Joe Montana is one of the best of all-time, but he happened to play in one of the worst Super Bowls of all-time (Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
The Super Bowl is an event steeped in tradition. With the XLVIIth edition just over a week away, it’s important to look back at the games that made the NFL the successful league it is today. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s going on here. Right now, we’re going to take a look at the five worst games in Super Bowl history, counting down from the least terrible to the worst of all-time.
5) Super Bowl VIII, Miami Dolphins 24, Minnesota Vikings 7:
The Dolphins followed up their perfect 1972 season by repeating as champions with a methodical domination of the Vikings, building a 24-0 lead before Minnesota scored a garbage time touchdown. The game was void of any excitement whatsoever, with just three plays of over 20 yards. With a strong offensive line and a two-headed backfield of Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris, the Dolphins took the ground and pound approach to a new extreme. They ran the ball 53 times for 196 yards, an impressive total, but good for just 3.7 yards per carry. Quarterback Bob Griese didn’t break a sweat, ending with more yards per attempt (10.4) than actual pass attempts (seven). The Dolphins ran so much, they could’ve had Brian Griese under center and still won the game…ok, maybe not, but still. Arguably the most boring Super Bowl ever.
4) Super Bowl XXXVII, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48, Oakland Raiders 21:
The Buccaneers played one of the best defensive games the NFL has ever seen, intercepting Rich Gannon five times, returning three for touchdowns, and holding the Raiders to 19 yards rushing. But honestly, people should’ve known the game was going to be ugly from the start when the Dixie Chicks sang the national anthem (sorry, country music fans). And if you think this week’s “HarBowl” nonsense, then you must’ve forgotten about the “Gruden Bowl” storylines, as Jon Gruden led his new team over his former team after being traded in the offseason for four draft picks and $8 million. Looking back on this game has become more interesting in light of former Raider Tim Brown’s recent claims. The receiver said this week that then-head coach Bill Callahan purposely changed the team’s run heavy game plan to an aerial attack at the last minute in order to sabotage his own team, feeling his friend Gruden deserved to win more than the Oakland franchise.
3) Super Bowl XX, Chicago Bears 46, New England Patriots 10:
The Bears’ powerful 46 defense was matched only by their scoring output as they won the storied franchise’s lone Super Bowl to date. They held New England to 184 yards of total offense, including just seven on the ground. Patriots starting quarterback Tony Eason didn’t even last a half, getting benched for backup Steve Grogan after starting out 0-for-6 passing. Other than the game being one-sided, though, the saddest part was Walter Payton’s lackluster day. He managed just 61 yards on 22 carries, and failed to reach the end zone despite Chicago scoring four rushing touchdowns. As iconic as it was to see “The Fridge” score, seeing Sweetness get shut out was just sad.
2) Super Bowl XXXV, Baltimore Ravens 34, New York Giants 7:
Don’t let the score fool you, this game featured ineptitude from both teams. They combined for just 396 yards of offense, the lowest in Super Bowl history. The Ravens and Giants were a combined 5-for-30 on third down, punting ten and 11 times, respectively. Those two punt totals remain the two most by any team in a Super Bowl. Nevertheless, Baltimore still controlled the game, holding the Giants to 152 yards of offense (third lowest in Super Bowl history) and forcing five turnovers. The Ravens pulled a magic act, somehow making Trent Dilfer not appear to be the worst quarterback on the field, thanks to Kerry Collins’ four interceptions. Also of note, Ray Lewis won game MVP despite recording just three solo tackles. I’d make a joke about Ray, but I’m a little terrified of what might happen. Moving on.
1) Super Bowl XXIV, San Francisco 49ers 55, Denver Broncos 10:
On paper, a match up between Joe Montana and John Elway sounds like the makings of a great game. Instead, it turned into the biggest massacre in Super Bowl history. The 49ers submitted a complete and balanced performance. The offense gained 317 yards through the air and 144 on the ground. Montana threw five touchdowns, three to Jerry Rice, while the backfield ran in another three. They were a missed extra point away from scoring an even 14 in each quarter. The defense limited Elway to 108 passing yards and picked him off twice, in addition to allowing Denver just 64 yards rushing. Elway would get his turn nearly a decade later, but on this night in the Louisiana Superdome, he, his Denver Broncos, and their ugly orange uniforms were simply no match for their opponents, putting them on the losing end of the worst Super Bowl ever played.
Be sure to check out next week’s post, where I’ll cover the best Super Bowls of all-time.