarterbacks in the league in his 15 years as a member of the Denver Broncos.  He was the first overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft and had already started 3 Super Bowls but he had yet to win one.  On the flip side it had only taken Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre 6 years before he won his 1st Super Bowl championship in 1996 and he was looking for a repeat.  He’d have to get through Elway and the Broncos first.

Super Bowl XXXII – Green Bay Packers vrs. Denver Broncos – January 25, 1998, broadcast by NBC, announced by Dick Enberg, Phil Simms, and Paul MacGuire

Terrell Davis paced the Broncos with 157 yards and 3 TDs

Favre started off hot on the Packers’ opening drive of the game.  After moving the ball down the field through the air running back Dorsey Levens took three straight hand offs for a combined 27 yards to set the Packers up at the Denver 35 yard line.  Two plays later Favre connected with receiver Antonio Freeman on a 22 yard touchdown completion to give the Packers the early 7-0 lead.  The Broncos were set up with good field position at the start of the ensuing drive when kick returner Vaughn Hebron returned the ball to their own 42 yard line.  After a long 27 yard run by running back Terrell Davis set the Broncos up deep in Green Bay territory Elway helped his own cause by scrambling for a 10 yard gain to set up 1st-and-goal at the 2.  Two plays later Davis took it in from a yard out to tie the game a 7-7.  Favre and the Packers could not respond to that score as Favre was picked off by Denver cornerback Tyrone Braxton on only the 2nd play of the next drive.  Starting the possession at the Packers’ 45 yard line the Broncos marched right down the field, paced by their ground game.  Elway took it in himself from a yard out to give the Broncos a 14-7 1st quarter lead.

Once again the Broncos defense harassed Favre on the next Packers drive.  Safety Steve Atwater sacked Favre and forced a fumble deep in Green Bay territory.  Defensive end Neil Smith recovered the fumble at the Green Bay 33.  The Broncos couldn’t manage a first down but Jason Elam hit the 2nd longest field goal in Super Bowl history from 51 yards out to give the Broncos a 17-7 lead.  After the teams exchanged punts the Packers were backed up at their own 5 yard line with a little over 7 1/2 minutes remaining in the half.  Brett Favre took all of the field and all of the clock and marched the Packers on a 17 play drive that ended when he found tight end Mark Chmura from 6 yards out with just :12 left to go in the quarter to get the Packers to within 3 at 17-14 at the half.

Elway made his famous "Helicopter dive" on 3rd and 7

The Broncos took the ball to start the 2nd half but on the very first play Davis was stripped of the ball by Green Bay defensive back Tyrone Williams who recovered the ball himself at the Denver 26 yard line.  The Broncos originally held the Packers to a field goal try but they jumped off sides on the attempt giving the Packers a fresh set of downs.  The Packers still couldn’t convert a first down and despite the second chance their drive ended at the Broncos’ 9 yard line.  Kicker Ryan Longwell converted the 27 yard field goal attempt to tie the game at 17-17.  Both defenses held up over the next few possessions and the teams exchanged punts.  After the Packers pinned the Broncos back at their own 8 yard line Elway went to work with a drive reminiscent of “The Drive”.  He took the Broncos on a 13 play drive, the biggest play was a 36 yard completion to receiver Ed McCaffrey.  The most memorable play of the drive however came on 3rd down and 7 from the Packers 12 yard line.  Elway dropped back to pass but had to scramble out of the pocket to elude the pressure.  He ran for the first down marker and as he dove for the first down he was hit by two Packers defenders on either side of him, sending him in a helicopter-like motion.  He came down with the ball past the marker for a first down conversion.  Two plays later Davis scored again from a yard out and gave the Broncos a 24-17 lead as the 4th quarter neared.  Elway had a little more than a quarter to play but he could taste his first Super Bowl victory.

