There was a time not long ago when it was a given that the Super Bowl would be a blowout. Lopsided results for America’s biggest game were so common that the whole thing became like a bad joke from an early ‘90s stand up. “What’s the deal with airline food? I’d rather watch a Cowboys/Bills Super Bowl with my mother-in-law!” From 1984 to 1995, 10 of the 12 Super Bowls were decided by a margin of 13 or greater. Look at some of these scores: 38-9, 46-10, 55-10, 52-17. Honestly, 52 to 17? What a horrible game for the casual fan.
But around that time—around the turn of the century—the Big Game started to tighten up. Perhaps as a reflection of the salary cap era that began in 1994, teams seemed more even and, as a result, Super Bowls became a hell of a lot more entertaining. The Patriots won* three championships in four years each by a margin of only three points. We’ve had the Giants win by three. The Steelers win by four. The Giants again by four. The Ravens by three. And, of course, last year’s goal line interception which ended with New England winning in the waning moments by four.
That interception, undoubtedly one of the most exciting, dramatic, there-aren’t-enough-adjectives-to-describe moments in sports history...was not the best Super Bowl play ever. Honestly, it wasn’t even the best one in the last eight years. That distinction probably goes to a play where David Tyree pinned a football against his helmet after a miracle heave from Eli Manning to upset the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.
That’s how great these games have been lately.
We’ve had so many remarkable moments recently that we had to break them down—with a little assistance from several NFL players and celebrity fans. These are the most Immortal Super Bowl Moments of the Millennium.
As remembered by Maria Menounos,
E! News host and NY Times best-selling author of "The Everygirl's Guide to Cooking" available in stores on March 8.
“By that time, I left my boyfriend Keven Undergaro as he had given up. I never did. Instead, I moved to sit with total strangers who, like me, refused to surrender. We were all holding hands and screaming "DO YOUR JOB!" Then bang, out of nowhere [Malcolm] Butler made the pick and I yelled so loud I lost my voice. My new friends and I hugged and even cried. It was the most insane moment I've ever seen in sports. Truth is, we had that interception coming to us—you can't lose a Super Bowl on three circus catches. Two was already ridiculous. That interception cemented Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback of all time. With four Super Bowl wins and two losses by circus catches, at this point, it's hard to argue.
“I was shocked [Seattle didn’t run the ball] since they had Marshawn Lynch who is such a monster. Sometimes coaches can get too relaxed, in a sense, when they know they have the game won. I think Pete Carroll thought he had it in the bag and could afford a few different tries with different options. He made a mistake. Bill [Belichick] makes them for the Pats, too. I'll say [Carroll] and Russell Wilson are the closest combo I've seen to Tom and Bill B. I don't think I'd like to face them again, that's for sure.
“Much is said about what a great franchise the Patriots are. However, not enough is said about how messed up they were before the Krafts came. As a little girl, my father would scream at the TV and tell me all the horror stories. At AfterBuzz TV we do a weekly Youtube/iTunes talk show called Patriots 360. Host Mike Conley and my boyfriend went at it over the claim that only the old LA Clippers were a bigger bunch of losers. If that's even remotely true, then nothing will top the first Super Bowl win and the [Adam] Vinatieri kick. I was on the field covering it and vowed to be with them every appearance forever on. The second best was last year for sure! And as always WE'LL BE BACK!”
As remembered by Santonio Holmes,
former Pittsburgh Steelers WR:
“At the start of that summer leading up until that Super Bowl season in 2008, Ben [Roethlisberger] and I spent quite a bit of time together just working on fade routes and just getting to know each other on workout days, on days that we would just meet up at the facility to throw the football. We practiced that throw pretty much all summer.
“[The play] happened so fast. I had an opportunity to be on the field with Hines Ward and Heath Miller, who were the two guys who actually created that play and made it happen for me to get open. Because I’m sure the linebacker was watching Hines Ward and the safety and corner were watching Heath Miller. So those guys really drew all the attention to them. And being that it was a short throw, a short amount of time, the defense sort’ve figured they’d get to the quarterback in time with the defense that they had called. I ended up getting a free release from the linebacker sliding outside of me. The safety never fully rotated or committed to me at the jump, and I was found wide open in the back of the end zone.
“How do you consider [Roethlisberger] an underrated player? Because he doesn’t get the same attention as Peyton Manning or Tom Brady? I would never compare Roethlisberger to any of those guys because, in all respect, he’s 10 times better than those guys because of the attitude and the tenacity that he brings to the game more than any other quarterback. The guy’s been hit by a car. And, basically, dismantled himself and wanted to play six weeks later. Things like that, that just don’t happen for a normal person. But to be able to have that kind of attitude and drive to want to do any and everything for his team, injury after injury, I want him on my team.
