By Cameron Rasmusson
Almost a national holiday in its own right, the Super Bowl celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. When the Carolina Panthers face off against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, they carry on a tradition that has seen five decades of heroic plays and legendary moments.
At least, that’s what I’m told. I really don’t know much about football, although I enjoy Super Bowl parties as much as the next guy. Still, you have to appreciate the thrills that the game has generated in the past 50 years. So I’m deferring to the real sports journalists, who have been sharing their picks for the greatest Super Bowl moments of all time.
Super Bowl III: Namath’s guarantee
Some might call it bravado. Others could chalk it up to supreme confidence. Either way, NFL.com makes the case that New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath’s guarantee of a Super Bowl III victory is the greatest clutch moment in the game’s history.
In 1969, popular consensus held that the NFL would wipe the floor with the AFL any day of the week, a belief backed by the first two championships. Three days before the Super Bowl, Namath made headlines when he guaranteed a win for the AFL. Sure enough, Namath led his team to a 16-7 victory against the Baltimore Colts and cemented his place in sports history.
Super Bowl XXIII: Montana’s pass
Everyone loves of nail-biting Super Bowl finale. And according to ESPN, there was none more suspenseful than Super Bowl XXIII, which saw the San Francisco 49ers edge out a late-game touchdown for a 20-16 win against the Cincinnati Bengals in 1989.
Super Bowl XXIII proved a tight match between the Bengals and 49ers, but by the fourth quarter, it appeared the Bengals had the championship tied up with their 16-13 lead. Then, with just 34 seconds left in the game, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Joe Montana passed to John Taylor for a touchdown. It still holds the record as the latest game-winning Super Bowl touchdown.
Super Bowl XLIX: Butler’s interception
USA Today sportswriter Nate Davis believes the most recent Super Bowl, which saw the New England Patriots kill the Seattle Seahawks’ dreams of back-to-back championships, will be remembered as one of the all-time greats. Indeed, even a sports-illiterate rube like me can’t forget the Malcolm Butler interception that secured the Patriots’ victory and likely resulted in a million spilled beers across the Pacific and Inland Northwest.
Another historically tight game, the Patriots finally took the lead with only two minutes left on the clock. But the Seahawks rallied to for a final push that restored hopes for a last-minute touchdown. Malcolm Butler shut that possibility when he intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass, a play that has received no end of criticism.
Super Bowl XXXIV: Jones’ tackle
NBC Sports singles out the game-saving tackle by St. Louis Rams linebacker Mike Jones that broke hearts across Tennessee in 2000. Down seven points, the Tennessee Titans enjoyed a brief moment of exhilaration when wide receiver Kevin Dyson made a rush to the end zone in the game’s final play. The potential for a game-tying touchdown and overtime was squashed when Jones tackled Dyson just one yard shy of the goal line.