Elway and the Broncos celebrated that elusive Super Bowl title

After Antonio Freeman fumbled the ensuing kickoff Elway and the Broncos looked as if they might have been ready to put the Packers away for good.  They went for the end zone on the very first play but Elway’s pass to receiver Rod Smith was picked off by safety Eugene Robinson and returned to the Packers’ 15 yard line.  Instead of having a two touchdown lead Elway turned the ball over to Favre, who now only needed a touchdown to tie the game.  Favre rekindled some of his magic from the previous Super Bowl and took the Packers right down the field on 4 straight completions, 3 to Freeman.  The final play was a 13 yard score on a pass from Favre to Freeman to tie the game up at 24-24 with a little over a minute gone by in the 4th quarter.  Both teams punted on their next two possessions and the Broncos got the ball on a short punt at the Packers’ 49 yard line with 3:27 to go in the game.  Davis ran for 2 yards on the first play but was grabbed in the face mask and the ball was advanced to the Green Bay 32 yard line.  Two plays later Elway connected with fullback Howard Griffith for 23 yards to set up 1st and goal at the Green Bay 8 yard line with 2:00 remaining.  After a holding penalty brought the Broncos back 10 yards Terrell Davis rushed for 17 yards down to the Green Bay 1 yard line.  Denver took a time out with 1:47 left.  Packers’ coach Mike Holmgren instructed his team to let the Broncos score to preserve as much time on the clock for Favre to drive down the field.  Davis scored his 3rd TD of the game on the next play giving the Broncos the 31-24 lead with 1:45 left to go.  Elway and the Broncos were a minute and forty-five seconds away from that elusive Super Bowl glory but Favre and the Packers had one more chance.  Favre hit Dorsey Levens on the first two plays of the drive for gains of 22 and 13 yards to set the Packers up at the Broncos 35 yard line with 1:04 remaining.  Favre gained 4 yards on the next pass completion to Levens but the next one went in and out of the hands of Freeman.  Favre missed on the next one and that set up 4th and 6 from the Broncos 31 yard line.  Favre’s pass intended for Mark Chmura was broken up by linebacker John Mobley and the Broncos finally got their 1st Super Bowl victory in 4 chances.

Final Score: Denver Broncos 31, Green Bay Packers 24

Super Bowl victories are team victories and this one was no exception but there is no doubt that the Broncos team as a whole had a little extra motivation in helping Elway win his 1st ring.  Elway had already put together a Hall of Fame resume in his 15 years in the NFL but had been 0-3 and his prior Super Bowl appearances, all bad losses.  Elway had one of the more gutsy performances that you will see from a veteran quarterback in this game and even if you weren’t a fan of the Denver Broncos it was cool to see Elway finally celebrate with the Lombardi Trophy.

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Are the Boston Red Sox a sleeper team for 2012?

Expect a re-focused Josh Beckett in 2012

Last season the Boston Red Sox won 90 games and finished 1 game out of the wild card for a spot in the post season.  When you take out the first and last months of the season they were the best team in all of baseball.  They had the best offensive team in baseball by virtually all of the statistical categories and the only guys they didn’t bring back from last year’s starting lineup were all over the age of 35 (Marco Scutaro, J.D. Drew, Jason Varitek).  They lost their 3rd starter, Clay Buchholz, midway through the season.  John Lackey was ineffective last year, he will spend this entire season on the disabled list.  The bullpen was actually pretty good last year and while they lost their closer Jonathan Papelbon they replaced him with not one but two strong young arms in Andrew Bailey and Mark Melancon.  All that considered you would expect a bounce back from the Red Sox for the 2012.  Some do, but it seems like most are treating the Red Sox like a mortally wounded animal, down for the count, unable to recover.

ESPN’s Buster Olney recently named his top 5 teams in the American League.  He did not list the Red Sox among them.  The Angels caught all of the headlines this off-season by giving out big money contracts to big names Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson.  They won the off-season but let us not forget that it was the Red Sox who won the off-season last year and the Red Sox were watching from home in October.  The Tigers signed Prince Fielder to a big deal.  The Rangers are the defending two-time American League champions and added Japanese sensation Yu Darvish to their rotation.  The Yankees are, well, the Yankees and have made some key additions of their own, including young starting pitcher Michael Pineda.  The Rays are a young team with a lot of talent.  The American League is truly stacked but are the Red Sox really that far off from these other 5?

