10 most dominant Super Bowl victories in NFL history
It’s one of the many words used to describe the masterpiece that was the 1985 Chicago Bears.
Chicagoans should know the pillars of this great work of art by now: Richard Dent. Walter Payton. Mike Ditka. Buddy Ryan. And so on.
But if, perhaps, you’re part of a younger generation who has never seen the pinnacle of that work, or if you simply want to recapture some of that glory on a bigger screen, you now have your chance.
NBC will re-air Super Bowl XX in its entirety this Sunday at 2:00 p.m. CT, the penultimate game in the network’s “Super Bowl Week in America’ series. Liam McHugh will speak with two members of the vaunted 46 Defense, Hall of Famers Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton.
The game between the Bears and New England Patriots on Jan. 26, 1986, was certainly the biggest blowout in Super Bowl history up to that point. The 46-10 final score was relatively tame. The Bears could have easily scored 60 that night in New Orleans.
But was it the most dominant performance on the game’s greatest stage? Well, we made a list.
Here are the top 10 most dominant performances by an NFL team in 54 years of Super Bowl history (spoiler on what No. 1 will be…it’s an NFC team who put on quite a show in the Superdome):
10) Super Bowl XVIII: Raiders 38, Redskins 9 (1984)
MVP: RB Marcus Allen
Key stat: Allen’s 191 yards rushing on 20 attempts, good for two touchdowns.
Why it’s ranked No. 10: As you’ll soon find out, this list is replete with teams from the mid-80s to the mid-90s who have crushed opponents in their respective games. This one’s no different. The lasting image here was Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, backed up to his own goal line with 12 seconds left in the first half, throwing a pick-six to the Raiders’ Jack Squirek. The 29-point victory at Tampa Stadium eclipsed the biggest Super Bowl blowout at that point, a 35-10 Packers win over the Chiefs in the first Super Bowl. But this record will only last a few years, thanks to a team most of us are quite familiar with.
9) Super Bowl XXVI: Redskins 37, Bills 24 (1992)
MVP: QB Mark Rypien
Key stat: Bills QB Jim Kelly was sacked five times and was picked off another four.
Why it’s ranked No. 9: Washington was a touchdown favorite going into the game and had scored a league-high 485 points in the regular season. But it was their defense (ranked second in the league) that took center stage here. They tormented Kelly all game, contributing to a 37-10 lead before the Bills scored a few garbage time touchdowns. This would be the second straight Super Bowl the Bills lost. It gave them all the motivation to get back the next year and win, but…
8) Super Bowl XXVII: Cowboys 52, Bills 17 (1993)
MVP: QB Troy Aikman
Key stat: The Bills turned the ball over nine times. Nine!
Why it’s ranked No. 8: Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt was quoted after the game saying, “You can’t count on them…we got them and took advantage.” Did they ever. The game was tied at seven early when Jimmie Jones recovered a fumble for a two-yard score and the Cowboys never looked back. The play everyone remembers here was Leon Lett returning a Frank Reich fumble 64 yards until Don Beebe knocked the ball out of his hands just before hitting the end zone. One of the more surreal plays in Super Bowl history.
7) Super Bowl XXXVII: Bucs 48, Raiders 21 (2003)
MVP: S Dexter Jackson
Key stat: The Bucs picked off Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon five times.
Why it’s ranked No. 7: The Raiders were actually favored by 3.5 points going in and had a 3-0 lead before Tampa Bay wheeled off 34 straight points. Joliet Catholic alum Mike Alstott bruised his way into the end zone once and Brad Johnson found Keenan McCardell twice, showcasing the Bucs’ offense. But it was Tampa’s defense that stole the show. In addition to sacking Gannon five times, three of the five interceptions were brought back to the house (Derrick Brooks and Dwight Smith—twice).
