Sometimes the game is a blowout, and sometimes the game is close. Either way, the Super Bowl almost always delivers something unusual, be it a play on the field, a halftime incident, a new technological innovation, or even the implementation of new rules and game-day standards. Let’s take a look at some of the most unusual facts and stories from each Super Bowl.

 

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Super Bowl I: Max McGee’s hangover leaves Chiefs feeling sick

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McGee was a backup and didn’t expect to get much action in the game. So of course, he stayed out all night and took in the Los Angeles social scene. Boyd Dowler, ahead of McGee on the depth chart, was hurt on the game’s second play. Big trouble for a guy with a hangover, right? Wrong. McGee caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Pack to victory.

 

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Super Bowl II: What’s in a name?

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Fun fact: The first two Super Bowls were not known as such. They were simply termed the “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.” Sharron Hunt, daughter of Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt, was trying to speak about her Super Ball toy, and her accent inspired her father to informally term the Chiefs-Packers tilt as the “Super Bowl.” The Colts-Jets matchup in 1969 was the first game to formally bear the name.

 

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Super Bowl III: The upset to end all upsets

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There’s a good chance that the Super Bowl would not be quite the spectacle it has become without Joe Namath’s guarantee of victory and his team’s play to back it up. The Jets’ upset of the heavily favored Colts legitimized the AFL, turned Namath into a star and is still recognized as one of the most famous upsets in American sports history. 

 

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Super Bowl IV: Full of hot air

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You might think that early Super Bowl halftime shows were much more tame than their modern counterparts, and you’d be mostly correct. Still, there were some interesting spectacles. Super Bowl IV featured a hot-air balloon that was supposed to rise above the stadium. Instead, it blew into the stands. Somewhat incredibly, no one was hurt.

 

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Super Bowl V: Even losers win

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Linebacker Chuck Howley’s Super Bowl experience was a bittersweet one, as he picked off two passes and was named MVP. Of course, Howley also became the answer to a trivia question because his Cowboys lost, and he became the first (and still only) member of the losing team to win MVP.

 

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Super Bowl VI: Nixon draws one up

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Imagine, if you will, Donald Trump drawing up a play for Bill Belichick and telling him to call it during the game. Now imagine Belichick actually running it, or at least attempting to. It actually happened in Super Bowl VI, when Richard Nixon made a suggestion to Don Shula about a route for Paul Warfield. Dallas stifled the play, with Tom Landry indicating that the Cowboys made extra sure not to get beat by a presidential pass.

 

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Super Bowl VII: Garo’s “legendary” toss

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The Dolphins finished a 17-0 season with a 14-7 win over Washington, but the result would not have been that close had Garo Yepremian’s clinching field-goal attempt not been blocked. Yepremian picked up the blocked kick and tried to throw it, but the ball fell out of his hand and into the arms of Washington’s Mike Bass, who ran it in for a touchdown. To this day the play might be the most recognizable folly in league history and is often replayed in slow motion, to great comedic effect.

 

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Super Bowl VIII: From front to back

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If you scan old Super Bowl box scores, you occasionally find made field goals of 10 yards or less, which seem like misprints given the game’s modern rules. However, the goal posts were at the front of the end zone, so such chip shots were somewhat common. Super Bowl VIII was the last game to feature the uprights up front, as they were moved to the end line for the next season. Both kickers were perfect in the game, by the way.

 

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Super Bowl IX: An apology from…Mary Tyler Moore?

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The “Mary Tyler Moore Show” used Super Bowl IX as part of the plot of an episode that aired the night before the game. On the show, which was set in Minneapolis, the Vikings won the game. As the end credits rolled, Moore herself apologized in advance to Steelers fans, should their team win. They did, and the apology, unlike Minnesota’s attempt at bringing home the title, was successful.

 

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Super Bowl X: Tick tock, tick tock

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In today’s sports world, the idea that any piece of vital information would be unavailable to both fans and players is borderline farcical. Super Bowl X was the first Super Bowl where the play clock was visible to teams and spectators, crazy though it may seem. The following season was the first in which a visible play clock was mandatory at all contests.

 

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Super Bowl XI: Vikings the first to four…losses

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Before the Buffalo Bills were the Buffalo Bills, the Minnesota Vikings cornered the market on Super Bowl heartbreak. The Vikings played in four of the first 11 Super Bowls, more than any other team, but lost all of them, each time by double digits. Minnesota hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl in 43 years.

 

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Super Bowl XII: Sharing is caring

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It must be something with the Cowboys and quirks of the MVP Award. Chuck Howley was the only player from a losing team to win it, and Harvey Martin and Randy White were the only players to share it, as their stellar defensive work (a combined three sacks) paced Dallas to an easy win over the Denver Broncos.