Gonzalez is a superior (and cheaper) player to Fielder

I’ve heard a lot of crowing in the past week from Red Sox fans who were upset about the Tigers signing Prince Fielder.  I am not quite sure why.  First off the Tigers play in a one team division.  Be it 4 teams or 5 to make the postseason this year the Tigers were already as sure a bet as any.  They play in a division full of teams that are either mediocre or bad.  Their improvement doesn’t have a profound effect on whether or not the Sox make the postseason.  If the Sox lose out on the division and go for a wild card they will not be competing with the Tigers.  Besides good pitching always beats good hitting, particularly in October, and if Beckett, Lester, and Buchholz are right then the Sox could beat the Tigers in a 5 or 7 game series.  Lastly, and maybe the most important point, is that we have the better player at the same position, for less money even.  Adrian Gonzalez is a better, more versatile hitter than Fielder and when it comes to defense Fielder is not even in the same universe as Gonzalez.  Gonzalez is a gold glover while Fielder perennially has one of the worst fielding percentages for starting first basemen in the league.

Valentine's presence will make the clubhouse a different place in 2012

It seems to me that both the national media and even our own fan base are undervaluing our players.  Maybe they deserve it.  One thing that’s obvious is that the problems of last year came from the clubhouse.  It will be different this season.  Terry Francona is out and Bobby Valentine is in.  I love Francona but maybe complacency had set in with him in the clubhouse and a change will do the guys good.  Also coming in are high energy guys like Nick Punto, Cody Ross, and Kelly Shoppach.  They can add an element to the clubhouse that was lacking last year.  Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are the two guys left who had the circle drawn around them in regards to the beer and chicken fiasco.  They are two of the most competitive pitchers in baseball and seem to have plenty of motivation to turn things around.  Theoretically you must win between 92-94 games to get one of those wild cards.  Can the Red Sox not make up 2-4 wins from last year?  Are they other teams in the American League that much improved that you will have to win more games than that?

Could the Red Sox fall back flat on their face after the debacle of last year?  I suppose they could but I am not expecting it.  To be honest if they play like the team they were between May and August of last year for a full season there won’t be anybody ahead of them in the standings by the end of the year.  Not Pujols and the Angels, Fielder and the Tigers or even Jeter and the Yankees.  Last year all of these great expectations were heaped on the shoulders of the Sox.  Maybe they had trouble handling them.  This season it seems like they won’t have so many expectations from outside of their own clubhouse.  Maybe that’s good or maybe it doesn’t even matter.  Whether or not they are on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview issue I think you see a team come into Spring Training next month that’s going to be ready to win.

Read this blog and many other great blogs at Boston Sports Then & Now

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Best Super Bowls of all-time – #6 – Super Bowl XXXIV – St. Louis Rams vrs. Tennessee Titans

The St. Louis Rams were a machine in 1999.  Their offense was known as the “Greatest Show on Turf.”    They were led by quarterback Kurt Warner who was undrafted out of college and working as a supermarket clerk.  The Tennessee Titans were coming off of the Music City Miracle in the Wild Card round of the playoffs and two upset wins on the road in Jacksonville and Indianapolis.  They were upstart but they still had to contend with Warner, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce, and the rest of the Greatest Show on Turf.

Super Bowl XXXIV – St. Louis Rams vrs. Tennessee Titans – January 30, 2000, broadcast on ABC, announced by Al Michaels and Boomer Esiason

McNair and the Titans offense was stymied by the Rams defense in the 1st half

The Rams offense started the game the way many people envisioned that they would, they took the opening drive down the field all the way to the Tennessee 17 yard line.  The Titans defense held on third down and the Rams botched the field goal opportunity when punter Mike Horan fumbled the snap.  The Titans responded with a drive of their own down to the St. Louis 29 yard line, thanks in large part to a 32 yard catch and run by Titans running back Eddie George.  Longtime Titans kicker Al Del Greco missed the 47 yard field goal however and neither team could score on their first possession despite moving the ball downfield.  That was the only field goal attempt of the half by the Titans.  They were forced to punt on each of their ensuing 1st half possessions.  The Rams meanwhile moved the ball inside the Titans’ 20 yard line on four different occasions in the 1st half but each time the Titans defense stiffened and forced St. Louis to settle for field goals.  Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins was 3-for-4 in his opportunities and gave the Rams a 9-0 lead heading into halftime.

