Montana’s magic moment: (Super Bowl XXIII) Fourth quarter, 3:10 to play, the San Francisco 49ers trailed the Cincinnati Bengals 16-13 and had the ball on their own 8-yard line.
When a Bengals player suggested on the sideline that victory is imminent, wide receiver Cris Collinsworth snapped, "Have you looked at who’s quarterbacking the 49ers?"
Ten plays later, Joe Montana called signals at the Cincinnati 10, dropped back and found San Francisco receiver John Taylor over the middle for a touchdown with 34 seconds remaining. The 49ers won 20-16 for their third Super Bowl title, and Montana had cemented himself as one of the NFL’s all-time elite quarterbacks.
Riggins runs wild: (Super Bowl XVII) On fourth-and-1 at the Miami 43 in the fourth quarter, Washington quarterback Joe Theismann made the call in the huddle: "Goal line, I-left, tight wing, 70-chip on one." Moments later, John Riggins took the handoff, bowled over Dolphins cornerback Don McNeal and raced to the end zone with the go-ahead touchdown as the Redskins won, 27-17.
Give my regards to Broadway Joe: (Super Bowl III) In the days before the game against the heavily favored Baltimore Colts, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath guaranteed victory. The image of Namath running off the field after the final gun, index finger in the air, was proof that he had made good on his promise. The Jets won, 16-7.
Lynn’s levitating leaps: (Super Bowl X) Poor Mark Washington. The images of the Dallas cornerback looking completely helpless as Pittsburgh receiver Lynn Swann walked on air to pull in two amazing catches — then just flat-out burned Washington on a 64-yard touchdown — will live for eternity. The Steelers won, 21-17.
The Tackle: (Super Bowl XXXIV) In perhaps the most heart-stopping finish to a championship game in NFL history, St. Louis linebacker Mike Jones stopped Tennessee receiver Kevin Dyson inches short of the goal line on the game’s final play to preserve a 23-16 victory for the Rams.
Elway’s super redemption: (Super Bowl XXXII) The Denver Broncos’ victory celebration after a 31-24 upset of Green Bay was more like a personal tribute to quarterback John Elway. After failing miserably in his three previous title-game visits, Elway could finally hoist the Lombardi Trophy.
Quarterback audition failed: (Super Bowl VIII) The Washington Redskins blocked a fieldgoal attempt by Miami’s Garo Yepremian, and the little kicker inexplicably tried to throw a pass. His feeble toss was plucked out of the air by the Redskins’ Mike Bass and returned for a touchdown, but the Dolphins still won 14-7 to complete an undefeated season.
Wide right: (Super Bowl XXV) One wonders if the Buffalo Bills would have fared better in their three subsequent title games had kicker Scott Norwood split the uprights from 47 yards out in the final seconds against the New York Giants. But he didn’t, and it was just the start of the Bills’ super pain.
‘The sickest man in America’: (Super Bowl XIII) Whenever a receiver blows an easy touchdown catch, the name of Jackie Smith inevitably comes up. The Hall-of-Fame tight end is known mostly for his drop that denied Dallas a tying score in the third quarter, and the Cowboys went on to lose to Pittsburgh, 35-31. "Bless his heart. He has got to be the sickest man in America," was how Verne Lundquist, then Dallas’ radio announcer, called the play.
Lombardi the champion: (Super Bowl II) On the shoulders of his players after the Green Bay Packers’ 33-14 win over the Oakland Raiders, Vince Lombardi — coaching the team he took to five NFL titles for the last time — said, "This is the best way to leave the field." The Super Bowl championship trophy would later be named after him.
Vinatieri’s first clutch kick: (Super Bowl XXXVI) After three passes from quarterback Tom Brady to running back J.R. Redmond — an Arizona State product — helped New England get into field-goal range in the final seconds, Adam Vinatieri came out to attempt a 48-yarder. His boot was true as time expired, giving the Patriots a 20-17 win over St. Louis in the first Super Bowl to be won on the final play.
Thanks, Sweetie: The Super Bowl was still officially called the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game" when Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt was walking through the house one day and came across his daughter’s "Super Ball." The light bulb went on above Hunt’s head, and the rest is history.
