Fair or not, quarterbacks get a healthy amount of praise and/or criticism for their teams' success. Having the ball in your hands tends to have certain responsibilities, after all. Whether it's playing mistake-free or carrying their teammates on their backs, quarterbacks play a huge part in the outcome of a game, especially the Super Bowl.
The championship game brings together the last passers standing from each conference. Both bring a different flair to the position, but the goal remains the same: Win the game. This has produced some epic quarterback duels, from both players trading scores or young upstarts making names for themselves by knocking off the top dogs. The Super Bowl brings out the best in quarterbacks or crushes them under immense pressure. Either way, it's highly entertaining. With that in mind, here is a ranking of every Super Bowl quarterback matchup.
Fans and experts called this the “Blunder Bowl” for a reason. Despite having great quarterbacks in Johnny Unitas and Craig Morton, neither showed up for the biggest game of the year. Unitas didn’t even finish the game, getting knocked out in the second quarter but not before he threw two interceptions compared to just three completions. Morton survived the game but didn’t fare any better, throwing three interceptions and completing less than 50 percent of his passes. Many people want to forget this one.
Some of the greatest quarterbacks in the game have played in the Super Bowl. Trent Dilfer and Kerry Collins are not among them. Both teams rode running games and strong defenses. It seems that any quarterback who played it safe could’ve been behind center and would have made it to the game. The Super Bowl only confirmed those suspicions. Collins got roughed up by one of the best defenses of all time, getting picked off and sacked four times each. Dilfer technically won the duel by getting the win but didn’t do much, completing less than 50 percent of his passes but throwing for a touchdown. Most Super Bowls have at least one quarterback who performs well. This one had none.
Yes, it’s Peyton Manning, but he was a shell of his former self, relying on the excellence of his defense to win. Cam Newton established himself as one of the faces of the NFL with 3,837 passing yards, 636 rushing yards and 45 total touchdowns. Newton was expected to excel, but not even he could solve the Denver D. Newton was sacked six times and threw one interception. He also lost two fumbles in a messy game. Manning held on for dear life, throwing for only 141 yards and taking five sacks. Manning-Newton is a great generational debate. Unfortunately, the reality in 2016 was so much worse.
Both Super Bowl quarterbacks had less than ideal starts to the season. Bob Griese fractured his leg early in the year, while Billy Kilmer was replaced three games into the season by a 38-year-old Sonny Jurgensen before gaining the starting job again after the veteran went down with an Achilles injury. Both weren't much of a factor in this Super Bowl. Griese leaned heavily on Larry Csonka and the stable of running backs behind him, completing only eight passes on 11 attempts. Kilmer did the same but ended up contributing to the Redskins' woes with three interceptions. This was not a quarterback duel fans would remember.
The wily veteran vs. the young gunslinger: Starr was playing in what was the last season of his Hall of Fame career, while Lamonica was setting the AFL on fire with his powerful arm. The “Mad Bomber” found out it takes a lot more than a big arm to win the Super Bowl, though, as Starr managed the game to perfection to win his second straight championship. For all his production in the regular season, Lamonica couldn’t move the ball against a stingy Green Bay defense. It didn’t help that the Packers were eating the clock with long possessions, keeping the explosive Oakland offense on the bench. Lamonica got some garbage-time yards and finished with 208 yards and two touchdowns, but Starr expertly led the Packers behind an efficient 202 yards on 13 completions with one touchdown.
Much like in the previous year’s Super Bowl, Bob Griese didn’t have to do much to help the Dolphins win their second straight championship. He had to complete six passes this time while leaning on Larry Csonka again. Minnesota’s Fran Tarkenton did his best to dance and scramble the Vikings back in the game but found it hard to do anything against Miami. He finished with 182 passing yards and one interception. It was another snoozer of a quarterback matchup.
