Super Bowl 50 kicks off in Santa Clara, California, tonight between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Yep, 49 Super Bowls have been played and their have been some dramatic, exciting endings.
But what’s a millennial’s top five moments from the biggest game of the NFL season?
The word millennial is defined as, “a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000; a Generation Year.”
So there’s a start. Kick out the days of the Steel Curtain, the 49ers‘ dynasty, and the ’85 Bears Super Bowl shuffle video. Stick to the recent years, instead.
I’m 21-years-old, so allow me to speak for my fellow age group and the people that are on their phones too much and need to spend more time playing outside.
Here’s a millennial’s top moments of the Super Bowl, excluding commercials which are the best part because the Bengals are never playing in February.
#5 Super Bowl XXXVI (New England 20, St. Louis 17)
Before everyone hated the Patriots for winning so much, they were just a regular team looking to finally get to the promise land. New England reached the Super Bowl in ’85 but were crushed by the Bears and went again in ’96 only to lose to Brett Favre and the Packers.
Drew Bledsoe suffered an injury earlier in the season and the Tom Brady-era began. The rest is history.
After reaching the title game thanks to a highly debatable “tuck rule” call in the playoffs against Oakland (who would reach the Super Bowl one year later), New England would face the Rams, or for better reference, “The Greatest Show on Turf.”
St. Louis had won the title for the first time just two years prior in a memorable game against Tennessee, but not memorable to most millennials considering I was still invested in a Handy-Dandy notebook from Blue’s Clues.
It was the underdog Patriots with an unknown quarterback versus a likable Rams’ team looking to begin a dynasty–it did not disappoint.
The mastermind Bill Belichick, who slowed down the high-flying Bills’ offense 11-years earlier in the Super Bowl, was great once again. New England kept the video game-like offense of St. Louis on the ropes for most of the game, taking a 17-3 lead into the fourth quarter on the heels of a Ty Law pick-six and a Brady touchdown toss to David Patten.
But Kurt Warner would not be denied.
After New England’s 97-yard fumble return touchdown was nullified on a defensive holding penalty, Warner sneaked in a score and later threw the game-tying touchdown to Ricky Proehl with 90 seconds remaining.
Legendary coach and broadcaster John Maddon (although us young-ins remember him as a color commentator) suggested New England hold the ball and force over time, but the greatness of Brady was still a question that would be answered on the ensuing drive.
Brady rattled off five completions and spiked the ball at the Rams’ 31-yard-line, setting up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning 48-yard boot to crown New England Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history.
The impact this had on millennials was it was one of the first Super Bowls we remember. To David vs. Goliath comparisons to the game-winning kick, it was a thrilling affair from beginning to end.
#4 Super Bowl XXXVIII (New England 32, Carolina 29)
Once again, the Patriots’ hatred had yet to be fully brewed, so when they came back two years later in the Super Bowl against the Panthers (making their first SB appearance) no one knew who to root for, just wanted an entertaining game–exactly what was on tap.
Both teams failed to score in the first and third quarters, but still would combine for 61 points, the second straight high-scoring affair in the NFL’s final game.
In the second quarter, New England scored a pair of touchdowns, but Carolina kept a short distance with 10 points of their own, including a 50-yard field goal by John Kasey at the first half’s conclusion.
After New England took a 21-10 lead in the fourth quarter, the Panthers took a one-point lead with two long touchdowns; a 33-yard run by DeShaun Foster and a Super Bowl-record 85-yard bomb from Jake Delhomme to Muhsin Mohammed.
New England jumped in front on a touchdown from Brady to Mike Vrabel and Carolina tied it up with just over a minute remaining on another Delhomme touchdown pass, this one to Proehl, who just two years earlier snagged the tying score as a member of the Rams.
Kasey had a great kick from 50 yards out to end the first half, but his kickoff after Proehl’s score was a blunder when it sailed out of bounds and gave New England possession at their own 40.
Brady would complete four passes on another game-winning drive, the biggest going for 17 yards to Deion Branch on 3rd and three from the Carolina 40. Vinatieri once again nailed the final kick and the Patriots won their second Lombardi Trophy in three years. Queue the hatred.
Carolina finally returns to the title game this season for the first time since this heart-breaking defeat.
For the millennial, they remember this game thoroughly. They also recall Janet Jackson’s halftime performance and where they were when another Super Bowl went down to the wire.
#3 Super Bowl XLIV (Saints 31, Colts 17)
Going into this game, it was the first time in 16 years that the number one seeds in each conference would play for all the marbles. You had Peyton Manning and the Colts on one sideline, and the energetic Saints in their first Super Bowl on the other.
The Saint’s franchise was finally ready to play for a ring, considering it took them 21 years after their 1967 birth to record a winning season and 34 years to win their first playoff game. Add in the fact that Manning’s dad, Archie, was a member of the Saints in the 70’s and that Hurricane Katrina had turned the city of New Orleans upside down just four years earlier, it was hard not to root for the Saints.
If Peyton had not won his first ring in ’06 against the Bears (a Super Bowl snooze fest), you may have made the case to cheer on a future Hall-of-Fame quarterback, but giving the circumstances, most neutral fans were pulling for the Saints and their future HOF gun slinger, Drew Brees.
After the Colts took a 10-0 lead, the Saints recovered with 13 consecutive points which included a surprise onside kick on the opening kickoff of the second half that bounced off the facemask of Hank Baskett. Pierre Thomas scored following the recovery to give New Orleans a three-point advantage and suddenly we had a ball game.
A Joseph Addai touchdown run anchored the Colts to a 17-16 lead going into the game’s final quarter, where one of the most iconic plays in NFL history would occur.