Second-quarter stampede: (Super Bowl XXII) Denver scored on its first play from scrimmage and had a 10-0 lead after 15 minutes against Washington. Then, the game stopped on a dime. Redskins running back Timmy Smith gained yards at will, and quarterback Doug Williams threw four TD passes in a 35-point barrage before halftime. Washington rolled to a 42-10 win.
Works when it counts: (Super Bowl XIV) The play had not worked in practice all week — or so the Pittsburgh Steelers claimed — but it clicked when it needed to most. Terry Bradshaw lofted a pass that eluded the outstretched fingers of Los Angeles Rams cornerback Rod Perry and was caught by John Stallworth for a 73-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. It was the winning score in a 31-19 victory for the Steelers.
Turnaround touchdown: (Super Bowl XVIII) Los Angeles Raiders running back Marcus Allen went off left tackle and found his path clogged with Washington defenders. He turned around, saw a hole up the middle and rocketed through it en route to a 74-yard touchdown in the Raiders’ 38-9 victory.
Howard cleared for takeoff: (Super Bowl XXXI) New England got within a touchdown of the Green Bay Packers in the third quarter when Desmond Howard let the air out of the Patriots’ balloon. His 99-yard kickoff return for a TD paved the way for a 35-21 win — the Packers’ first post-Lombardi championship.
Keeping the kitties out: (Super Bowl XVI) The Cincinnati Bengals trailed 20-7 in the third quarter but were on the verge of a score, facing second-and-goal at the 1. But San Francisco let them get no further on the next three plays — stuffing powerful running back Pete Johnson on two of them — and went on to a 26-21 victory.
Vinatieri’s second clutch kick: (Super Bowl XXXVII) Just like two years earlier, Adam Vinatieri was money for New England, as his 41-yard field goal with four seconds remaining gave the Patriots a 32-29 victory against Carolina.
Hot-dogging too soon: (Super Bowl XXVII) Dallas defensive lineman Leon Lett recovered a fourth-quarter fumble and thought his path to the end zone was clear, so he began strutting early. But hustling Buffalo receiver Don Beebe knocked the ball out of Lett’s hands before he crossed the goal line, and it went out of the end zone for a touchback. The play was memorable but not crucial, as the Cowboys won, 52-17.
Shut up and kick: (Super Bowl V) With his 32-yard field-goal attempt in the final seconds upcoming, rookie Baltimore kicker Jim O’Brien is told by holder Earl Morrall to "Just kick it straight." O’Brien does, and the Colts defeat Dallas, 16-13.
First to the end zone: (Super Bowl I) Playing only because of an injury to Boyd Dowler, Green Bay receiver Max McGee caught a 37-yard pass from Bart Starr for the first Super Bowl TD. McGee finished with seven receptions for 138 yards and two scores in a 35-10 Packers win against Kansas City.
Lovable loser no more: (Super Bowl IX) Popular Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney suffered through years of losing football, but after his team’s 16-6 victory against the Minnesota Vikings, "The Chief" was finally a champion.
So much for trickery: (Super Bowl III) Baltimore’s flea-flicker in the final moments of the first half against the Jets worked — Jimmy Orr, the primary receiver, was all alone near the end zone. But QB Earl Morrall did not see him, his pass over the middle was intercepted, and New York kept its 7-0 lead.
"Old Man Willie" lands knockout blow: (Super Bowl XI) Veteran Oakland cornerback Willie Brown stepped in front of Fran Tarkenton’s pass and returned it a Super Bowl-record 75 yards for a touchdown to sew up the Raiders’ 32-14 win over Minnesota.
Just like we drew it up: (Super Bowl XXI) New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms had Mark Bavaro in his sights for the game-clinching score against Denver, but the ball went off the tight end’s hands. No matter — diminutive receiver Phil McConkey was there to tidy up, and he caught the ball for a 6-yard TD in the Giants’ 39-20 win.