After the previous few Super Bowl quarterback matchups, this one was a dud. It wasn’t the talent level that was the problem. Ben Roethlisberger got hurt during the season and still put up 2,385 passing yards and 17 touchdowns in 12 games. Matt Hasselbeck rode Shaun Alexander's 28-touchdown MVP campaign and threw for 24 touchdowns against nine interceptions. The Super Bowl was another story. The game was plagued by questionable officiating, and the players didn’t do much to make it any better. Roethlisberger went 9-of-21 in his pass attempts and was intercepted twice. Hasselbeck did better, with 273 pass yards, but was sacked three times. It was an ugly game in terms of quarterback play.
With one of the greatest quarterbacks ever on one side and an emerging star in Los Angeles on the other, you would have thought Super Bowl LIII's quarterback matchup would have produced better results. Unfortunately fans were subjected to one of the most boring offensive displays in this pass-heavy era of football. Jared Goff, who passed for 4,688 passing yards and 32 touchdowns in the 2018 season, was stoned by Bill Belichick, looking lost while only completing 50 percent of his passes and guiding the Rams to three points. Brady, who was no slouch with over 4,300 passing yards, threw his signature dump-offs and slants for a yawn-inducing 262 yards and wasn't directly responsible for any points scored by New England. Many were expecting fireworks for this matchup but instead got one of the most infuriating Super Bowl games ever.
You could’ve literally put any quarterback against the Chicago Bears defense in 1985, and it wouldn’t have mattered. The Bears were going to win no matter what. Jim McMahon was a solid quarterback, completing 12 passes for 256 passing yards, but Tony Eason couldn’t do anything, missing all six of his pass attempts before getting knocked out of the game. This couldn’t be a more forgettable matchup.
The first Super Bowl featured two of the era’s most accurate passers. Len Dawson led the AFL with a 56 percent completion percentage, while Starr completed 62.2 percent of his passes to lead the NFL. Even though Dawson crushed Starr in the touchdown department (26-14), it was Starr who prevailed in the championship game. After star receiver Boyd Dowler went down, Starr rode veteran tight end Max McGee the entire game, completing seven passes to him for 138 yards. Dawson couldn’t keep up with Starr, finishing with 39 fewer pass yards and throwing a critical third quarter interception that gave Green Bay the momentum the rest of the game. The Packers won, 35-10.
The Colts were 18-point favorites to destroy the less-productive Jets. A big reason for that huge spread was Morrall, who led the NFL with 26 touchdowns in 1968. Joe Namath, who was looked like a woefully inferior quarterback in comparison, boldly claimed the Jets would win the Super Bowl three days before the game was played. The rest was history. Morrall couldn’t solve the Jets defense, throwing three interceptions before being replaced by veteran Johnny Unitas. Namath, on the other hand, dinked and dunked his way past the Colts’ blitzing defense, finishing with 206 yards on 17 completions. He may not have torched the AFL during the season, but he did what he needed to do to win the league’s first Super Bowl.
With two historic defenses in this Super Bowl, there was little hope that either quarterback was going to flex his muscles much. Terry Bradshaw found some success getting on Franco Harris’ back and riding his 158 rushing yards. He finished the game with nine completions and a touchdown. Fran Tarkenton once again was foiled by a great defense, throwing three interceptions, and the “Steel Curtain” stuffed Chuck Foreman time and time again.
Joe Kapp wasn’t a passer like Len Dawson, but he was so tough on runs from the quarterback position that he earned the nickname “indestructible.” Dawson had a rough season, missing six games with a knee injury, and he barely qualified for the playoffs. The fortunes flipped in the Super Bowl. Kapp never had to play against a defense as big as the Chiefs'. He struggled to find receivers, throwing two interceptions, and ran for only 9 yards. On the other side of the field, Dawson had an easier time taking advantage of open receivers on the short routes, throwing for 142 yards on 12 completions with one touchdown. Neither quarterback lit the world on fire, as the defenses dominated this game.
The 33-year-old Jim Plunkett revived his career with the Raiders after stinking it up in New England and San Francisco. With Ron Jaworski leading the Eagles with 3,529 yards and 27 touchdowns in the regular season, this was set to be a great matchup. Well, at least Plunkett came to play. Plunkett put on a deep-ball clinic, throwing for three touchdowns and 261 yards on 13 completions. Jaworski, on the other hand, went the opposite direction, getting picked off three times. The Eagles scored only 10 points, and the Raiders won easily.
The quarterback position and the Miami Dolphins have a curious relationship. The team reached four Super Bowls to this point without a quarterback who put up huge numbers. Even though this matchup featured the top-rated passer in the NFC in Joe Theismann, not even he was enough to make this duel intriguing with David Woodley behind center for Miami. Woodley completed four of his 14 pass attempts for 96 yards, with a majority of them coming from a 76-yard scoring connection with Jimmy Cefalo in the first quarter. Theismann did his best to make the quarterback battle semi-exciting, completing 15-of-23 passes for 143 yards with two touchdowns. His two interceptions were an eyesore though, making this matchup a bore.
The third time was not the charm for Fran Tarkenton. Even after establishing himself as the league’s all-time leader in pass completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns, he couldn’t get over the hump to win a Super Bowl. Tarkenton had trouble with the Raiders' 3-4 defense filled with aggressive, hard-hitting players. Ken Stabler, on the other hand, had no problem solving the Purple People Eaters defense, handing the ball off to Clarence Davis and Mark van Eeghen and managing the game perfectly by completing 12-of-19 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown.
Two young, hotshot quarterbacks met in Super Bowl VI, with Roger Staubach earning the starting job in his third year, while Bob Griese threw for nearly 2,100 yards and 19 touchdowns. The former Navy Vietnam veteran rode a productive run game and chipped in with 119 yards on 12 completions, including two passing touchdowns. Griese couldn’t carry the load after his running game failed him, throwing for 134 yards, getting picked off once and fumbling the ball. He would have a chance to redeem himself soon enough.
Roger Staubach replaced Craig Morton as the Dallas Cowboys quarterback in 1971, and Dallas never looked back. Morton got a chance for revenge against his former team in Super Bowl XII. He did not capitalize. Morton fell victim to Dallas’ Doomsday Defense, throwing four interceptions and completing only four passes for 39 yards. Staubach had more success against the vaunted Orange Crush Denver defense, throwing for 183 yards and one touchdown. This was hyped a revenge game but ended up being a dud.
It was already a miracle that the Rams made it into the playoffs, and they got to the Super Bowl, which was even more unbelievable. But it was no thanks to quarterback Vince Ferragamo. The fourth-round draft pick was expected to get outdueled by Terry Bradshaw, and he didn’t do much to fight that. Ferragamo finished the game with 212 passing yards but never hit pay dirt for a score and had one pass intercepted. Bradshaw may have had three passes picked off, but he added two touchdowns and threw for 309 yards. There wasn’t much back and forth like there was with him and Staubach the previous year. It was all Bradshaw this time.
Two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks usually provide a matchup full of potential. With MVP-winning Joe Theismann and Jim Plunkett still showing off his big arm, everyone was expecting an explosive Super Bowl. Neither delivered. Plunkett took a backseat to running back Marcus Allen, who rushed for 191 yards. The Raiders quarterback at least notched one touchdown. Theismann couldn’t even manage that, throwing two interceptions. The Raiders made the Super Bowl a laugher, winning 38-9.
Before Phil Simms was doing Super Bowl broadcasts, he was on the field winning one. The “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” Giants defense may have gotten the headlines, but Simms led the offense with 3,487 passing yards. John Elway was already entertaining crowds with his ability to scramble. In the Super Bowl, Simms outdueled Elway with three touchdowns, while Elway had a tough time moving the ball against Lawrence Taylor and Co. He still finished with over 300 yards passing, but he was unable to make the Super Bowl intriguing.
You would think in a matchup featuring a record-setting Peyton Manning, who threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns, would be exciting no matter what. It was quite the contrary when he ran into the Legion of Boom. Manning was throttled by Seattle, throwing two interceptions, getting sacked once and losing a fumble. Russell Wilson gobbled up the extra possessions his defense gave him, managing the game perfectly with 206 yards and two touchdowns. What was supposed to be a competitive matchup ended up being a laugher.
Redskins quarterback Doug Williams started the season on the bench but took over the starting job at the end of the season. In five games, he piled up 1,156 yards and 11 touchdowns, but he was running into a buzz saw in John Elway, who just completed another excellent season in which he threw for nearly 3,200 yards. Instead, Williams stole the show. The first African-American quarterback to start a Super Bowl threw four touchdowns. Unable to shake his Super Bowl woes, Elway threw three interceptions and was sacked five times. Williams wowed the crowd, but Elway couldn’t join him in making this a more entertaining game.
Montana vs. Mr. 5,000 — this was going to be the quarterback matchup to end all quarterback matchups. Dan Marino became the first quarterback to eclipse 5,000 yards in a season, and Joe Montana threw for 28 touchdowns. Well, at least one of them showed up. Montana destroyed Marino in a head-to-head battle, throwing for three touchdowns and rushing for another. Marino did the best he could, throwing for 318 yards, but he was picked off twice. Many people argued that Marino was well on his way to supplanting Montana at the top of the quarterback mountain, but the 49ers legend put those statements to bed.
Two legendary quarterbacks faced off in Super Bowl XXIV, and both confirmed their respective reputations through their performances, for better or for worse. John Elway came into the game losing his last two Super Bowls, and he didn’t do much to quell criticism that he couldn't win the big game. He didn’t have his best season, and that inconsistency showed in the championship game, where he threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. Montana cemented his penchant for big performances, pummeling the Broncos into submission through the air with 297 passing yards and five touchdowns to set a Super Bowl record. He didn’t need Elway to give the fans a show.
In 1991, Mark Rypien and Jim Kelly were lighting up the NFL. Rypien threw for 3,564 yards and 28 touchdowns with 11 interceptions. Kelly continued to masterfully orchestrate the K-Gun offense, throwing for 3,844 yards with a league-high 33 touchdowns. Unfortunately, this was another matchup he did not capitalize on. Kelly got thrown around by the Washington defense, getting sacked five times and throwing four interceptions. Rypien took advantage of Kelly’s miscues, throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns. This wasn’t the first or last time Kelly was bested on the biggest stage.
For the first time in NFL history, the same two teams made it to the Super Bowl in back-to-back years. Aikman-Kelly was set up to be a barnburner, with Aikman still commanding an efficient offense, while Kelly led the Bills to the best record in the AFC. Unfortunately for the Bills, history would repeat itself. Kelly attempted 50 passes but had a hard time moving the ball, with one interception and three sacks. Aikman didn’t have to dominate the game like he did the year before, with Emmitt Smith rushing for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Aikman and the Cowboys coasted to another easy win, and the Jim Kelly Bills earned the dubious honor of being known as the greatest team to never win a Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning’s first Super Bowl was a momentous occasion with one of the greatest quarterbacks finally making it to the championship game. Too bad there wasn’t a similar quarterback on the other side of the field to make the game interesting. Rex Grossman was a fine quarterback, but he didn’t have the clout that would’ve made this a heavyweight battle. He finished the game with 20 completions for only 165 yards and was picked off twice. Not even Manning lit up the Miami sky. He finished with 247 yards, a touchdown and an interception. It wasn’t his best game, but he got the job done.
It was another year in which Jim Kelly dominated the AFC in the no-huddle offense, but a new challenger rose from the NFC. Troy Aikman led a Cowboys team that finished second in the league in scoring, throwing for 3,445 yards and 23 touchdowns. Aikman lit up the Bills, throwing four touchdowns and going 22-of-30 on his pass attempts. After throwing two interceptions, Kelly reinjured his knee that kept him out of the first two playoff games, knocking him out of the game. The Bills lost for the third straight year in the Super Bowl.
Stan Humphries was thrust into the national spotlight by making the Super Bowl with the surprise Chargers. He threw for 3,209 yards, but on the other side of the field he ran into Steve Young, the 49ers quarterback who had Joe Montana’s big shoes to fill and a lot of questions as to if he could win a big game. He made sure people knew he was ready against San Diego. Young torched the Chargers for 325 yards and six touchdowns, breaking Montana's previous record of five touchdown passes set in Super Bowl XXIV. Humphries' luck ran out against the 49ers, throwing two interceptions and getting sacked twice before being replaced in the fourth quarter. The one-sided affair made this a mediocre matchup.
Jim Kelly and Buffalo’s no-huddle K-Gun offense was supposed to be the main draw in the matchup with Jeff Hostetler playing game manager filling in for an injured Phil Simms. The game was a lot more entertaining than that. Hostetler and Kelly battled to a near draw, with Hostetler throwing for 222 yards and a touchdown, while Kelly put up 212 yards, including 28 yards late in the fourth quarter to set up the potential game-winning field goal. However, as many Buffalo fans know, Scott Norwood missed the kick, giving the Giants the win.
In terms of quarterback matchups, this was marquee-worthy. A young Joe Montana emerged for the 49ers, leading the league with a 63.7 completion percentage. On the other side, Ken Anderson won the NFL MVP and Comeback Player of the Year, throwing for 3,754 yards and 29 touchdowns. Their duel in Super Bowl was impressive. Montana started the scoring with a rushing touchdown in the first quarter and followed that up with a passing score in the second. After the 49ers jumped to a 20-0 lead at halftime, it was all Anderson from there. His third-quarter rushing touchdown was the only score that quarter, and he notched two fourth-quarter throwing scores, one of them with 22 seconds left to pull the Bengals within five. The only thing Anderson needed was time, something he was not afforded after a failed onside kick gave Montana his first Super Bowl win, starting a legendary career.
Troy Aikman returned to his third Super Bowl in four years, finishing the season with 3,304 yards, 16 touchdowns and only seven interceptions. Steelers quarterback Neil O’Donnell had a similarly efficient season with nearly 3,000 yards, 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Only one would have a good Super Bowl. Forced to play from behind, O’Donnell had to put up more passes than he was used to, which resulted in three interceptions. Still, he had a chance to get the Steelers in position to tie the game in the fourth but threw a key pick that set up an Emmitt Smith run that put the game out of reach. Aikman leaned on the defense to get good field position and used pinpoint passing to set up the running game for scores. It was the third and most hard-fought Super Bowl win for the Cowboys.
Two Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks hooked up in Super Bowl X to give fans a thrilling finish. In the fourth quarter with the score at 15-10 in favor of Pittsburgh, Bradshaw completed a 5-yard pass that Steelers wideout Lynn Swann took 64 yards for a touchdown. Staubach would not go away, connecting with Percy Howard on a 34-yard touchdown to bring the score to 21-17. After the Steelers turned the ball over on downs with 1:22 left in the game, Staubach led Dallas on a drive from the team's own 39-yard line. He moved the ball to the Pittsburgh 38, where he heaved it to the end zone only to be intercepted by Glen Edwards in a hell of a game.
It never mattered what Bengals quarterback was playing, Joe Montana was going to get the best of him. After dispatching Ken Anderson a few years earlier, the 49ers quarterback faced off against Boomer Esiason, who was coming off a 3,572-yard, 28-touchdown season. He was not nearly as successful in the Super Bowl. Esiason faced pressure all day, getting sacked five times and throwing one interception. Still, the Bengals had a 13-6 lead headed into the fourth quarter — not that it mattered to Montana, who threw both of his touchdowns in the final frame, including a 10-yard game-winner with 34 seconds left to wide receiver John Taylor. The legend continued.
Terry Bradshaw and Roger Staubach put on a show in Super Bowl X, and many were expecting Bradshaw-Staubach II to be just as good. They delivered. Bradshaw did a lot of his damage in the first half, outdueling Staubach with three touchdowns. The Pittsburgh quarterback got one more in the fourth quarter to drive up the score to 35-17 in favor of the Steelers, but that’s when Staubach woke up, scoring 14 unanswered points to bring the Cowboys within four with 22 seconds left. A failed onside kick by Dallas ended the game but not before the two quarterbacks brought some flavor to the Super Bowl.
This battle of future Hall of Famers was a promising situation. Brett Favre won his third straight NFL MVP with 35 touchdowns and 3,867 yards, while John Elway was still lighting up the league with 3,635 yards and 27 touchdowns at 37 years old. He was out to prove age was just a number. It was a back-and-forth affair, with Favre leading the way for the Packers. He ended up with three passing touchdowns, including a 13-yard toss to Antonio Freeman to tie the game, 24-24, at the start of the fourth quarter. However, Elway finally had some help. Terrell Davis carried the team the rest of the way, scoring the go-ahead rushing touchdown to give Elway his first Super Bowl title.
Playing off a 2,000-yard season from Terrell Davis, John Elway was selected to the Pro Bowl for the third year in a row with 2,806 yards and 22 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. Chris Chandler was arguably the more productive quarterback in this particular season with 3,154 yards and 25 touchdowns, but everyone knew Elway was a legend going in. Chandler struggled to find any rhythm, throwing three interceptions. Elway managed the game perfectly, throwing for 336 yards and one touchdown. He also ran in a score to pour salt on the Falcons’ wounds. After so much failure on the biggest stage, Elway ended his career with two straight championships.
The "Old Gunslinger" used to just be a gunslinger when he rocket-armed his way to the Super Bowl. Favre won his second straight NFL MVP with 3,899 yards and 39 touchdowns. He faced off against Drew Bledsoe, who was prolific through the air with over 4,000 yards. Both would thrill fans early in the championship game. Favre got the scoring started with a 54-yard touchdown bomb to Andre Rison. Bledsoe responded with two touchdowns of his own to bring the score to 14-10 in favor of the Pats. Favre got even again with an 81-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman in the second quarter to put the Packers up for good. The league MVP ran in a score to put the game further out of reach in a great quarterback duel.
While the game was framed as head coach Jon Gruden vs. the team he used to coach in the Raiders, Gruden didn't go on the field and play the game. He needed Brad Johnson to step up after reaching the Pro Bowl with 3,049 yards, 22 touchdowns and only six interceptions. Rich Gannon, the quarterback whom Gruden groomed during his tenure with Oakland, had one of the best seasons of his career with 4,689 yards and 26 touchdowns. Unfortunately for Gannon, Gruden knew all his moves. Gannon was held to 272 yards and was picked off five times. Johnson didn’t have to do much but still put up 215 yards with two touchdowns.
Warner went from bagging groceries to leading the Greatest Show on Turf Rams, throwing for 4,353 yards and 41 touchdowns. Steve McNair was no slouch himself, throwing 2,179 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing five games to injury. The game started slowly for both quarterbacks, who were able to move the ball but unable to notch a touchdown. Then Warner got into a groove in the second half, tossing a touchdown to Torry Holt to start the third quarter and lacing a 73-yard bomb to Isaac Bruce to get a 23-16 lead with 2:12 left in the game. McNair had himself a solid game, even driving the Titans deep into St. Louis territory on the last drive to set up a chance to tie the game. His final pass went to Kevin Dyson, who was stopped 1 yard short of the goal line in one of the greatest finishes of a Super Bowl.
We may look back at this Super Bowl as the beginning of a Kansas City dynasty. Coming off an NFL MVP the previous year, 2019 wasn't too kind to Patrick Mahomes where he missed two games and only passed for 26 touchdowns—24 fewer than he did the last year. Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't having a bad season throwing for nearly 4,000 yards while completing 69.1 percent of his passes. When it came to the Super Bowl, both quarterbacks had their struggles throwing two interceptions apiece, but it was Mahomes who came through when it counted guiding the Chiefs to a 65-yard drive in the closing minutes, including the go-ahead touchdown pass, to give the team a lead they would not lose.
Unlike his first Super Bowl, Peyton Manning had a worthy foe in Drew Brees. The New Orleans quarterback helped pull up a city that was still reeling from Hurricane Katrina, completing over 70 percent of his passes for 4,388 yards and 34 touchdowns. Manning himself threw for 4,500 yards with 33 touchdowns, but the season would not end perfectly for him. Manning struck first in the first quarter with a 19-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon. From then on, it was all Brees. The Saints savior threw two touchdowns in the second half, including a clutch 2-yard pass to Jeremy Shockey and subsequent two-point conversion to Lance Moore to extend the lead to seven. Manning had a chance to drive to tie the game but was picked off by Tracy Porter for a pick-six that sealed the game for New Orleans.