 

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Super Bowl XIII: SB as in “Super Bowl”? No, as in “Spelling Bee”

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No player dominated the run-up to this game like Cowboys linebacker Hollywood Henderson. The Dallas defender ripped into Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, questioning his intelligence by suggesting that Bradshaw couldn’t spell “cat” if spotted the “c” and the “a.” Bradshaw got the last laugh, however, throwing for 318 yards and four touchdowns to pace Pittsburgh to a 35-31 victory and claim MVP honors.

 

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Super Bowl XIV: Steel Curtain causes a color change

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Ask just about anyone about Pittsburgh sports and two colors come to mind: black and gold. While the Pirates and the Steelers have always sported those colors, the Pittsburgh Penguins came into the NHL with powder blue as their primary color. Perhaps as a nod to the Bucs and Steelers, who after this game had combined for three titles in the previous 13 months, the Pens changed their color scheme to black and gold a mere 10 days after the Steelers were victorious. 

 

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Super Bowl XV: No plane, no problem

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We’ve all used the “my alarm didn’t go off” excuse, right? Sometimes it might even be true. Usually, it’s not a big deal, but for the Raiders’ Cliff Branch, it could have been a disaster. He missed the team flight to New Orleans and blamed his alarm for the mishap. Branch caught two touchdown passes in the game, and Oakland owner Al Davis didn’t seem to mind, saying of Branch’s lateness, “What the heck’s the difference?”

 

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Super Bowl XVI: A game-changing tool makes its debut

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We all take the telestrator for granted these days, as technology for highlighting certain players or areas of the field has gone to the next level. But for a long time, it was the industry standard for a color analyst who wanted to show viewers exactly what he was breaking down. The telestrator made its national debut in Super Bowl XVI, and of course John Madden was on the call to ring it in.

 

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Super Bowl XVII: Markbreit can’t make heads or tails of things

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Surely nothing could go wrong at the opening coin toss, right? Well, there’s a reason that the referee makes sure that both teams know which side of the ceremonial coin is heads and which is tails. That’s because Jerry Markbreit flubbed the toss in this one, mistakenly calling it as heads when it was in fact tails. Thankfully for him, the game didn’t come down to any sort of dramatic late penalty call.

 

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Super Bowl XVIII: Allen’s “mistake” sinks Washington

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Washington was already in big trouble, having just been stopped on fourth-and-1 to give the ball back to the Raiders and down 28-9. The Redskins needed a big defensive play, and when Marcus Allen arced way outside on a run to the left, in what he later admitted was a gaffe on his part, they had a chance at throwing him for a big loss. Instead he cut back, made several defenders miss and ran for a then Super Bowl-record 74-yard score. Washington was officially done.

 

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Super Bowl XIX: Nothing like home cooking

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No team has played the Super Bowl in its home stadium, with the Vikings blowing their chance two years ago. Only two, the Rams in Super Bowl XIV and the 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, have played it in their home markets. The Niners were right at home in Stanford Stadium, ripping off 21 straight points in response to a 10-7 deficit and then cruising to a victory in the second half. 

 

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Super Bowl XX: Super Bowl Shuffle

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The 1985 Bears were great. Some would argue that they were the greatest single team of all time. They were so good that they put out a rap song, the “Super Bowl Shuffle,” that became a hit. The single sold half a million copies and got all the way to No. 41 on the Billboard Hot 100. Such antics would doubtless be bulletin board material for the opponent, right? Apparently they weren’t for the AFC champion Patriots, who took a 3-0 lead then got pasted by a final of 46-10, at the time the most lopsided final score in Super Bowl history.

 

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Super Bowl XXI: The taste of victory is sweet — literally — for Bill Parcells

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The “Gatorade Shower” is ubiquitous these days. Every victorious coach knows it’s coming, and cameras follow jubilant players as they sneak up on their coach, bucket in tow. It wasn’t always this way. The Giants started the practice the prior season, but it wasn’t until they doused Bill Parcells after routing the Broncos that a national audience bore witness to the spectacle. Any coaches who hate having to clean themselves off after an involuntary bath have the G-Men to thank.

 

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Super Bowl XXII: Timmy Smith — from unknown to star and back again

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There have been unlikely Super Bowl standouts — Larry Brown  and Dexter Jackson spring to mind — but no single player’s star burned brighter and dimmed faster than Washington’s Timmy Smith. A rookie making his first NFL start, Smith ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, then he promptly lost the starting running back job the next year and was out of the league after the 1990 season.

 

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Super Bowl XXIII: Enter Elvis Presto

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Before there was “Left Shark,” there was “Elvis Presto” and the “Be Bop Bamboozled in 3-D” halftime show. The show was designed to be viewed in 3-D, and viewers were told that if they had trouble seeing some of the images, they should consult an optometrist. Needless to say, the “entertainment” was not well received. 

