When I hosted a sports talk radio program on my college radio station at Buffalo State College, my on air name was “Dr. Super Bowl” due to my intense love of Super Bowl history. For me, this is the most wonderful time of the year. You can have your shopping days until Christmas, I’ll take the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl. I have lost many close friends and have driven several family members to tears of boredom dropping mad Super Bowl trivia on their unsuspecting souls. However, you the true sports fan will appreciate these mind-numbing fun facts about the greatest event in the history of the world.
Wear the White Jersey
It is the new rage for the home team to select the white road jersey. AFC teams are designated as the home team for even-numbered Super Bowls such as this fifty-second edition of the big game. The New England Patriots wore their blue jersey for every home game since a 2011 clash with the Dallas Cowboys. Bill Belichick no doubt made that choice because of the old superstition that the Cowboys always lose big games in their blue. Additionally, the Patriots have been the home team in five of their nine Super Bowl appearances. Each time, they wore their home jersey. Each time they were the “road” team, they wore white. Why the change this season?
Teams wearing white have won twelve of the last thirteen Super Bowls. The Green Bay Packers were the lone exception with their 2011 Super Bowl victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the old days, teams did not have a choice. The home team was required to wear the dark jersey. Thus, we were robbed of what would have been a gorgeous match-up in the Orange Bowl for the 1971 Super Bowl between the Cowboys and Baltimore Colts as Dallas was forced to wear the blue instead of their famous “whites”. Dallas was the first home team to wear the white jersey doing it in the epic 1979 Super Bowl against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team that has worn the white is 33-18 all-time.
Minnesota, Here We Come
This season marks the second time the Super Bowl has been played in the land of 10,000 lakes. The 1992 Super Bowl between the Washington Redskins and Buffalo Bills took place in Minnesota’s Metrodome. Like this season, that game featured the top seeds from each conference. Buffalo came in as the defending AFC champion losing the year before to the Giants by a single point. The Redskins were the dominant NFC team that season and crushed their two playoff opponents en route to the Super Bowl. Washington led by journeyman Mark Rypien walloped Buffalo physically and on the scoreboard. Safety Brad Edwards had a monster game that has largely been forgotten. The 37-24 score does not do justice to this one-sided affair.
Gronk’s Super Bowl Story
Like most things pertaining to Gronk, his Super Bowl appearances have been unusual. This will be the fourth time New England has played in the big game since Gronkowski arrived on the scene in 2010. In the 2012 Super Bowl against the New York Giants, he played on a sprained ankle. Therefore, Brady targeted Aaron Hernandez much more in the passing attack. Three seasons later, Gronkowski was virtually unstoppable in the thrilling win over the Seattle Seahawks. He scored a second quarter touchdown when single-covered by a linebacker. On the go-ahead scoring drive, he made two huge receptions. Last season, the Patriots won the Super Bowl without Gronkowski in the lineup. Due to his concussion in the AFC Championship game, his status is still unclear for the Super Bowl.
I Love the 80’s
The Eagles and Patriots each played in one Super Bowl during the decade of my youth. The irreplaceable Dick Vermeil coached the 1980 Eagles to their first championship in 20 years. They were awesome on defense on diverse on offense as they built their game plan around quarterback Ron Jaworski, talented running back Wilbert Montgomery and the giant wide receiver Harold Carmichael. Unfortunately, they were flat and nervous come Super Bowl Sunday as the Oakland Raiders flattened them 27-10. Jaworski was picked off three times by Rod Martin. His counterpart veteran Jim Plunkett was on his game throwing three touchdown passes and winning the MVP.
The Patriots Super Bowl appearance following the 1985 season was a train wreck of catastrophic proportions. They got absolutely steamrolled by the historic Mike Ditka-coached Chicago Bears. The Patriots can take solace in the fact that they were the first team to make the Super Bowl after winning three road playoff games. Incredibly, in each of those games, they were +4 in turnover differential including their shocking AFC championship conquest in Miami over the Dolphins.
JT is the Man
Timberlake returns for a third time to provide Super Bowl halftime entertainment. His 2001 performance alongside Aerosmith, *NSYNC and Britney Spears was way better than the game itself between the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants. The same cannot be said of his controversial appearance at the 2004 Super Bowl when he assisted Janet Jackson with a wardrobe malfunction. That game between the Patriots and Carolina Panthers was superb. A youthful Tom Brady was heroic in leading his team to a last-second win.