Despite missing the first four games, Ben Roethlisberger had one of his best seasons, throwing for 3,200 yards with 17 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Unfortunately for him, he was going up against a budding star in Aaron Rodgers, who led Green Bay with 3,922 yards and 28 touchdowns in his third year as a full-time starter. This one was an epic back-and-forth matchup. Rodgers notched two first-half touchdowns, but Roethlisberger woke up and scored one of his own in the second frame. In the fourth quarter, Rodgers connected with Greg Jennings to extend the lead to 11, but Big Ben would respond with a 25-yard bomb to Mike Wallace to close the gap to three after a two-point conversion. In the end, Rodgers wound up on top with three touchdowns, but Roethlisberger definitely pushed him.
Donovan McNabb was supposed to be the perfect foil to Tom Brady. He finished the season as the first quarterback to throw for over 30 touchdowns and fewer than 10 interceptions in a season. He also had a superstar wide receiver in Terrell Owens and a defense that had three defensive backs named to the Pro Bowl. The matchup would live up to the hype. McNabb started the scoring early in the second quarter, but Brady responded with two touchdowns of his own. McNabb answered with another touchdown late in the third to pull even with Brady, but a couple of empty possessions allowed Brady to lead scoring drives to put the Patriots out of reach, building the New England dynasty with three Super Bowl wins in four years.
Much like the first matchup of these two teams, the Giants barely made it into the playoffs, but Eli Manning was a different quarterback, setting a career high with 4,933 yards. Tom Brady also set a career high with 5,235 yards to go along with 39 touchdowns. The second iteration of their matchup turned out just as exciting as the first. Both quarterbacks finished with over 275 passing yards and two touchdowns, but Manning completed a big pass to Mario Manningham to extend what would be the game-winning drive. Brady is king of the NFL, but he still hasn’t beaten Manning on the biggest stage.
This was supposed to be the New England Patriots' coronation. Tom Brady was expected to lead the team to the first 19-0 season by beating the wild-card Giants, who barely advanced to the Super Bowl with close wins. Instead, it was a Super Bowl and late-game quarterback duel for the ages. Facing a formidable front four, Brady struggled with the pressure New York brought. Still, in the fourth quarter he was able to connect with Randy Moss on a 6-yard pass to give the Pats a 14-10 lead with 2:42 left in the game. Manning, who struggled throughout the season, went to another level, famously connecting with David Tyree on a desperation prayer to keep a late drive alive and then floating a 13-yard ball to Plaxico Burress to take a 17-14 lead with 35 seconds left. Manning’s frantic comeback was not his last clutch performance in the Super Bowl.
The "Harbowl" may have featured the two Harbaugh brothers battling for a title, but doing their bidding on the field were two hungry upstarts, Joe Flacco and Colin Kaepernick. Flacco made a name for himself in 2012, piling up 3,817 yards and 22 touchdowns. Kaepernick took over for an injured Alex Smith and pushed the 49ers to the Super Bowl with his dynamic skill set. They would light the Super Bowl on fire. Flacco dominated the first half, throwing all three of his touchdowns to push Baltimore's lead to 15 to begin the third quarter. After a blackout that halted the game, Kaepernick took over, throwing two second-half touchdowns and running for another to get the 49ers back in the game. He couldn’t finish the job though, missing three fade routes to Michael Crabtree on the Ravens' 5-yard line. They may have been less-experienced quarterbacks, but they put on a great show.
After the eye-gouging quarterback matchup the previous year, this Super Bowl had the maestro of the Greatest Show on Turf and a young upstart by the name of Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. Warner won the NFL MVP with 4,830 passing yards and 36 touchdowns, while Brady had a solid year completing nearly 64 percent of his passes for 2,843 yards. The game lived up to both their résumés. Things started a little slowly, but Brady helped New England jump out to a 14-3 halftime lead with a touchdown pass to David Patten. However, Warner was not going to go down easy. With the score 17-3 after the third quarter, Warner rushed for a touchdown to start the fourth quarter scoring and added a touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl to tie the game with 1:30 left. Brady blossomed into a legend in the making with an ice-cold drive to set up Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal with no time left.
Deflategate robbed Tom Brady of four games in 2016, but he still threw for 3,554 yards, 28 touchdowns and only two interceptions. Filling the void left by Brady was Matt Ryan, who won NFL MVP with 4,944 passing yards and 38 touchdowns. The season MVP vs. the greatest quarterback of all time was one of the best matchups in NFL history. Ryan helped the Falcons climb to a 28-3 lead midway through the third quarter with two touchdowns, but never count out the GOAT. Brady came back with a vengeance, moving the ball with incredible pace. He finished the game with 466 yards and two touchdowns, leading New England on the most epic comeback in Super Bowl history — and the first to be decided in overtime.
Kurt Warner made his third and final Super Bowl appearance and brought his signature gunslinging ways back to the big game. Ben Roethlisberger was already a star, but he still had the running game as his safety net. Warner did his job, throwing for 377 yards and three touchdowns, including a 73-yard quick slant that Larry Fitzgerald took to the house to take the lead with 2:37 left in the game. This is where Big Ben blossomed. He calmly marched the Steelers down the field to the Cardinals' 6-yard line before throwing the gutsiest ball to Santonio Holmes in the corner of end zone to put Pittsburgh in front for good. It was his only touchdown, but it was one of the greatest in the history of the game.
Sports Illustrated writer Peter King dubbed this the “greatest Super Bowl of all time.” The biggest reason for it was Tom Brady and Jake Delhomme. Delhomme went from NFL Europe to Super Bowl quarterback in a meteoric rise and went toe-to-toe with Brady. After New England took the lead in the second quarter following a Brady pass to Deion Branch, Delhomme countered with a 39-yard zinger to Steve Smith. Brady dished another touchdown before the half to David Givens, but the fun was just beginning. With the score 21-16 in favor of the Pats with 12:39 to go, Delhomme and Brady traded scores in the fourth quarter, capped by Delhomme connecting with Ricky Proehl with 1:08 left to tie the game. That was too much time for Brady though, who marched New England to the Carolina 31-yard-line, giving Adam Vinatieri his second Super Bowl-winning field goal in three years. Talk about déjà vu.
Tom Brady struggled early in the season but recovered to throw for 4,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. Not surprisingly, Russell Wilson built on his Super Bowl XLVIII winning effort, throwing for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns and also rushing for 849 yards and six scores. The battle between these two powerhouse quarterbacks was as exciting as any in NFL history. Brady asserted himself early, throwing two scores in the second quarter, but Wilson showed why he was an emerging star in the league, responding with two scores in the second and third quarters. Brady would not be denied, throwing two more touchdowns, including the game-winner with 2:02 left in the game. Wilson had a shot to best Brady but infamously threw an interception at the Patriots' 1-yard line. This battle goes down as one of the best even in a more quarterback-heavy era.
If you told anyone that Nick Foles was going to pair up with Tom Brady to perform the greatest Super Bowl quarterback duel of all time, you could rightfully report them for abuse on Twitter or any other social platform. But here we are, talking about the greatest quarterback of all time and the backup who became a legend going toe-to-toe. Foles, showing no nerves, came out of the gates quickly with the first touchdown of the game, slinging a 34-yard bomb to Alshon Jeffery. He even caught a touchdown pass on the famous Philly Special play to end the first half, giving the Eagles a 22-12 lead. However, Brady showed why he has won five Super Bowls, notching three touchdown passes in the second half to get the Pats within striking distance of the Eagles, who were still having success with Foles throwing clutch passes all game. With 58 seconds left and the Pats down by eight, Brady needed to go 91 yards to have a chance to tie. He went 40 yards before a Hail Mary heave fell harmlessly on the field, spelling doom for New England but elation for the first-time Super Bowl champion Eagles. In a duel for the ages, Brady finished with 505 yards and three scores, while Foles amassed 373 yards and four total touchdowns. That's a shootout that will live on forever.