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Super Bowl History

Superbowl I Through Superbowl XV

Super Bowl history begins at the height of the rivalry between the NFL and AFL of the 1960′s. The National Football League, or NFL, started in 1920 and had become synonymous with pro football in America. In the Twenties, the NFL was considered secondary to college football. By the Sixties, the NFL was considered one of the country’s major television sports.

The American Football League

The American Football League or AFL, on the other hand, had only started in 1960. Several other pro leagues had challenged the NFL league, but the AFL was the most serious challenge to date. The owners of the AFL had an aggressive strategy. Besides New York City, the AFL avoided placing teams in NFL cities. This left numerous major American cities for the AFL teams: places like Buffalo, Houston, San Diego and Kansas City.

The AFL challenged the NFL directly in other areas, though. Their season was the same time of the year as the NFL season. Also, the AFL would offer contracts to players that NFL teams had drafted. This strategy wasn’t much of a danger in the early years, because the upstart AFL couldn’t compete monetarily with its wealthier rival. But when NBC signed a major television deal with the AFL in 1964, AFL teams were suddenly capable of competing for the same players.

Bidding wars started between AFL and NFL teams which owned a player’s "rights". Stories are told about players being lured out of hotel windows to sign a contract with the rival league. This fostered a spirit of rivalry between the leagues, but it allowed the AFL to steal some of the best college football talent.

Super Bowl History - Superbowl History The AFL was able to set itself apart from the NFL in other ways. The National Football League teams tended to rely on the traditional style of football, where running games and defenses were the most important phases of the game. In the AFL, teams experimented with their passing games, and the AFL was known for an entertaining game with high scoring games with big, highlight-reel plays. Though the NFL sneered at the supposedly inferior teams of the AFL, the younger league was gaining a substantial fan base.

The NFL-AFL Merger

By 1966, NFL owners decided it would be better to merge the two leagues than continue the competition. Though the NFL was the stronger and more prestigious league, the competition for players was driving up player salaries and starting to hurt the bottom line. So when the NFL and AFL agreed to work towards a merger in 1966, an AFL-NFL Championship Game became a part of this new affiliation. The respective champions of each league would meet at the end of each season in a showdown, starting in January 1967. This game would come to be known as the Super Bowl.

Super Bowl I

  • Date: January 15, 1967
  • Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
  • Opponents: Green Bay Packers v. Kansas City Chiefs
  • Score: Packers win 35-10
  • MVP: Bart Starr

Super Bowl I - Packers Chiefs SuperbowlThe game which is now called Super Bowl I was not known as such when it happened. It was only the AFL-NFL Championship Game. Though Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt informally called the game the Super Bowl during the talks leading to the game, it would not be until Super Bowl III that the game was hyped under that name. Hunt claimed the name was inspired by a game his children played in the driveway using a toy called the Superball.

The NFL sent the Green Bay Packers as a representative. The Packers had just won their fourth NFL title in the 1960′s, cementing Green Bay’s distinction as Titletown. They were led by head coach Vince Lombardi, whom the Super Bowl Trophy would eventually be named for. Bart Starr was the quarterback, while the offense and defense had a litany of football stars: Jim Taylor, Paul Hornung, Forrest Greg, Herb Adderly, Willie Wood and Ray Nitschke.

The AFL sen the Kansas City Chiefs as its representative. This group was led by head coach Hank Stram and quarterback Len Dawson. The Chiefs had the best offense in the offense-heavy AFL, as well as a solid defense based around a strong secondary and a stars in their front seven.

The Chiefs surprised most watchers by holding their own in the first half, and the game was 14-10 in the Packers favor at halftime. The Packers could out strong in the third quarter, with their defense dominating the Chiefs’ offense. An interception return to the Chiefs 5-yard line early in the second half was probably the key play of the game, and the Packers went on to shut out Kansas City in the second half on their way to a 35-10 victory.

