ATLANTA — We’ve gotten a bit spoiled in recent years after witnessing some of the best Super Bowls in history.
The New England Patriots prevailed two years ago in the first Super Sunday that featured overtime. Last year, they came out on the short end of a fast-break contest against the Eagles. And four years ago, Malcolm Butler saved them … or Pete Carroll did by green-lighting Seattle’s ill-advised goal line throw in the waning seconds.
With that backdrop, Super Bowl LIII might seem like a disappointment — and that’s a fair assessment given the way the explosive Rams were grounded and Sean McVay’s genius label besmirched after his team matched the lowest scoring output in the game’s history with three points in their 10-point defeat to the six-time champion Patriots.
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But the game was tied 3-3 entering the fourth quarter. Bill Belichick turned in another masterful coaching performance (shades of Super Bowl XXV when, as the Giants defensive coordinator, he put the brakes on the Bills’ K-Gun offense). And New England’s rarely respected defense did one heck of a job carrying the mail on a day when Tom Brady looked merely mortal.
For reference, here are the five worst Super Bowl contests in history (see where Super Bowl LIII ranks in our full breakdown here):
49. XII (1977) Cowboys 27, Broncos 10: In the first Super Bowl staged indoors (the Superdome had been open just three years), Dallas crushed its former quarterback, Craig Morton, and error-prone Denver (eight turnovers). It was the only Super Bowl with co-MVPs (defensive linemen Harvey Martin and Randy White).
50. VIII (1973) Dolphins 24, Vikings 7: MVP Larry Csonka rushed for a then-Super Bowl record 145 yards (QB Bob Griese only threw seven passes) as Miami repeated with a team many considered stronger than the 17-0 group of 1972.
51. XXXV (2000) Ravens 34, Giants 7: One of the most dominant defenses in league history pitched a shutout (the Giants’ points came via a kickoff return). Controversy swirled around Ray Lewis all week, but he finished it with MVP honors.
52. VI (1971) Cowboys 24, Dolphins 3: Tom Landry’s team finally shed a reputation for choking in big games by holding Miami to the fewest points of any Super Bowl entry on a 39-degree day at New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium.
53. XLVIII (2013) Seahawks 43, Broncos 8: The chasm between pre-game expectations and eventual outcome may have been the widest in the game’s history. Seattle’s Legion of Boom defense stifled a Peyton Manning-led offense that had scored a league-record 606 points.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis.