This season’s Super Bowl won’t be played until February, but there will be several games with Super Bowl relevance that will take place throughout the course of the season. The league’s 2021 schedule includes 11 rematches of Super Bowls past, starting with the NFL’s opening weekend. Several Super Bowl rematches hold major historical significance. Washington, a franchise that played in five Super Bowls between 1973-1992, will face three former Super Bowl foes during the regular season.
With the start of the 2021 season just around the corner, let’s take a look at each Super Bowl rematch, along with a summary of each game.
Week 1: Super Bowl XXI: Giants 39, Broncos 20
Trailing 10-9 at halftime, the Giants outscored the Broncos 30-10 during the final 30 minutes. John Elway threw for more yards, but Phil Simms won MVP honors after going 22 of 25 for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Simms was a perfect 10-for-10 passing in the second half, as his 88 completion percentage remains a Super Bowl record.
Week 3: Super Bowl XXV: Washington 37, Bills 24
Thurman Thomas’ misplaced helmet just before kickoff was the start of a frustrating day for the Bills, who were hoping to make amends for their 20-19 loss to the Giants in the previous year’s Super Bowl. Buffalo never had a chance in this one, as Washington cruised out to a 24-0 lead. After the Bills make it semi-close with two scores in the third quarter, Mark Rypien’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Gary Clark put the game on ice. Rypien earned MVP honors after throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Joe Gibbs became the first coach to win Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks.
Week 4: Super Bowl XLV: Packers 31, Steelers 25
Two players who played in this game are still members of their respective teams: quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger, who was trying to become only the fifth quarterback with three Super Bowl rings, engineered three second half scoring drives after Pittsburgh fell behind 21-3. Roethlisberger was unable to complete the comeback, however, as Rodgers and the Packers’ offense made just enough plays in the second half to win the franchise’s fourth Super Bowl. Green Bay was also the beneficiary of a key forced fumble by linebacker Clay Matthews that set up a Packers score. Rodgers won MVP honors after throwing for 304 yards and three touchdowns.
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Week 6: Super Bowl XXII: Washington 42, Broncos 10
Here’s a record that will never be broken: Washington scored 35 points in the second quarter of Super Bowl XXII after trailing 10-0 after one quarter. That remains the all-time playoff record for most points scored in a single quarter. Doug Williams did most of the damage, as he threw four touchdowns that included two to Ricky Sanders. The fifth touchdown of the quarter was scored by Timmy Smith, who for the game rushed for a still-standing Super Bowl record 204 yards on just 22 carries.
Week 6: Super Bowl XL: Steelers 21, Seahawks 10
Two big plays by the Steelers’ offense was the difference in a game between two evenly matched teams. Keyed by a monstrous block by Alan Faneca, Willie Parker’s Super Bowl record 75-yard touchdown run gave the Steelers a 14-3 lead in the third quarter. After Seattle had cut Pittsburgh’s lead to four points, Antwaan Randle-El’s 43-yard touchdown pass to fellow receiver and eventual game MVP Hines Ward clinched the Steelers’ fifth title. The win was the final game of Jerome Bettis’ Hall of Fame career. Pittsburgh’s win marked the first time a sixth-seeded team won the Super Bowl.
Week 9: Super Bowl I: Packers 35, Chiefs 10
The first game between the NFL and AFL was close for the first 30 minutes, until Packers safety Willie Wood picked off Chiefs quarterback Len Dawson early in the third quarter. The pick set up the first of three unanswered scores by the Packers, who were led by game MVP Bart Starr and receiver Max McGee, who caught seven passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns despite notoriously playing with a hangover. Green Bay would win the following year’s Super Bowl in what was Vince Lombardi’s final game as the Packers’ coach. Kansas City would get back to the big game, defeating the Vikings in the final game before the merge.
Week 9: Super Bowl XXXVIII: Patriots 32, Panthers 29
This Super Bowl was comparable to a movie that was mostly dull before hitting the almost-asleep audience with a thrilling climax. The two teams scored a combined 24 points during the first three quarters; they scored a whopping 37 points during the final 15 minutes. Carolina, who trailed 21-10 11 seconds in the final stanza, took a brief lead following Muhsin Muhammad’s 85-yard touchdown pass from Jake Delhomme with 6:53 left. But the Panthers’ defense had no answers for Brady, who directed three fourth quarter scoring drives that included Adam Vinatieri’s game-winning field goal with four seconds left. Brady won his second MVP award after throwing for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
Week 11: Super Bowl LI: Patriots 34, Falcons 28
Down 28-3, the Patriots completed the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history by scoring the first overtime touchdown in Super Bowl history. Dont’a Hightower’s momentum-changing sack/forced fumble of Matt Ryan and Julian Edelman’s fingertip catch on the Patriots’ game-tying drive are the enduring plays from the Patriots’ epic comeback. After winning the overtime coin flip, Brady went 5-for-5 on the Patriots’ game-winning drive, a drive that ended with James White’s two-yard scoring plunge. Brady won his fourth Super Bowl MVP, as New England joined the Steelers, Cowboys and 49ers as the only franchises with five Vince Lombardi Trophies.
Week 13: Super Bowl XVIII: Raiders 38, Washington 9
This was the knockout no one outside of Los Angeles saw coming. Defending champion Washington was kayoed by the Raiders, who won their third Super Bowl in seven years in emphatic fashion. Marcus Allen’s 191 yards and two touchdowns — that included his back-breaking 74-yard touchdown run in the third quarter — won him MVP honors. The Raiders’ defense held league MVP Joe Theismann, reigning Super Bowl MVP John Riggins and the rest of Washington’s high-scoring offense to just 283 total yards. Ahead 14-3 with just seconds left in the first half, Raiders linebacker Jack Squirek’s pick-six off Theismann’s screen pass attempt to Joe Washington (a play that worked in Washington’s regular season win over Los Angeles) summed up the Raiders’ dominant performance.
Week 14: Super Bowl IX: Steelers 16, Vikings 6
Pittsburgh’s first of four Super Bowl wins during the 1970s was won during a cold, gray afternoon inside New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium. Dwight White (who lost nearly 20 pounds that week while battling pneumonia) secured the smallest halftime lead in Super Bowl history along with the first safety in Super Bowl history with his second quarter sack of Fran Tarkenton. Game MVP Franco Harris made it a 9-0 game with his third quarter touchdown, while Terry Bradshaw’s fourth quarter touchdown pass to Larry Brown clinched the Steelers’ first title. Led by reigning Defensive Player of the Year Joe Greene, the Steelers held the Vikings’ offense to 119 total yards, 17 rushing yards and nine first downs while forcing five turnovers.
Week 14: Super Bowl XXIII: 49ers 20, Bengals 16
Down 16-13 and needed to travel 92 yards with 3:10 left, Joe Montana lived up to his “Joe Cool” persona. In the huddle during a TV timeout, Montana shared his enjoyment upon spotting comedian John Candy seated in the opposite end zone. Montana’s observation relaxed the rest of the 49ers’ offense, who then proceeded to put together what many consider to be the greatest drive in Super Bowl history. With everyone on earth expecting Montana to throw to eventual game MVP Jerry Rice, Montana stead threw the game-winning touchdown pass to John Taylor, who to that point had not caught a pass. Montana threw for a then-Super Bowl record 356 yards, while Rice recorded a still-standing Super Bowl record 215 receiving yards. It was the final game on the 49ers’ sideline for Bill Walsh, the innovator of the West Coast Offense.