USA TODAY Sports Weekly

RANK­ING THE SU­PER BOWL WIN­NERS

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As the NFL hits its 50th Su­per Bowl, the sports world has been tak­ing a look at the his­tory of Amer­ica’s big­gest, and great­est, game. For The Win’s Chris Chase ranked each Su­per Bowl-win­ning team from best to worst (reg­u­lar-sea­son record in paren­the­ses):

THE TOP 12

No. 2, let alone No. 1? For as great as Buddy Ryan’s 46 de­fense was (61 turnovers), it didn’t set marks for fewest points al­lowed or turnover mar­gin, and the of­fense was solely de­pen­dent on Wal­ter Pay­ton. Then, in the team’s big­gest game of the year (not the Su­per Bowl, against a medi­ocre New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots team, but the famed Mon­day night bat­tle against the Dol­phins), the Bears fell into a 31-10 half­time deficit. Nei­ther of the top two ranked teams faced a larger deficit all sea­son.

4. 1989 SAN FRAN­CISCO 49ERS (14-2)

Peo­ple rate this team as the best ever be­cause of its dom­i­nant post­sea­son (126-26 over­all, 55-10 in Su­per Bowl). But qual­ity (or lack thereof ) of Su­per Bowl op­po­nent makes not for great­ness. The ’87 Red­skins beat the same Den­ver Bron­cos 42-10. The ’86 New York Gi­ants beat them 39-20. It’s great that this team had Charles Ha­ley, but the de­fense fin­ished third in points al­lowed. The ’84 team fin­ished first.

5. 1978 PITTS­BURGH STEEL­ERS (14-2)

The third of Chuck Noll’s four Su­per Bowl teams was the pin­na­cle, with 10 fu­ture Hall of Famers (nine play­ers and Noll). Their two losses were by a com­bined 10 points and they won a tight Su­per Bowl bat­tle with the reign­ing champs — the Dal­las Cow­boys — with some his­tory on the line. Whichever team won would be the first fran­chise to have three Su­per Bowl ti­tles. They were the first back-to-back AFC champs in al­most two decades and sent John El­way out as a win­ner. This team started 13-0, then lost two games af­ter clinch­ing home-field ad­van­tage. A Su­per Bowl matchup with the 15-1 Min­nesota Vik­ings would have been a dream, but beat­ing the “Dirty Bird” At­lanta Fal­cons wasn’t ex­actly a pre­or­dained vic­tory.

7. 1992 DAL­LAS COW­BOYS (13-3)

A soft sched­ule kept the Cow­boys from show­ing how good they could be (a 4-2 record against teams at .500 or above didn’t help), but knock­ing off a 14-2 49ers team in the NFC Cham­pi­onship Game and rout­ing a Bills team that was be­gin­ning to re­al­ize it was des­tined to be­come a Su­per Bowl punch­ing bag helped.

8. 2004 NEW ENG­LAND PA­TRI­OTS (14-2)

The best Pa­tri­ots team (2007) doesn’t ap­pear on this list be­cause of its Su­per Bowl loss to the Gi­ants. Of the four ti­tle teams un­der Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, the 2004 team takes the cake, with its loss to a 15-1 Steel­ers team and a divi­sion loss to the Dol­phins, cou­pled with a play­off run that was easy un­til Dono­van McNabb had the ball with a chance to tie or win in the fi­nal min­utes.

9. 1996 GREEN BAY PACK­ERS (13-3)

One of the most over­rated teams in NFL his­tory. Brett Favre and Reg­gie White led the Pack­ers to top rank­ings on of­fense and de­fense (a rar­ity), but they were 5-3 against teams over .500 (and they weren’t nar­row losses). The Pack­ers needed Des­mond Howard’s kick­off re­turn to put away a medi­ocre Pa­tri­ots team in the Su­per Bowl.

WHERE THEY RANK

10. 1973 MI­AMI DOL­PHINS (12-2)

Yeah, the 1973 team with two losses was bet­ter than the un­de­feated ’72 team. The stats weren’t as gaudy, but the ’73 team rolled through the play­offs and played a far more dif­fi­cult sched­ule en route to the ti­tle.

11. 1972 MI­AMI DOL­PHINS (14-0)

The Dol­phins played the eas­i­est sched­ule of any Su­per Bowl team (win­ner or loser) and won each of their three play­off games by seven points or fewer. Larry Csonka and Mer­cury Mor­ris had 1,000-yard sea­sons, though, and the NoName De­fense was spec­tac­u­lar. But the team’s two start­ing quar­ter­backs — Earl Mor­rall and Bob Griese — com­bined to throw for fewer than 2,000 yards with 15 touch­downs and 11 in­ter­cep­tions.

12. 1999 ST. LOUIS RAMS (13-3)

The Rams were 4-12 in 1998 but got Trent Green from the Red­skins and had high hopes with Dick Ver­meil on the side­line. But Green got hurt, and it be­came one of the most for­tu­itous in­juries in NFL his­tory, be­cause Kurt Warner emerged from nowhere to be­come one of the great quar­ter­backs of the past two decades.

THE BOT­TOM THREE

You have to for­get about what they be­came and re­mem­ber what they were — a team with an un­known quar­ter­back that needed mirac­u­lous field goals to get to the Su­per Bowl. But Belichick came up with a bril­liant scheme to stop Rams run­ning back Mar­shall Faulk, Adam Vi­natieri hit a big kick and the Pa­tri­ots dy­nasty was born.

48. 1970 BAL­TI­MORE COLTS (11-2-1)

If un­watch­a­bil­ity was the de­cid­ing fac­tor, this team would rank some­thing like 75th out of 49. Su­per Bowl V was per­haps the worst-played Su­per Bowl in his­tory, with the Colts com­mit­ting seven turnovers be­fore get­ting the first win­ning field goal in the game’s his­tory. The Colts had one of the eas­i­est sched­ules a Su­per Bowl team has ever had, and they were 1-2 against teams above .500

49. 2011 NEW YORK GI­ANTS (9-7)

Just think how we would be re­gard­ing the Pa­tri­ots if they had lost last year’s Su­per Bowl, with a record of 3-3 in Su­per Bowls and no wins since the 2004 sea­son. And it all would have been be­cause of this Gi­ants team that lost twice to the 5-11 Red­skins. This paean to medi­ocrity goes down as the worst Su­per Bowl win­ner in his­tory.

 ?? JIM MONE, AP ?? Quar­ter­back Mark Ryp­ien led the Red­skins to a 37-24 vic­tory against the Bills in Su­per Bowl XXVI in Jan­uary 1992.
JIM MONE, AP Quar­ter­back Mark Ryp­ien led the Red­skins to a 37-24 vic­tory against the Bills in Su­per Bowl XXVI in Jan­uary 1992.

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