Torry Holt scored the first TD of the game in the 3rd quarter

The offenses both picked up in the 2nd half.  The Titans finally moved the ball into St. Louis territory but Del Greco missed the field goal again, this time because he was blocked by Rams defensive back Todd Lyght.  Warner moved the Rams down the field quickly with big throws of 31 yards to Bruce and 16 yards to tight end Ernie Conwell.  He capped off the 68 yard drive with a 9 yard TD pass to Torry Holt.  It was the first TD of the game and gave the Rams a commanding 16-0 3rd quarter lead.  Worse for the Titans was that standout safety Blaine Bishop had to be carted off the field with a spinal injury.  After kick returner Derrick Mason set the Titans up with nice field position the Titans drove the ball on the backs of their run game.  Eddie George carried the ball 6 times on the drive and quarterback Steve McNair had a big 23 yard scramble down to the St. Louis 2 yard line.  George finished the drive off by scoring from 2 yards out on his 6th run of the drive.  McNair couldn’t connect with tight end Frank Wycheck on the two point conversion attempt and the Titans trailed 16-6 heading into the 4th quarter.  No team had ever erased a double digit deficit in Super Bowl history.

Kevin Dyson fell just short of a game tying TD on the last play of the game

The Titans forced a Rams punt and got the ball back.  McNair led the Titans on a 13 play drive.  McNair connected with a receiver to gain 21 yards on two occasions during the drive, the first one to tight end Jackie Harris and the 2nd to receiver Issac Byrd.  Eddie George once again scored from 2 yards out and the Titans had cut the deficit to 16-13.  The Titans defense came up big again and forced a 3-and-out by the Rams offense.  After only a 30 yard punt the Titans were set up with the ball at their own 47 yard line.  They drove the ball down the field just enough to get Del Greco in range and this time he nailed the field goal from 43 yards out and tied the game at 16-16 with 2:12 remaining.  Warner and the Rams didn’t wait around to retake the lead.  On the first play from scrimmage on their next drive Warner hit Bruce with a pass and Bruce took it all the way to the end zone for a 73 yard TD catch to give the Rams the 23-16 with 2:00 remaining.  The Titans wouldn’t be so quick to score, knowing that the Rams could score from any point on the field.  A holding call on the kickoff set them back at their own 12 yard line to start the drive.  After a couple completions the Titans caught a break when Rams’ cornerback Dre Bly grabbed McNair’s face mask while he tried to tackle him.  It was a 12 yard gain on the run by McNair plus 15 yards on the facemask penalty, giving the Titans a 1st and 10 at the St. Louis 45 yard line.  A few plays later Bly continued to play the goat when he let a sure interception go through his arms.  Two plays later it was 3rd and 5 from the Rams 26 yard line.  McNair made a miraculous play when he escaped heavy pressure and connected with receiver Kevin Dyson on a 16 yard pass play to the Rams’ 10.  They called a timeout after the play and there was only :06 left on the clock, time for one more throw into the end zone.  The Titans designed a play to free Dyson open over the middle in front of the end zone to score a touchdown by attracting linebacker Mike Jones to Wychek deep in the end zone.  When the play happened Jones turned around and realized that McNair was throwing the ball to Dyson so he changed course and ran at Dyson.  Jones ran up and grabbed Dyson’s legs after he caught the ball between the 2 and 3 yard lines.  Dyson stretched the ball towards the end zone out as Jones brought him down.  Dyson’s shoulder touched the ground with the ball mere inches from the goal line.  The Titans left the ball at the Rams’ 1 inch line and the Rams celebrated their first ever Super Bowl victory.

Final Score:  St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

When they say that football is a game of inches they can point to this game as direct proof.  If Dyson’s arm was just a little bit longer he may have scored a TD.  If Jones hadn’t looked back to see Dyson making the catch then the Super Bowl would have went to overtime for the first time in its history.  I guess the football gods giveth and the football gods taketh away as Wycheck and Dyson connected for the Music City Miracle just a month earlier.  The same duo couldn’t complete a Super Bowl miracle and time ran out on the Titans.  In any case this was the most exciting final play in Super Bowl history.

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Best Super Bowls of all-time – #7 – Super Bowl XXIII – San Fransisco 49ers vrs. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Montana and the San Fransisco 49ers had been one of the top teams in the NFC since they beat the Miami Dolphins 4 years prior in the Super Bowl however they had not been back to the big game since.  Boomer Esiason and the Cincinnati Bengals were a talented team who were becoming the class of the AFC.  Esiason was the league MVP however the NFC was known to have been the dominant conference back in that time and Montana and the Niners were heavy favorites in the game.

