Super Bowl, indeed.
The Patriots’ 28-24 win over the Seahawks wound up being one of the best Super Bowls ever played. The two teams were so evenly matched that a single play decided the outcome.
And what a play it was. On second down from the 1-yard line, with half a minute remaining, the Seahawks chose to pass. Never mind that Marshawn Lynch remained in the backfield.
The same Marshawn Lynch who had just gained four yards on first down. The same Marshawn Lynch whose 104 yards rushing almost equaled the output of everyone else who played in the game. The same Marshawn Lynch who didn’t register a single run for negative yardage during the entire game.
No, Seattle chose to pass, a quick slant to Ricardo Lockette. The Pats’ Malcolm Butler, who had just been beaten on an amazing 33-yard tumble and catch by Jermaine Kearse, stepped to the ball in front of Lockette.
You could imagine that somewhere in Boulder, Colorado, Mike Bobo was extolling the virtues of the call to all who would listen.
But this game had so much more. The teams traded touchdowns during the final 31 seconds of the first half. Russell Wilson looked as much in command in the third quarter as Tom Brady did in the fourth, when Brady joined Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana as the only quarterbacks to win four Super Bowls.
The teams wound up separated by only 19 total yards of total offense and five first downs. Only in time of possession was there a decided advantage: Patriots, 33:46 to 26:14.
The Super Bowl has produced its fair share of duds over the years (look no further than last year’s rout), but this was not one of them.
In fact, this one merits a ranking in the top 10 Super Bowls of all-time. Let the debate begin:
10. Steelers 35, Cowboys 31 (XIII, 1979). The Team of the Seventies won its third Super Bowl, but this time the offense led the way. Bradshaw threw four touchdown passes in winning the MVP award.
The Steelers seemed to put the game away by scoring two touchdowns within 19 seconds midway through the fourth quarter. The second followed a kickoff fumbled by Randy White, a defensive tackle with a cast on his hand, who was inexplicably on the kickoff return group. That might have been the worst Super Bowl call prior to the Seahawks’ pass.
Roger Staubach led the Cowboys back with two touchdowns in the final 2:23, but the Steelers’ Rocky Bleier recovered the final onside kick.
9. Jets 16, Colts 7 (III, 1969). Perhaps the most amazing Super Bowl to watch, the AFL’s Jets were 18-point underdogs. The mighty Colts had only lost once, and dismantled the Browns in the NFL Championship game, 34-0. Even though quarterback Joe Namath had guaranteed a Jets win, watching it unfold was mesmerizing. Historically, this game that established parity between the AFL and NFL might still be the most important Super Bowl.
8. 49ers 20, Bengals 16 (XXIII, 1989). Joe Montana cemented his reputation as cool in the clutch by driving the Niners 92 yards over the game’s final 3:20. He finished the drive with a 10-yard pass to John Taylor with only 34 seconds remaining. He began the drive by alerting his mates in the huddle to the presence of John Candy in the stands.
7. Patriots 32, Panthers 29 (XXXVIII, 2004). The Pats won their second Super Bowl on Adam Vinatieri’s 41-yard field goal with only four seconds left. This game was actually scoreless until 3:05 remained in the first half, a Super Bowl record. The teams combined for 868 yards, of which the Pats amassed 481. They also combined for a Super Bowl-record 37 points in the fourth quarter.
6. Patriots 28, Seahawks 24 (XLIX, 2015). An instant classic.
5. Rams 23, Titans 16 (XXXIV, 2000). In the Super Bowl’s best wire job, at the Georgia Dome, the Rams’ Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dysart at the 1-yard line as the game ended. MVP Kurt Warner threw for a Super Bowl-record 414 yards, but the Greatest Show on Turf led only 16-0, despite their first six possessions reaching the red zone.
4. Steelers 27, Cardinals 23 (XLIII, 2009). The Super Bowl’s longest play, in both distance and elapsed time, occurred right before the half. Linebacker James Harrison intercepted a Warner pass and lumbered 100 yards to score, putting the Steelers ahead, 17-7. A 16-point fourth quarter put the Cards ahead, 23-20, but the Steelers drove 78 yards for the winning score with just 35 seconds left.
3. Giants 20, Bills 19 (XXV, 1991). The Bills’ no-huddle offense, the best in the league, met its match in the Giants’ ball-control offense and top-ranked defense. The Giants racked up a Super Bowl record 40:33 in possession time (the Bills had the ball for less than eight minutes in the second half), but the game wasn’t decided until Scott Norwood’s last-second, 47-yard field goal attempt went wide right.
2. Patriots 20, Rams 17 (XXXVI, 2002). Vinatieri’s 48-yard field goal as time expired gave the two-touchdown underdog Patriots the win. Three turnovers good for 17 points didn’t hurt, either. Total yardage: Rams 427, Patriots 267.
1. Giants 17, Patriots 14 (XLII, 2008). The 12-point underdog G-men denied the Patriots an undefeated season with a 12-play, 85-yard drive. It ended with a 13-yard Eli Manning pass to Plaxico Burress with only 35 seconds remaining.
The Giants converted three third downs in the drive, including David Tyree’s miraculous 32-yard helmet catch, which set up the winning score.
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His column appears weekly.