Giants Assistant Bill Belichick
Belichick is the head coach for a Super Bowl for an NFL-record eighth time. However, he also coached in the big game as the defensive coordinator of the Giants in the 1987 and 1991 Super Bowls. His 1986 Giants were a historically-good unit featuring the legendary Lawrence Taylor. They punished John Elway in a 39-20 win in Pasadena. On the other hand, his 1990 team were massive underdogs against the high-powered Bills led by Jim Kelly. The Bills had come off a 51-3 dismantling of the Los Angeles Raiders in the AFC championship game. The Giants squeaked by Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers.
The Niners had a good offense that season while Buffalo was incredible. Belichick devised a scheme where he played just two down linemen daring the Bills to run. When they Bills did run the ball to all-world Thurman Thomas, they gained yards. However, Belichick knew Kelly’s gunslinging mentality would not allow him to hand the ball off all night. New York’s defense did just enough to hold Buffalo to seventeen offensive points and a missed field goal at the buzzer. Belichick’s one other Super Bowl did not go well when Green Bay topped the Patriots in 1997. He served that team as defensive backs coach. Therefore, coach Belichick’s overall Super Bowl record is a respectable 7-3.
Bills Backup Frank Reich
Anyone who paid attention to the Eagles two playoff games has to applaud the efforts of offensive coordinator Frank Reich. I am not just bragging on him because I watched him play numerous times in Buffalo as a kid. He truly has done an excellent job helping Philadelphia get to the Super Bowl with backup quarterback Nick Foles.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, Reich trusted his running game between the tackles and short passing game. The Eagles did not score a lot, but they possessed the ball the majority of the second half. That ball control led to the narrow victory over the Falcons. Against the Minnesota Vikings, Reich won the game on third down. All season long, the Vikings had the ability to get teams off the field on third. Thanks to Reich’s tremendous game plan, the Vikings did not come close to resembling the team in the regular season as they could not stop tight end Zach Ertz whatsoever.
Reich was a member of the Bills when they played in four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 1990’s. He got into the game on two occasions. In the 1992 Super Bowl against the Redskins, he came in for some garbage time late in the fourth. Under the current concussion protocol system, he probably would have gotten in sooner because Kelly got his bell rung early and often by Richie Pettibon’s bone-crushing defense. In the 1993 Super Bowl against the Cowboys, Reich relieved Kelly in the second quarter after the Bills starter injured his knee. Reich had engineered two playoff wins that season including the greatest comeback in NFL history in the Wild Card game. On this day, the Cowboys lightning-fast defense proved way too good for Reich and the Bills. He committed an embarrassing five turnovers in the 52-17 loss.
February 4th will be the date of the Super Bowl for just the second time. Eleven years ago, the Indianapolis Colts claimed the city’s first and only Super Bowl championship by defeating the Chicago Bears 29-17. The incomparable Devin Hester returned the opening kickoff for a dramatic touchdown for the Bears. In a steady downpour, Manning was not at his best in this game, but he was good enough especially on third down. The Colts transformed a 14-6 deficit into a 22-14 lead.
Late in the third, Chicago kicked a field goal to cut lead to five. Then, Kelvin Hayden made the play of his life. He intercepted Rex Grossman and raced fifty-six yards on the soggy turf for the score and a 29-17 victory. This was not a marvelous Super Bowl by any standards. However, it was a marvelous accomplishment for Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning on February 4th, 2007.
Don’t Lose My Number
If Nick Foles guides the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship, he will join Drew Brees and Jim McMahon as the only quarterbacks to win it wearing the jersey #9. McMahon had an amazing personality and he was a good player and all, but honestly, the Bears could have won that game with Mike Ditka himself at quarterback. On the other hand, Brees was the New Orleans Saints absolute best player when they conquered the Colts in the 2010 Super Bowl.
Tom Brady’s five Super Bowl titles are among 16 championships by quarterbacks wearing the #12 jersey. Terry Bradshaw of the Steelers was 4-0 in the 1970’s. His first two Super Bowls came as a result of their running game and incomparable Steel Curtain defense. However, he won consecutive Super Bowl MVP awards in Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV. Also, in the 1970’s, Roger Staubach and Bob Griese won two championships wearing #12. Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Aaron Rodgers captured the other three titles adorning football’s most popular number.
40 is the New 30
Tom Brady will be the sixth person in NFL history to play in a Super Bowl over the age of 40. For that reason alone, I cheer for the guy! He joins two placekickers, two punters and the greatest wide receiver ever created, Jerry Rice. Brady is a unique individual in that he is playing as good now as he did when he was 30. Mark Brunell and Earl Morrall dressed for the Super Bowl at 39 but were well past their prime in their backup role. Carolina’s defense overwhelmed 39-year old Peyton Manning in Super Bowl 50. His best days were behind him. Yet, with Brady, he is not just the oldest player in the NFL, he is the greatest player in the NFL.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills