The road to the Super Bowl has begun. The quest for the Lombardi Trophy is well underway.
And for Super Bowl LIV, the Big Game heads back to an area that holds so much NFL (and NFL betting) history: Miami.
Arguably no other region in the country has as strong a tie to the league than South Florida. And arguably no other region has featured matchups as memorable as Miami.
Not convinced? See for yourself.
History of Super Bowl locations
Since the first championship between the NFL and AFL in 1967, the league has constantly relocated the Super Bowl around the country.
Miami, though, seems more like home base.
Including this year’s game, scheduled for Feb. 2, the Miami area has hosted 11 Super Bowls, more than any other region in America. (To be fair, New Orleans has staged 10 contests, and its 11th is slated for 2024.)
Los Angeles, sight of the first Big Game, has hosted seven times. If standing alone, and when including games that have been awarded for future years, Miami ranks second among states in games hosted: California has put on 13 Super Bowls. (Florida’s count drops from 17 to six.)
Overview of Miami Super Bowl matchups
The history of Miami-hosted Super Bowls dates back 50-plus years, to before Roman numerals were attached to the Super Bowl, to before the game was even known as the “Super Bowl.”
|Super Bowls in Miami
||Super Bowl LIV @ Hard Rock Stadium
||Super Bowl XLIV @ Sun Life Stadium
||New Orleans 31, Indianapolis 17
||Super Bowl XLI @ Dolphin Stadium
||Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17
||Super Bowl XXXIII @ Pro Player Stadium
||Denver 34, Atlanta 19
||Super Bowl XXIX @ Joe Robbie Stadium
||San Francisco 49, San Diego 26
||Super Bowl XXIII @ Joe Robbie Stadium
||San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16
||Super Bowl XIII @ Orange Bowl
||Pittsburgh 35, Dallas 31
||Super Bowl X @ Orange Bowl
||Pittsburgh 21, Dallas 17
||Super Bowl V @ Orange Bowl
||Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
||Super Bowl III @ Orange Bowl
||New York (A) 16, Baltimore 7
||Super Bowl II @ Orange Bowl
||Green Bay 33, Oakland 14
And the games themselves did not disappoint. Game-winning field goals, late-game touchdowns, turnover-plagued matchups, high-scoring affairs and offensive struggles – Miami has seen it all.
Interestingly, when the NFL and AFL merged, many believed the AFL would suffer greatly. The perception was it was a far inferior league. Now, granted after a few NFL (now NFC) teams moved over to the AFL (AFC), the student has become the master – at least in Miami.
In South Florida, the AFC leads its counterpart with a 6-4 record.
Top five Super Bowls played in Miami
Any one of the 10 Super Bowls played in Miami could make this list. That includes Super Bowl XIII, featuring the infamous dropped touchdown by Dallas’ Jackie Smith. Or Super Bowl XXIX, when San Francisco cruised to a 49-26 win over San Diego in a game that still holds the record for most points (75) and touchdown passes by one player (Steve Young, 6) in a single Super Bowl.
And an honorable mention to Super Bowl XLI, between Indianapolis and Chicago, that featured the Big Game’s first return TD on the game’s opening kickoff. It also was the setting for the Super Bowl’s first black head coaches. (Fun fact: Indy’s coach at the time, Tony Dungy, appeared in one Super Bowl as a player and another as a coach. Both games took place in Miami.)
Without further ado, our top five:
Super Bowl II: Green Bay 33, Oakland 14
The first championship game held in Miami, this 1968 matchup was not even known at the time as the “Super Bowl.” Rather, this showdown carried the moniker “AFL-NFL World Championship Game.” Catchy.
In fact, “Super Bowl” was used in more of a jocular manner throughout the league. As the league searched for a go-to and more catchy name for the championship game, a spokesman for then-Commissioner Pete Rozelle said that few people actually liked “Super Bowl.”
“It’s a nickname, and it’s a bad play on words.”
So as higher-ups weighed names such as “Merger Bowl” and “Summit Bowl” and “The Game” (catchy), an actual championship game was played.
In living up to the public’s perception of the two leagues – that the NFL is far superior to the AFL – the Packers rolled by the Raiders for their second straight title. Green Bay’s defense recorded an interception and forced three fumbles (recovering two), and Don Chandler booted four field goals, which is still tied for the most in a single Super Bowl.
Super Bowl III: New York (A) 16, Baltimore 7
Considered the greatest upset in the history of professional football and in consideration for all of sports – perhaps, though, it is best known for the Joe Namath guarantee. (Underlying it all: This is the first game officially known as the “Super Bowl,” though roman numerals had still not arrived.)
Backstory: The Baltimore Colts entered the 1969 championship game as heavy favorites. So much so, the Colts went in giving 18 points. So much so, Joe Falls of the Detroit Free Press predicted that Baltimore would win 270-0. That the Colts would “rearrange” the facial hair of Namath. That the Orange Bowl would “need a computer to keep up with the Colts.”
Mere days before the Super Bowl, Namath was lounging at the Miami Touchdown Club when he uttered the famous called shot: “We’re going to win Sunday. I guarantee you.”
In completing 17 of 28 passes for 206 yards and garnering MVP honors, Namath “proved that his talent is as big as his mouth – which makes it a very big talent indeed.” The Jets defense posted five takeaways, including four interceptions, to help New York secure the first Super Bowl win for an AFL franchise.
Fun fact: Until Super Bowl LIII last year, New York was the only team to win a title despite scoring only one touchdown.
Super Bowl V: Baltimore 16, Dallas 13
Another first for the NFL: This game was the first to incorporate Roman numerals. It was also the first Super Bowl to be played on artificial turf.
Really, though, this was about Baltimore’s redemption – no matter how ugly it seemed.
Not-so-playfully known as the “Blunder Bowl” or the “Blooper Bowl,” this 1971 game holds Super Bowl records for most interceptions (6), most turnovers (11, including seven by Baltimore, the most by a winning team) and most penalty yards (164, including a record 133 by Dallas).
The Cowboys led 13-6 at the half, and appeared ready to take over after Baltimore’s Jim Duncan fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, the first of seven turnovers after the intermission.
The Colts, though, evened things up with a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and a Baltimore interception late in the game was returned to the Dallas 28-yard line. This set up a go-ahead field goal by rookie Jim O’Brien with five seconds remaining. It was the first game-winning FG in Super Bowl history, and O’Brien is one of just two kickers to win the championship in the final seconds. (New England’s Adam Vinatieri is the other.)
Only once in Super Bowl history has a player on the losing team claimed the MVP, and it was in this game. Dallas linebacker Chuck Howley also became the first non-QB to win the honor after forcing a fumble and recording two interceptions.
Super Bowl XXIII: San Francisco 20, Cincinnati 16
Continuing the string of firsts: This matchup was the first Miami Super Bowl to not be played at the Orange Bowl. Rather, it took place at Joe Robbie Stadium. Side note: While the next six Super Bowls have and will take place at this venue, the stadium’s name was only repeated once:
- Joe Robbie Stadium, Super Bowl XXIII
- Joe Robbie Stadium, Super Bowl XXIX
- Pro Player Stadium, Super Bowl XXXIII
- Dolphin Stadium, Super Bowl XLI
- Sun Life Stadium, Super Bowl XLIV
- Hard Rock Stadium, Super Bowl LIV
Controversy arose leading up to this showdown, as Cincinnati fullback Stanley Wilson, the team’s third-leading rusher, was caught with cocaine in his hotel room. The Bengals banished him from the team immediately. As it was his third drug policy violation, Wilson was banned for life by the NFL.
San Francisco WR Jerry Rice totaled a still-record 215 yards, but it was a heroic late-game drive by MVP QB Joe Montana that stole the show. The signal-caller engineered a 92-yard drive, capped with a 10-yard TD strike, to lift the 49ers to the 1989 championship win.
Quite the sendoff for Bill Walsh, who would not coach another game in the NFL. Cincy, meanwhile, won a playoff game two years later but have been plagued with futility since. The Bengals franchise holds the league’s longest streak of seasons between playoff wins at 29.
Super Bowl XXXIII: Denver 34, Atlanta 19
Like Walsh, John Elway rode off into the sunset as a champ. A back-to-back champ.
In throwing for 336 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for a score, the QB helped the Broncos secure a second straight Super Bowl.
The world saw the writing on the wall when Elway found Rod Smith for an 80-yard TD to give Denver a 17-3 lead after falling behind 3-0 early.
Denver ran away with the victory in 1999 as the 38-year-old Elway became the first QB to start five Super Bowls (since surpassed by New England’s Tom Brady) and the oldest player to win MVP (again, Brady has since surpassed).
Fun fact: Smith burned Atlanta safety Eugene Robinson for the long score. The morning before the game, Robinson was given the Bart Starr Award for high moral character; that night, he was arrested for solicitation of a prostitute.