Super Bowl XXIII – San Fransisco 49ers vrs. Cincinnati Bengals – January 22, 1989, broadcast on NBC, announced by Dick Enberg and Merlin Olsen

Jerry Rice made his acrobatic one-handed catch in the 1st half

The game started off auspiciously for both teams.  49ers starting offensive tackle Steve Wallace broke his ankle on the first drive of the game and had to be carted off of the field.  A few plays later Bengals defensive tackle Tim Krumrie broke a bone in his leg in two places and had to be carted off himself.  When things calmed down the Niners were driving down the field for a score.  They had a few drops deep in Cincinnati territory and had to settle for a 41 yard field goal from kicker Mike Cofer.  The Niners held the Bengals and on their next drive.  On the 49ers next drive Jerry Rice made one of the more famous catches in Super Bowl history when he caught a ball with one hand after he tipped it to himself with his other hand.  They moved the ball inside the Bengals’ 10 but safety David Fulcher stonewalled fullback Tom Rathman on 3rd and goal from the 2.  Niners’ center Randy Cross botched the snap on the field goal attempt and Cofer could not convert on the 19 yard attempt, the shortest field goal miss in Super Bowl history.  The two teams went back and forth for the rest of the half without either team being in position to score.  Finally towards the end of the first half Bengals cornerback Ray Horton took a short San Fransisco punt and returned it into 49ers’ territory to the 44 yard line.  They could only manage 28 yards on the drive but it was enough to set up kicker Jim Breech for a game tying 34 yard field goal with 1:15 left to go in the half.  That was all the scoring in the first half, the teams were tied at 3-3 going into the break.

Kick returner Stanford Jennings scored the first TD of the game in the 3rd

The Bengals took the ball to begin the 2nd half and held it for more than half of the 3rd quarter.  Esiason got the Bengals going on their first sustained offensive drive of the game but after 12 plays, 61 yards, and 9:15 of clock time all that they could muster was a 43 yard field goal from Breech to give the Bengals their first lead of the game at 6-3.  The Bengals D forced a punt on the Niners’ first possession of the 2nd half but Esiason threw an interception to linebacker Bill Romanowski on the very first play of the next drive and set the Niners up with a 1st and 10 at the Bengals’ 23 yard line.  The Niners could not generate a 1st down and they settled for a 32 yard field goal by Cofer to tie it at 6-6.  There was less than a minute left in the 3rd quarter and there was still no touchdowns in the game.  No Super Bowl had ever gone without a touchdown through the first 3 quarters.  Bengals running back Stanford Jennings made sure that this Super Bowl wouldn’t be the first.  He took the kickoff after the Cofer field goal and ran it back 93 yards for a touchdown.  It was the first TD of the game and it gave the Bengals their first lead of the game at 13-6 with a little more than a quarter to play.

John Taylor caught the game winning TD with :39 left

Montana was not rattled despite being held out of the end zone for three full quarters.  He hit a 31 yard pass to Rice to open up the next drive.  The next play was a 40 yard pass completion to running back Roger Craig.  After cornerback Lewis Billups dropped a sure interception in the end zone Montana connected with Rice from 14 yards out to tie the game at 13-13.  The Bengals went three-and-out on their next possession.  Montana went deep to Rice yet again, this time going 44 yards on a connection, but the Niners drive stalled and Cofer missed another field goal, this one from 49 yards out.  Esiason and the Bengals went right down the field on the next drive, going 10 plays and 46 yards but once again settled for a Breech field goal, this one from 40 yards out, to give the Bengals a 16-13 lead with 3:20 left to go in the game.  After a penalty on the kickoff the Niners had to start the next drive from their own 8 yard line.  Montana led the 49ers on a 11 play, 92 yard drive.  Montana and Rice keyed the drive, including a 27 yard connection on 2nd and 20 from the Bengals 45 yard line.  Montana capped off the drive by finding receiver John Taylor sliding into the back of the end zone with a 10 yard TD pass with just :39 remaining to give the 49ers a 20-16 lead.  The Bengals couldn’t pull off a miracle and Montana had his 3rd Super Bowl Championship.

Final Score:  San Fransisco 49ers 20, Cincinnati Bengals 16

Montana solidified his “Joe Cool” reputation with his performance in the 4th quarter of Super Bowl XXIII.  The Niners were well on their way to the “Team of the Decade” moniker and would solidify it with a blowout win over the Broncos in the next Super Bowl.  The Bengals have not even made it back to a championship game since the 1988 season.

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Best Super Bowls of all-time – #8 – Super Bowl XXXVIII – Carolina Panthers vrs. New England Patriots

The Patriots were in the midst of starting a dynasty.  They had just won their first ever Super Bowl two years prior and finished the 2003 regular season with a record of 14-2, the best in franchise history.  Meanwhile the Carolina Panthers were 1-15 just two years prior and new head coach John Fox had turned things around in Carolina.  They won the NFC South in 2003 with an 11-5 record and then embarked on an improbable playoff run to face the Patriots in the Super Bowl.  The Pats were heavy favorites but the Panthers weren’t about to back down.  It made for an entertaining game.

Super Bowl XXXVIII – Carolina Panthers vrs. New England Patriots – February 1, 2004, broadcast on CBS, announced by Greg Gumbel and Phil Simms

Brady was starting his 2nd Super Bowl for the Pats

The first half was mostly a defensive struggle between the two teams.  Troy Brown tried to help the Pats early by returning a punt after the Panthers opening drive into Carolina territory.  The Pats made it all the way down to the Panthers’ 9 yard line but the Carolina D stood up and Adam Vinatieri missed a 31 yard field goal attempt.  Carolina went 3-and-out on their next possession and once again the Pats got the ball off the punt in Carolina territory.  They made it down to the Carolina 31 yard line but Carolina linebacker Will Weatherspoon made a great play when he tackled Brown for a 10 yard loss on an end-around on 3rd down.  Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was stymied by the Pats defense in the 1st quarter.  He had hit on only one of his first nine passes and he had been sacked three times.

The 2nd quarter played a lot like the 1st quarter in the beginning.  Delhomme could do nothing and the Panthers defense played bend but don’t break.  The Pats moved the ball down the field and once again Adam Vinatieri was set up with a 36 yard field goal attempt but this time his kick was blocked by Carolina defensive end Shane Burton.  Late in the 2nd quarter Delhomme was sacked by linebacker Mike Vrabel and fumbled deep in Carolina territory.  The Pats recovered at the Panthers’ 20 yard line.  3 plays later quarterback Tom Brady found receiver Deion Branch for a 5 yard TD throw and gave the Pats the first score of the game and a 7-0 lead.  At this point the Panthers had a net of -9 offensive yards so far in the game and a holding penalty would cause them to start their next drive on their own 5.  The Carolina offense finally came alive and on the 8th play of the drive Delhomme found receiver Steve Smith on a 39 yard TD strike to tie the game at 7-7 with 1:07 left in the half.  The Pats got the ball back and on the 3rd play of the drive Brady found Branch for a 52 yard gain to set up the Pats deep in Carolina territory.  3 plays later Brady found receiver David Givens from 5 yards out to give the Pats a 14-7 lead with :18 left in the half.  The Pats tried to play it safe and squib kick it to the Panthers but up man Kris Mangum picked the ball up and returned it to the Carolina 47.  Then on a nice play call the Panthers ran a draw to running back Stephen Davis who picked up 21 yards to set up a 50 yard John Kasay field goal as time expired in the half with a score of 14-10 New England.  After putting up no points for the first 26:55 of the first half the two teams combined for 24 points in the last 3:05.

Panthers WR Muhsin Muhammad looks the record breaking 85 yard TD throw into his hands

Defense returned for the 3rd quarter and both teams were held scoreless in the 3rd, much like they were in the 1st.  Brady started to lead the Pats down the field towards the end of the 3rd quarter.  He took the Pats down the field on an 8 play, 71 yard drive that ended on the 2nd play of the 4th quarter when Pats running back Antowain Smith brought it in from 2 yards out to stretch the lead to 21-10 Pats.

Vinatieri does it again

Once again the Panthers responded with offense after a Patriots score.  Delhomme brought the Panthers down the field on just 4 plays, the last being a 33 yard TD run by Carolina running back DeShaun Foster.  The Panthers went for 2 and failed, making the score 21-16.  Brady took it right back down the field for the Pats and settled at the Carolina 9 yard line but a 3rd down Brady pass was intercepted by cornerback Reggie Howard in the end zone.  3 plays later, on 3rd and 15 from their own 15 Delhomme hit receiver Muhsin Muhammad with an 85 yard TD pass to give the Panthers their first lead of the game.  It was also the longest play from scrimmage in Super Bowl history.  Another 2 point conversion failed but the Panthers led 22-21.  The Pats once again took it down the field and Brady again settled deep in Panthers territory.  This time he hit his 3rd and goal pass when he found linebacker Mike Vrabel, playing tight end, in the end zone for a 1 yard TD.  Running back Kevin Faulk ran in the two point conversion to give the Pats a 29-22 lead.  The Panthers went down the field yet again and the drive was capped off by a 12 yard TD pass from Delhomme to wide receiver Ricky Proehl.  Two years prior Proehl had caught the game tying TD in the Super Bowl against the Patriots as a Rams receiver and watched the Pats go down the field to set up an Adam Vinatieri field goal.  Kasay kicked the ensuing kickoff out of bounds and gave the Pats the ball at their own 40 yard line.  Brady once again maneuvered the Pats into field goal range, thanks in large part to a 17 yard completion to Branch on 3rd down and 3.  Vinatieri nailed the 41 yard field goal to give the Pats their 2nd Super Bowl victory in 3 years, both on last second field goals by Vinatieri.

Final Score: New England Patriots 32, Carolina Panthers 29

After combining for 24 points in the final 3:05 of the first half the two teams broke a record by combining for 37 points in the 4th quarter of this game.  The Panthers held their own and despite being heavy underdogs matched the Pattriots play for play but in the end it was Brady and then Vinatieri, a familiar combo, that led the Pats to another Super Bowl victory.

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Best Super Bowls of all-time – #9 – Super Bowl III – Baltimore Colts vrs. New York Jets

This is the game that put the Super Bowl, and the AFL, on the map.  The first Super Bowl was met with extreme skepticism when it was established, people didn’t think the new AFL teams could compete with the old school NFL teams.  The Green Bay Packers validated that skepticism early by winning the first two Super Bowls easily.  Joe Namath and the New York Jets changed all of that in Super Bowl III however and the Super Bowl went on to become America’s biggest sports game.

Super Bowl III – Baltimore Colts vrs. New York Jets – January 12, 1969, broadcast on NBC, announced by Curt Gowdy, Al DeRogatis, and Kyle Rote

Earl Morrall threw an INT after a long first drive by the Colts

The New York Jets were 18 point underdogs in this game.  “We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.”  Those were Joe Namath’s famous words three days before the game was played.  People were astonished at Namath’s prediction.  No one thought that the Jets had a chance.  The Jets came out and looked flat early on.  After gaining once first down on their first drive, the Colts defense held them and they were forced to punt.  Colts quarterback Earl Morrall quickly tried to establish their NFL dominance by embarking on on 11 play drive that started at their own 27 yard line and brought them all the way down to the Jets’ 19.  The Jets stiffened up their defense and Colts kicker Lou Michaels failed to convert on a 27 yard field goal attempt and the Colts came away empty handed.  The Jets defense stiffened from here on out but the Colts wouldn’t let the Jets do anything offensively.  Then the Jets made a crucial mistake with about 2 minutes left in the quarter.  Jets receiver George Sauer fumbled the ball deep in Jets territory and it was recovered by the Colts at the Jets’ 12 yard line.

Jets fullback Matt Snell paced the Jets offense and scored the first TD of the game in the 2nd quarter

The Colts started off the 2nd quarter with the ball deep in Jets’ territory but on 3rd down an Earl Morrall pass was tipped high in the air and caught by Jets cornerback Randy Beverly in the end zone.  The Jets started the next drive at their own 20 yard line and started to get their offense going, thanks in large part to the power running of fullback Matt Snell.  Snell ran 5 times and caught a pass and capped the drive off with a 4 yard TD run to give the Jets a 7-0 lead.  That was the first time in the Super Bowl that an AFL team had a lead in the game.  Morrall once again attempted to drive the Colts down the field but once again the drive stalled in New York territory and once again Michaels failed to convert on a field goal attempt, this time from 46 yards out.  Namath struck quickly after the field goal, hitting Sauer with a 36 yard throw on the 2nd play of the drive.  The drive stalled at the Colts’ 34 yard line however and Jets’ kicker Jim Turner missed his 41 yard field goal attempt.  The Colts went back to work and running back Tom Matte had a 58 yard run and once again set the Colts up deep in Jets’ territory as halftime neared.  Morrall was intercepted again at the Jets’ 2 yard line and another drive Colts drive ended in a turnover.  The Jets went three-and-out and the Colts had the ball back and a chance to get on the board before halftime.  The Colts ran a flea flicker play and had the Jets defense fooled as receiver Jimmy Orr was wide open in the end zone.  Morrall didn’t see him though and attempted to complete a pass to running back Jerry Hill but the ball landed in the hands of Jets’ safety Jim Hudson for Morrall’s 3rd interception of the 1st half.  The game went into halftime with the Jets leading 7-0.

If the first half didn’t demoralize the Colts than the 3rd quarter certainly did.  The Colts could only manage to hold the ball on offense for 3 minutes in the quarter.  Tom Matte lost a fumble on the Colts’ very first offensive play of the half and set up a 32 yard field goal by Turner to give the Jets a 10-0 lead.  Namath took the next possession and took the ball 40 yards on 4 pass completions to set up another Turner field goal, this one from 30 yards out, to give the Jets a 13-0 lead.  With 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter Colts coach Don Shula decided to bench Morrall in favor of Johnny Unitas, who was in the twilight of his career and had struggled with arm injuries all season long.  Unitas’ first possession was a three-and-out and the Jets went into the 4th quarter with the improbable 13-0 lead.

Namath famously celebrates the Jets' improbable Super Bowl victory

On the first drive of the 4th quarter Namath once again found George Sauer for a deep 39 yard pass but the Colts defense stiffened up when the Jets got the ball down to the 2 yard line and the Jets settled for another Turner field goal.  The lead was 16-0 and neither Morrall nor Unitas could produce any sort of offense by the Colts.  Unitas started to drive the ball down the field on the Colts first possession of the 4th quarter.  He got the Colts all the way down to the Jets’ 25 yard line but the Jets recorded their 4th interception of the game when Randy Beverly picked off a Unitas pass in the end zone.  The Jets drove the ball down the field but Turner missed a 42 yard field goal.  Time was running out and after Unitas threw incompletions on the first 3 passes of the next drive the Colts were forced to go for it on 4th down.  Unitas connected on the 4th down play for 17 yards to receiver Jimmy Orr.  Ten plays later Jerry Hill finally got the Colts on the board with a 1 yard TD run to make the score 16-7 with only 3:19 left to go.  The Colts recovered an onside kick and Unitas quickly moved the offense to the Jets’ 19 yard line after 3 pass completions in a row but Unitas couldn’t connect on the next 4, turning the ball back over to the Jets.  The Jets held onto the ball until there was :08 left in the game.  The Colts attempted two meaningless passes before time expired and the Jets were the 1st Super Bowl champions fro the AFL.

Final Score:  New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7

Years later Namath claims that he was just going back and forth with an unruly Colts fan at a press conference when he made the guarantee.  Nevertheless the Jets players privately seethed in the locker room at the perception that they had no chance in the game.  Still the Colts couldn’t get out of their own way in the game, throwing for 4 INTs, fumbling the ball away once, and missing 2 FGs.  At the end of the day the Jets made enough plays to take the game and put the AFL on the map and helped change the face of the NFL into what we see today.

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Red Sox to add Cody Ross

New Sox outfielder Cody Ross

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports/MLB Network the Red Sox have reached an agreement with outfielder Cody Ross.  Ross is a solid signing and will make a great match with Ryan Sweeney to be a platoon in right field for the season.  This also gives the Sox another veteran outfielder in case Carl Crawford has any complications from his recent wrist surgery.  Ross is a 31-year old right handed hitting outfielder.  He will be entering his 8th season in the majors in 2012 for his 5th team in the Red Sox.  Ross was the 2010 NLCS MVP for the Giants when he hit .350, had 3 home runs, 3 doubles, and 5 RBI against the Phillies.  Ross is a career .261/.323/.779 hitter.  He has hit 14 home runs in each of the last two seasons.  Like Nick Punto, Ross is a clubhouse character guy that the Red Sox have been trying to interject into their clubhouse during this offseason.  Look for him to get the lion’s share of at-bats against lefties in right field and work into the lineup against righties to give Sweeney a breather.  The signing of Ross could spell the end of Darnell McDonald’s tenure with the Red Sox but the Sox might opt to keep him, at elast for the beginning part of the season with Crawford’s health in question.

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