“[After the game] I spent time with my kids; I spent the night with them. This is the same question I get every time I do an interview. And that’s all they write about, that’s all they talk about, and that’s all that gets played. That’s the most important thing I did: what I did [after]. But, honestly, it wasn’t about that moment. I can’t even begin to tell you 10,000 times what I did that night. Because I didn’t do nothing. I was so stressed. I was stressed, full of excitement for what life was about to bring. I was preparing for the future at that moment, I wasn’t focused on what had just happened. I was feeling the tiredness from the anxiety of stress for the game. After the game, I was done. I was 10,000 percent over, full of exhaustion, of what I had to give for the team that night. I went down to see the guys, and take pictures, and things. But I was too tired. I didn’t have the energy for it.”
As remembered by Jared Lorenzen,
former New York Giants QB:
“At the beginning of the play you don’t think anything. You just think time’s running down, we gotta hurry up, and then you see the pocket start to collapse. And when he started to step up, I’m like, ‘Well, he can’t run. I mean he’s not gonna run.’ And then he gets caught by...maybe [Richard] Seymour? I’m not certain who had his jersey [it was both Richard Seymour and Jarvis Green]. And just like I think everybody else kind of assumed, ‘Well I guess he’s going down.’ And then you see him, his eyes get huge. And it all happens within hundredths of seconds. I hear myself say ‘oh God no’ because I think he’s gonna flip it to Chris Snee, who was our offensive guard. ‘Oh God no! No, no, no! Don’t do that!’ And all of this is happening in hundredths of seconds and then he kinda goes into the mass again. And you don’t see him. And I’m like, ‘Oh crap, now we’ve got a 3rd and super long now.’ I don’t think we had any time outs left. ‘Oh God we’re done.’
“And then you see him bust out; You see the official run in and as he’s running in you see Eli popping out. So now I go to looking back downfield again and Eli said it perfectly: ‘To say I saw David Tyree would’ve been a lie.’ I saw a white jersey in the middle of the field cause that’s where I saw him getting ready to throw it. And he jumps up and makes an unbelievable play, but we don’t have the time to go crazy about it. Because, yeah, he makes that great play, but for us—the guys on the sideline and the guys trying to help out Eli—it’s just, ‘What do we got? Next play.’ So you didn’t really get to see how amazing it was until after the series and they replayed it on the jumbotron.
“You look down the sideline and you see people going NUTS. Down the sideline you got guys jumping, screaming, hootin’, hollerin’—it was chaotic as can be.
“When the clock finally hit zero and all the confetti’s comin’ down it is the best—coach Coughlin said this, too—you’re at the pinnacle of your career. No matter what, nobody is better than you are at that moment. And it’s the ultimate high. You’re looking around at your teammates, you’re jumping into teammates’ arms, you’re celebrating. I had my wife there I had my kid there—you’re celebrating with everyone that you want. You’ve got this beautiful, slimy, nasty trophy being passed around, but it’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen. You feel all the slimy hands that have been on it but you can’t wait to kiss it.
“It’s just—it’s the greatest feeling other than having my kids and being married it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen. You know, guys you don’t hang out with all the time, you’re hugging and you’re telling them how much you love ‘em and how much fun this was. I mean, it’s just unreal.
“I don’t know how you can have any play—the next year that Santonio Holmes catch is good, that’s a great play. But to be where we were against an undefeated team and the down and distance, how that’s not the greatest play ever I don’t know.”
As remembered by Curren$y,
rapper and New Orleans native:
“I was in Miami for the Super Bowl. I was out there; I had a show that night. And we won that shit. I was on South Beach. I think [the show] was after, bruh. No lie—I was on stage after the game. It was like one of the best shits that I did in Miami. It was crazy. It was unbelieveable that it panned out like that. I saw a lot of Louisiana plates and shit on South Beach. I found out just how many people made the trip because they all managed to be walking up and down South Beach after that. We took to Collins [Avenue] the way Miami does when the Heat would win.
“That whole year, everybody in New Orleans pretty much knew we were going to the Super Bowl. Everybody in New Orleans figured we was gonna do that. But me? I know life is not really a movie, so I was like, ‘Let’s not get too fuckin hyped up.’ But after Katrina and everything we went through, the city had a mentality like, ‘No, man. We’re climbing out of the mud and the Super Bowl is gonna be how we definitely signify to the world that the hurricane didn’t crush us.’