The Saints took a seven-point lead on a Jeremy Shockey touchdown, but their was still time for Peyton and the Colts to drive for the tying score and perhaps force the first overtime in Super Bowl history.
With less than five minutes to play, Manning marched the Colts into Saints’ territory, but a Tracy Porter 74-yard interception return touchdown put New Orleans ahead by 14 and effectively sealed their first Super Bowl title. The iconic footage of Porter running towards a herd of Saints’ faithful in the end zone while pumping his fists is one not often overlooked.
For the millennial, it was a great moment for a deserving franchise. We were all young, but aware of the impact Hurricane Katrina had on New Orleans and the entire state of Louisiana, so seeing an entire state come together and triumph over a football game was something special.
#2 Super Bowl XLIX (Patriots 28, Seahawks 24)
Did there have to be a winning team from this game? An honest question considering many fans had grown weary of New England’s constant presence in championship contests and the thought of a Seahawks’ dynasty could very well make someone ill. Seattle had a great team, but Richard Sherman’s post-game rant one-year earlier rubbed some the wrong way and the annoying trend of bandwagon Seattle fans didn’t deserve back-to-back titles.
The game itself, however, was one for the ages and is arguably the greatest Super Bowl in history.
The two clubs battled to a 14-all tie at the intermission, then Seattle took a 10-point lead into the game’s final quarter.
Tom Brady had not won a title since the 2004 season, but was ready to show he was still the most clutch quarterback the NFL has to offer.
Brady led back-to-back touchdown drives against Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” (and number one ranked) defense, his third and fourth touchdown pass of the game. Brady’s 37 completions that night is a Super Bowl record.
Seattle took over at their own 20 just two seconds north of the two-minute warning and trailing by four, 80-yards away from back-to-back titles
–they would only get 79.
Russell Wilson started with a 31-yard completion to Marshawn Lynch to get into Patriots’ territory. After getting to the New England 38, Jermaine Kearse made an unbelievable 33-yard catch while on his back to put Seattle five yards away from the game-winning score.
Lynch ran four yards to the one-yard line, and many believed he would get the rock on the next play, as well, considering his status as one of the best running backs in the league and had ran for 13 scores in the regular season.
But coach Pete Carroll opted for a pass, which was intercepted at the goal line by Malcolm Butler, thus creating perhaps the most dramatic ending in NFL history.
For the millennials, it was a thrilling ending to a game played by two teams we hated. We weren’t around to see Scott Norwood’s infamous “Wide Right” miss in the early 90s, and this trumped Vinatieri’s two buzzer-beating field goals because it came down to the wire with no chance of going to over time if Seattle failed to score.
For the every day NFL fan, you need to appreciate Brady’s greatness. Sure, it was tampered a bit with the Deflategate scandal from a week prior, but winning his fourth title paired him with the likes of Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana for most in league history.
#1 Super Bowl XLII (Giants 17, Patriots 14)
Of course the biggest storyline heading into Super Bowl XLII was the Patriots’ quest to join the ’72 Dolphins as the only teams to achieve undefeated perfection.
New England had breezed through their regular season-slate by going 16-0 where only three games were decided by one possession. In the playoffs, they defeated the Jaguars by 11 and the Chargers by nine to win the conference and try for their fourth title in seven seasons.
Standing in their way were the New York Giants, a team that had given the Patriots their toughest test (38-35) in week 17 of the regular season at Giants Stadium.
They finished 10-6 in the regular season and clinched a wild card spot in a week 16 win over Buffalo. In the playoffs, they went on the road to defeat Tampa Bay, Dallas, and Green Bay to become the ninth wild card team to ever reach the Super Bowl and later would become the first NFC team to win it as a non-division winner.
The Giants were able to slow down the usual scoring fest of the Patriots’ offense led by Brady and wide receiver Randy Moss. However, the Giants’ offense couldn’t get going, either, resulting in a 7-3 New England lead at the half.
The Giants took the lead with 11:05 remaining in the game, but Brady was once again great when it matters by leading 75-yard drive that ended on a scoring toss to Moss.
New York trailed, 14-10, and it was now Eli Manning who had to deliver in the game’s final moments. After completing a fourth down, the Giants moved the ball to their own 44-yard line, where the greatest catch in Super Bowl history took place.
Miraculously, Manning spun out of a sure sack of two Patriots’ defenders, spun, nearly fell down to the ground, and then proceeded to loft a prayer-like pass that was high-arching in the middle of the field. It was between wide receiver David Tyree and coveted Patriots’ safety Rodney Harrison. Tyree leaped and made the catch, but more impressively trapped the ball to his helmet with one hand and kept complete control as he fell to the ground. The ball never touched the turf, and the play stood for 32 yards.
Four plays later, Manning found Plaxico Burress for the winning score and completed the biggest upset in Super Bowl history.
Back to the millennials, it was great to finally see the Patriots not hoist the Lombardi Trophy under a downpour of confetti. Although, we weren’t around to see the ’72 Dolphins pull it off, the fact that it was an underdog Giants team that had not been to the Super Bowl since the 2000 season (lost 34-7 to Baltimore) made it something special.
There are few moments that make your jaw drop in the world of sports, Tyree’s catch is one of those moments. The Football Gods were watching that day, and for once they didn’t side with the Patriots. Let another team achieve a perfect season, not New England.
So there ya have it. A millennials’ favorite Super Bowl moments. Sure I was pretty biased about not including the Steelers’ win over the Cardinals or the Ravens topping the 49ers in recent years, but I’m just one guy who is a passionate about his Cincinnati teams.
Now I’m going to go outside and — oh, wait. Sorry, I got a text about a tweet that was on Facebook and was taken from reddit about a vine that some guy snap chatted.
If you’re a fellow millennial, you’ll get it. If not, keep reading the newspaper.
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