The Super Bowl needs no tag line. The event that went from a nominal championship game between two competing leagues and served as entry point to a merger has grown into a global entertainment phenomenon. For some, the periphery is the main course -- the commercials, the parties, the spectacle. But it is still the game that matters, the straw that stirs the drink, the indelible end to the struggle. Along the way, names are forged into legends. Here are a few of their stories ...
Riggins and Redskins Rumble
The Miami Dolphins corralled Washington running back John Riggins here, but No. 44 ran for 166 yards and an MVP in the Redskins 27-17 victory in Super Bowl XVII.
Montana Bests Marino
Dan Marino became the first NFL quarterback to break the 5,000-yard barrier in passing for a season in 1984, but his Dolphins were no match for Joe Montana and the 49ers. Montana tossed for 331 yards and three TDs on the day as San Francisco prevailed, 38-16, in Super Bowl XIX.
Super Bowl Shuffle
Bears head coach Mike Ditka later regretted not giving Walter Payton enough opportunities to score, but the monster he and Buddy Ryan created was too much to stop. One of the signatures of that season was The Fridge. Here, William Perry scores against the hapless Patriots in Chicago's 46-10 victory in Super Bowl XX.
Bathed in Gatorade
It was the 1986 Giants that rolled through the NFL en route to a title in Super Bowl XXI and with that romp a tradition became cemented into the game -- the Gatorade shower. The Giants were simply too much for the Broncos in a 39-20 victory, prompting Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks to give The Big Tuna, aka Bill Parcells, a ride.
A Defining Moment
Doug Williams and the Redskins trailed the Broncos 10-0 following the first quarter of Super Bowl XXII. By halftime, it was 35-10 -- Washington. What transpired was no fewer than four TD passes by Williams, including an 80-yarder to Ricky Sanders, in the Redskins' eventual 42-10 win and an MVP for the former first-round QB from Grambling.
Drive to Glory
Joe Montana had the ball on his own 8 with about three minutes left on the clock and looking at the wrong end of a 16-13 score. But 92 yards later, Montana found John Taylor on a post, and the Niners claimed their third Super Bowl title of the '80s.
Bay Area Dynasty
Taylor's book end, Jerry Rice, found the end zone three times in Super Bowl XXIV -- all at the receiving end of Joe Montana, who tallied five TD passes in the game. George Seifert had taken the helm from Bill Walsh, but the result was the same as the 49ers rolled over the Broncos, 55-10.
Recipe for Heartbreak
Thurman Thomas, Jim Kelly and the Bills had their sites set on a title -- a feat that would have changed the course for a franchise that would eventually lose four straight Super Bowls. But Scott Norwood couldn't hit a 47-yard field goal ...
A Giants Escape
... Instead, it was MVP Ottis Anderson and the New York Giants who claimed victory in Super Bowl XXV, 20-19.
Just Another Rodeo
The powerhouse that Jerry Jones and Jimmy Johnson built from a 1-15 team in 1989 hit its stride four years later as MVP Troy Aikman and the Cowboys blew out the Bills, 52-17, in Super Bowl XXVII. It would be Dallas' first of three titles in four years.
Young Claims His Own
Steve Young rode the pine behind Joe Montana for four seasons, two of which netted him rings. Young took the reins in 1991 and forged his own title following the 1994 season as the Niners throttled the San Diego Chargers 49-26 in Super Bowl XXIX. It was essentially over in three plays. That's how long it took Young to find Jerry Rice for their opening score.
Elways Rolls a Deuce
John Elway endured three embarrassing losses in the Super Bowl before finally coming out on top in Super Bowl XXXII with a 31-24 victory over Brett Favre and the Packers. The following season, Elway went back to back when his Broncos outclassed the Atlanta Falcons, 34-19.
A Yard Too Far
Kurt Warner may have been the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIV, but Mike Jones made arguably the biggest play and arguably the biggest tackle in Super Bowl history. The Rams led 23-16, but the Titans drove to the St. Louis 10-yard line with six seconds to go. Tennessee quarterback Steve McNair found Kevin Dyson, who sprinted toward the goal line, but Jones secured Dyson for the tackle of his career. Time expired. Rams won.
Defense Wins Championships
The Ravens featured a quarterback, who didn't even win the starting job until midway through the 2000 season. In Super Bowl XXXV, Trent Dilfer managed just 153 yards passing while going 12-of-25. No worries, though. The Baltimore defense, led by MVP Ray Lewis, thoroughly dominated the Giants and special teams chipped in with a pair of kickoff returns in the 34-7 victory.
A Star Is Born
The Greatest Show on Turf had its sites set on its second Super Bowl title in three years, but the legends that replaced the resumes of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick began here. A 17-17 tie and a minute and half left in Super Bowl XXXVI suggested OT, but Belichick had other ideas. Brady directed the Patriots downfield to set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning, 48-yard field goal in regulation over the Rams. Next stop, Canton.
Peyton Finds Paydirt
Long recognized as one of the purest passers since joining the league in 1998, Peyton Manning found his place among champions in Super Bowl XLI. Manning threw for just one score and 247 yards in the 28-17 victory over the Bears, but it was enough for MVP honors -- a fitting addition to the trophy case.
Look What I Found
The Patriots quest for a perfect season ended about the time David Tyree pinned an Eli Manning pass to his hat for the most absurdly great catch in the annals of Super Bowl play. OK, the Giants officially notched an L for New England when Manning found Plaxico Burress in the end zone, but it was Tyree channeling his inner Max McGee that highlighted Super Bowl XLII.
Toeing the Line
When Kurt Warner found a sprinting Larry Fitzgerald for a 64-yard score near the end of Super Bowl XLIII, it appeared victory was at hand for the Arizona Cardinals. But Ben Roethlisberger methodically marched the Steelers downfield before finding Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone for the 27-23 win.
Riding the Brees
New Orleans knew all it needed to know about Super Bowls, having hosted nine. But winning won for the city with the Saints running the show was pure fantasy. That all changed with the arrival of quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton, who co-engineered a 31-17 victory over the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV and a fitting trophy for The Crescent City.