“And it looked like the team knew they had to deliver that shit for us, too. That’s just like the glory of sports. That’s why people play that shit. For things to happen like that. That kind of supported people’s arguments—life might be a movie. Because that shit was a movie.
“We probably wouldn’t have bounced back as a city and rebuilt so quickly had none of that shit transpired. That interception fuckin repaved some streets. I’m serious. It got construction done. Where would the city be, bruh?
“That interception turned a lot of shit around, man. Legit. That interception opened businesses. The city was completely flattened by the hurricane. Just flattened. That interception is what put the city in position. I’m not even talking sports and Saints, because I’m talking about the whole city. So that’s everything included. We got renovations on the [Superdome]—everything just went crazy after that. That interception paved streets. Opened fuckin Buffalo Wild Wings and shit out here. That’s what that interception did. Bruh—we were under 10 feet of water, know what I’m sayin?”
As remembered by Branford Marsalis,
jazz musician and New Orleans native:
“I was in Algiers [La.], having rabbit stew with some of my boys from Southern University. We were all in front of a big-screen TV. The game was tight, everybody was screaming. We were just riveted, making all kind of noise. Tracy [Porter] had just intercepted it, so at that point you know the game is over. It’s very crystal. It’s right there. I remember the entire thing. We screamed, the guys outside started blowing their horns, and I was supposed to meet some friends from high school. They were camped out at the Royal Sonesta. And I said, ‘Well, it’s gonna be a little tricky, but they win the game, I’ll get there.’ So then, as soon as the game is over, I told my boys, ‘I gotta go back into the city cause I have to go meet some friends at Sonesta.’ I parked the car at the hotel I was staying on Camp Street, and I started walking. The crowd was so thick that the police horses couldn’t get through the people, and I said, ‘Aw, hell no. If I go through there, I’m going to be there until 4 o’clock in the morning.’ And I had to catch a 7:25 flight out the next morning to go back to work. So, I texted them, cause you couldn’t get phone calls to go through. It was like crisis mode; everybody was on the phone. So I said, ‘ can’t get in, man, everybody have fun.’ Then I went back and got some sleep [Laughs.]
“I got [to New Orleans] on the Saturday before the game, but the game was in Miami, and two things I remember happening: A couple of friends of mine from Miami called me and said, ‘Man, these have to be the craziest fucking fans I’ve ever seen in my life.’ She said, ‘You know, we’ve had a lot of Super Bowls down here, but you fools, y’all know how to party. Y’all know how to bring it. I ain’t laughed this hard in years.’ Cause we know how to party, and we know how to bring it, and it’s all good-natured, and we dress like fools, and we act a fool.
“We know it’s a small-market team. I can’t explain to you why—it’s not a city like New York, where the city’s fortunes kind of rise and fall with the team. Like, if you listen to talk radio in New Orleans, you won’t hear a bunch of screaming lunatics after a loss like you do in New York where they’re absolutely out of their mind. The people truly love the team. They know the names of everybody on the team.
“After the NFC Championship Game, which I did not go to because I was playing a concert in Montreal, I was flying back to Carolina, and bumped into a guy with Vikings shirt on. And I had my Saints shirt on, of course. I said, ‘Man, I’m sorry about the game. It’s football. You guys played a great game, and probably should’ve won, but that’s football.’ He goes, ‘Nah, man. I had the greatest time I’ve ever had in an opposing team’s city. People gave me shit the whole game, but you could feel that it was good-natured and wasn’t vicious. And when the Saints won, they took me out and got me drunk until 5 o’clock in the morning. It’s the greatest city, the greatest fans I’ve ever been around.’”
As remembered by Kevin Dyson,
former Tennessee Titans WR:
“First, we're coming out of a timeout. I had just caught the ball. Steve McNair made an unbelievable play, breaking a tackle with two defensive linemen on him and I made myself available once I saw him get loose, and then caught the ball, and we ended up getting a timeout. We’re sitting on the sidelines and just evaluating the whole situation. We have what we call 'zone man concept;' one side of the field was a man concept, the other side was a zone concept. There's a play dictated; I go in what we call 'return motion' to see if we can identify what kind of coverage they're in, and once you do that, they reveal their hand. They were in the zone. [Frank Wycheck] is the first initial read and he's reading the squat defender—or number two defender or whatever you want to call it—which is Mike Jones. [Jones] turned his back to McNair, who is parallel to our sideline facing me. [Jones’] rule is to carry the seam until he gets an immediate threat and then he comes off of that immediate threat and protects the ball. The set-up is: If I come down, [Jones is] going to come off of me and open up a passing lane for Frank Wycheck right behind where he should've been, covering Frank. Well, the distance is a little different if you run it in the middle field as opposed to running it in the end zone because now the safety, he doesn't have to back up as much, he doesn't have as much ground to cover, he's got the inline to protect the throw so he can squat. So it makes the play window a lot smaller. Mike had his back basically parallel, eyeballing me. I assumed he wasn't going to be able to make that play because I'm coming across his body frame, and I thought he didn't have enough leverage or contact on me to actually make the play. And Mike has said it several times that my momentum actually helped him get his body back around so he could get his left hand on my knee, so that I couldn't fully extend.