 

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Super Bowl XXIV: The mother of all blowouts

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To this day, no team has topped San Francisco’s 55 points, nor has anyone eclipsed the 45-point margin of victory. The Niners scored two touchdowns in every quarter, and only a missed extra point stood between them and a perfect row of 14s on the scoreboard. The final margin did not lie, as most analysts still view this as the worst Super Bowl ever played, at least from a competitiveness standpoint.

 

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Super Bowl XXV: A clean game goes the Giants’ way

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Most years, the Super Bowl matches the two best teams in the league, or close to it. Given that reality, it probably comes as a surprise that it took 25 Super Bowls for one to be played without a single turnover by either side. That was the case in this one, something that likely worked to the Giants’ advantage, as they could not afford to make things easy for Buffalo’s vaunted K-Gun offense. We all know how the game ended, but Scott Norwood’s missed field goal was the closest thing to a miscue in this one.

 

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Super Bowl XXVI: Thurman Thomas’ helmet disappears

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The Bills lost Super Bowl XXVI, 37-24, and truthfully they were so sloppy, so completely outclassed by the Redskins, that no variable would likely have changed the outcome. Still, it was awkward and strange when Thurman Thomas didn’t start the game on offense. The Bills’ star running back didn’t make it on the field until Buffalo’s third play because he couldn’t find his helmet after coming back to the sideline from the coin toss. The incident is yet another in the long line of indignities Buffalo has suffered in the biggest game of them all.

 

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Super Bowl XXVII: Leon’s gallop for glory goes awry

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The game was already decided. The Cowboys were well on their way to victory. Still, every defensive lineman dreams of scoring a touchdown, especially in the Super Bowl. Leon Lett, after picking up a Frank Reich fumble and seeing nothing but green in front of him, seemed destined to live the dream. He soaked up his moment, slowing down into a trot at the 10-yard line. However, he didn’t count on Buffalo’s Don Beebe chasing him down from behind and knocking the ball from his hands and out of the end zone, turning his moment of glory into an infamous, if harmless, Super Bowl memory.

 

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Super Bowl XXVIII: Deja vu all over again for Bills, Cowboys

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This game marked the first and so far only time that the same two teams met in back-to-back years in the Super Bowl. It was going much better for the Bills in this one, too, as they carried a 13-6 lead into halftime. Things unraveled quickly after that, with Dallas tying the game then turning a Buffalo fumble into a touchdown and a lead it would never relinquish. The Bills haven’t been back to the Super Bowl since.

 

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Super Bowl XXIX: Bad game, worse halftime show

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The Chargers were the biggest underdog in Super Bowl history, and they played like it, trailing 28-10 at halftime. The game had little drama, so hopefully the halftime show would redeem it, right? Wrong. The show was a bizarre mess, conceived to promote Disneyland’s “Indiana Jones Adventure” attraction, which was opening later in the year. 

 

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Super Bowl XXX: Larry Brown, unlikeliest of heroes

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Larry Brown was a starter at cornerback for Dallas, and while he had a nice enough career, he may have been the lowest-profile player to win Super Bowl MVP. He had two interceptions on the day, but each one could not have been more perfectly gift-wrapped by Pittsburgh’s Neil O’Donnell, who threw the ball directly to Brown on two separate occasions with no Steelers receivers in the area either time. Brown signed a lucrative contract with the Raiders in the off-season, but there’s no word on whether he felt compelled to give O’Donnell a cut.

 

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Super Bowl XXXI: Introducing the FoxBox

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These days, we take for granted the fact that the score, time remaining and down and distance are always on the screen. This was not the case in the first 30 Super Bowls, until Fox, televising the game for the first time, introduced the FoxBox and revolutionized the way games are presented on television. As for the game itself? Well, let’s just say the FoxBox deserved a more dramatic contest.

 

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Super Bowl XXXII: Flawless offense earns Elway long-treasured title

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John Elway’s Super Bowl experiences were full of heartbreak, and many figured he’d end his career without a title. Then Terrell Davis came along, and the Broncos sent their Hall of Fame quarterback out in style with back-to-back titles. This one was particularly noteworthy because, aside from Elway’s kneel downs to run out the clock and a few penalties, Denver did not have a single negative play on offense. 

 

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Super Bowl XXXIII: Eugene Robinson gets busted

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The Falcons, fresh off an upset of the 15-1 Vikings in the NFC championship game, were looking to do the same to Denver in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, they had to deal with a major distraction when defensive back Eugene Robinson was busted for soliciting a prostitute the night before the game. The incident clearly distracted Atlanta, and the Falcons were never really competitive in a 34-19 loss.