Texas-sized sack: (Super Bowl VI) Miami quarterback Bob Griese found himself being chased . . . and chased . . . and chased by Dallas defensive lineman Bob Lilly. When the hunt finally ended, Lilly had dropped Griese for a 29-yard loss, and the Cowboys went on to a 24-3 win.
"The Fridge" has landed: (Super Bowl XX) Rookie defensive lineman William Perry was all the rage for the Chicago Bears in 1985, as the 320-pounder would sometimes line up as a running back. Against the New England Patriots, he bulldozed his way to a 1-yard touchdown in the Bears’ 46-10 triumph.
Opportunism at its finest: (Super Bowl XXXVII) Did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get hold of the Oakland passing playbook in the days before the game? It sure looked like it, as the Bucs intercepted five passes — returning three for TDs — in their 48-21 romp of the Raiders.
At least he remembered his pants: (Super Bowl XXVI) Running back Thurman Thomas missed Buffalo’s first offensive series while on the sidelines searching for his helmet. That set the tone for the game as the Washington Redskins dominated, 37-24.
Bad balloon karma: (Super Bowl IV) Pregame ceremonies included two hot-air balloons, one carrying a Chief, the other a Viking. The Chief’s balloon sailed out of the stadium as planned. The Viking’s failed to get liftoff and crashed into the stands. No one was hurt, but it was a sign of things to come for Minnesota, which was dominated in a 23-7 loss against Kansas City.
Anything you can do . . . : (Super Bowl XXXV) After New York’s Ron Dixon returned a kickoff 97 yards for what would be the only Giants score against Baltimore, the Ravens’ Jermaine Lewis matched it by bringing the ensuing kick back 84 yards for a TD. Baltimore won, 34-7.
Butch bucks the Broncos: (Super Bowl XII) Dallas receiver Butch Johnson made a spectacular diving catch of Roger Staubach’s pass for a 45-yard touchdown, the telling blow in the Cowboys’ 27-10 victory over Denver. 33
Roger rocks Miami: (Super Bowl XIX) San Francisco running back Roger Craig put the exclamation point on the 49ers’ 38-16 victory against Miami by taking Joe Montana’s pass and high-stepping across the goal line for his third TD of the game.
Eagles go "ker-Plunk": (Super Bowl XV) Oakland quarterback Jim Plunkett (short throw) and running back Kenny King (long run) combined on a then-Super Bowl record 80-yard touchdown pass in a 27-10 triumph over Philadelphia.
Big-time momentum shift: (Super Bowl XXVIII) Buffalo led 13-6 on its first possession of the third quarter when Dallas defensive lineman Leon Lett stripped Thurman Thomas of the ball. Defensive back James Washington returned the fumble 46 yards for a touchdown, and the Bills were no longer a factor in a 30-13 Cowboys win.
Young’s six-pack: (Super Bowl XXIX) San Francisco quarterback Steve Young emerged from the shadow of Joe Montana with a Super Bowl-record six touchdown passes as the 49ers rolled to a 49-26 win against San Diego.
One? Two? Whatever . . . : (Super Bowl VIII) On a play at the Minnesota 2, quarterback Bob Griese forgot the snap count and turned to ask his backs. They did not know, either. Griese went ahead with the play and was not ready for the snap on "one." He barely got the handoff executed, but Larry Csonka still bowled into the end zone for the score in a 24-7 Dolphins win.
Right place, right time: (Super Bowl XXX) In a game at Sun Devil Stadium, all Dallas cornerback Larry Brown did was be in position to catch two bad passes by Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O’Donnell. Both interceptions led to Cowboys scores in a 27-17 victory, and Brown was named most valuable player.
Booked, then beaten: (Super Bowl XXXIII) A bad weekend for Atlanta safety Eugene Robinson — busted for soliciting an undercover police officer on Saturday night, toasted by Denver’s John Elway and Rod Smith for an 80-yard TD on Sunday night. The Broncos won, 34-19.
Complete domination: (Super Bowl XXIV) After yet another San Francisco touchdown, Denver nose tackle Greg Kragen could only lay on the turf and ask a teammate, "What’s happening?" The Broncos never figured it out, as the 49ers posted a 55-10 demolition job.