Super Bowl II

  • Date: January 14, 1968
  • Stadium: Miami Orange Bowl
  • Opponents: Green Bay Packers v. Oakland Raiders
  • Score: Packers win 33-14
  • MVP: Bart Starr

The Green Bay Packers came into the game after a slim victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Championship Game. This was the famous Ice Bowl game, where the Packers won on a late touchdown in one of the coldest games in NFL history. Therefore, the Packers had won their fifth NFL title of the decade and were the heavy favorite to the win the second Superbowl.

Their opponent was the AFL’s Oakland Raiders. Like the Chiefs the year before them, the Raiders had been the AFL’s top scoring team. The Raiders stars were men like Daryle Lamonica, Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Fred Biletnikoff, Billy Cannon, Pete Banaszak and Ben Davidson.

The Packers controlled the ball much of the first half, but the Raiders defense was able to hold the Pack to three field goals on three of these drives, so they kept the score close at 16-7. Like in Super Bowl I, Green Bay controlled the third quarter, holding the ball for all but 2-and-a-half minutes. Eventualy, the Packers would get out to a 33-7 lead, before a late touchdown finished the scoring at 33-14.

This would be Vince Lombardi’s last game as the Green Bay Packers head coach. He would go on to coach the Washington Redskins one year before dying of cancer.

Super Bowl III

  • Date: January 12, 1969
  • Stadium: Miami Orange Bowl
  • Opponents: New York Jets v. Baltimore Colts
  • Score: Jets win 16-7
  • MVP: Joe Namath

Super Bowl III - Jets Colts SuperbowlSuper Bowl III is the game which finally legitimized the American Football League. The Baltimore Colts were the class of the NFL this year, and they were a prohibitive favorite against the New York Jets of the AFL.

Tired of being badgered about their underdog status, Jets quarterback Joe Namath predicted a Jets win in a heat of passion. Sure to his word, the Jets defeated the Colts 16-7 and Namath was named MVP.

As the score implies, the New York Jets defense had a great deal to do with the victory, holding the Colts to only 7 points.

Earl Morrell was the Colts starting quarterback and Don Shula was the Baltimore head coach. The Colts, looking for a spark in the second half, replaced Morrell with an aging Johnny Unitas, but he was unable to bring any magic to the Colts attack. Super Bowl III showed that AFL teams could compete and defeat NFL teams. After the previous two drubbings at the hands of the NFL, some of the momentum towards merger had slowed. This game began to speed up the process again.

Super Bowl IV

  • Date: January 11, 1970
  • Stadium: Miami Orange Bowl
  • Opponents: Kansas City Chiefs v. Minnesota Vikings
  • Score: Chiefs win 23-7
  • MVP: Len Dawson

The Kansas City Chiefs made their second appearance in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs and Len Dawson had battled through injuries in the regular season, and their team was an underdog even in the AFL playoffs. Overlooked was the fact that Kansas City’s defense was the strongest in the AFL that year.

The Minnesota Vikings of the NFL came into the game as 13 point favorites. They were led by the legendary Bud Grant, who would be a mainstay in Minnesota into the 1980′s. The vikings were also led by their defense, the so-called Purple People Eaters unit, which was led by stars such as Alan Page, Jim Marshall, Carl Eller and Paul Krause.

But it was the Chiefs defense which gaves the Vikings fits in the game. Kansas City employed a 3-4 defense, which was unheard of in the NFL. The Chiefs put a nose tackle over the Vikes smallish center, entirely disrupting their running attack throughout the game. Hank Stram devised a short passing attack to neutralize the Vikings fierce pass rush, and as the game progressed, the Chiefs were able to unleash a running game with traps to cut down on the Vikings’ aggression.

Super Bowl IV was in many ways as important for the AFL as Super Bowl III. The Chiefs’ win proved that the AFL victory the year before was not a fluke. This evened the Super Bowl series at 2-2. It was no coincidence that the AFL and NFL finally agreed to a full merger in the offseason. For the following 1970 season, the two leagues would become one: the NFL. Now there would be the NFC and AFC, two conferences in the merged league.