 

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Super Bowl XXXIV: From groceries to greatness

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Hollywood couldn’t write a story as great as Kurt Warner’s. Left on the trash heap by the NFL, Warner at one point took a job stocking shelves at a grocery store to make ends meet. He made a name for himself in the Arena League and NFL Europe, and he finally exploded into the national consciousness as the impresario of the Greatest Show on Turf, stepping in and scorching the league once Trent Green was lost to injury. Warner capped off an improbable run by hitting Isaac Bruce for a long touchdown to top the Titans, 23-16.

 

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Super Bowl XXXV: Lewises shall lead them

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The game was not competitive by any stretch, with the Ravens dominating en route to a 34-7 win. What was unusual is that each phase of the game was defined by someone with the surname Lewis. Jamal Lewis was the game’s top rusher, Jermaine Lewis returned a kick for a touchdown and linebacker Ray Lewis was the game’s MVP. 

 

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Super Bowl XXXVI: Vinatieri makes Super Bowl history

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Until this game, not one Super Bowl had been decided on the game’s final play. Even a late field goal by the Colts to win Super Bowl V happened with a few ticks left on the clock. This time, Adam Vinatieri’s winning kick sailed through as the clock showed all zeroes, marking the first “walk-off” win in the game’s history.

 

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Super Bowl XXXVII: Robbins goes AWOL

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Barret Robbins was a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 2002, anchoring a strong Raiders offensive line. Inexplicably, he went missing for most of the day before the game after not taking his depression medication. When he finally showed up at the team hotel that evening he was disoriented, and Bill Callahan left him off Oakland’s roster. It turned out that Robbins had been partying in Tijuana, Mexico, thinking (according to his wife) that the Raiders had already won the game. Needless to say, they didn’t.

 

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Super Bowl XXXVIII: “Wardrobe malfunction”

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In what is arguably the most infamous moment in broadcast television history, Justin Timberlake briefly exposed fellow halftime show star Janet Jackson’s breast, which was partially covered with a nipple shield. The FCC came down hard on CBS for the incident, which ended up sparking plenty of debate about indecency in broadcasting. The incident was the most rewatched moment in TiVo history to that point.

 

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Super Bowl XXXIX: McNabb leaves Eagles fans feeling sick

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The Eagles fought valiantly against the favored Patriots, and when they got the ball back deep in their own territory with little time left on the clock, their chances of winning weren’t good. The real story that came out of the waning minutes was a major debate on whether Philly’s Donovan McNabb was dry-heaving or vomiting as the clock wound down. With no conclusive video evidence either way, this one comes down to personal belief. 

 

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Super Bowl XL: Roethlisberger’s bad day ends well

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It is likely that no winning quarterback played a worse Super Bowl than Ben Roethlisberger. He ran for a disputed touchdown and did hit a crucial deep pass to set up another Steelers score, but aside from that, he did virtually nothing and finished the game with a passer rating of 22.6. Not that Roethlisberger needed to apologize because without his efforts, the Steelers wouldn’t have made it to the game in the first place.

 

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Super Bowl XLI: Hester starts things off with a bang

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Devin Hester electrified NFL fans with his return skills the minute he suited up for the Chicago Bears. When Chicago won the coin toss and elected to receive, everyone held their breath. Hester rewarded them by taking the opening kick back 92 yards for a score, the first time the opening kick had been returned for a touchdown in Super Bowl history.

 

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Super Bowl XLII: Tyree makes the most of his moment

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The Patriots were a juggernaut, 18-0 and favored to complete a perfect season and win their fourth Super Bowl of the decade. Eli Manning and David Tyree had other plans, and on New York’s winning drive, Manning scrambled out of what looked like a certain sack and hit Tyree, who had already caught a touchdown pass, for a huge gain. The catch was all the more unlikely because Tyree was forced to pin the ball to his helmet to gain control of it as he hit the ground. The Giants went on to win, and Tyree never caught another pass in the NFL.

 

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Super Bowl XLIII: A quiet Super Bowl week gets a great ending

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Due to the global financial crisis, the festivities leading up to Super Bowl XLIII were scaled back from the norm. Tickets were much more affordable, and the overall feeling of the event was somewhat muted. The game itself, however, delivered plenty of drama, with James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return standing alone in the eyes of many as the greatest defensive play in the game’s history and Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger trading touchdown passes in the final three minutes, with Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes hooking up for the winning score with less than a minute to play.

 

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Super Bowl XLIV: Payton’s gamble outshines, well, Peyton

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Down 10-6 at the half to Peyton Manning and the favored Colts, Sean Payton’s Saints needed a spark, so he made the bold call for an onside kick to start the third quarter. The gamble paid off, as the Saints recovered and drove down the field for a go-ahead score. Manning and the Colts rallied back, but New Orleans never blinked, retaking the lead and then sealing the game on a …