The Super Bowl is this Sunday between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots. As is the case every year, no stone will go unturned when examining this football match-up and predicting which team is likely to come out on top. The Super Bowl is not only the biggest sporting event of the year, it is also the largest media and television event – drawing more than 100 million viewers and journalists from all over the globe. And as we get ready for what could be a classic showdown between two very good teams, we thought we’d look at ten Super Bowl records that are so impressive they are likely never to be broken. (Given the success of the New England Patriots over the past 15 years, it should come as no surprise that many of these records are held by the Patriots and/or their quarterback, Tom Brady).
10. Most Consecutive Super Bowl Appearances: The Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills went to four Super Bowls, four years in a row between 1991 and 1994. That string of four consecutive Super Bowl appearances has not been accomplished before or since. Unfortunately for the Bills, the team also lost all four – giving the team another notorious record that seems unlikely to fall anytime soon. Despite the heartache of Bills fans, the important thing to remember here is that the chances of one team going to more than four Super Bowls in a row is highly unlikely – especially in the modern era of league parity. Salary caps and scheduling make far too difficult for any one team to have the talent and manpower needed to reach multiple Super Bowls these days — even a back-to-back appearance in considered special. Also, the level of competition in the league is just too great now for a single team to dominate a conference, as the Buffalo Bills did in the early 1990s. Even the New England Patriots, who have been the most dominant team in the NFL since 2001, have only managed to reach consecutive Super Bowls once – 2003 and 2004.
9. Most Super Bowls Starts by a Quarterback: Tom Brady
At Super Bowl LI, Tom Brady will play in his seventh Super Bowl. If you consider that Brady didn’t get the Patriots starting job until 2001, and that he missed the entire 2008 season with a knee injury, then that means he has reached the Super Bowl seven times in 14 seasons as New England’s starting quarterback. That is an incredible feat. Former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway is second in terms of starting in Super Bowls with five. After that, nobody is remotely close to touching this record held by Tom Brady. What’s scary is that Tom Brady’s career is not yet over, and he is playing the quarterback position better at age 39 than he did at age 29. If anyone is going to break this record, it will only be Tom Brady himself. But looking around the NFL and the struggles that even elite quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees have in getting back to football’s biggest game, it seems highly unlikely that any quarterback will get to more than seven Super Bowls. Unless, of course, it’s Tom Brady, still playing well into his 40s.
8. Most Touchdowns Scored in a Single Game: Jerry Rice
Jerry Rice scored three touchdowns in a single Super Bowl – twice. Widely regarded as the best wide receiver in NFL history, Rice notched three touchdowns when his San Francisco 49ers played the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV, and again when the 49ers played the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. This is an incredibly impressive feat when you consider that Rice was double or triple covered for most of both games. As the most potent offensive weapon of the 49ers, opposing teams didn’t want to take any chances against Rice. These days, NFL teams that win Super Bowls have to rely on receptions and touchdowns from a variety of receivers. It is increasingly hard for one receiver to handle the entire workload. Yet Rice was able to burn defenses with his superhuman speed and catch almost any pass with his soft hands. To break this record, one receiver would have to score four touchdowns in a single Super Bowl game. Highly unlikely.
7. Most Super Bowl Appearances by a Player or Coach: Bill Belichick
Super Bowl LI will be the tenth time that Bill Belichick has appeared in a Super Bowl, including the two appearances he made as an assistant coach with the New York Giants, one appearance as an assistant coach with the Patriots, and the seven times he has now led the New England Patriots into the championship game as their head coach. Not only has Belichick appeared in more Super Bowls than any football coach in NFL history, he’s also appeared in more Super Bowls than any player in NFL history. Belichick has appeared in 19.6% (round it up to 20%) of the Super Bowls played to date. And, just like Tom Brady, Belichick shows no signs of slowing down or heading into retirement, even in his mid-60s. For any other coach to break this record would require an enormous amount of skill, stamina, and good fortune. It’s too mind boggling to comprehend.
6. Most Passing Yards in Super Bowls: Tom Brady
Tom Brady has thrown for 1,605 yards in the six Super Bowls he has appeared in so far. After his seventh outing on Sunday, Brady’s passing yards in Super Bowls will no doubt be a bit closer to the 2,000 yard mark. That will give Brady as many passing yards in Super Bowl games as many starting NFL quarterbacks achieve in a 16 game regular season. No other quarterback in NFL history is even close to throwing for as many total yards as Brady in Super Bowls — the closest active QB is Ben Roethlisberger, with a mere 642 yards. It is a testament to Brady’s brilliance under center, that he has been able to amass such impressive passing yards in the most pressure packed game in all of sports. And, just as no other quarterback is likely to ever play in seven Super Bowls again, no other quarterback is likely to rack up as many passing yards as Brady. Obviously, he also holds the record for most pass completions in Super Bowl history, as well. Every additional yard that Brady passes for in Sunday’s Super Bowl will be a new record for TB12. Think about that for a moment.
5. Most Rushing Touchdowns in Super Bowls: Emmitt Smith
In three Super Bowls with the Dallas Cowboys, running back Emmitt Smith rushed for five touchdowns, a record that has stood for more than 20 years. Given the evolving nature of running backs in the NFL, it is unlikely that this record will ever be broken. Just as no team can rely on one receiver to score all their touchdowns, teams also can’t rely on a single running back to carry the entire load, especially in a championship game. Teams today often use at least two strong running backs, and many teams employ as many as three backs. The punishment inflicted on running backs is just too great to put it all on one player’s shoulders, as the Cowboys did with Emmitt Smith.
4. Most Interceptions Thrown in a Single Super Bowl: Rich Gannon
Remember former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon? He’s most famous for a record that no NFL quarterback wants – throwing the most interceptions in a Super Bowl game. In Super Bowl XXXVII, Gannon threw a ghastly five interceptions while under center for the Oakland Raiders. Worse, three of those interceptions were returned for touchdowns by the opposing Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who went on to win by a score of 48-21, making it one of the most lopsided final scores in Super Bowl history. So what are the chances of a starting quarterback throwing six interceptions in a single Super Bowl game and breaking this record? Not very high, given that any self-respecting coach would surely pull his starting quarterback and replace him with a back-up if even three or four interceptions were thrown. Poor Rich Gannon.
3. Most Super Bowl Appearances (and wins) by a Kicker: Adam Vinatieri
Adam Vinatieri is widely considered to be the greatest kicker in NFL history. He has appeared in five Super Bowls, and won four of them — three with the New England Patriots and one with the Indianapolis Colts. Vinatieri’s foot helped to deliver wins in several close Super Bowls for the Patriots. And the chances of Adam Vinatieri’s success being replicated are pretty slim. As previously mentioned, there is just too much player movement around the NFL these days for one kicker to achieve Vinatieri’s success with one or even two teams. Also, it is unlikely that any kicker will have Vinatieri’s longevity. At age 44 and still going strong, Vinatieri is the oldest active player in the NFL. How many kickers will want to play as long as Vinatieri has, let alone be physically able to do so?
2. Most Touchdown Passes in Super Bowls: Tom Brady
To date, Tom Brady has thrown a record 13 touchdown passes in the six Super Bowls in which he’s played. After his seventh Super Bowl, Brady is very likely to have amassed 15 touchdown passes, or more. That is a record that no other quarterback is close to breaking (again, for reference, the closest active QB is Russell Wilson, with four). Remember that in Super Bowl 50, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning did not throw a single touchdown pass (he did throw one interception), and the Broncos defense basically won them the game. Brady is clutch in big moments, and never better than when he’s playing in a Super Bowl. His accuracy with the football and ability to throw to open receivers has led to him accumulating the most touchdown passes in Super Bowl history. And he is so far ahead of other quarterbacks with this record that he’s likely never going to be caught.
1. Longest Super Bowl Win Streak – San Francisco 49ers
In the 1980s and 1990s, the San Francisco 49ers went to five Super Bowls and won them all. The team didn’t lose any championship game in which they appeared, until Super Bowl XLVIII when they played the Baltimore Ravens. That any team could appear in more than five Super Bowls and win every single one of them seems highly unlikely today. For a team to even get to five Super Bowls in a little more than 10 years would be unheard of. But to then win each championship seems almost impossible. It’s almost as unlikely as another team getting to four consecutive Super Bowls, like the Buffalo Bills did in the early 1990s. There’s just too much competition for one team to dominate in that way again. Even the New England Patriots have lost two out of the six Super Bowls they have played in since 2001. These days, it seems no team in invincible in the same way that the 49ers were.