By: Adrian Jarding | @swimjarding
Member of Ball State Sports Link
Continuing the lead up to Super Bowl 50, we look at my #4-2 overlooked Super Bowl Stories.
For #5-7, click here.
For #8-10 click here.
#4: The Falcons make the Super Bowl, despite Dan Reeves’ coronary problems
The 1998 Atlanta Falcons weren’t as bad as history may remember them.
In fact, they were far from it.
Teams don’t go 14-2 in the regular season because of luck or by accident. It just didn’t help that the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos and powerhouse Minnesota Vikings both had more interesting stories at the time.
The Broncos of course were led by John Elway, who made it clear that this was more than likely his final season. They also had Terrell Davis who eclipsed 2,000 yards rushing for only the fourth time in NFL history to that point.
Denver finished with a 14-2 record in the regular season.
The Vikings were also lighting up the NFL with their prolific offense that set the NFL record at the time for most points scored in the season.
With players like Randall Cunningham, Chris Carter, rookie Randy Moss, and John Randle the Vikings ran their way to a 15-1 record heading into the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Atlanta Falcons were doing their own thing with the “Dirty Bird” dance, and were trying to spoil the already media-crowned Super Bowl between Minnesota and Denver.
Things were looking up for the Falcons, until week 15 when head coach Dan Reeves was diagnosed with multiple blockages to his coronary arteries.
The doctors who treated him said before he started, he was only a few hours away from having a massive heart attack.
The Falcons were sitting with a 11-2 record at the time and were riding a 6 game winning streak before the news broke.
Two of their final three games would be on the road, and defensive coordinator Rich Brooks had the monumental task of keeping the “Dirty Birds” on track heading into the playoffs.
In week 15 they beat the Saints 27-17 as Dan Reeves watched from the hospital. In week 16 the Falcons survived a brutal battle against Barry Sanders and the Lions, winning 24-17.
In week 17 Reeves was released from the hospital, and although the doctors recommended he take six weeks off for rest, Reeves returned to the sideline for an emotional 38-16 home win against the Miami Dolphins (who were one of two teams to beat Denver in the regular season) to finish with a 14-2 record.
In the second round of the playoffs, the Falcons held off their then division foe San Fransisco, who were riding an emotional last second win against the two-time defending NFC champion Packers the week before, 20-18.
It was their first playoff win since 1991.
Next up to bat was the media darling Minnesota Vikings, who had outpaced the Arizona Cardinals the week before 41-21. They were the favorites to beat Atlanta and go on to win the Super Bowl against either the Jets or Broncos.
The Vikings were determined to put away the Falcons early, which ultimately was their downfall. The Falcons showed resiliency and kept the game close at all times.
Right before the end of the first half, Atlanta scored a touchdown to make it a 20-14 game. Early in the third Atlanta scored a field goal, making it a 20-17 game.
Minnesota once again tried to put them away early in the fourth quarter, scoring a quick touchdown to make it 27-17. Ultimately their urgency cost them as they fumbled the ball with less than 10 minutes to go and Atlanta made it a 27-20 game.
Gary Anderson of course missed a field goal which would have iced the game. It marked his first miss all year.
The Falcons forced the game into overtime and their kicker Morten Anderson made his field goal to send the “Dirty Birds” to their first Super Bowl.
Despite being under looked all year, finishing 14-2, and dealing with their head coach nearly having massive health problems, the Falcons were able to shock the world and make it to the Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for the “Dirty Birds”, the story book ending went to John Elway who beat his first head coach in the NFL, Dan Reeves.
Atlanta never stood a chance against the Broncos that night, ultimately losing 34-19.
Although Dan Reeves and the Falcons didn’t win the Super Bowl, their story to get to Super Bowl XXXIII remains as one of the greatest in NFL history.
#3: The Minnesota Vikings lose to the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl IV
As in the case of the 1998 Atlanta Falcons, the 1969 Minnesota Vikings are often forgotten in the annals of NFL history.
They didn’t have any Dan Reeves story, flashy offensive numbers, or even anything flashy at all.
They did have the “Purple People Eaters” on defense, an erratic quarterback who apparently hasn’t gotten over an old Canadian Football Grudge, and future Hall of Fame head coach Bud Grant at the helm.
Together, they were able to go 12-2 in 1969 and make it to the Super Bowl.
Mind you this was one year after the Baltimore Colts lost to the Jets in Super Bowl III.
This was going to be the year the NFL would reclaim their position as the superior league.
In 1970 the American Football League and the National Football League were going to merge into one, so both sides had one more opportunity to claim their superiority.
The Vikings dominated the NFL in the regular season.
In week two, they beat the defending NFL champion Colts 52-14, and quarterback Joe Kapp threw for a record seven touchdowns, which would stand alone until Peyton Manning did the same in 2013 against the same defending champs of Baltimore (Ravens).
They led the NFL is points scored (379) and fewest points allowed (133).
They scored 50 or more points in three games during the regular season.
They had 12 straight victories, the longest single-season winning streak in 35 years.
They overwhelmed every single one of their opponents. They were completely untouchable.
So why are they so forgotten in comparison to the 1968 Colts?
Sequels are often more forgotten about than the original (with The Empire Strikes Back and Terminator 2 being the exceptions).
The Jets win over the Colts resonated more in NFL history because it was the first time the AFL beat the NFL in a meaningful game.
Joe Namath also came through with the biggest guarantee in world history, until Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon six months later to fulfill President Kennedy’s guarantee from 1960.
The football world had been completely changed, and no matter what the outcome of the Super Bowl IV was, the NFL was not going to be the same.
So even if the Vikings dismantled the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV, it wouldn’t have erased the loss in Super Bowl III.
Unfortunately for the Vikings though, the Chiefs actually dismantled them.
The Chiefs were led by head coach Hank Stram and quarterback Lenny Dawson who had the most creative offense pro football had ever seen to that point. They were able to change their offense as they went along, and therefore the Vikings had a hard time adapting to them.
Even if they could adapt to the Chiefs, it’s not like the Vikings were going to. Why would they change anything for an inferior team?
They were going to play the same way they had all year and the Chiefs counted on it.
It was a source of pride not only for the Vikings, but for the NFL as a whole to beat another team who knew your style.
That’s why they got beat 23-7. That’s why Minnesota isn’t remembered for being so dominant.
Out of the four Super Bowls they played in, Super Bowl IV was their best chance to win because they were at their true peak.
They say history doesn’t remember losers.
So why do we remember the 1968 Colts, 1998 Vikings, and the 2007 Patriots? They all dominated the game in a way which was so memorable and unique.
The same holds true for the 1969 Vikings.
#2: Joe Montana outgunned Dan Marino in Super Bowl XIX
If you’re feeling a bit nostalgic today, or want something to watch before Super Bowl 50, or just want to watch a quarterback work his mastery, watch Super Bowl XIX.
When the name Joe Montana is brought up, many great moments spring to mind. Let me just list them off for you:
- “The Chicken Soup” game, a.k.a the 1979 Cotton Bowl
- “The Catch” a.k.a the 1981 NFC Championship
- 1986 vs. the St. Louis Cardinals he threw three touchdowns after coming off of back surgery
- “The Drive” a.k.a Super Bowl XXIII
- 1989 vs. the Philadelphia Eagles he threw four touchdowns in the 4th quarter after being down 21-10 on the road
- Super Bowl XXIV he threw five touchdown in a 55-10 rout of the Broncos
- “The Last Miracle in the Astrodome” a.k.a the 1993 AFC Divisional game where Joe Montana came back to lead the Chiefs to a 28-20 victory over the Oilers.
- “Montana’s Last Miracle” a.k.a the week 7, 1994 matchup against the Broncos where Montana led a game winning drive on Monday night to give the Chiefs a 31-28 victory
My favorite Montana moment though was his performance in Super Bowl XIX.
This was back in 1984 (I had a feeling you weren’t going to watch the link) when Montana was three years separated from his first and only Super Bowl victory to that point.
Much like how Tom Brady wasn’t crowned after his first Super Bowl victory, Joe Montana was still a wannabe QB in NFL standards.
The San Fransisco 49ers were considered a soft, finesse team who played football the wrong way by tricking opponents and using their brains over braun.
Joe Montana was the epitome of this philosophy.
Montana has always been made fun of for having a small, slender build with “chicken legs” because he didn’t have any calf muscles.
He relied on his study of Bill Walsh’s West Coast offense to beat defenses by putting a soft touch on the ball and finding the weak spots, rather than taking them head on.
Meanwhile in the AFC, Dan Marino was scorching the league with his rocket arm and brash disposition, throwing for an NFL record, 5,084 yards.
It still stands as of 2016, and would be the only time a quarterback threw for over 5,000 yards until Drew Brees did in 2008.
1984 would mark the 49ers best season ever, finishing 15-1 with their only blemish coming from a very controversial penalty which still gets me fired up each time I watch it. They would go on to beat the next two Super Bowl champions (Giants and Bears) en route to Super Bowl XIX.
The Dolphins would finish 14-2, but they survived their two playoff games against the Seahawks and Steelers thanks to their prolific offense.
All week leading up to the game the media hounded Montana, wanting to know what his thoughts were regarding Marino’s historic season. He responded with an ease which would define him for years, by saying it was just his time right now.
Behind the scenes, this ate at Montana. Anytime the media attacked Bill Walsh, they attacked his players. There was little to no respect for the 49ers and Montana.
Marino was crowned as the king, while Montana was called a wimp. It was braun over brain. David vs. Goliath. West Coast vs. power.
Come Super Bowl Sunday Montana and the 49ers were as ready as a rocket. It was time to shut up the media and solidify how much better their offense was than Miami.
After Miami jumped to an early 3-0 lead, Montana immediately retaliated leading a 78 yard drive which gave the 49ers a 7-3 lead. Marino went down on his next drive to take back the lead 10-7, but Montana made sure it would be their last time.
In the second quarter they put up 21 unanswered points to take a commanding 28-10 lead. Miami scored two field goals to end the half making it a 28-16 game going into halftime.
Late in the third quarter Montana lead the 49ers on two scoring drives giving them a 38-10 lead. Neither team scored again.
Montana finished the game completing 24/35 of his passes, throwing for 331 yards, 3 touchdowns, running for a touchdown and nabbing the Super Bowl MVP award to top it off.
His counterpart didn’t fare so well, finishing the game completing 29/50 of his passes, throwing for 318 yards, 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions.
There was one final act though for both players in the form of a commercial.
The ironic thing is, nobody ever bought Joe Montana a Diet Pepsi after a Super Bowl.
He instead bought Boomer Esiason and John Elway each a chiller (not literally).
While history will always debate what Joe Montana’s defining moment is, it can’t argue that his performance in Super Bowl XIX solidified his place in NFL history.
Everything after this game for Montana just added to the myth.
It’s a shame this performance gets lost in history.
Come back tomorrow to find out what my #1 overlooked Super Bowl story is!