St. Petersburg Times: Super Bowl XXXV
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Super Bowl XXXV Tampa, Florida 2001
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  • The Road to Super Bowl XXXV

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    After three decades of big games, these memories are most Super

    mizell
    MIZELL
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    By HUBERT MIZELL

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2001


    TAMPA -- For neck-tingling dramatics, in football and beyond, from all the Roman-numeraled Super Bowls, the highest impact came from XXV.

    My No. 1, from the heart.

    American kids were at Desert Storm war in January 1991. Tampa Stadium under terrorism alert. Entry would be slow but patient for 73,318 patrons, snaking through metal detectors.

    Unforgettable . . .

    Whitney Houston delivered a patriotically chilling Star-Spangled Banner. Tens of thousands of little American flags waved in impassioned Super Bowl fists. Military aircraft buzzed. My eyes moistened. Backbone shivered.

    You'd wondered if this country could ever again so beautifully bond, with World War II-style togetherness, but during the evening of XXV souls across the republic seemed to melt into a national embrace.

    When it came time for the Giants and Bills to play, for pure exhilarating sport it too was memorable. Running back Ottis Anderson had a career night, the MVP of New York ball-control perfection that chewed 401/2 minutes, but the moment of triumph was not assured until the dying seconds when Buffalo's kicker, poor Scott Norwood, went wide with a 47-yard field goal.

    Ten years later . . .

    Ravens-Giants will be my 30th consecutive Super Bowl. Likely my last, with retirement coming in May as a daily newspaper columnist, unless I pull a Mario Lemieux/Dick Vermeil.

    When you pass age 60, having spent two-thirds of those years visiting and analyzing the world's more prominent sports occurrences, somebody may well ask you to name Super Bowl all-timers. One editor suggested I begin with Red Grange and Jim Thorpe.

    Comics are everywhere.

    My run with NFL championship finals will have Baltimore bookends, beginning with Super Bowl V in Miami when the Colts won a dramatic if shabbily played 16-13 game against Dallas, and a week from today it'll be new-era Ravens matched in XXXV with another batch of Giants.

    Mizell's Six-Pack:

    1. (XXV) Giants 20, Bills 19 (1/27/91)

    2. (XXXII) Broncos 31, Packers 24 (1/25/98)

    3. (XIII) Steelers 35, Cowboys 31 (1/21/79)

    4. (VII) Dolphins 14, Redskins 7 (1/14/73)

    5. (XXIII) 49ers 20, Bengals 16 (1/22/89)

    6. (XXII) Redskins 42, Broncos 10 (1/31/88)

    It was invigorating outside influences, America's passion for the moment, that pushed XXV ahead for me. Most of my hot Super Bowl recollections have to do with superb games, which for this always over-trumpeted happening has hardly been the norm. I did work to include the more dominant teams from my three decades.

    Also one quite-personal choice.

    XXXII was John Elway, after heroic near-misses, embracing Super Bowl ecstasy as Denver stopped a 13-game NFC winning streak. Of higher impact than No. 7 was Terrell Davis, running through the Packers for 157 yards and three touchdowns, his final score with 105 seconds left, busting a 24-all standoff at San Diego.

    XIII made Pittsburgh the first franchise to win three Super Bowls, with Terry Bradshaw passing for four touchdowns, part of the Steelers' '70s when they went 4-for-4 in the sport's highest temple, becoming the dynasty for conquests in a six-season run, a stretch of grandeur that may never be matched.

    VII charmed me not so much for one Sunday's excellence in the Los Angeles Coliseum but an entire, defeat-free Miami Dolphins season, a 17-0 record that, as coach Don Shula's restaurant advertisements often remind, stands alone in Super Bowl history.

    XXIII makes my list because there must be a San Francisco presence, the 'Niners having become the all-time Super Bowl winners with five. It was a beauty of a Sunday, with Bucs-coach-to-be Sam Wyche nearly becoming league champion.

    To me, Joe Montana is the best-ever playoff quarterback, and when he was needed most that night in Miami, No. 16 drove the 'Niners 92 yards in the closing minutes and won the game with a 10-yard pass to John Taylor.

    XXII had to be in my six-pack. Personal, if for no other reason. Personal because of Doug Williams. As a neophyte, he got the infant Bucs franchise to the NFC final in the 1979 season, then had a nasty contractual breakup with owner Hugh Culverhouse.

    Williams jumped to the USFL before landing in Washington. He became the Super Bowl's first African-American quarterback, leaving imprints that may be untouchable.

    Never, never, never will a Super Bowl experience a quarter to approach Doug's production at San Diego. Denver took a 10-0 lead, but the tough fellow from Grambling threw a flurry of second-quarter touchdown passes, covering 80, 27, 50 and 8 yards. By halftime, it was 35-10, the Redskins were a lock and Williams an MVP certainty before the third quarter.

    My six-pack, worth a toast, right?

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