“It was a lot of emotions. Disappointment, wondered if you could do more, you felt like you let people down, you try to run the play several times in your head, trying to think of just like, stuff i just alluded to like the yellow paint of the endzone, anything. You just go through a whole lot of those normal post-game emotions. Y’know, once you evaluate the play, you see the highlights, and you talk to people, family and friends, and everybody trying to console you. There's that moment of self-pity, but that's short-lived. After that, it was used as a motivational tool for me. I think I went through a stressful period for a few weeks, because for me, that was first time that I can remember in my athletic life that I wasn't successful. I'm talking game-winning baskets, game-winning catches, and that was the first time and it was on the biggest stage of my life, that I wasn't successful, and so that was that was a tough pill. But like I said, that didn't last very long because I used it as motivation. I think I had my best offseason ever in my life—not that I never worked hard—but that off season I was so focused, I wanted to get back to that moment.
“I don't remember specifically [when I got over it]. I don't think it was that I just woke up one day and was like, "Y’know what, I'm done with it." I think it's just one thing that over time, time heals. It took a little longer because it was the last game of the year, it was the Super Bowl. In the regular season, if you lose a game in that fashion, you got Monday to sulk about it, Tuesday to think about it, Wednesday you're right back off to the next game. I think the difference with this it that it’s the last game of the year, and you're going into your offseason. So you're mourning, if you will, a little bit longer than normal because, there's nothing else to distract you. so, I don't know what or when the moment was. I get stress blisters or canker sores stress in my mouth, and I know I went to the dentist shortly after [the Super Bowl] and I had, like, twenty-something canker sores from stress. [Laughs.] I was real stressed about it, and my dentist and his hygienist, they take sulfur and they burn [the canker sores]. And, of course, my eyes are tearing up from the pain. It's excruciating, and [the hygienist] felt so bad, she started crying. She's, like, "I'm so sorry!"
As remembered by Mike Jones,
former St. Louis Rams LB:
“So we broke the huddle; we had a combination coverage, a man-to-man coverage on both sides. The safety dictates how we are going to play the man-to-man coverage. And our safety gave us the call that it was backzone; it was basically 3-on-2—or linebacker, cornerback, and safety had the tight end and the wide receiver because the running back was offset to the other side. So my responsibility was to take anything shallow and across between the two guys. And so what happened when the ball was snapped, was the tight end—who was the number two receiver—went vertical. The number one receiver went semi-vertical and I have to keep my vision on [them] to see if someone comes back inside. So when the wideset goes vertical, I am carrying him, not covering him, to the safety but I’m still looking to the number one receiver to see if he is looking inside. So as I'm carrying the tight end, I see that the wide receiver plants to come back inside, and my responsibility is to plant to come inside with him. I didn't see the ball thrown, but I was reacting to the receiver. [He] plants to come inside, but I plant, come downhill, and I was thinking he didn’t know that I was coming that way, but I found out later he knew exactly what I was going to do.
“When [Dyson] came back, and I am wrapping up the tackle, I had my right arm on his right leg, so I had stopped his right leg. His left leg was up like he was running, like a high-knee action, and when I went to wrap him, it stopped his momentum and he couldn’t move his right leg and he couldn’t move his left leg, so all he could do was fall. It was me wrapping up and stopping his momentum, and actually stopping his right leg and stopping his left leg caused him, from his momentum, to fall. His plant leg was still planted, and his left leg was still in the air when I caught him. Like I said, he fell, and when he fell—when I tackled him—he hit the ground and bounced and rolled and that's when everyone sees him reaching out. Before that happened, I already stopped him. [With my] momentum and his momentum, the way he was going, and the way I wrapped him up, he couldn’t do anything but fall.
“We talk all the time, actually last year I went up to his high school—he’s an AD at a high school outside of Nashville. So we did a play-by-play, that last drive, going over all the different things that were going on, and even after the Super Bowl we did that. Kevin and I probably talk every two years, if not more.