The Five Most Dramatic Super Bowl Finishes in NFL History

  • Super Bowl XLIX: The Patriots make a game-sealing interception in the endzone
  • Super Bowl XXV: The Bills lose their first of four straight SB’s on a missed field goal
  • Super Bowl XLII: “The Helmet Catch” springs the Giants’ upset of the undefeated Patriots
  • Super Bowl LI: The Patriots score 31 unanswered points against the Falcons to win in OT
  • Super Bowl XXXIV: The Titans come within inches of forcing OT on the final play of the game
Lombardi Trophy
The five craziest and most theatrical endings in Super Bowl history. [Image:]

The stuff of legends

Sports are only as interesting as the theater they produce, whether it be Week One of the preseason or the Super Bowl.

Scores have ranged from as wide a margin as 55-10 to as close as 20-19

There have been 56 Super Bowls in the NFL’s 100+ years of operation and, of the 32 modern franchises, 20 champions. Scores have ranged from as wide a margin as 55-10 to as close as 20-19.

Every moment of the NFL year is spent in anticipation of winning the coveted Lombardi Trophy. For 31 teams, those moments die in vain, but for one, they are ingrained into permanent football lore. Today, we revisit the most dramatic finishes in Super Bowl history.

Super Bowl XLIX: New England Patriots 28, Seattle Seahawks 24

The 2014 NFL playoffs went just as expected in the early stages. The Patriots and Seahawks, the top seeds in their respective conferences, stormed their way through the bracket until they finally met in Super Bowl XLIX. 

The Patriots were fresh off of a 45-7 demolition of the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game, while the Seahawks were emblazoned with youthful passion from the “Legion of Boom” and a smashmouth offense.

14 unanswered of their own in the fourth quarter

The teams traded blows through the first half and went into the intermission knotted at 14. The Seahawks then scored ten unanswered points in the third quarter to go up 24-14. Tom Brady and the Pats, as they have been known to do, responded with 14 unanswered of their own in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead touchdown with 2:02 remaining.

The Seahawks were not ready to roll over and die. In less than one minute, they moved the ball down to the Patriots’ one-yard line and were on the verge of clinching their second straight Super Bowl – then came one of the most infamous plays in franchise history.

Rather than handing the ball to bruising back Marshawn Lynch, Seattle dialed up a quick slant pass that was intercepted by undrafted rookie free agent Malcolm Butler. New England took a couple of knees, and the game was over.

Super Bowl XXV: New York Giants 20, Buffalo Bills 19

Some things in life just can’t be explained. Many Buffalo natives believe that Super Bowl XXV was the start of a supernatural curse placed over the franchise, and for good reason.

The Bills entered the 1991 championship bout with the best record in the AFC and the feeling that they could win their first title in franchise history. With Jim Kelly and Thurmon Thomas at the controls and a terrifying defense to complement them, they just needed one more win.

The game went back and forth and was defined by defensive stands rather than highlight plays. The Giants led most of the fourth quarter, but had succumbed to the mercy of the Bills, who had the ball lined up for a 47-yard field goal with just four seconds left.

pushed his would-be game-winner wide right

With over 73,000 fans present in the stands, Buffalo kicker Scott Norwood pushed his would-be game-winner wide right, handing the Giants the first one-point win in Super Bowl history.

Sounds like simple bad luck, right? Where was the curse in all of this?

Much to the horror of Bills personnel and supporters, the team made it to each of the next three Super Bowls and lost them all. To this day, no team in league history has made four straight Super Bowls other than Buffalo, and they did not win any of them.

Super Bowl XLII: New York Giants 17, New England Patriots 14

Everyone knows the story of David and Goliath. Super Bowl XLII was just that, and it played out exactly the same way.

they went 16-0 in the regular season

The Patriots were the big bad menaces of the NFL in 2007. They went 16-0 in the regular season, during which Tom Brady won league MVP and Randy Moss set the record for most touchdowns in a season (23). They also won each of their first two playoff games by two scores and looked completely unstoppable.

The Giants, meanwhile, finished the year 10-6 and were the fifth seed in the NFC. They barely snuck by the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship 23-20 and were enormous underdogs heading into the big game.

New England led 7-3 by the time the fourth quarter came around. Both defenses were playing lights out and neither offense looked comfortable.

The tide finally turned when the Giants scored a go-ahead touchdown, only for the Patriots to respond with one of their own. That left the underdogs trailing 14-10 on what became their final drive of the game.

With their backs against the wall, backup wide receiver David Tyree made one of the most memorable receptions ever with what is remembered as “the helmet catch.” 

That set up a 13-yard touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress with 35 seconds left and secured the win for the Giants, their first since 1987.

Super Bowl LI: New England Patriots 34, Atlanta Falcons 28

The best players step up when the lights are the brightest. 

In 2017, Brady was back in the Super Bowl for the seventh time in his career. He’d already won four times, but was hungry for another as his 14-2 Pats met up with MVP Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons.

Bostonians everywhere were stunned when their hometown heroes went into halftime trailing 28-3. Nobody had ever embarrassed Brady, Bill Belichick, or the franchise the same way the Falcons had in the first half, and hopes of coming back seemed bleak at best.

Fast forward to the end of the third quarter, and there was still serious doubt that New England could come back. Both teams scored one touchdown and the Falcons’ lead was still a daunting 28-9.

Luckily for the Patriots, the G.O.A.T. was ready to play. They burst into the fourth quarter with 18 straight points, including a one-yard touchdown run with 57 seconds left, to force overtime. By then, there was simply too much momentum for the Falcons to overcome.

New England solidified the victory with a James White two-yard run in the extra period and took home their fifth Super Bowl as a franchise. 

Brady finished with 466 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception, and was named Super Bowl MVP. The Pats scored 31 unanswered to close out the game.

Super Bowl XXXIV: St. Louis Rams 23, Tennessee Titans 16

Football is a game of inches. Nobody knows that better than ex-Titans receiver Kevin Dyson, who came up a hair short of changing NFL history forever in 2000.

The high-powered Rams offense had run roughshod over the league throughout the regular season, so much so that they earned the nickname “The Greatest Show on Turf.” The Titans were not as historically dominant, but had a well-rounded squad that had built real momentum throughout the preceding playoff games.

Steve McNair led the Titans on a last-second drive down the field for a potential game-tying score

To no one’s surprise, St. Louis had its way with the Tennessee defense. Kurt Warner racked up 414 passing yards and two touchdowns, with wideout Isaac Bruce claiming 162 yards and one touchdown from that total. However, they could do nothing but stand on the sidelines as Steve McNair led the Titans on a last-second drive down the field for a potential game-tying score.

Tennessee worked its way to the 10-yard line with just six seconds on the clock and dialed up what they knew would become the final play: a quick slant off the right side to the right hash. 

McNair delivered a bullet to Dyson, just as expected, who caught the ball in stride at the 5-yard line. Rams linebacker Mike Jones hustled over and wrapped him up, but could not completely stop the forward momentum, and the two went spiraling to the ground.

As they were tumbling together, Dyson stretched his long arm towards the goal line…and came up just a few inches short. The clock ran out three seconds later, and the Rams were champions.

No game has ended as physically close, literally, as this one.

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