6) Super Bowl XXXV: Ravens 34, Giants 7 (2001)
MVP: LB Ray Lewis
Key stat: The Giants were held to 152 total yards of offense
Why it’s ranked No. 6: A few critics lamented this matchup as one of the most boring Super Bowls of the lot (and hey, when you have a quarterback matchup of Trent Differ vs. Kerry Collins, who can blame them). But if you’re a fan of great defense, this was dreamy. The Ravens trash-talked the Giants all week and came through on their guarantees by tormenting Collins (15-39, 112 yards, 0 TDs, 4 INTs) all night. Random fun: The game featured three touchdowns in 36 seconds — a Duane Starks 49-yard pick-six off Collins, then a 97-yard kickoff return by the Giants’ Ron Dixon and then an immediate 84-yard kickoff return answer by the Ravens’ Jermaine Lewis.
5) Super Bowl XXIX: 49ers 49, Chargers 26 (1995)
MVP: QB Steve Young
Key stat: Young’s six touchdown passes, still a single-game Super Bowl record.
Why it’s ranked No. 5: The 49ers came into this one a mind-boggling 19-point favorite. They didn’t disappoint anyone laying the points. Or anyone who took the over (52). Young flexed all night. In the first quarter, he hit Jerry Rice and Ricky Watters with 44-yard and 51-yard touchdown passes, respectively, and never looked back. Rice scored three times and racked up 149 receiving yards. Eric Davis, Toi Cook and Deion Sanders all tallied interceptions.
4) Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks 43, Broncos 8 (2014)
MVP: LB Malcolm Smith
Key stat: 12 seconds. That’s how long it took the Seahawks to score.
Why it’s ranked No. 4: An errant snap sailed past Peyton Manning and into the end zone for a quick safety and a 2-0 Seattle lead. The rout was on. After a pair of field goals, a Marshawn Lynch score, a pick-six by Malcolm Smith, a Percy Harvin kickoff return to the house and a Jermaine Kearse touchdown reception, the Seahawks had thoroughly opened a can on the Broncos. They led 36-0 at that point and never looked back. Can you believe the Broncos were actually 2.5-point favorites in this one.
3) Super Bowl XXII: Redskins 42, Broncos 10 (1988)
MVP: QB Doug Williams
Key stat: 35 points— Washington’s output in the second quarter.
Why it’s ranked No. 3: This game is on the list simply for the sheer magnitude of that second stanza. The Broncos actually pounced early in the first quarter, thanks to a John Elway touchdown pass and a field goal. Then came the fireworks. What’s astonishing about the 35 point onslaught is how quickly it happened. Four of those five touchdown drives occurred in fewer than 64 seconds. And two of those —a Doug Williams 80-yard strike to Ricky Sanders and a Timmy Smith 58-yard run to the house— were on the first and second plays of the drive, respectively. Williams totaled 340 yards passing on the day with four touchdowns.
2) Super Bowl XX: Bears 46, Patriots 10 (1986)
MVP: DE Richard Dent
Key stat: The Bears held New England to only seven rushing yards on 11 attempts.
Why it’s ranked No. 2: This game could have easily been 35-3 at the half— a half where the Bears held Patriots quarterback Tony Eason to zero yards on six pass attempts. Buddy Ryan’s defense dominated in every fashion, racking up seven sacks, two interceptions and a safety. William Perry bulldozed his way into the end zone for a score. And later, a vicious Gary Fencik hit caused a fumble which led to a Wilber Marshall recovery and a jovial lateral to Otis Wilson, NBC broadcaster Dick Enberg said it best: “They’re playing playground with the Patriots now.” The Bears were cementing their legends status.
1) Super Bowl XXIV: 49ers 55, Broncos 10 (1990)
MVP: QB Joe Montana
Key stat: John Elway’s line: 10-26, two INTs, sacked four times and a lost fumble for a QB rating of 19.4.
Why it’s ranked No. 1: With sincere apologies to Bears fans, yes, the Montana-led 49ers produced the most dominating Super Bowl win in NFL history. While the San Fran offense ripped apart the Broncos’ secondary, let’s not forget about the defensive effort as evidenced by Elway’s numbers. Danny Stubbs had two of the team’s six sacks and also recovered a fumble. The Niners remain the only team to score eight TDs in a Super Bowl. They had 55 points on the board just over a minute into the fourth quarter. It resulted in their second consecutive championship.