It started sloppily. The Atlanta Falcons jumped to a three-touchdown lead. The New England Patriots were struggling.
And then it all changed.
And it became the best Super Bowl ever.
Days after the Patriots came from behind to beat the Falcons in overtime, that seems to be the consensus. With Tom Brady throwing for 466 yards, most agree that that the Super Bowl had never seen anything quite like it. In a year of close championships, this was the most memorable.
But where does it stack up with the great Super Bowls?
The top 10:
1. Super Bowl LI, New England 34, Atlanta 28: Fans of the Atlanta Falcons feel as if their hearts were pulled through their chests after Brady and the Patriots came from behind to force overtime. One of the reasons why? The Falcons’ defense was on the field for 95 plays, including two two-point conversions. Another reason? The Falcons had horrible game management in the fourth quarter. The biggest reason: Brady is other worldly.
2. Super Bowl XLIX: New England 28, Seattle 24: The unanswered question is this: What sort of brain cramp did Seattle coach Pete Carroll suffer before he called a passing play instead of simply handing the ball to brutish running back Marshawn Lynch. Pats’ defensive back Malcolm Butler probably doesn’t know either, but he’s glad he did. Butler intercepted to close out the victory.
3. Super Bowl XLIII: Pittsburgh 27, Arizona 23: First, Arizona came from behind to go ahead of Pittsburgh. Then, Pittsburgh came back from the comeback to beat the Cardinals in a thrilling victory. Ben Roethlisberger hit Santonio Holmes for a six-yard touchdown with 35 seconds to play.
5. St. Louis 23, Tennesee 16: What’s just as good as a comeback? A game-saving tackle that presents one. Mike Jones tackled Kevin Dyson on the one-yard line to preserve the win for the Rams after Kurt Warner gave the Rams the lead with less than two minutes to play.
6. Super Bowl XLII, New York 17, New England 14: The Patriots were set to finish an unbeaten season when the Giants’ Eli Manning scrambled and threw downfield, and receiver David Tyree caught the ball off the top of his helmet.
7. Super Bowl XXV: New York 20, Buffalo 19: The Giants somehow stopped the Buffalo offensive machine, despite an excellent night by Thurman Thomas. Scott Norwood missed the field goal at the end, but it would have been his longest of the year on grass.
8. Super Bowl XIII: Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31: Twice, the Steelers held on the to beat the Cowboys. This time, a drop by tight end Jackie Smith in the end zone helped the Steelers continue their dynasty.
9. Super Bowl XXXVI, New England 20, St. Louis 17: This is where the Patriots’ dynasty under Bill Belichick began. Tom Brady drove his team downfield for the winning field goal.
10. Super Bowl III, New York Jets 16, Baltimore Colts 7: This one is listed not for a fantastic finish, but for the fantastic pluck of the Jets, who copied Joe Namath’s swagger on their way to a historic victory.