Super Bowl V

  • Date: January 17, 1971
  • Stadium: Miami Orange Bowl
  • Opponents: Baltimore Colts v. Dallas Cowboys
  • Score: Colts win 16-13
  • MVP: Chuck Howley

Super Bowl V - Colts Cowboys SuperbowlBecause the NFL had more teams than the AFL, the merger required three NFL teams to move into the American Football Conference. These teams were the Cleveland Browns, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Colts. Ironically, the Colts would be the first AFC champion, representing the former rival league in Super Bowl V.

The Dallas Cowboys, led by Tom Landry, were the Colts opponent in the game. The Cowboys had long been "next year’s team", because they seemed to be the talented team which couldn’t break through against opponents like the Green Bay Packers and Cleveland Browns.

Super Bowl V was the first Super Bowl which was close at the end. It also remains the only Super Bowl where the Most Valuable Player, Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley, came from the losing team. This game is known as the Blunder Bowl, because both teams played a sloppy game. Bubba Smith, a star on the Baltimore Colts at the time, refuses to win his Super Bowl ring, because the game was poorly played. In the end, the Colts won on a field goal with 9 seconds remaining.

Super Bowl VI

  • Date: January 16, 1972
  • Stadium: Tulane Stadium
  • Opponents: Dallas Cowboys v. Miami Dolphins
  • Score: Cowboys win 24-3
  • MVP: Roger Staubach

This was the year the Dallas Cowboys finally broke through. The Cowboys’ regular season began slowly, with Tom Landry playing Roger Staubach and Craig Morten in a platoon situation at quarterback. But after mid-season after Staubach took full control of the team, the Cowboys would not lose a game.

Meanwhile, the Don Shula had moved over from the Baltimore Colts. In the previous years, Shula had been building the Miami Dolphins into an AFC powerhouse. Miami would win the AFC the next three years, winning two Superbowls in that time.

The Dolphins were still a year away in Super Bowl VI. Dallas controlled play from the beginning of the game and they went on to an easy victory.

Super Bowl VII

  • Date: January 14, 1973
  • Stadium: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum
  • Opponents: Miami Dolphins v. Washington Redskins
  • Score: Dolphins win 14-7
  • MVP: Jake Scott

The Miami Dolphins returned the next season with an undefeated record. Therefore, they were going for a perfect record when they took on the Washington Redskins of George Allen.

George Allen was brought in to coach the team after the death of Vince Lombardi from cancer. Allen decided to build his team around veterans from around the league, while also fueling animosity with the Redskins division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, who by now were the defending world champs and the dominant team in the NFC East. The Redskins defeated the Cowboys in the playoffs to advance to the Super Bowl, and the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry would be one of the prominent features of the NFL in the 1970′s. George Allen was the primary agent of this rivarly.

This was a defensive struggle. Two of the three touchdowns came off of 4th quarter turnovers. The No-Name Defense of Miami was the story of the game, shutting out the Skins until late in the game. In fact, the only Redskins score was off a flubbed Garo Yepremian field goal.

Super Bowl VIII

  • Date: January 13, 1974
  • Stadium: Rice Stadium
  • Opponents: Miami Dolphins v. Minnesota Vikings
  • Score: Dolphins win 24-7
  • MVP: Larry Csonka

The Dolphins were looking for the first repeat championship since Lombardi’s Packers won Super Bowls I and II. They completed the feat behind a running attack led by Larry Csonka, who was the game’s MVP.

The Vikings were led by Fran Tarkenton, who had returned from a stint with the New York Giants to begin a run of excellence for Minnesota. Tarkenton would led the Vikings to the Superbowl three of the next four years.

Super Bowl IX

  • Date: January 12, 1975
  • Stadium: Rice Stadium
  • Opponents: Pittsburgh Steelers v. Minnesota Vikings
  • Score: Steelers win 16-6
  • MVP: Franco Harris

The two-time defending champion Miami Dolphins were eliminated from the AFC playoffs this year in the "Sea of Hands" game, when a Raiders receiver caught a ball late through the hands of three Dolphins defenders. The next week, the Pittsburgh Steelers eliminated the Raiders from contention.

Meanwhile, the Minnesota Vikings were proving themselves to be the class of the NFC, winning that conference for the second year in a row. Because of their greater championship game experience, many believed the Vikings were the favorites over the upstart Steelers. Like the Super Bowl the year before, the Minnesota Vikings defense was unable to stop a rugged running attack, this time in the form of Franco Harris.

The Steel Curtain Defense was able to frustrate and shut down the Vikings offense and Fran Tarkenton, and the Vikings were unable to score in double digits in a third Superbowl. After the season, the Dolphins dynasty came to an abrupt end, with Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield signing to play in the World Football League, which would remain in business for only one more year.

Super Bowl X

  • Date: January 16, 1976
  • Stadium: Miami Orange Bowl
  • Opponents: Pittsburgh Steelers v. Dallas Cowboys
  • Score: Steelers win 21-17
  • MVP: Lynn Swann

Super Bowl X - Steelers and CowboysThe Steelers repeated as world champions with a victory over the Dallas Cowboys in this Bicentennial Year showdown. Lynn Swann became nationally famous for his acrobatic catches, and he would become the game’s MVP.

The Dallas Cowboys were in a rebuilding year, and few expected them to reach the Super Bowl. The team had 12 rookies on their roster, though these rookies were of the likes of Randy White and Ed "Too Tall" Jones.

The Cowboys narrowly defeated the Minnesota Vikings to reach the Super Bowl, when Roger Staubach threw the famous "Hail Mary" pass to Drew Pearson late in the game. Had this play not happened, the Minnesota Vikings would have reached four Super Bowls in a row in the 1970′s.

As it was, the Pittsburgh Steelers were the new NFL dynasty, after a fifty year title drought. Chuck Noll and Terry Bradshaw were the head coach and quarterback, respectively, though the team was led by Harris running the ball and the Steel Curtain defense.

Super Bowl XI

  • Date: January 19, 1977
  • Stadium: Rose Bowl
  • Opponents: Oakland Raiders v. Minnesota Vikings
  • Score: Raiders win 32-14
  • MVP: Fred Belitnikoff

The Oakland Raiders finally won their first Superbowl, after many near misses in the previous years. They had lost in 1972 to the Steelers in the Immaculate Reception game, and the Steelers had been the Raiders nemesis for years. The Oakland Raiders finally defeated the Steelers in a big game in the Championship Game, though the Steelers were without Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, and Lynn Swann was knocked out of the game with a concussion.

The Minnesota Vikings returned to the game once more, led by Fran Tarkenton and Chuck Foreman. Tarkenton was by now the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yardage, completions and touchdowns. The Purple People Eaters defense had led the NFC in scoring defense, so the team came in with a formidable chance to win the game and avoid being the first NFL team to lose four Super Bowls.

Unfortunately for the Vikings, the Raiders were the better team. After a scoreless first quarter, the Raiders dominated the second quarter with 17 points. After the Vikings closed the score to 19-7, two Tarkenton interceptions set up Raiders touchdowns, including Willie Brown’s 75-yard interception touchdown return. Kenny Stabler was the quarterback of this Raiders team, and John Madden was the Oakland Raiders head coach.

Super Bowl XII

  • Date: January 15, 1978
  • Stadium: Louisiana Superdome
  • Opponents: Dallas Cowboys v. Denver Broncos
  • Score: Cowboys win 21-17
  • Co-MVPs: Randy White and Harvey Martin

Super Bowl XII - Cowboys Broncos SuperbowlThe Dallas Cowboys came into the Super Bowl on the strength of a #1 rated offense and a #1 rated defense. The team had traded in the previous offseason for the rights to Tony Dorsett, the previous Heisman Trophy Winner who became an instant big play performer.

The Denver Broncos were led by former Cowboys quarterback, Craig Morton, and the Orange Crush Defense. The Orange Crush included stars like Randy Graidishar, Tom Jackson and Lyle Alzado. The offense included Haven Moses and Ricky Upchurch, who was most dangerous as a kick returner.

The game was dominated by Dallas’ Doomsday Defense, which caused 8 Broncos turnovers. Denver had 7 turnovers by halftime and Craig Morton was eventually benched in the second half. Roger Staubach hit Butch Johnson for a long touchdown pass, and Robert Newhouse threw a halfback pass to Golden Richards for the play that sealed the win. The defense was so dominating that the right side of the Dallas defensive line, Randy White and Harvey Martin, were the co-Most Valuable Players.

Super Bowl XIII

  • Date: January 21, 1979
  • Stadium: Miami Orange Bowl
  • Opponents: Pittsburgh Steelers v. Dallas Cowboys
  • Score: Steelers win 35-31
  • MVP: Terry Bradshaw

This was a marquee match-up, featuring two recent Super Bowl champions, including the defending champs against a team which had won 2 of the past 4 titles. The game lived up to its billing, becoming on the highest-scoring and most hotly-contested games in Super Bowl history.

This was also the first ever Super Bowl rematch, as the Cowboys and Steelers had played in the title game three years before. The game featured dramatic swings in momentum in both halves, including big plays on both sides.

Terry Bradshaw had a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter, sometime after he lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown by the Cowboys. Dallas would score the only points of the 3rd quarter, though the drive was a major disappointment, because Hall of Fame tight end Jackie Smith dropped a sure touchdown pass which forced the Cowboys to kick a field goal instead. This would ultimately be the difference in the game.

The Steelers seized control of the game in the fourth quarter, after a disputed interference call set up a Franco Harris touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, the Steelers kicker nearly fell down kicking the ball, which caused the flubbed ball to go to a Cowboys lineman. The lineman fumbled the ball and the Steelers got the turnover, which turned into a beautiful Bradshaw-to-Swann touchdown.

Roger Staubach led the Dallas Cowboys back from their 35-17 deficit with two late touchdown drives, but an onside kick was grabbed by the Steelers, ending the rally.

Super Bowl XIV

  • Date: January 20, 1980
  • Stadium: Rose Bowl
  • Opponents: Pittsburgh Steelers v. Los Angeles Rams
  • Score: Steelers win 31-19
  • MVP: Terry Bradshaw

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their 4th title in 6 years, defeating the Los Angeles Rams to become the team of the Seventies. In winning, the Steelers defeated a game Rams football team which was not expected to put up much of a fight. The Rams were leading going into the 4th quarter, but two 4th quarter touchdown drives put the game out of reach for Pittsburgh.

This time, Bradshaw would hook up with John Stallworth, whose career production across from Lynn Swann was actually greater than his more famous teammate’s.

This was the first game played in one of the team’s home cities, as the Los Angeles Rams were playing in the L.A. area. Jack Youngblood, a defensive standout for the Rams, played the game on a broken leg, which was injured earlier in the playoffs.

Super Bowl XV

  • Date: January 25, 1981
  • Stadium: Louisiana Superdome
  • Opponents: Oakland Raiders v. Philadelphia Eagles
  • Score: Raiders win 27-10
  • MVP: Jim Plunkett

Super Bowl XV - Raiders Eagles SuperbowlThe Oakland Raiders won their second World Championship, this time as a wildcard team. Jim Plunkett overcame a career of disappointments as the Raiders quarterback, while Tom Flores performed an understated role as the Oakland Raiders head coach.

As always, the Raiders had plenty of characters, including Lyle Alzado, John Matuszak, Lester Hayes and Ted Hendricks on defense.

The Philadelphia Eagles were led by Dick Vermeil, who had built the Eagles up from one of the doormats of the NFL. Their quarterback was Ron Jaworski–Jaws to many fans. His main weapons on offense were Wilbert Montgomery at running back and the 6’8" Harold Carmichael at wide receiver.

The Oakland Raiders largely shut down the Eagles offense, while Kenny King made a couple of big plays to help lead the Raiders to the victory. Mistakes hurt Philadelphia, including multiple turnovers and a penalty which negated an early touchdown pass.

The Lombardi Trophy ceremony between NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis was tension-packed, due to Davis’s unsuccessful 1980 attempt to move the team to Los Angeles. Davis would sue the NFL in 1982.

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